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This saucy and delicious vegan Orange Cauliflower chicken is a tasty plant-based twist on an Asian-inspired favorite. Crispy cauliflower florets are tossed in a zesty, homemade orange sauce for a gourmet-style main dish. This easy orange cauliflower recipe can be made in the oven or the air fryer, ready to serve in just 30 minutes!

A closeup shot of the orange cauliflower with rice, red cabbage, and cilantro in a black bowl.

This recipe was written on October 12, 2022. It was updated with additional recipe information on July 2, 2024.

Indulge in this easy-to-make vegan orange chicken dish for the ultimate healthy comfort food! The recipe is made with simple, wholefood ingredients, free of artificial or mystery ingredients (no MSG here!), and is 100% plant-based. The vegan orange sauce is made with freshly squeezed orange juice, soy sauce, and rice vinegar, infused with minced ginger and garlic, and sweetened with dates so there is no added sugar. This recipe is also low in fat for an all-around nutritious and wholesome meal! 

The cauliflower florets are coated in a homemade batter of flour, spices, and soy milk, and then cooked until perfectly crispy – in either the oven or air fryer. You’ll find instructions for both cooking options outlined in the recipe below! Whether you’re looking to impress dinner party guests or simply want to elevate your weeknight meals, this orange chicken cauliflower is sure to impress.

For more Asian-inspired vegan recipes, try my Korean-inspired Vegan Buddha Bowl, Maple Teriyaki Tofu & Veggies, and Harissa Hummus Nori Rolls.

An overhead shot of the ingredients for the orange cauliflower.

Ingredients

Coconut Oil: Adds a subtle sweet flavor to the orange chicken vegan sauce. Use unrefined coconut oil for a more robust taste or refined coconut oil for a more neutral taste. If needed, you can also use another neutral oil like avocado or canola. 

Ginger: Freshly minced ginger brings the dish a warm, spicy kick. Choose a firm, smooth root and remove the outer skin with a vegetable peeler before mincing. Choose pre-minced ginger for easier prep.

Garlic: Fresh garlic infuses the vegan orange chicken recipe with a robust fragrance. Look for firm garlic bulbs without sprouting for the best taste and texture. Pre-minced and bottled garlic also works in a pinch.

Orange Juice: Use freshly squeezed orange juice for the brightest flavor in the orange sauce; typically 2-3 medium oranges will yield one cup of juice. Or, use a high-quality store-bought orange juice without added sugar or ingredients. 

Soy Sauce: Adds an essential depth of flavor to the sauce. Opt for a low-sodium soy sauce to better control the saltiness of the vegetarian orange chicken. Alternatively, use coconut liquid aminos or tamari as a gluten-free alternative. 

Rice Vinegar: This mild vinegar adds a tangy note to the sauce without overpowering the dish. Opt for unseasoned rice vinegar to avoid additional sugars or salt. You can substitute with apple cider vinegar if needed. 

Pitted Medjool Dates: Help to naturally sweeten the sauce and offer a rich, caramel-like flavor. Find them in the produce or dried fruit aisle of the grocery store. You can also use Delget Noor dates and soak them in hot water before using them to help soften their firmer texture. 

Cornstarch: Key thickening agent to help achieve the perfect sauce texture. Look for non-GMO cornstarch. If you don’t have cornstarch, you can also use arrowroot powder.

Cauliflower: Fresh cauliflower provides the best crispy texture when baked or air-fried. Choose a cauliflower head with tight, white florets and no brown spots. 

Soy Milk: Choose unsweetened, plain soy milk to provide the best-tasting creamy base for the cauliflower batter. You can also use another plant-based milk like unsweetened, plain almond, oat, or pea milk. 

All-Purpose Flour: Forms the base of the batter for the cauliflower. Choose an unbleached flour for the healthiest option. Substitute with 1-to-1 gluten-free flour blend if needed for dietary requirements. 

Garlic Powder: Adds a delicious concentrated garlic flavor to the cauliflower batter. Ensure it is within its expiration for the most robust potency.

A closeup shot of the orange cauliflower in a white bowl.

