These Crispy Spicy Cauliflower Tacos with Jicama-Carrot Slaw are a little more special than your average weeknight bean tacos. They’re made with crispy baked cauliflower that’s battered and dredged in bread crumbs, then coated in a buttery hot sauce. The cauliflower is crispy and sticky, spicy and a little sweet.
To balance the cauliflower’s spiciness, the tacos are topped with a refreshing jicama-carrot slaw that is summer in a bowl. And finally, topped with an incredibly delicious no-cook 5-minute cilantro crema.
Watch! Crispy Spicy Cauliflower Tacos Video
These tacos are one of THREE vegan taco recipes featured in my latest Youtube video, so be sure to watch the video below (this recipe begins around the 04:31 mark). And to get the two other taco recipes, head to this blog post.
Why you’re going to like this recipe
Indulgent but healthyish. Crispy fried cauliflower is one of the most popular vegan comfort foods, and for good reason. It’s the perfect texture and extremely delicious. To keep things healthyish, however, I bake the cauliflower, then baste it in a buttery hot sauce. So you’ll feel like you’re eating junk food but it’s still fairly wholesome.
Flavor explosion. This recipe is so packed with flavor that I promise even the biggest vegan skeptics will enjoy it. Max, who isn’t the biggest fan of vegetables unless they’re made decidedly unhealthy, eats this cauliflower by itself and always asks for seconds (and thirds).
Well balanced. The cauliflower is quite spicy (it gets doused in a buttery hot sauce), but the jicama-carrot slaw is the perfect cooling balance. It brings a lovely touch of refreshing summer to these tacos!
How to make crispy spicy cauliflower
First, you’ll need to cut the cauliflower into small florets. If you struggle with cutting florets from a head of cauliflower, I highly recommend watching the Youtube video to see how to easily and cleanly cut cauliflower into the perfect-sized florets for this recipe (it starts around 04:34 mark).
Then, you’ll make the batter for the cauliflower. While eggs are often used for this step, I simply substitute plant-based milk. The batter is quite simply and contains flour, seasonings, and plant-based milk. If you are gluten-free, the best option is white rice flour (I have made a similar recipe with it). Pour the batter on the cauliflower florets, and use your hands to ensure all the florets are well coated.
Pour some panko bread crumbs into a shallow bowl/plate or pie pan. Panko are Japanese-style bread crumbs and I love how flaky and light they are. If you are gluten-free, you can find gluten-free panko.
Working in batches, dredge the battered cauliflower into the bread crumbs to coat well. Then transfer the florets to parchment paper lined baking sheets. Don’t be tempted to overcrowd the cauliflower to fit it all on one baking sheet. Give the florets some breathing room so they can crisp up. If they’re too close to one another, they’ll steam instead of bake and won’t get too crispy.
Bake the breaded florets for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and baste them in the buttery hot sauce. To make the hot sauce mixture, simply combine your favorite hot sauce (I used Cholula) with vegan butter and coconut sugar (or any sugar) and melt together on the stove (or in the microwave). Return the cauliflower to the oven and bake another 10 minutes.
Voilà, your sticky, spicy, crispy cauliflower is done!
How to make jicama-carrot slaw
First things first, let’s talk jicama. Jicama is sometimes referred to as a Mexican turnip or potato and is native to Mexico and Central America. It’s starchy yet light and crisp, and is really delicious raw. It tastes sort of like a savory pear or apple (it’s not really like a potato or turnip, neither of which are tasty raw). It’s a also a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and prebiotic fiber.
You can find jicama at well-stocked grocery stores, as well as Mexican grocery stores. I bought whole jicama at Whole Foods, and I believe you can find pre-peeled and sliced jicama there, as well as at Trader Joes. If you can’t find jicama near you, I recommend substituting with Napa cabbage or cucumber.
Peeling jicama is actually quite easy and fun. I recommend watching the Youtube video around the 06:35 mark to see how to peel and cut it.
Carrots make up the other base of this slaw. You can shred whole carrots using a box grater or buy pre-shredded/matchstick carrots.
The rest of the ingredients include jalapeño pepper (remove the seeds unless you love spicy food, as the cauliflower itself is spicy), fresh cilantro, fresh mint, Medjool dates, and a simple lime vinaigrette (lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper).
The sweetness from the Medjool dates helps complement the slight sweetness from the sticky cauliflower and helps balance the spicy flavors. If you don’t have dates, just swirl in a splash of maple syrup or agave nectar into the lime vinaigrette.
How to make Cilantro Crema
This is one of my absolute favorite condiments. It’s heavily adapted from my Cashew Cream blog post/Youtube video, except I use hemp seeds instead of cashews to keep it nut-free. It’s so good and takes just 5 minutes to make. And unlike cashews, which need to be soaked before using them, hemp seeds don’t require any soaking.
This section is quite short since all you need to do is add a handful of ingredients to a blender and whiz until smooth and creamy!
Note: I recommend using just the cilantro leaves. Sometimes, cilantro stems can be more bitter than the leaves, and since we’re using 1 whole cup of cilantro, I like to err on the side of not including the stems.
