Sticky and Crispy Sesame Cauliflower

4.63 from 16 votes

Sticky and crispy sesame cauliflower is baked and delicious wrapped up in lettuce or served with a bowl of fluffy rice. The spicy ginger and sesame sauce makes these bites so flavourful. Vegan and grain-free with cassava flour, but lots of substitutions are listed in the recipe notes.

An overhead shot of sticky and crispy sesame cauliflower bites in lettuce wraps.
An overhead shot of sticky and crispy sesame cauliflower bites in a parchment paper-lined bowl. The bites are shiny with the deep red sauce on top.
A head on shot of cauliflower being cut on a cutting board.
A kitchen counter scene with ingredients for a sesame, ginger, chili sauce.

I am amazed that cauliflower has managed to stay at the top of the heap as far as vegetable popularity is concerned. I also feel like it’s in everything these days–pizza crusts, bread, tortillas, crackers, “rice” etc. My favourite way to cook it is simply roasted with spices for a full 45 minutes. My number two method is lightly battered, baked, and sauced. Buffalo cauliflower is the most popular expression of this cooking approach I think? I personally love it when I’m in the proper mood (as evidenced here and here).

Over time, I’ve discovered that my preferred flour for this batter technique is naturally grain-free too! I like using cassava flour because it’s light, it actually gets kinda crispy in the oven, it doesn’t create a weird pasty quality in the inner parts of the florets (looking at you AP flour), and it doesn’t have a strong flavour either. Cassava is also my flour of choice for homemade tortillas, as seen here. Otto’s cassava flour is my brand of choice and you can find it here. Canadians can find it on Natura Market too!

So yes, cassava flour is your friend for cauliflower “wings” and other battered and baked applications. Once I had this texture and method locked down, my mind naturally went to other possible sauces. I had been dreaming of sticky, slightly sweet, chili-flecked, and sesame oil-slicked nuggets of cauliflower on a pile of rice or tucked into a crisp lettuce leaf. Like a little takeout vibe! It was surprisingly easy to fix up with mostly pantry stuff. I would say that the sauce ingredients are “pantry stuff” if you cook from my site often.

The battering technique itself is slightly more fussy than typical recipes I put up here. For this reason, I’d recommend serving up this crispy sesame cauliflower on the simple side. I’ve shown it in a Boston/bibb lettuce wrap with some extra sauce, chopped green onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. It’s simple and fresh, but also crispy, spicy, sticky, and somewhat indulgent feeling. I think it would also be great as a basic rice bowl with some shaved carrot, cabbage, and sliced green onions. Since you’re spending extra time on the cauliflower itself, and because it really is so flavourful, you can go easy on other serving components.

Before I go, I just wanted to say thank you for all of the great Instant Pot feedback you gave me last week! I guess I’ll be working on more things for you to make in that amazing machine while we’re in the season of cozy foods. Also just want to add that it’s been so nice being back here regularly. I’m slowly starting to feel like I’m in a bit of a flow with it all. Thanks for sticking with me :) Have a great week and enjoy some crispy sesame cauliflower :)

Image shows a bunch of cauliflower florets in a bowl with a beige batter.
Image shows cauliflower florets coated in batter on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Two images show: toasted sesame oil being poured into a pot and also a spicy red sauce being poured on top of cauliflower.
An overhead shot of sticky and crispy sesame cauliflower bites in a parchment paper-lined bowl. The bites are shiny with the deep red sauce on top.
An overhead shot of sticky and crispy sesame cauliflower bites in lettuce wraps.

Sticky and Crispy Sesame Cauliflower

Sticky and crispy sesame cauliflower is baked and delicious wrapped up in lettuce or served with a bowl of fluffy rice. Vegan and grain-free!
4.63 from 16 votes
STICKY & CRISPY SESAME CAULIFLOWER (vegan, grain-free) - The First Mess
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings 4



  • 1 head of cauliflower, about 1 ½ pounds
  • 1 cup cassava flour
  • 1 ½ cups water, plus extra
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds


  • ½ cup tamari soy sauce
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon chili paste (such as Gochujang), or to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 3- inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds


  • Cassava flour makes a nice, crispy coating and is my favourite for cauliflower “wings”. If you don’t want to use cassava flour, you can substitute brown rice, chickpea or regular wheat flour. Lower the amount of water to 1 cup if you’re making this substitution (and add more if necessary)! Note that these other flours will not firm up/crisp up as much as the cassava.
  • It’s important to really keep an eye on these towards the end of the cooking process. They can go from perfect to burnt in what feels like seconds.
  • I use a Microplane to get the garlic and ginger nice and fine for the sauce
  • For chili paste, Gochujang is perfect! I’ve also used Calabrian chillies and blended up chipotles in adobo for this, and they were excellent.


  • Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Cut the cauliflower into small florets. In a large bowl, combine the cassava flour, water, garlic powder, and sesame seeds. Whisk to combine. The resulting batter should be fluid but thick–thick enough to coat a piece of cauliflower and pool only slightly once set on the baking sheet. If the batter is too thick/pasty, add water by the tablespoon until you reach the proper consistency.
  • Drop the cauliflower florets into the batter and stir until all pieces are coated. Using a fork, carefully transfer battered cauliflower to the baking sheets, leaving 1 inch of space around each floret.
  • Bake the battered cauliflower for 20 minutes. While the cauliflower is baking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan combine the tamari, maple syrup, sesame oil, rice vinegar, tomato paste, chili paste, garlic, ginger, and sesame seeds. Bring the sauce to a boil on the stove over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced. Set aside.
  • After cauliflower has baked for 20 minutes, remove and let cool slightly. Once it's cool enough to handle, transfer the par-baked cauliflower to a large bowl. Cover the cauliflower with all but 1/4 cup of the sesame sauce. Toss to thoroughly coat the cauliflower.
  • Bake the cauliflower for another 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are starting to darken. Depending on positioning in the oven and just overall hotness of your oven, you may have to take them out of this second bake sooner. Just keep an eye on them! Remove the cauliflower when the sauce has “set” around the edges and all florets are a deep golden brown. Let the Cauliflower sit for a full 5 minutes before serving in lettuce wraps, on rice etc., drizzled with remaining sauce and topped with extra sesame seeds, and chopped green onions.
28/11/2018 (Last Updated: 28/11/2018)
Posted in: appetizer, autumn, gluten free, grain-free, main course, nut free, roasted, salty, sauce, side dish, spicy, spring, summer, sweet, umami, vegan, winter
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