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General Tso’s Cauliflower

Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Vegetarian
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Big Kids Plate
Toddler Plate

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Why we love it:

You’d be unlikely to find this dish in China, but it was created by a Chinese chef, who fled war to Taiwan and later adapted it in New York by adding sugar for an American palate. I don’t enjoy frying at home all that much, but this is a super simple method and doesn’t require much oil. If you prefer the oven roasted method - scroll down to culinary tips for a sheet pan version!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Basmati Rice (White)
  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt (divided)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
  • Fresh Ginger (a ½” knob, grated or minced)
  • 3 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 12 cup Vegetable Stock
  • 12 cup Soy Sauce
  • 13 cup Rice Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons White Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 23 cup Cornstarch (divided)
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 112 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 head Cauliflower (cut into small florets)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 112 cups Canola Oil (or vegetable oil, or more if it makes frying easier)
  • 12 bunch Green Onion (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon White Sesame Seeds
  • 12 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (or more or less)

Cooking Instructions

  • 1. RICE

    Combine the rice, water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Stir well, then turn heat to low. Cover tightly and steam for about 17 minutes or until rice is tender and water is absorbed. Turn off heat and gently stir. Cover and let it rest until you’re ready to serve.

  • 2. SAUCE

    Heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry for a minute or two. Add the broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, tomato paste and whisk. In a small bowl, combine 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 Tablespoons of cold water and when it’s dissolved, stir into the main sauce pot. Add the red pepper flakes, if using. Bring to a low boil. Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring often until sauce has thickened.

  • 3. BATTER

    Whisk the remaining cornstarch, flour, baking powder, and remaining salt in a medium bowl. Add 4 eggs and ½ cup of water and whisk until smooth. The batter should be thick enough to cling to the cauliflower and coat it but stay loose enough to easily drip off (thin out with more water if needed).

  • 4. CAULIFLOWER

    Chop cauliflower into 1 - 2” florets. The leaves and core will also taste great in this recipe, chop them up too. Stir into batter and fold to evenly coat.

  • 5. BELL PEPPER

    Dice the bell pepper into small pieces and set near the stove.

  • 6. FRY

    Pour canola (or vegetable) oil into a heavy bottomed skillet to make it deep enough so it will cover the cauliflower pieces about a quarter to halfway. Heat the oil over medium heat. Drop a small bit of batter in the oil to test it – when it rises to the top and bubbles, the oil is ready.

    Lift the cauliflower florets from the batter and let the excess drip off before gently setting in the oil. Fry for a few minutes on each side, then flip, repeating sides several times if necessary until you get a nice golden-brown exterior. The additional frying time helps make it a little crunchier and ensures a soft interior. Remove golden florets and set on a cooling rack with paper towels underneath to help keep it crispy. When done, add the bell pepper to the oil and cook for about 1 minute. Remove to a bowl.

  • 7. SAUCING

    Toss all of the fried cauliflower and bell pepper in a bowl with the sauce (enough just to cover).

  • 8. SERVING

    Sprinkle with green onion (if using) and sesame seeds for serving. Spoon over rice.

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Substitutions

  • GLUTEN FREE:
    I’d wager that this works perfectly with cup for cup GF flour
  • EGG FREE:
    omit egg and use canola oil, or try with a can of coconut milk, which will alter the flavor but should taste great and be thick enough to make the batter stick
  • CAULIFLOWER:
    halved brussels sprouts would be awesome. Thick slices of portobellos, ¼ inch rounds of yams, or tofu cubes
  • PESCATARIAN:
    try shrimp! or chunks of cod
  • BELL PEPPER:
    ok to omit
  • SPICE LEVEL:
    add or omit red chili flakes or even a whole dried bird’s eye chili in the oil and/or sauce
  • AIR FRYER:
    I don’t have one yet, but I’d be this is a great recipe. Don’t use the wet batter! Instead dredge in a little cornstarch, then whipped egg/water wash, then panko. They should be dry and well coated. Cook in an air fryer, then toss with sauce to serve. Call me to tell me how it goes!

Kid Friendly Version

Big Kids Plate
Toddler Plate

How to Tweak This Recipe for Kids:

  • This is a classic win with kids at Chinese restaurants right? But mine get weird about sauce, so I leave it on the side for dipping which they love
  • If not vegetarians, you can use this same sauce and cooking method with cubes of chicken.
  • Pineapple or mandarin orange segments are a good addition for kids' plates that taste great with the sauce.

For Toddlers

  • Try the oven roasting method if you'd prefer not to give them fried food. Also, you can boil or steam some cauliflower and mash it for smaller babies and new eater. Try stirring in a small amount of sauce to season it.

For Choosy Eaters

  • Use chicken, tofu, or another vegetable stir fried in a pan with the sauce if they don't like cauliflower.
  • You could simply used a prepared, simple chicken nugget or even a vegetable 'tater tot and serve with the sauce for dipping.
  • Leave some peppers raw, or serve with raw snap peas, cucumbers, or carrots instead.

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

  1. Make the sauce. Gently reheat before tossing with the cauliflower
  2. Steam the rice. Microwave to serve

Culinary Skills

No-Fry Sheet Pan Version 

Omit the step called “BATTER.” You also will not need most of those ingredients – omit the baking powder, eggs, water. After you cut the cauliflower into florets and dice the peppers, toss them in a bowl with 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil. Coat with ½ teaspoon of salt and the remaining cornstarch (you’ve used 2 Tablespoons inthe sauce, so you have about 1/4 cup left). Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spread veggies out on the baking sheet in one layer. Roast for 15-18 minutes, tossing once, or until the cauliflower is cooked through and crispy. 

Return to the bowl and toss with the sauce to serve.

Rate this recipe:
3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 53 votes, average: 4.67 out of 53 votes, average: 4.67 out of 53 votes, average: 4.67 out of 53 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5 (3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5)
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