Spicy Blackened Cauliflower Bites

Snack on veggies with this fun and tasty way to serve up cauliflower. Bite-sized cauliflower florets are coated in my spicy creamy sauce, then quickly cooked in the oven to blackened perfection. Healthy meets delicious in each warm and lively bite. Add a cool ranch (vegan!) dipping sauce on the side, a pile of freshly sliced veggie sticks and happy snacking time is ready! These "buffalo wing" inspired bites are perfect for vegging out in front of your iPad or paired with some "me time" watching Netflix or browsing a good book or cookbook! (There are soooo many vegan cookbooks, like this one, out or coming out this year, I need a bigger bookcase!) This recipe would be fun for parties too, simply add a toothpick to each bite and serve! The bright red-orange color looks so pretty against a green tablecloth or napkin. Grab a head of cauliflower at the store or farmer's market and make my Spicy Blackened Cauliflower Bites!..



Cauli-fleurs.. These were from the farmer's market and had a light green tint to them.

Optional dip. Ranch of course!..

Cauliflower used to be the veggie I brushed off as boring. White, hard, bland. It was the veggie you only ate off of party platters if the broccoli was finished. And you only ate the broccoli if the carrots were out. The cauliflower was literally just a crunchy vehicle for whatever creamy dip was hanging out nearby. It wasn't bad, just pretty boring. But cauliflower has been given new life recently. Have you noticed? Bloggers have created some amazing cauliflower recipes, I found these (just a few of them!) on my other site, Finding Vegan:

How-to Make Cauliflower Rice by Everyday Maven
Sweet Roasted Cauliflower Steaks by May I Have that Recipe
Potato and Cauliflower Cakes by The Veg Life
Green Cauliflower Dip by Sometimes I Veg
Spicy Buffalo Wings by PETA

And to springboard off of those cauliflower "buffalo wings" that everyone loves, I made these spicy blackened cauliflower bites! They are a bit more thickly coated with blackened edges I love. You can make the texture as tender or crunchy as you'd like by adjusting the initial cauliflower boiling time.

Life. Spring is starting to show its warmth and things are getting busy. No more winter cocooning and cocoa drinking. Scratch that last part, cocoa is clearly a year-round sip. Right now I am super busy finalizing book edits, working on some projects for the blog (.. always!) and exploring iPhone App possibilities for Finding Vegan! I am trying to come out of my winter hibernation by scheduling some meet-ups with friends and re-invigorating my fitness plans too. And with the start of spring in California, for me, means a bit of seasonal allergies! I think my immune system is still adjusting to the new kittens too. So I am just waiting for things to mellow out so I can put away the cough drops and constant regimen of immunity supplements! Elderberry syrup, vitamin C, immunity teas, oregano oil if need be and more. Anyone else feeling the wrath of winter-to-spring allergies? What do you do to perk up your immune system?

Well one thing that helps me is spicy foods! My lemon-cayenne morning tea perks everything up to start my day, and I find spicy soups (like miso and brothy soups) to be very helpful too. And these spicy cauliflower bites are another way to kickstart your system with cayenne! Make them extra spicy if you like that sort of thing. The optional side of cool, creamy ranch dip and chilled veggie sticks counteract the heat quite nicely.

Spicy Blackened Cauliflower Bites
vegan, makes about 3 cups of bites

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets

Spicy Sauce:
1/4 - 1/2 cup boiled or steamed cauliflower (from head broken into florets)
1 clove garlic
2 1/2 Tbsp agave or maple syrup, grade B
1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked
1/4 cup non-dairy milk, plain flavor
3-6 pinches cayenne (how spicy do you like them?)
1/4 tsp smoky paprika
2-3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (start with 2)
a few pinches of black pepper
1/8 - 1/4 tsp salt
optional: nutritional yeast to taste (thickens sauce and adds cheezy flavor)

a bit of oil to grease baking dish (safflower, EVOO, coconut..)

(optional) Creamy Ranch Dip - or try this recipe:
1 1/2 Tbsp vegan mayo (vegenaise)
2-3 tsp agave syrup
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp red or apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp paprika
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
pinch of salt and pepper


1. Before starting you will want to pre-soak your cashews. Soak in a cup of salted water for at least 4 hours, overnight is standard. In a hurry? -> Simmer the cashews in the salted water for 4-5 minutes on medium heat in a pot, this will quickly soften them, although I still prefer the overnight soak method for more tender cashews. But if a bind and if you don't mind not keeping them are, a slow simmer can help speed things up.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3. Wash the cauliflower and remove the thick stem and any green leaves. Break the cauliflower into florets with your hands, use a knife if needed for tough pieces.

4. Note: How crunchy do you want your cauliflower to serve? I made mine pretty tender, so a 4-6 minutes boil for me. But if you want crunchier bites, just do an even quicker boil of about 3-4 minutes. Or shorter for super crunchy! You could even leave the cauliflower raw if you wanted too, the oven baking will warm them anyways. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cauliflower: Add the cauliflower florets. Boil for 4-6 minutes or until tender. Do not over-boil, you just want them tender enough to poke with a fork. (Or for crunchier see above note.) Drain water and place boiled cauliflower aside in a bowl to cool a bit.

5. In a blender, add all the spicy sauce ingredients. For the cayenne and salt, start with just a pinch and add more after taste testing. Also start with just 2 tablespoons of vinegar and add more if you want a zestier tasting sauce. Take 1/4-1/2 cup of the boiled cauliflower to be used in the sauce. Start with 1/4 cup and add more if you'd like. Blend from low to high until the sauce is very smooth. Do a taste test and adjust seasoning to suit your spiciness needs.

6. Pour the sauce into a small bowl and set aside a large baking dish. Grease the baking dish in a bit of oil. Pick up a floret by its stem and dip it in the spicy sauce. The suace should coat the cauliflower nicely. If the sauce is too watery for some reason, you can remedy this by re-blending the sauce and adding more cauliflower to help thicken things up. Nutritional yeast will also thicken. Once the cauliflower is dipped and coated, place it round side up int he baking dish. Repeat this process until all the cauliflower is dipped. There will be leftover sauce. This is to be served alongside the cauliflower as an added dip. You can also serve this sauce as a dressing for other veggeies or a coating/marinade for tofu, tempeh or beans.

7. The 400 degree oven will be nice and toasty. Place the baking dish on the top rack of your oven and bake at 400 for about ten minutes, of until the sauce starts to firm up on the cauliflower. Then turn the oven on broil and allow the cauliflower to cook for about 1-4 minutes, or enough time to blacken the tops and edges of each piece. See pics for examples of the blackening. You do not want to burn the sauce or veggies, just get a nice bronzed color. This also firms up the sauce even more to create a sort of thick coating. Try this -> Use Panko bread crumbs and an added coating to have crispy-crusted bites!

8. If making the ranch dip.. While the bites are baking you can add all the ranch dip ingredients to a mug or cup and whisk briskly until smooth. For extra creamy dip add another dollop of vegan mayo in there.

9. Pull the bites from the oven and allow to cool on the countertop for at least ten minutes before serving. Serve warm with the easy ranch dip and leftover spicy sauce on the side. Veggie sticks are also a nice touch.

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