Today’s gluten free buffalo cauliflower recipe is perfect for making delicious vegan buffalo cauliflower bites or wings (depending on the size of the cauliflower florets). It’s a healthy plant-based appetizer or a snack for the game day, made from just 4 simple ingredients. Includes an oil-free option.
I’ve always been a big fan of spicy foods, especially whenever buffalo sauce is involved. It brings a whole new dimension to the flavors of neutral-tasting foods (like tofu in my Buffalo Tofu Sandwich). Some may call that dimension Flavortown, but I’m not sure about the copyright situation of that word.
Whenever we vegans bring up our love for buffalo sauce, this question always pops up:
Is buffalo sauce vegan?
In short, traditional buffalo sauce isn’t vegan, but it can easily be modified. The traditional buffalo sauce recipe calls for cayenne pepper-based hot sauce, vinegar, and melted butter. While the first two are plant-based, the third one obviously isn’t.
Thankfully, there are a lot of vegan butter varieties on the market today. I haven’t tried making buffalo sauce with all of them, but I found that Miyoko’s and Melt work really well here.
Neutral-tasting oil like avocado or grapeseed can be used instead of butter to make vegan buffalo sauce. Or, for an oil-free version, you can substitute it with aquafaba or plant-based milk.
There are ways to make buffalo sauce from scratch – here’s an example recipe. But the hands-down easiest way to make it is to mix the store-bought Frank’s Red Hot sauce with melted butter (or oil, or aquafaba/plant-based milk).
Once sauce is figured out, it’s time to get it on all our favorite foods!
Here’s where I’m going to circle back to my 4-ingredient vegan buffalo cauliflower recipe…
Why I’m Only Using 4 Ingredients
A lot of my recipes start with me saying that I tried a dozen versions of that recipe before coming up with my own.
The same goes here: my easy vegan buffalo cauliflower recipe is a result of me trying to find a no-fuss, foolproof buffalo cauliflower recipe that would be so easy that I could just memorize the ingredients, yet get a consistent result every time I make it.
Since I’m a parent, my mom brain refuses to keep long lists of anything, even ingredients of my favorite recipes. That’s why I was excited when I got great results with just 4 simple plant-based ingredients – easy enough to memorize for this busy mom!
To trim down the ingredients list for my vegan buffalo cauliflower, I decided against using any flavor additives in the breading batter that I’ve seen in a lot of other buffalo cauliflower recipes (onion or garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper). Because (who are we kidding?!) all of those are irrelevant when we get hit by the tangy, spicy flavor explosion delivered by Frank’s Red Hot sauce in every bite.
Once those were out, it was time to figure out how to make the perfect cauliflower wing batter.
My idea of perfect buffalo cauliflower bites came down to light, slightly crispy breading that was just thick enough to hold the buffalo sauce. I’m not a fan of thicker breading because it takes the attention away from the star of the show – perfectly roasted cauliflower.
To get that light layer of breading, I tested a few types of flour and various liquid-to-flour proportions.
In my experience, all-purpose flour yielded breading that was too thick or doughy. Chickpea flour was tricky to bake through just right. Finally, I tested brown rice flour (I had a bag sitting in my pantry for ages), and never looked back.
The key here is to make the batter quite thin – think a bit thinner than pancake batter. If you make it thicker, it will be hard to coat each cauliflower piece evenly.
Plus, once you arrange the cauliflower bits on the baking sheet, a lot of batter will drip off, and the cauliflower pieces will be baked into one large, weird rectangular pancake. Let’s not do that.
Click here to see my tips for making buffalo cauliflower crispy.
Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Ingredients
1 head cauliflower (about 6 cups of florets). It would be impossible to make buffalo cauliflower without its main ingredient, so here it is.
Brown rice flour. Brown rice flour is naturally gluten-free, so it doesn’t develop strains of gluten that could make the batter too thick. You can find brown rice flour in grocery stores with well-stocked bulk sections, or buy it packaged (Bob’s Red Mill is my go-to grain and flour brand).
Water. I’m not counting water as an official ingredient in my four-ingredient vegan buffalo cauliflower bites because it’s so ubiquitous. But it would be hard to make batter without it.
Frank’s Red Hot sauce. The unmistakable spicy flavor punch of buffalo sauce made with Frank’s Red Hot is totally worth the extra grocery trip (if you don’t already have a bottle of it in your house). Since its taste is so bold, I’ve skipped all other flavor boosters like garlic or onion powder, paprika, etc.
Vegan butter/neutral-tasting oil/aquafaba. A little bit of fat from vegan butter or neutral high-heat oil (like avocado oil) will crisp up the surface of your cauliflower wings in the last stages of roasting. If you follow an oil-free or a low-fat diet, feel free to use aquafaba for similar results – but you’ll probably need to cook your buffalo cauliflower a bit longer.
