This recipe for Lemon Pepper Cauliflower Bites is one of the best vegan/vegetarian appetizers or snacks. The bites are crispy, a bit sweet, and totally addicting, plus I have a vegan and gluten-free option.
It's no secret that I love chicken wings (hello Baked Skillet Buffalo Wings and Air Fryer Chicken Wings + Sweet Potato Waffles). They're a great crowd-pleasing appetizer that's easy to throw together with your favorite seasonings and sauces.
But sometimes you just want something a little lighter to snack on. That's why I took my favorite lemon pepper seasoning to make crispy, dunkable cauliflower bites. These two-bite snacks have all the flavor and crunch of popcorn chicken, but they happen to be vegetarian. They'er also easy to make vegan and gluten-free.
This is an easy appetizer recipe that you can feed to any crowd, vegan or not!
How to Make Crispy Lemon Pepper Cauliflower Bites
You don't need many ingredients to make these crispy veggie bites. In fact, the hands-on part of this recipe can be finished in 20 minutes or less. Then you'll have a hot-and-ready app to serve up fresh out of the oven.
Here's what you need to make these cauliflower bites:
Cauliflower. Choose a nice large head and cut it into bite-sized florets.
Bread crumbs. Feel free to use gluten-free panko if you like. You can use store-bought or make your own breadcrumbs using the easy recipe in the notes section below.
Almond milk. If you like, use water or another dairy-free milk. Just make sure it's unflavored and unsweetened.
All-purpose flour. I love using Bob's Red Mill organic flour.
Lemon pepper seasoning. To make your own seasoning blend for the cauliflower bites, simply combine:
¼ cup lemon zest
1 ½ Tbsps black pepper
1 tablespoon finely-ground sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Unsalted butter. For vegan, use vegan butter.
Honey. For vegan, use maple syrup, agave or vegan honey.
To get the crispiest baked cauliflower, you want an even coating of bread crumbs. here's how to do it:
Set up one bowl with your almond milk or water
Set up a second shallow dish with the seasoned bread crumbs.
Working quickly, dip each cauliflower floret into the liquid, then immediately into the breadcrumbs. Do not let the cauliflower pieces sit in either bowl for too long.
Shake off any excess breading, then place on a baking sheet.
Tip: for optimal crispiness, make sure your oven is fully preheated to 450°F before you put the cauliflower bites inside
How to Serve Cauliflower Bites
You can serve these crispy lemon pepper bites as-is fresh out of the oven. For dipping, I like Ranch Sauce or Avocado Dressing. You can also use your favorite hot sauce for some added heat.
Really, they make a great vegetarian substitute for chicken, shrimp and other toppings on your favorite recipes.
These bites will be their crispiest when they're fresh out of the oven. However, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. To re-crisp them, pop them into a hot oven for 10 minutes, or until crispy.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and line your baking sheet with parchment paper. **NOTE: Doing this step is a MUST to prevent sticking.**
In a medium-sized bowl, add bread crumbs along with the lemon pepper seasoning (minus 2 Tbsps), whisking until combined. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, add milk (or water), flour, and the 2 Tbsps lemon pepper seasoning, and whisk together until fully incorporated and the batter is thick and slightly runny.
Now, dip each cauliflower into batter (shaking off any excess) and then toss into bread crumbs. Then lay each cauliflower side by side on the baking sheet (about an inch apart). Repeat until all cauliflower are coated.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and “crunchy” looking. NOTE: If not crispy enough, turn on broil and bake for another 5-10 minutes.
Lemon Pepper Butter:
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and whisk in seasoning and honey until well combined.
To serve, add cauliflower bites to a salad, atop pasta, as a topping on pizza, with quinoa or rice, or by themselves and with lemon pepper butter drizzled atop.
Tips & Tricks
STORAGE: Best if consumed within the same day. Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat in oven when ready to serve.
HOMEMADE BREADCRUMBS: To make your own breadcrumbs, simply grind 1-2 cups of cubed bread into a food processor until finely chopped. Place crumbs onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake for 5-6 minutes in the oven set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. Once brown + crisp, remove from oven and let cool. Continue recipe steps and store remaining breadcrumbs in a tightly sealed container.
LEMON PEPPER SEASONING: Mix together ¼ cup lemon zest, 1 ½ Tbsps black pepper, 1 tablespoon finely-ground sea salt, 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon onion powder.
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