How to Make Orange Cauliflower

  • Sauté Sauce Aromatics. Warm 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the ginger and garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant and lightly golden.
An overhead shot of minced garlic sauteeing in a pan.
  • Add Liquid & Dates. Add the orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and dates. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
An overhead shot of the ingredients for the orange sauce in a saucepan.
  • Add Cornstarch. Whisk the cornstarch and the water together in a cup or small mixing bowl until the cornstarch is dissolved.
A small tan bowl of cornstarch and milk.
An overhead shot of cornstarch slurry in a small tan bowl.
  • Thicken Sauce. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the hot orange juice mixture and continue to stir for about 1 minute until the sauce thickens. 
An ovheread shot of a pan of the orange sauce and dates.
  • Blend Sauce. Allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes, then transfer it to a blender and blend until smooth. Or use an immersion blender to blend.
Adding an immersion blender to the saucepan of orange sauce before blending.
  • Prepare Cauliflower Batter. Combine the flour, garlic powder, salt, and soy milk in a mixing bowl. Stir well, add the cauliflower pieces to the mixture, and stir to coat each floret thoroughly. 
Adding the flour to the bowl of liquids to make the cauliflower batter.
An overhead shot of a brown hand whisking a bowl of the cauliflower batter.
  • Cook Cauliflower – Oven Option: Preheat the oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the cauliflower from the batter and shake off any excess before placing the cauliflower on the parchment paper in an even layer. Keep at least ½-inch space between the cauliflower pieces. Spray the tops of the cauliflower with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until crispy and golden.
A close-up shot of battered cauliflower on a wire rack-lined baking sheet.
  • Cook Cauliflower – Air-Fryer Option: Preheat the air fryer to 350°F. Grease the bottom of the air fryer with non-stick cooking spray. Remove the cauliflower from the batter and shake off any excess before placing it in the air fryer in an even layer. Keep at least ½-inch space between the cauliflower pieces. Spray the tops of the cauliflower with oil. Air fry for 15-20 minutes or until crispy and golden.
An overhead shot of pieces of battered cauliflower in an air fryer basket.
An overhead shot of air fried cauliflower in a basket of an air fryer.
  • Toss Cauliflower in Sauce. If the sauce is no longer hot, reheat it on the stovetop. Toss the crispy cauliflower in the orange sauce and place on a serving plate. Serve over fluffy rice and garnish with shaved red cabbage, cilantro, sesame seeds, or your favorite toppings.
Tossing the cauliflower in the orange sauce in a small mixing bowl.

Recipe Pro-Tips

  • Cut cauliflower into uniform pieces. When preparing the cauliflower, cut the florets into similar bite-sized pieces and arrange them in an even layer on a baking sheet or in the air fryer to ensure even cooking and crispiness.
  • Adjust the batter consistency. The batter for orange cauliflower recipes should be similar to pancake batter. Ensure it is thick enough to coat the cauliflower florets evenly, but not too thick that it clumps. 
  • Spray cauliflower with non-stick cooking oil. Before baking or air-frying, spray the tops with cooking spray to help them crisp up while cooking.  
  • Adjust the sauce to taste. Adjust the sauce’s sweetness by adding more dates or a small amount of maple syrup, or add more other ingredients to achieve your desired flavor. 
  • Extra crispy cauliflower. Toss the crispy cauliflower in the orange sauce before serving to prevent sogginess. Return the tossed cauliflower to the air fryer or oven for a few minutes for an extra crispy outer texture. 
  • Garnish. Top the finished cauliflower with garnishes of choice for a pop of color and extra flavor, like shaved red cabbage, chopped cilantro, sesame seeds, or thinly sliced green onions.
A bowl of orange cauliflower on the counter.

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy this saucy orange chicken over a bed of rice and tasty toppings for a simple lunch or dinner, or serve it as an appetizer alongside some of our favorite recipes below for a full-spread Asian-inspired meal! 

Storage Directions

  • Refrigeration: Allow cooked cauliflower to cool completely to room temperature before transferring to an airtight container and storing it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Store leftover cooled sauce in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: I only recommend freezing the sauce. Transfer to a freezer-safe airtight container and store for up to 3 months. 
  • Reheating: Reheat leftovers in the oven at 375ºF for 10-15 minutes or until heated through and crispy; or in the air fryer at 350ºF for 4-6 minutes until re-crisped. Warm leftover sauce on the stovetop over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through. Thaw frozen sauce in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
An overhead shot of a black bowl of the orange cauliflower with sesame seeds, red cabbage, and cilantro.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does orange cauliflower taste like?

The orange sauce in this recipe combines the sweet notes of fresh orange juice and dates with the tangy flavors of soy sauce and rice vinegar. The prominent citrus flavor adds brightness to the dish, while the savory umami notes enhance the overall depth of flavor. The cauliflower underneath the sauce is savory with a tinder yet firm inside and a delicious crispy exterior.

How do I clean cauliflower?

First, remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower head, then cut the cauliflower into quarters. Trim the cauliflower quarters into bite-sized florets, cutting off any excess stem as needed. Then soak the florets in salt water for 15-20 minutes to dislodge any dirt or debris. Rinse the soaked cauliflower under cold running water in a colander, then pat completely dry to remove all excess moisture. 

Can I use frozen cauliflower in this recipe?

I don’t recommend using frozen cauliflower for orange cauliflower Chinese recipes. Once frozen cauliflower is thawed, it releases more moisture during cooking. This can significantly affect the crispiness, a key component of this recipe.

