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With a double batter, classic fried chicken seasonings, and a crisp & crunchy exterior, it’s always a great time for Vegan Fried Chicken! The star ingredient? Cauliflower! This versatile veggie is juicy, hearty, and tender, making this recipe as delicious as the real thing!

Closeup of vegan fried chicken on pastel purple plate

This recipe was originally published on April 30, 2017. I was updated with new recipe information on April 9, 2024. 

Becoming vegan has opened my eyes to the many ways of preparing Southern staples without using animals. In every case, the vegan recipe is as delicious and fulfilling as the non-vegan alternative. So much of what we like about a traditional recipe is the seasoning and technique.

This cauliflower fried chicken recipe is no exception! As you’ll see in this recipe, we can use classic fried chicken seasoning (which is accidentally vegan) and a double battering and dredging technique – just like my Nana does! – to make the best chicken fried cauliflower. The result: crunchy, spicy, and perfectly seasoned vegan fried chicken even your meat-eating friends will go wild about!

For more delicious vegan cauliflower recipes, check out vegan orange cauliflower, whole cauliflower piccata, and roasted cauliflower rice.

Ingredients

Cauliflower: Fried chicken cauliflower wouldn’t be what it is without this star ingredient! Choose a cauliflower that is dense and heavy for its size and has tightly clinging leaves.  A whole head is best for cutting fresh florets, but pre-cut florets work in a pinch! 

All-Purpose Flour: Contributes starch to the recipe, creating the bulk of the batter and allowing it to crisp up when fried!

Arrowroot Powder: An important ingredient to make cauliflower chicken vegan. Arrowroot powder creates the crispiest batter when fried, omitting the need for an egg or a flax egg. Find arrowroot in the baking aisle or next to where the cornstarch is shelved. If you can’t find arrowroot, substitute cornstarch.

Seasonings: Salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and Old Bay seasoning. This classic blend of seasonings makes the best southern fried cauliflower – no animal products needed!

Nutritional Yeast: Not only does nutritional yeast (also known as “nooch”), offer extra nutrients, but it also provides a savory cheesy flavor, adding extra dimension to the cauliflower batter. 

Hot Sauce: Crystal, Louisiana, and Zab’s are authentically Southern but it’s most important to use your favorite brand. You will need ⅓ cup. 

Dijon Mustard: Choose smooth Dijon mustard, not whole grain, for the easiest battering process. 

Non-Dairy Milk: Any variety, such as oat, soy, oat, or almond works as long as they are unsweetened and plain. 

Vegetable Oil: You will need an oil with a high smoke point, such as safflower, vegetable, canola, or peanut oil, to cook the vegan fried cauliflower at high heat without burning it. 

How to Make Vegan Fried Chicken

  1. Whisk Dry Ingredients. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the flour, arrowroot powder, salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, Old Bay, and nutritional yeast together until combined.
  2. Combine Wet Ingredients. Combine the hot sauce, non-dairy milk, and Dijon mustard in another bowl and whisk until smooth.
  3. Dredge the Cauliflower. Use one hand to dip a cauliflower floret into the wet mixture carefully. Drop the floret to the flour mixture. Using your other dry hand, turn the floret to coat it completely in the dry mixture. Repeat these steps, dredging the cauliflower for a second time. Continue this process with the rest of the cauliflower florets, moving the dredged florets to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet if needed. 
  4. Fry the Cauliflower Chicken. Carefully add cauliflower florets to the oil, adding only enough that all of the vegetables are fully submerged in the oil.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes, gently turning the vegetables as they fry, until the pieces are golden
  5. Drain the Vegetables. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the fried cauliflower to the paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet. 
  6. Fry the Remaining Cauliflower. Let the temperature of the oil return to 350°F.  Fry the remaining cauliflower as directed.
  7. Serve Hot. Immediately plate up the crispy cauliflower and serve with your favorite sauces!
cauliflower vegan fried chicken with bite taken

Recipe Pro-Tips

  • Use both hands to dredge. Use one hand to dredge the vegetables in the dry mixture and the other for the wet mixture. Though dredging can be messy, this will help keep the process as neat as possible, saving you from needing to stop to wipe off or wash your hands. 
  • Add a thermometer to the pot when frying. The secret to perfectly fried food is frying in oil consistently heated to the right temperature of 350°F. Much hotter and the florets will burn; any lower and they will get soggy. A candy thermometer that attaches to the side of the pot can make the temperature monitoring process easier. Otherwise, check the temperature of the oil regularly throughout the cooking process and adjust the heat as needed. 
  • Drain after frying. Move the freshly fried vegetables to a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet. The paper will absorb excess oil, further preventing soggy cauliflower chicken wings. 
  • Fry the cauliflower in batches. Add enough of the florets to the oil to fully submerge them as they cook. This will help them to fry evenly. Fry the remaining cauliflower in subsequent batches.
  • Serving suggestions. Serve freshly fried cauliflower chicken tenders hot with your favorite dipping sauces: vegan ranch, hot sauce, and vegan aioli are all great options.