OPTIONAL: Chopped fresh parsley. I find that little specks of parsley look nice on the surface of my gluten free buffalo cauliflower bites, but you can totally skip them if you want.
See the web story for these 4-ingredient gluten free buffalo cauliflower wings here.
How to Make Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Bites
(See the printable recipe card below for exact measurements of each ingredient.)
Start with preheating the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
While the oven is heating up, wash and pat dry the cauliflower. Trim off the leaves, then cut the florets off the stem.
For buffalo cauliflower wings, you’ll want to leave the florets large, then cut them into quarters lengthwise. For cauliflower bites, cut all florets into bite-size pieces.
Next, make the breading batter. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together brown rice flour and 1 cup of water to form loose batter. It needs to be a bit thinner than pancake batter. If the batter looks thick, whisk in more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Add the cauliflower pieces into the bowl with the batter. Mix well to coat each piece. Some of the batter will drip off – that’s OK since we don’t want the coating to be too thick.
Shake off the excess batter from each cauliflower piece. Arrange the pieces in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving some space in between.
(If your baking sheet isn’t large enough to contain all of the cauliflower, use an additional baking sheet.)
Roast the cauliflower for 20 min, or until the batter coating looks mostly dry.
While the cauliflower is roasting, make the buffalo sauce. Whisk Frank’s Red Hot Sauce with melted vegan butter OR neutral cooking oil OR aquafaba (for an oil-free option).
Remove the cauliflower from the oven. It will look something like this:
Return the cauliflower florets into the large mixing bowl you used earlier (make sure to rinse it off prior to that). Drizzle the cauliflower with the buffalo sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley (if using). Toss gently to distribute the sauce.
Arrange the coated cauliflower on the same baking sheet, and return to the oven. Bake another 10-15 min, or until the cauliflower bites are dry with crispy edges.
Cool the buffalo cauliflower wings lightly before serving.
How to Make Buffalo Cauliflower Crispy
1. Batter the cauliflower lightly. The key to perfectly crispy buffalo cauliflower wings is to start with a light coating of batter. That’s easy enough to achieve if you’re using my brown rice flour-based batter (see the recipe below).
After you toss the cauliflower in the batter, shake each cauliflower piece to remove excess batter before putting the pieces onto the baking sheet. No need to do it perfectly here – you still want some breading left. Just make sure the cauliflower bits aren’t swimming in a puddle of batter before you send them into the oven.
2. Pay attention to the heat of your oven. You want the oven to be hot enough to dry up the batter and make your cauliflower wings crispy, yet not so hot that the cauliflower gets burned.
From my experience, 425°F (220°C) is just the right temperature to achieve that. My recipe below calls for baking the cauliflower bites for 30-35 minutes. But if you want your buffalo cauliflower to become even crispier, you can bake it a bit longer. It’s unlikely to get burned at 425°F as long as you keep an eye on it.
3. Spread cauliflower pieces apart on the baking sheet. You don’t want your baking sheet to get too crowded – and you definitely don’t want to pile your cauliflower pieces in more than one layer.
Spreading the cauliflower allows each piece to roast instead of steaming. Plus, the batter is less likely to dry up evenly if the pieces sit too close.
4. Use an air fryer (if you have one). Air fryers work by circulating hot air around each piece of food, which helps them become crispier.
The drawback of air fryers is that unless you want to shell out some serious $$$, most standard air fryers are equipped with baskets that let you cook only a small amount of food at a time. So it’s going to take way longer to cook a whole 6-cup batch of buffalo cauliflower.
However, there’s another type of air fryers on the market today – they are built like small ovens, with two shelves that will fit about twice as much food as the basket air fryers. I’ve been using this model for over half a year, and love how much more versatile (and roomy) it is.
If you decide to cook your vegan buffalo cauliflower in an air fryer, set it to the highest temperature (usually it’s 400°F), and cook it in batches, 12-15 minutes per batch. Check often to make sure it doesn’t burn.
What to Serve with Buffalo Cauliflower
Anything buffalo-flavored goes hand in hand with ranch or blue cheese dressing. My easy dairy free ranch dressing recipe is perfect for making a delicious ranch dip to go with these buffalo cauliflower bites.
Serve with celery and carrot sticks for a complete experience.
How to Reheat Gluten Free Buffalo Cauliflower
To reheat buffalo cauliflower wings or bites, arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake them for 8-10 minutes at 350°F (180°C).
However, I found that the cauliflower comes out even better if it’s reheated in an air fryer. Thanks to the hot air circulation each piece develops a really nice, crispy surface. Set the air fryer to 370°F (190°C), and reheat the cauliflower in small batches for 5-7 minutes.
I hope you enjoy my easy gluten free buffalo cauliflower as much as we do in my family!
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