Vegan Chicken Wings (Healthy Buffalo Cauliflower Bites)

by Alena
Mar 17, 2020
plate of crispy baked cauliflower buffalo wings next to some carrot and zucchini sticks as well as vegan ranch dip

Tender, crispy, flavorful and fun – who would have thought that cauliflower could be so awesome? Even if you’ve never been keen on cauliflower, we are positive that our vegan chicken wings can completely change your relationship with this cruciferous vegetable.

Meatless appetizers and snacks have really come out of the shadows over the last few years, and it’s starting to become socially acceptable nowadays to serve a plate of fully plant-based goodness to a whole crowd of meat lovers.

The trend towards a plant-centric diet is fantastic and shows that you can have all the flavor and comfort of well-known meals while sparing animals’ lives and improving your health dramatically.

If you’re new to eating veggies (no shame in this!), fear not – the buffalo cauliflower bites we’re about to share with you won’t remind you very much of vegetables!

This makes them perfect for picky eaters, no matter if that’s you or someone else in your family. Due to their wonderful flavor and comforting texture, these buffalo wings are a great crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly and a hit at every party.

The secret is to double coat them with all the delicious spices and textures! Let’s just say this: we hope you have some cornflakes in your cupboard, because they really take the crispiness to the next level!

Not only are they a good substitute for a meat-based snack in terms of how they look, but these buffalo wings are also low-ish in carbs and offer a decent amount of protein.

Our recipe calls for pretty much only 7 ingredients, most of them basic staple foods, and there are even a few ways to make everything more convenient!

But first things first – what are we talking about here?

hand holding a baked cauliflower wing that's been dipped in some green vegan ranch

What Are Vegan Chicken Wings?

Vegan chicken wings are simply the plant-based, meatless version of meat-based chicken wings.

Coming in many different varieties, you can make them from seitan to imitate a meaty texture or go for the whole food version that calls for cauliflower florets. 

As you can imagine, some of the individual compositions come closer to the “real deal” than others – maybe they aren’t trying to be as wholesome as possible, so that’s totally fine. Veganism does not mean you need to follow a healthy diet!

Then, there are vegan chicken wings with a flour-based batter and those that are just coated with sauce (buffalo or barbeque in most cases). Most recipes feature a generous amount of margarine or oil – since this is a health-focused website, you won’t find these in our cauliflower bites.

By the way, some people might want to start a debate about whether or not vegans can call plant-based chicken wings “chicken wings” and not just cauliflower wings. We hear you.

Vegans don’t want to imply that wings made with seitan or cauliflower are the same as chicken wings; they just recreate a familiar recipe with foods they are fine with eating. And since we want to invite more meat-eating folks to come and try some plant-based dishes, this name may be more attractive.

Transitioning to a Vegan Diet (Guide + Printables)

Our recipe for plant-based wings is really wholesome and naturally gluten-free! It’s veggie-rich, relatively low in carbs, low in fat but oh-so-delicious.

Heck, let’s just write a whole section about why we love this vegan comfort food so much!

wooden cutting board on a white surface and two hands cutting cauliflower in florets with a knife

Why These Are the Best Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Swapping out meat for veggies is pretty much always a good idea in our books. Not just because we are ethical vegans and don’t think animals should be seen as food, but because of the sheer amount of health benefits this choice has for us!

You’re probably well aware that we could all benefit from eating more vegetables. According to the CDC, only one in 10 adults eats enough fruits or vegetables!

How much is enough? Well, the recommendation used to be “five a day,” but eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily could prevent up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide every year, scientists say.

Fruits and veggies are high in essential micronutrients and low in calories – but frankly, they don’t always taste so great. That’s why we love to share recipes like these tasty cauliflower bites! Slathered in a delicious (yet healthy!) sauce, nobody can keep their fingers off of them. 

There’s a reason why buffalo cauliflower wings have become so popular! You can eat a larger amount compared to “real” chicken wings, yet they aren’t as high in calories and won’t weigh you down.

Here’s what else is great about them!

Keep on reading to see how to make this baked goodness that’s slightly addictive yet easy on the waistline.