Jenné Claiborne or sweet potato soul enjoying a bowl of the orange cauliflower.

More Vegan Asian-Inspired Recipes

5 from 2 votes

Orange Cauliflower

By: Jenné Claiborne
Enjoy a guilt-free indulgence with this easy-to-prepare crispy vegan Orange Cauliflower recipe! Made with simple wholesome ingredients and sweetened with dates, this healthy gourmet-style Asian dish is the ultimate comfort food.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, or another neutral oil like canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, or the juice from 2- 3 oranges
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 large pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch , dissolve and stir the cornstarch in the water before adding to recipe
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain soy milk, or unsweetened plain almond, oat, or pea milk
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, or 1-to-1 gluten-free flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Instructions 

Vegan Orange Sauce

  • Warm 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan on medium heat, then add the ginger and garlic, and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant and lightly golden.
  • Add the orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and dates. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Whisk the cornstarch and the water together in a cup or small mixing bowl until the cornstarch is dissolved. Stir in the cornstarch mixture into the hot orange juice mixture. Stir for about 1 minute until the sauce begins to thicken.
  • Allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes, then transfer it to a blender and blend until smooth.

Orange Cauliflower

  • Combine the flour, garlic powder, and soy milk in a mixing bowl. Stir well, add the cauliflower pieces to the mixture, and stir to thoroughly coat.
  • Oven Instructions: Preheat the oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the cauliflower from the batter and shake off any excess before placing the cauliflower on the parchment paper in an even layer. Keep at least 1/2" space between the cauliflower pieces. Spray the tops of the cauliflower with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until crispy and golden.
  • Air Fryer Instructions: Preheat the air fryer at 350° for 5 minutes. Grease the bottom of the air fryer with non-stick cooking spray. Remove the cauliflower from the batter and shake off any excess before placing it in the air fryer in an even layer. Keep at least 1/2" space between the cauliflower pieces. Spray the tops of the cauliflower with oil. Air fry for 15-20 minutes at 350°F or until crispy and golden.

Serve

  • Toss the crispy cauliflower in the orange sauce and place on a serving plate. If necessary, reheat the sauce on the stove before tossing with the cauliflower.
  • Serve over fluffy rice and garnish with shaved red cabbage, cilantro, sesame seeds, or your favorite toppings.

Notes

Storage Directions
  • Refrigeration: Allow cooked cauliflower to cool completely to room temperature before transferring to an airtight container and storing it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Store leftover cooled sauce in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: I only recommend freezing the sauce. Transfer to a freezer-safe airtight container and store for up to 3 months. 
  • Reheating: Reheat leftovers in the oven at 375ºF for 10-15 minutes or until heated through and crispy; or in the air fryer at 350ºF for 4-6 minutes until re-crisped. Warm leftover sauce on the stovetop over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through. Thaw frozen sauce in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. 
Recipe Pro-Tips
  • Cut cauliflower into uniform pieces. When preparing the cauliflower, cut the florets into similar bite-sized pieces and arrange them in an even layer on a baking sheet or in the air fryer to ensure even cooking and crispiness.
  • Adjust the batter consistency. The batter for orange cauliflower recipes should be similar to pancake batter. Ensure it is thick enough to coat the cauliflower florets evenly, but not too thick that it clumps. 
  • Spray cauliflower with non-stick cooking oil. Before baking or air-frying, spray the tops with cooking spray to help them crisp up while cooking.  
  • Adjust the sauce to taste. Adjust the sauce’s sweetness by adding more dates or a small amount of maple syrup, or add more other ingredients to achieve your desired flavor. 
  • Extra crispy cauliflower. Toss the crispy cauliflower in the orange sauce before serving to prevent sogginess. Return the tossed cauliflower to the air fryer or oven for a few minutes for an extra crispy outer texture. 
  • Garnish. Top the finished cauliflower with garnishes of choice for a pop of color and extra flavor, like shaved red cabbage, chopped cilantro, sesame seeds, or thinly sliced green onions. 
  •  
 
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Jenne

I’m a Georgia Peach living in Los Angeles (by way of NYC), with an insatiable love of sweet potatoes, travel, animals, and cooking. On Sweet Potato Soul you’ll discover hundreds of delicious and easy-to-make vegan recipes.

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2 Comments

  1. Great recipe. The only measurement that was off was the coconut oil where the ingredients asked for 1 1/2 tablespoons and the instructions only asked to use 1/2 tablespoons. I also forgot to get the purple cabbage and cilantro but I garnished it with sesame seed and broccoli instead. Yummers!!

  2. I loved this recipe! It was not too difficult and the result was delicious. This one is a keeper for sure. Thank you for sharing!