Recipe Variations

  • Fried Buffalo Cauliflower: Take this cauliflower fried chicken to new levels by gently tossing it with a mixture of buffalo sauce and melted vegan butter before serving. Find my buffalo sauce recipe here.
  • BBQ Cauliflower Wings: Add a sweet kick to your finger food by turning the freshly fried veggies in your favorite barbecue sauce. Here’s a homemade Chipotle BBQ sauce recipe.
  • Air Fryer: Lower the fat profile of the dish by making air fryer cauliflower wings. Follow the battering directions as listed. Brush or use an oil spray to coat the the air fryer basket and battered cauliflower pieces generously with cooking oil before air frying the prepared florets in an air fryer preheated 400°F for 6-8 minutes, or until golden and tender.
  • Baking: Another way to make this recipe even healthier is by baking it. Spread the battered vegetables out, leaving at least 1 inch of space between them, on a prepared parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 450°F for 20 minutes, carefully turning them halfway through the baking time. For extra crispy pieces coat the battered cauliflower with cooking oil spray before baking.
vegan cauliflower fried chicken on a white plate

Storage Directions

  • Refrigeration: Leftover vegan chicken tenders keep covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. 
  • Freezing: You can freeze leftovers, though they may lose some crunch in the freezing and thawing process. To best preserve it, freeze the vegan cauliflower chicken spread out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for 1-2 hours, or until frozen to the touch. Move to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator until thawed through.
  • Reheating: Warm the vegan chicken in an air fryer preheated to 375°F for 3-6 minutes or an oven preheated to 400°F for 10-12 minutes, or until warmed through and crispy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vegan fried chicken made from?

Vegan fried chicken can be made from many different sources. Seitan, tofu, cauliflower, and oyster mushrooms are all popular picks. 

What is a vegan egg substitute for fried chicken?

Though you can use a flax egg as a substitute when making fried chicken, adding arrowroot powder or cornstarch to the breading mixture can eliminate the need for an egg substitute, making the chicken exceptionally crunchy while still being plant-based.

What is the best vegan fat for frying? 

The best vegan-friendly fats for frying are vegetable oil, canola oil, safflower oil, and avocado oil. All of these oils are plant-based and have high smoke points, meaning they are great for frying.

More Vegan Soul Food Recipes

For more of my best vegan soul food recipes check out my cookbook, SWEET POTATO SOUL. Purchase your copy today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, or iBooks.

4.82 from 27 votes

Vegan Fried Chicken

By: Jenné
With a double batter, classic fried chicken seasonings, and a crisp & crunchy exterior, it’s always a great time for Vegan Fried Chicken! The star ingredient? Cauliflower! This versatile veggie is juicy, hearty, and tender, making this recipe as delicious as the real thing!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder , or cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • cup hot sauce, Crystals, Louisiana, or your favorite brand
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened and plain non-dairy milk , soy, oat, almond, or other
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 5 cups vegetable oil , vegetable, safflower, or canola
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into large florets

Instructions 

  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the flour, arrowroot powder, salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, Old Bay, and nutritional yeast together until combined.
  • Combine the hot sauce, non-dairy milk, and Dijon mustard in another bowl and whisk until smooth.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven, soup pot, or fryer over medium heat until it reaches 350° F. Line a baking sheet or dinner plate with at least two layers of paper towels and set aside.
  • Using both of your hands, dredge the cauliflower. Use one hand to dip a cauliflower floret into the wet mixture carefully. Drop the floret to the flour mixture. Using your other dry hand, turn the floret to coat it completely in the dry mixture. Repeat these steps, dredging the cauliflower for a second time. Continue this process with the rest of the cauliflower florets, moving the dredged florets to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet if needed.
  • Carefully add cauliflower florets to the oil, adding only enough that all of the vegetables are fully submerged in the oil. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, gently turning the vegetables as they fry, until the pieces are golden.
  • Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the fried cauliflower to the paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet.
  • Let the temperature of the oil return to 350°F. Fry the remaining cauliflower as directed. Remove the florets from the oil, drain on the plate of paper towels, and serve hot with your favorite sauces!

Notes

Storage Directions
  • Refrigeration: Leftover vegan chicken tenders keep covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. 
  • Freezing: You can freeze leftovers, though they may lose some crunch in the freezing and thawing process. To best preserve it, freeze the vegan cauliflower chicken spread out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for 1-2 hours, or until frozen to the touch. Move to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator until thawed through.
  • Reheating: Warm the vegan chicken in an air fryer preheated to 375°F for 3-6 minutes or an oven preheated to 400°F for 10-12 minutes, or until warmed through and crispy. 
Recipe Pro-Tips
  • Use both hands to dredge. Use one hand to dredge the vegetables in the dry mixture and the other for the wet mixture. Though dredging can be messy, this will help keep the process as neat as possible, saving you from needing to stop to wipe off or wash your hands. 
  • Add a thermometer to the pot when frying. The secret to perfectly fried food is frying in oil that is consistently at the right temperature of 350°F. Much hotter and the florets will burn; any lower and they will get soggy. A candy thermometer that can attach to the side of the pot can make the temperature monitoring process easier. Otherwise, check the temperature of the oil regularly throughout the cooking process and adjust the heat as needed. 
  • Fry the cauliflower in batches. Add enough of the florets to the oil so that they all can be fully submerged as they cook. This will help them to fry evenly. Fry the remaining cauliflower in subsequent batches. 
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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86 Comments

  1. I have ALWAYS disliked cauliflower. Always. I made this recipe today and, my oh my, I can’t stop eating the florets. I mean really. So very, very good. Thank you>

  2. Had today and they were awesome!!! We like spicy over here. The only thing I’ll do different is double up on the wet dip. Thank you for this recipe.

  3. I realized today it losses it’s crunch when re-heating in the microwave.

    I baked at 425 F for 30 minutes spraying parchment paper and tops of florets with cooking spray as I don’t have an air fryer and wanted to reduce calories by eliminating the oil. It was delicious! The next day I tried reheating in the microwave but it didn’t stay crispy. Then I tried to reheat in the oven at 350 F for 15 minutes spraying tops with cooking spray. They were crispy on the bottom but not on the top. Next time I will turn them over at 7 minutes.

    I made this a low carb version primarily by using CarbQuick which is a low carb flour that measures 1:1 with regular flour.

  4. Made these in the air fryer, and they were fantastic! Crispy & spicy. We had them with mashed potatoes & some frozen peas I sauteed in a pan. Great weekend dinner.