Full Guide on Calorie Density
cauliflower florets with batter being coated with cornflakes crumbles in a small bowl
white bowl with spicy batter with which cauliflower bites are being coated with a wooden spoon

How to Make Vegan Chicken Wings

There are different methods of making vegan chicken wings. You can buy them packaged at the store and just bake or fry them – but this info isn’t why you came to a recipe post.

Our version of plant-based wings calls for a couple of inexpensive yet healthy foods that are often staples in many households. If that doesn’t include your personal kitchen or pantry, no worries – all of our recipes are easily customizable, so there really is almost no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make them.

First of all, you need to break or cut your cauliflower into bite-sized florets (not too small though!). Then, you just whisk together the ingredients for your gluten-free batter and evenly coat the cauliflower florets, shaking off any excess batter.

Next, and we highly recommend you follow this step but it could theoretically be skipped, coat the sticky batter with cornflake crumbs! Yes, cornflakes.

Now, you just have to put them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. After that, coat them in your homemade or store-bought buffalo sauce and bake again for 10 more minutes –  now, you’re left with deliciously tender and crispy vegan chicken wings that are really healthy for you! 

If you’re really hungry or have one of those lazy days (just like we all do sometimes), you could simply bake them for the first 20 minutes and use the buffalo sauce as a dip for your baked wings! We won’t judge.

Just see for yourself how easy they are to make by watching our short video on this page!

unbaked and coated vegan chicken wings on a parchment paper lined baking sheet

What Are Vegan Chicken Wings Made Of?

  • Cauliflower – a whole food plant-based staple food that’s low in calories and can turn beautifully tender when baked
  • Chickpea Flour – the gluten-free and high-protein base for our flavorful batter; can be swapped with any other flour you’d rather use
  • Plant-Based Milk – to make the batter nice and creamy; we always use soy milk because it’s cheap, highest in protein and offers an indetectable taste
  • Spices – the batter features garlic, cumin, paprika and salt, but you can add anything you want here!
  • Cornflakes – for the optional, yet highly recommended, crispy coating!
  • Buffalo Sauce – we’ll provide you with a healthy and easy homemade recipe, but you can use any store-bought variety you like

As we mentioned above, vegan wings can be made from a variety of foods, and you’re free to try multiple recipes to find your personal favorite!

For a more convenient version, use a store-bought vegan hot sauce (Cholula, Frank’s RedHot, Sriracha, Tabasco, and Tapatío are all vegan according to PETA).

If you’re open to making your own healthy buffalo sauce, feel free to play around with the spices and level of hotness!

Our oven-baked wings taste great with some creamy vegan ranch dip, crunchy veggies or on a pizza! But more on that later.

These cauliflower bites are best eaten straight out of the oven, and they’ve always been so popular that we’ve never had to deal with any leftovers – so we cannot honestly say whether they keep well in the fridge.

If you want to bring them with you to a party or gathering, don’t store them in an airtight container – it’ll make the wings really mushy.

Full 5-Day Vegan Meal Prep
white speckled bowl with baked cauliflower bites that are being drizzled with homemade vegan buffalo sauce

How to Make a Healthy Buffalo Sauce

This recipe is still going to be easy and rather quick, we promise! If you’ve opted to make your own homemade whole food plant-based buffalo sauce, listen up.

We’ll make this oil-free, sugar-free and animal product-free. Are you in?

All you need are a few very basic and a few not-super-basic ingredients, ranging from tomato paste, vinegar, garlic powder and chili powder to pitted dates and hemp seeds.

Everything just goes into a blender until it’s nice and smooth and boom, you’re done!

Instead of using butter that’s high in saturated fat, our buffalo sauce is made with healthy wholesome hemp seeds to add the creaminess – these little seeds offer healthy minerals as well as omega-3 fatty acids, so why not go that route?

What Do Vegan Chicken Wings Taste Like?

Let’s answer the obvious question first: cauliflower wings do not taste like chicken wings. Luckily! Because that means that those people who aren’t keen on the taste and texture of meat (just like us) can have a fun and healthy finger food to enjoy during a party.

Depending on how long you bake your cauliflower wings, they can become really soft on the inside. You need to do this on medium to low temperature to keep the batter from burning and then turn up the heat for a crispy finish!

