Chicken and waffles is a breakfast dish like no other. It’s sweet and spicy, crispy and chewy, soft and full of texture all at once. This vegetarian version of chicken and waffles means more folks can eat the dish, but the differences mostly stop there. Salty fried cauliflower bites are so tender and moist, they taste more like a hybrid of chicken nuggets and fried chicken than a battered vegetable. As for the waffles drizzled with spicy maple syrup, there’s just no replacement.
Churn out a few sturdy cornmeal waffles and keep them crisp stashed in a warm oven. Toss boiled cauliflower in buttermilk and cayenne-dusted flour, then fry until brown and crunchy. Heat maple syrup mixed with your favorite hot sauce, and glug it over a waffle piled high with cauliflower “chicken.”
Cauliflower “Chicken” and Waffles
Photo by Kelsey Hansen
6 cups water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
16 ounces cauliflower florets, cut into bite-size pieces
1 3/4 cups (about 7 ounces) self-rising flour
1/4 cup plain yellow cornmeal
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon. granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (about 4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon hot sauce (we like Cholula for this)
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 200°F. Bring water and vinegar to a boil in a large saucepan over high. Add cauliflower, and cook until almost tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cauliflower to a wire rack on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet in refrigerator, and chill until cool, about 15 minutes.
While cauliflower cools, heat a waffle iron to medium-high. Whisk together self-rising flour, cornmeal, whole milk, egg, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Pour batter into waffle iron, and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer cooked waffles to a wire rack on a baking sheet, and keep warm in preheated oven.
Pour oil in a medium Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat oil over medium-high to 350°F. Whisk together all-purpose flour, black pepper, cayenne, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a medium bowl. Place chilled cauliflower in a separate medium bowl. Pour buttermilk over cauliflower, and toss to coat. Add coated cauliflower to flour mixture, and toss to coat. Fry in hot oil, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping, until golden and crisp, about 5minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Whisk together maple syrup and hot sauce in a 1-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave on HIGH until warm, 15 to 20 seconds. Place 1 waffle on each of 4 plates; top evenly with fried cauliflower. Drizzle evenly with syrup mixture.