Crispy, crunchy, cauliflower that’s baked NOT fried gets piled high and drizzled with a spicy, tangy, gochujang, yogurt dressing.
Consider this #tacotuesday turned on its head.
Real talk. I’m feeling a touch of burn out today. I’ve been doing all the things I’m not supposed to – eating poorly, not exercising, and avoiding quality self care in favor of vegging out in front of the TV. On top of that, I’ve been playing the comparison game SUPER HARD for the past week and everyone knows that leads nowhere good. So I thought I’d try something different today.
Crunchy Cauliflower Lettuce Wraps
It’s Tuesday and I want tacos, but in the name of trying new things to push beyond the funk, let’s go for something lighter, brighter, and dare I say, a bit more creative than the standard. Perhaps it’ll be plant based, maybe with some Asian flavors, and hell, let’s get really wild and swap out the tortilla for a lettuce wrap. What I’ve stumbled upon here definitely sparks joy, feels different, and reminds me that sometimes you just need to approach from a different angle to feel refreshed, revived, and rejuvenated.
Will these crunchy, little, lettuce wraps change your life? Probably not, but they’re a delicious, healthy thing to eat while you’re busy figuring out what the next step, best course, right road to take is. Or even if you’re just fine where you are but want to shake your dinner routine up a bit.
So with that here’s what you’ll need for a new spin on Taco Tuesday
What I love about this recipe is that it’s mostly made with stuff I keep on hand all the time. To be fair, I usually have both cauliflower and red cabbage in my fridge. This has less to do with my meal planning and organizational skills (which honestly are not #goals) and more to do with the fact that I tend to forget about things at the back of the fridge or the bottom of the crisper drawer, but I know that those types of hearty veggies do well in states of well, neglect. The rest is mostly seasoning, some flour, cornstarch, and a little bit of fizzy water (which we always have kicking about because we are mildly health conscious people in our 30’s). So now that you’ve got your stuff all lined up…let’s do the damn thing.
How to make crispy cauliflower lettuce wraps
Before you do anything, even wielding a knife, preheat your oven first. Heat is a very important part of making food crispy. Your cauliflower won’t ever get the same crunch going into a lukewarm oven as if it got a hot blast of heat from a properly preheated one. So do yourself (and my neuroses) a favor and preheat.
The microwave is your friend here. It’s a great way to soften up your cauliflower without adding a ton of moisture to the party. Just toss it in a bowl with a teeny bit of water, cover it with plastic and nuke it for about 3 or 4 minutes. It doesn’t need to be perfectly tender when it emerges, it just needs to be somewhere between raw and mush. I realize that’s a really big window, and I don’t mention it to make you confused or anxious, but really to hammer home the idea that it doesn’t really matter all that much. As long as the stuff gets a little bit of a head start before it goes into the oven, you’re good to go.
While your cauliflower is nuking, prep the dry ingredients for your batter. But make sure to set aside roughly two tablespoons of the stuff before you introduce the wet ingredients to the mix. Holding this little bit of dry mixture back is important to getting that crispy, crunchy texture, that by now you may have noticed is of the utmost importance to me. The cauliflower on its own is a little slippery, especially now that it’s done some cooking and exuded a bit of moisture. So we need a way for the batter to adhere to it. A light dusting of something dry and kind of tacky is just the ticket – and luckily we’ve got some all ready to go.
Just before you add the wet stuff to the dry and mix up your batter, this is the time to stop for a moment, grab a baking sheet, toss some oil on it and pop it into the hot oven. Why? Well it’s that crispy thing again. Room temperature cauliflower with room temperature batter meeting room temperature oil on a room temperature baking sheet is not a great recipe for crispy cauliflower. BUT all of that battered cauliflower hitting a thin layer of sizzling hot oil? That’s where you get those golden, brown, crunchy nuggets of heaven that we’re after. So take the five minutes and don’t skip this step.
Ok, NOW mix up your batter, toss it all about with your cauliflower, and dump it on your sizzling hot sheet pan. Spread it into an even layer and bake until golden and crispy on one side. Flip, repeat, mix up the sauce, assemble, garnish, devour.
A different take on dinner time
So, is a different perspective on dinner the thing that will shift my whole life, make me feel like a new woman, and pull me out of my mid-March burnout? Well, probably not. But it’s a start. Think of it like getting a new haircut. It’s only a minor detail in the end, but it’s also the realization that change is possible, within our reach, and has the potential to feel damn good!
Just to be clear, all this talk of change is not because my life is horrible. I think I’m just opening my eyes up to the spring after a long winter, and finding that I need to shake things up a bit. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this too, so if you’ve got any great tips at busting up your normal for something a little ‘extra’ let me know in the comments. Happy almost spring!
Baked Crunchy Cauliflower Lettuce Wraps
Crunchy, golden brown, cauliflower that’s baked, not fried. All wrapped up with crunchy veggies and drizzled with a spicy gochujang dressing. This is a delicious vegetarian weeknight meal and the method works with lots of others veggies.
- Prep Time: 15 Minutes
- Cook Time: 35 Minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 Servings 1x
- Category: Vegetarian
- Cuisine: Asian
For the crunchy cauliflower:
1 small head cauliflower (or 1/2 a large one), broken down into bite sized florets
1/3 C all purpose flour
1/3 C cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp gochujang paste
1/2 C club soda
3 T canola oil
1 head butter lettuce, washed, dried, and leaves separated (or any tender leafy lettuce)
shredded red cabbage and sliced scallions to garnish
For the spicy gochujang dressing:
1/3 C plain yogurt
1/3 C mayonnaise
1 T gochujang paste
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp lime juice (from about a half a lime)
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Place cauliflower and 1 tablespoon of water in a large, microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, or until the cauliflower is just barely tender. Drain the cauliflower in a colander and wipe any moisture from the bowl with a paper towel. Transfer drained cauliflower back into the bowl.
In a small bowl (or large measuring cup), whisk together the flour, cornstarch, kosher salt, baking powder, and sesame seeds. Pull out two tablespoons of this mixture and sprinkle it over the cauliflower. Toss to coat evenly. Whisk the club soda and gochujang paste into the remaining flour mixture until completely smooth. It should be the consistency of pancake batter.
Pour the oil onto a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the hot oven. Let it heat up for about five minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the batter over the cauliflower, and toss to coat evenly.
Remove the hot sheet pan from the oven and dump the battered cauliflower into one even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is golden brown and crunchy.
While the cauliflower bakes, whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Assemble each lettuce wrap with a few pieces of cauliflower, some shredded cabbage, sliced scallions, and a drizzle of gochujang dressing. Serve immediately.
Feel free to substitute sriracha or sambal olek for gochujang, but make sure to taste for spice levels.
The cauliflower will naturally release from the pan when it has crisped up, so if it resists, just let it cook for five more minutes before flipping.
Keywords: baked crunchy cauliflower, vegetarian lettuce wraps, easy crunchy cauliflower, vegetarian weeknight dinner