Since every oven is a bit different, make sure to watch your cauliflower wings the first time you make them so they don’t burn, then adjust the baking time accordingly.

The secret to delicious vegan wings is definitely in the sauce! Believe us: with the right spices, you can make anything taste fantastic. And our recipe makes that happen.

So, if you’re up for a meatless appetizer or want to find easy ways to make your family eat more veggies, definitely try our cauliflower bites!

Are These Cauliflower Bites Spicy?

If you follow our exact recipe, not really. We decided to go for milder cauliflower bites so that they are really family-friendly! After all, they are a great fun food for kids who often cannot handle spicy food super well.

But if you want to make spicy cauliflower bites, simply up the amount of chili powder in the buffalo sauce! Or shop for a spicy buffalo sauce at the store. Easy peasy!

Depending on what you serve the vegan wings with, you can balance out the spiciness – a creamy tofu or cashew dip, for example, makes for a great fit and allows for hotter wings!

crispy baked vegan cauliflower buffalo wings on a white baking sheet

How Many Calories Are in Vegan Chicken Wings?

If you’re looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, you’ll simply love our recipe! It’ll be no surprise that meat-based wings are a lot higher in calories than those that are made with plant-based foods. 

According to fitbit, one serving of buffalo chicken wings comes down to 416 calories, more than half coming from (mostly saturated) fat.

If you go with seitan for your chewy base like in this recipe, you’ll end up with 333 calories per serving, which isn’t too bad – especially when taking into account that they are also made with vegan butter.

As for our whole food plant-based version, you’ll be able to eat much more of this flavorful goodness while still feeling light and pleasantly satiated!

One serving has just 250 calories, 27 of which coming from (unsaturated) fat – plus, you’ll get 10 grams of protein. 

Fun fact: the same amount of calories from meat-based chicken wings will have you consume 14 grams of protein, yet 188 calories from fat – the latter of which makes up 75% of the total calories!

Sadly, it’s mostly saturated and trans-fats, both of which are not favorable to your body or to maintain a healthy weight.

If you want to lower the calorie content of our vegan chicken wings even further, you can opt to make the batter with water instead of plant milk.

vegan cauliflower buffalo bite cut open and a hand showing the texture on the inside

How to Serve Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

If you want to use them as an appetizer at a party or gathering, serve the vegan wings on a large platter along with some crunchy raw veggies and a creamy vegan dip – just like you can see in our pictures. We love ranch, blue cheese or aioli.

Don’t worry – the bites are big on flavor and won’t disappoint your guests as a gametime snack!

You can also get creative and take these easy cauliflower bites to the next level! Here are some great recipes you can make with our vegan chicken wings:

These ideas come from some of our favorite fellow bloggers, so make sure to leave them some love if you tried their recipe.

woman in apron holding a white plate with buffalo cauliflower while dipping one of the florets into a vegan ranch

Want More Easy Plant-Based Recipes?

Awesome! Our blog has quite a few to offer. We specialize in easy yet healthy vegan meals that are crowd-pleasers and really customizable. Check out these recipes next!

But for now, we hope we’ve shared enough tips so you can create your own version of the perfect vegan chicken wings!

What are your favorite plant-based appetizers, and have you tried cauliflower wings before? If you follow our recipe, let us know in the comments below how it turned out, and be sure to tag us on Instagram! You can also Pin the recipe to your favorite board.

Crispy Vegan Chicken Wings with Buffalo Sauce

Crispy Vegan Chicken Wings with Buffalo Sauce

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

These easy and healthy vegan buffalo cauliflower wings are the perfect meatless appetizer! A true hit at any picnic or party, they are a kid-friendly finger food – a vegetable turned into a tasty comfort snack. Completely whole food plant-based and gluten-free, these cauliflower bites are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Try them for any sports game or social gathering! 

