Our vegetarian spin on firecracker take-out features crunchy baked cauliflower in place of shrimp. You will love this Firecracker Cauliflower recipe!
I am a huge fan of recreating take-out type dishes at home. With complete control over the ingredients, you can create something much healthier—and something that just downright tastes better as well.
Plus, it can be fun. You can take popular dishes and turn them into meatless meals that you can’t always get on the menu. Like this Firecracker Cauliflower. Traditionally made with chicken or shrimp, this dish is usually pan-fried or deep-fried and then coated in a sweet chili sauce.
Frying vs Baking
Since I’m not the biggest fan of frying (particularly deep frying—all that oil just scares me!), I decided to go the baking route instead. Easier, healthier and no bubbling oil, which is a huge bonus in my book. By using a wire cooling rack set onto a baking sheet, you can keep the bottom of whatever you're baking from getting mushy—just make sure it's an oven-safe rack!
I find cauliflower to be a nice and meaty veggie and it works perfectly in this dish to replace the chicken or shrimp. The florets are coated lightly in a breadcrumb mixture and then baked until just tender and slightly crispy around the edges. Meanwhile, you’ll quickly whisk together a sweet and spicy homemade chili sauce that rivals anything from the store. (And by making it yourself, you can easily adjust the spice level by adding more or less sriracha!)
Serve the cauliflower over a bed of rice, sprinkle with some green onions and then drizzle with the finger-licking good sauce. I found that drizzling the sauce instead of coating the cauliflower with it helps keep the florets nice and crispy.
And go ahead and keep a small bowl of the sauce on the table for extra dunking. Trust me on that one.
For the cauliflower:
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tbsp milk
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp sweet paprika
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 large head cauliflower about 2 ½ pounds, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch pieces
For the sauce:
- ½ cup honey
- 3 tbsp sriracha sauce
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 ¼ tsp rice vinegar
- salt to taste
- cooked rice
- green onions thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and then set an oven-safe metal cooling rack inside the baking sheet. Spray the rack with an oil mister or cooking spray and set aside.
Make the cauliflower:
- Lightly beat the eggs and milk in a small bowl until combined.
- In a shallow dish, add the flour, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, paprika, and salt. Mix to combine.
- Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the cauliflower into the egg mixture, shake off the excess, then place in the breadcrumb mixture, tossing to coat.
- Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer (you can put them close together). Once all the cauliflower is coated, spray it lightly with oil.
- Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the coating is crispy and golden brown, and the cauliflower is tender but not mushy.
Make the sauce:
- While the cauliflower is baking, make the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, sriracha, garlic, vinegar, and salt. Taste and add additional sriracha for more heat, if desired.
- Divide the rice into bowls and top with with cauliflower. Drizzle the sauce over the cauliflower, and garnish with green onions. Serve with additional sauce on the side for dipping.