An authentic sweet and sour flavor with a modern twist using cauliflower – tender cauliflower coated with super flavorful sauce, making it the perfect vegetarian takeout fakeout you crave. The magic of this dish lies in the lightly breaded cauliflower pan-fried to golden brown and crispy on the outside, then bathed in a sweet and sour sticky sauce.

A bowl of sweet and sour cauliflower garnished with sesame seeds and green onion.

Remember when cauliflower was a super trendy food? Because this vegetable is so versatile and has mild enough flavor, enabling it to soak up any flavors you give them.

The cauliflower florets are pan-fried until tender inside and crispy outside, mimicking the satisfying texture of crispy fried chicken cubes in the traditional sweet-and-sour recipe.

This is a great way to sneak in extra veggies, especially for any picky eaters you might have in the family.

This dish has so much flavor. It is perfect to serve as a side or a main course on its own.

Ingredients for sweet and sour cauliflower.

Ingredients for Sweet and Sour Cauliflower

Cauliflower is the star of the show! Wash it well and cut into small to medium florets.

Salt will be needed to season the cauliflower before the breading so it can get into the vegetables.

Starch: I like to use arrowroot starch. You can also use tapioca flour or cornstarch. I like to shake up the cauliflower in a bag of starch so you can save some time from coating each individual floret.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Ketchup has a very complex flavor profile, which includes salty, sweet, tart, and umami. So not surprisingly, it is the base of the sweet and sour sauce!

Rice vinegar deepens even more of the tart flavor element for the sweet and sour sauce.

Sugar: I typically use white sugar for this recipe because that is how I learned it from my mom. But if you experiment other types of sweetener, please let me know in the comment section below!

Other seasonings you can add: garlic powder, onion powder and/or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

How to Make Sweet and Sour Cauliflower

First, season the cauliflower with salt before the breading. So the salt can get inside of the cauliflower.

Now the cauliflower florets are evenly coated with starch, let’s get them “fried” up.

Whip up the sauce

Some Ideas to Serve Sweet and Sour Cauliflower

Classic Fried Rice: Nothing beats a simple and light traditional fried rice to pair with this dish.

Quinoa Fried “Rice”: Keep the trendy food going. This is another modern twist on traditional fried rice, which will be a great companion to the sweet and sour cauliflower.

Steamed White rice: Less is more. Get some fluffy steamy white rice to let the sweet and sour flavor of these cauliflower shine.

Lettuce wrap: Try these cauliflower in a lettuce wrap. Just like the PF Chang chicken lettuce wrap, this is a great way to add some fresh element to the paring.

Noodles like Lo Mein: Have you tried my lightened-up Lo Mein? It is simple and so flavorful. Perfect canvas to enjoy these sweet and sour cauliflower on.

A bowl of sweet and sour cauliflower garnished with sesame seeds and green onion.

How to Store This Cauliflower Dish

Just like most “breaded” dishes, this sweet and sour cauliflower recipe is best served hot and fresh out of the pan. That’s when they are the most crispy and the sauce and breading are most evenly coated.

But of course, we need leftovers! They are still delicious and super flavorful. The texture will be a little different though. It will still have the tender breading and sauce, but more on the soft side.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Heat it up in a pan for the best reheating result. But you can also microwave them!

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A bowl of sweet and sour cauliflower garnished with sesame seeds and green onion.

Get the recipe:Sweet and Sour Cauliflower {6 Ingredients}

An authentic sweet and sour flavor with a modern twist using cauliflower – they are tender and so flavorful, making it perfect veggie for dish sides or main course.
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Ingredients

  • 1 head small cauliflower , cut into florets
  • 1.5 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 2/3 cup starch

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar, or brown/coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch

Instructions 

  • Wash and cut the cauliflower into small to medium florets.
  • In a big ziploc bag, combine the cauliflower with salt. Shake them to combine.
  • Then add in the starch. Shake to combine until all the cauliflower florets are evenly coated with starch.
  • Heat a layer of oil in a non-stick wok. Once shimmering, add the cauliflower florets to pan fry over medium heat (one layer at a time, don't overcrowd them)
  • Fry them for about 3 – 4 minutes each side or until a little bit browned. The cauliflower should be tender when you poke it with a fork.
  • Remove the cauliflower florets from the pot and place onto a plate with a piece of paper towel.
  • Repeat these steps until all the cauliflower florets are "fried".

Add the Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • Add all the cooked cauliflower pieces back in the pot.
  • Mix together all the ingreidents for sweet and sour sauce, then pour in the pot with the cauliflower.
  • Toss togther until well combined. The sauce will thicken as you continue to stir.
  • Garnish with sesame seeds and green onion. Enjoy!

Notes

*This is an optional ingredient if it is available to you. You can use Mirin if the Shaoxing wine is unavailable to you. I’ve also tried a dark liquor like whisky for marinating and it works well.
** In the most recent update 05/10/2024, I have simplified this recipe by removing the egg altogether. And you will still get a crispy golden layer on the outside of the chicken. I did leave the egg in as an optional ingredient (if you have made it with egg and prefer it that way).
***You may need to add more oil if double frying, otherwise, the chicken could be a bit tough on the outside. Allow the oil to heat back up to temperature before adding another batch.
Serving: 1g, Calories: 482kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 30g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 176mg, Sodium: 386mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 14g

The Nutrition Facts above are specific to the ingredients I chose to use for this recipe, which may vary.