Roasted cauliflower in a sticky sweet orange sauce that’s loaded with diced peppers. This Orange Cauliflower tastes like a delicious take-out meal, but it’s made in the comfort of your own kitchen and ready in about 30 minutes!
Based on the popular Chinese orange chicken dish, this plant-based version is made with cauliflower. The cauliflower is roasted until just tender and then smothered in a sticky sweet fresh orange sauce.
Traditional recipes call for battered and fried cauliflower (or chicken), but personally I think that step is unnecessary.
Don’t worry though, there is so much great flavor and texture in this Vegan Orange Cauliflower. Serve it over rice for a healthy meal the whole family will love!
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Cauliflower ~ Cauliflower is the perfect stand-in for chicken in this dish. It’s “meaty” with great texture.
You could use baked tofu or store-bought vegan chicken if you prefer.
Onion and garlic ~ Onions and garlic bring lots of flavor. I use a red onion, but yellow or white will also work.
Feel free to add some fresh ginger if you like as well.
Peppers ~ Sweet bell peppers is want you want to use for this vegan cauliflower recipe. I use one red pepper and one orange pepper for color, but you could two of the same. Yellow pepper or green bell pepper could be used, too.
Oranges ~ Since the base of the sauce is made from orange juice, I highly recommend using fresh squeezed orange juice. Bottled juice can be used in a pinch, but it won’t be as flavorful.
I have made this sauce using naval oranges (Cara Cara oranges are our favorite – they are so sweet!) and clementines. Both work great, but you’ll need less naval oranges as they are larger and will yield more juice.
Seasoning ~ The rest of the sauce ingredients include soy sauce, rice vinegar, and pure maple syrup. This creates a savory, sweet, and tangy sauce that reduces down to a thick sticky consistency that coats the cauliflower perfectly.
Cornstarch ~ Cornstarch will help thicken the vegan orange sauce. You will need to whisk the cornstarch with water until smooth first and then add to the simmering sauce.
How to make the recipe
Please scroll down to the recipe card for exact ingredient measurements and instructions.
Chop the cauliflower into bite-size florets.
Spread the florets out in one even layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until tender and starting to brown.
Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch and water until smooth to form a slurry.
In a separate bowl, whisk the fresh squeezed orange juice, soy sauce, pure maple syrup, and vinegar until combined.
Set both aside.
In a large skillet, sauté the onions until softened.
Add the diced peppers and garlic and sauté.
Add the orange sauce and bring to a boil.
Whisk in the cornstarch slurry, then decrease the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the sauce is thickened.
When the cauliflower is done roasting add it to the finished orange sauce and stir well to coat.
Serve the vegan orange cauliflower over cooked white rice or rice noodles.
Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds or sliced almonds if you like a little crunch.
Fridge: Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. For best results, store any rice and garnishes separately from the cauliflower in orange sauce.
Freezer: You can also freeze this orange cauliflower in a freezer-safe container or plastic storage bag for up to 3 months.
Pro tips and tricks
~ Cut the cauliflower into bite-size pieces.
~ Roast the cauliflower until tender, but not mushy. Just 15 to 20 minutes is usually perfect.
~Fresh squeezed juice will give the best flavor in this recipe. Store bought juice will work in a pinch, but know that the orange flavor won’t be as vibrant.
~ Bring the sauce to a bubble before adding the cornstarch slurry in order to activate the thickening properties.
~ Gently simmer the sauce until reduces and thickened to an almost syrup like consistency.
~ Serve the vegan orange cauliflower over cooked white rice or Asian noodles for a complete meal.
~ For an oil-free option, roast the cauliflower dry and use broth or water to sauté.
~ For a gluten-free option, use wheat-free tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
This particular recipe uses cauliflower in place of chicken. Other recipes may use tofu, tempeh, seitan, or store-bought vegan chicken pieces. The sauce is typically the same in both traditional and vegan versions, featuring orange juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, and rice vinegar.
This vegan orange chicken is low fat, high in fiber and vitamins, and contains no cholesterol. Since there is no batter or breading and the cauliflower is baked, not fried, it’s likely a healthier option than traditional recipes.
Yes, of course! Since there is no breading or batter on the cauliflower, simply swap out the soy sauce for gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos and that’s it!
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 3 tablespoons olive oil diviced
- 1 red onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 sweet bell peppers seeded and diced (I used 1 red and 1 orange)
- 1 ½ cups fresh squeezed orange juice
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- Sesame seeds for garnish if desired
- Cooked Rice for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Cut the cauliflower into large bite size florets. In a medium bowl toss the cauliflower with 1 ½ tablespoons oil.
- Place the cauliflower in one even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, (Add an additional 5 minutes if desired. I like mine to be tender, but still firm). Cauliflower should be just browning on the edges.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, whisk together the orange juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, and vinegar. Set aside.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth and set aside.
- Add the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons oil to a large non-stick skillet. Add the onion and sauté 4 to 5 minutes until tender.
- Add the garlic and peppers. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes until starting to soften.
- Add the orange sauce to the pan and turn up the heat to bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the cornstarch slurry and stir well to incorporate. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens to a syrup like consistency, about 10 minutes or so.
- Add the roasted cauliflower to the sauce stir to coat.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top, if using, and serve immediately by itself or over rice.
~Nutrition facts calculated without sesame seed garnish or rice for serving.
Nutrition values are calculated using online calculators and are estimates only. Please verify using your own data.