Tips for making these crispy spicy cauliflower tacos
1. To make things efficient as possible, start by preparing the cauliflower. Once you put it in the oven, make the jicama-carrot slaw (20 minutes should be enough time to do this). During the last minute or two, make the buttery hot sauce (just mix three ingredients until melted).
Once you baste the cauliflower with the hot sauce, return the. cauliflower to the oven for 10 minutes. During that time, make the Cilantro Crema (all you need to do is blend up some ingredients). I’ve made these tacos without the Cilantro Crema, and they are still very tasty. But since the Cilantro Crema takes 5 minutes to make (and stays good in the fridge for at least 5 days), I do recommend making it, as it takes the tacos over the top!
2. I use soft corn tortillas for this recipe, but to add extra flavor and to improve the texture of the tortillas, I like to flame-grill them on the stove (instructions are in the recipe). You could also use flour tortillas for this recipe, if you prefer.
3. To keep this recipe gluten-free, (1) use gluten-free flour for the batter (my preference is white rice flour) and (2) use gluten-free panko bread crumbs.
4. Not consuming added sugar? Try swapping the coconut sugar in the hot sauce mixture with a tablespoon of applesauce.
If you give these Crispy Spicy Cauliflower Tacos with Jicama-Carrot Slaw recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!
- Crispy Spicy Cauliflower (recipe below)
- Jicama-Carrot Slaw (recipe below)
- Cilantro Crema (recipe below)
- Soft corn tortillas for serving
Ingredients (Crispy Spicy Cauliflower)
- 1 medium cauliflower head
- 3/4 cup (90g) all-purpose flour (for gluten-free, use white rice flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour)
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3/4 cup (180ml) unsweetened nondairy milk, such as cashew milk, oat milk, or almond milk (use oat milk to keep nut-free)
- 2 cups (120-130g) panko bread crumbs (for gluten-free, use gluten-free panko)
- 4-6 tablespoons hot sauce of choice (I use Cholula; tailor the amount based on (1 how spicy your hot sauce is and (2) your own spice tolerance)
- 3 tablespoons vegan butter (use soy-free vegan butter to keep soy-free)
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or any sugar/sweetener)
Ingredients (Jicama-Carrot Slaw)
- 2 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 pound jicama
- 3 medium carrots, grated (or you can buy pre-shredded/matchstick carrots)
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped finely
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, slivered
- 1 jalapeño pepper, de-seeded and minced (keep the seeds if you love spicy food, as the cauliflower is quite spicy)
- 3 Medjool dates, finely chopped (can substitute with a swirl of maple or agave syrup)Cilantro Crema
Ingredients (Cilantro Crema)
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) water, more to thin as needed
- 1 cup (130g) hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts)
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 heaping cup (15g) fresh cilantro leaves (leaves only, not stems - they can be bitter)
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, roughly chopped (remove seeds for mild version, or use 2 peppers for a spicy version)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional but adds a nice richness)
- Optional. Heat the tortillas over an open flame (I place them directly on the burner of my gas stove) and use tongs to ip them after 30 to 45 seconds or when small brown spots appear, and cook for another 15 to 30 seconds. Stack them in a clean kitchen towel or in foil to keep them warm.
- To assemble. Top each tortilla with a few pieces of the Crispy Spicy Cauliflower, top with a few spoons of the Jicama-Carrot Slaw, then drizzle some Cilantro Crema on top.
Directions (Crispy Spicy Cauliflower)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F/218°C. Line 1 or 2 rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper (you might only need 1 if your cauliflower is small).
- Cut the cauliflower into small florets. For cutting technique, watch the video above at starting at the 4:40 mark. Place the florets in a large bowl.
- Whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, and smoked paprika to combine. Pour in the nondairy milk and whisk until no large clumps remain. Pour the batter over the cauliflower florets, tossing with your hands to coat each piece.
- Place the panko bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Working in batches, dip the battered cauliflower in the panko and toss to coat, ensuring each floret gets a decent amount of breadcrumbs on it.
- Spread out the coated cauliflower florets on the lined baking sheets, allowing space so that they don’t touch. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the hot sauce. Add the vegan butter, hot sauce, and coconut sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together, just until the butter is melted, then take off the heat. Or melt the ingredients together in the microwave.
- After the 20 minutes is up, take the cauliflower out of the oven. Drizzle the hot sauce mixture on top of the florets, and toss to coat using your hands or a pastry brush. Return the baking sheets to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is deeply golden brown in some spots and tender when pierced with a fork.
Directions (Jicama-Carrot Slaw)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Peel the jicama. Slice the jicama into round slices, then cut into thin strips. For a visual on how to do this, watch the video.
- Place the jicama slices, shredded carrots, cilantro, mint, jalapeño, and chopped dates in a large bowl. Pour the lime dressing on top and toss well to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Directions (Cilantro Crema)
- Pour the water into a high-powered blender. Add in the remaining crema ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as you go. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt or lime juice as needed.