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower

Batter

  • 4 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk (240 ml)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 5 cups unsweetened corn flakes (125 g)

Buffalo Sauce

  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 dry dates, pitted
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup water (240 ml)
  • ½ tsp salt

To serve

  • Carrot, celery and zucchini sticks

Instructions

Make the cauliflower wings

  1. For the batter, mix all dry ingredients (except for the corn flakes) together in a bowl, then add the soy milk and whisk everything until smooth. The batter should be thick and not drip – adjust soy milk and flour if needed.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F / 230°C. Cut or break the cauliflower into bite-size florets and, in a bowl, crumble the corn flakes finely so they resemble bread crumbs.
  3. Dip the cauliflower pieces in the batter so that they’re evenly covered (shake off any excess batter), then coat them with the corn flakes crumbs and lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (this is important so they don’t stick). Make sure to leave a little bit of space between the cauliflower pieces.
  4. Put the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Make the buffalo sauce

  1. In the meantime, prepare the buffalo sauce (simply skip this step if you’re using store-bought sauce).
  2. Add all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth.
  3. When the 20 minutes have elapsed, take the cauliflower florets out of the oven and scrape them off into a large bowl.
  4. Pour buffalo sauce over the baked cauliflower, coat the florets with the sauce mixing them with a spoon, then place them back on the parchment paper.
  5. Bake for another 10 minutes until the cauliflower wings are crisp and browned.

Serve

  1. Once the buffalo cauliflower wings have been baked, let them cool slightly and serve warm with some vegan ranch dip as well as some celery, zucchini and carrot sticks.

Notes

  • You can swap the chickpea flour for any other flour you like or have in your kitchen, just note that the nutritional information will change.
  • Feel free to use a store-bought vegan hot sauce like Frank’s for a more convenient, yet less healthy version of this meatless appetizer.
  • Definitely use some parchment paper on your baking sheet, and make sure to shake off any excess batter or they won’t crisp up!
  • Adding the cornflake coating isn’t 100% necessary but is highly recommended.
  • To make this recipe even lower in carbs, use almond flour for the batter and choose a low carb sauce.
  • If you want to lower the overall calorie content even further, you can prepare the batter with water instead of plant-based milk.
  • Adjust to your personal level of spiciness by using more or less chili powder for the buffalo sauce or temper the spiciness with a creamy plant-based dip.
  • This recipe also works with BBQ sauce instead of buffalo sauce.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 249Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1321mgCarbohydrates: 49gNet Carbohydrates: 0gFiber: 8gSugar: 13gSugar Alcohols: 0gProtein: 10g
Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated automatically, their accuracy is not guaranteed. Just focus on whole plant-based foods and eat until satiety!
woman in grey vegan shirt with her hands on her hips looking to the left and smiling
Alena Schowalter has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work – currently, she studies for her Vegan Nutritionist Diploma. Alena enjoys ethical discussions around veganism, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

dark grey spotted bowl with a variety of vegetables next to small bottle of green smoothie isolated on light background

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13 thoughts on “Vegan Chicken Wings (Healthy Buffalo Cauliflower Bites)”

    • Thanks for your lovely feedback! We’re very happy that they were a win :)
      Hope you could share it with some non-vegans and blow their minds x

      Reply
  1. I would love some recipes without flour or sweeteners. Is it necessary to eat more then just the three meals a day to get enough nutrients?

    Reply
    • We often just use fruit to sweeten our food – just check out these muffins for example: https://nutriciously.com/vegan-blueberry-muffins/

      Regarding flour, we love using whole grains though understand that some people can have a problem with flour and their blood sugar or digestion. Will keep it in mind!

      Overall, you just need to eat until you’re full and get enough whole starches (potatoes, whole grains, beans, lentils, pumpkin etc.) as well as fruits and vegetables with some nuts and seeds in order to get all your nutrients. No need for snacking if you’re not hungry :) The foods I just listed are very high in nutrient density and therefore you’re not likely to run into any problems. If you’re having a specific question, please feel free to email us!

      Reply
    • Hi Sena,
      we used whole wheat flour with a little bit of chickpea flour here! Hope this helps. Most of the time, we just use what we have on hand, doesn’t matter too much :)
      Happy baking!
      Alena

      Reply
    • Hi Becky, thanks for pointing it out!
      Here are the ingredients listed on their official website: DISTILLED VINEGAR, AGED CAYENNE RED PEPPERS, SALT, WATER, CANOLA OIL, PAPRIKA, XANTHAN GUM, NATURAL BUTTER TYPE FLAVOR AND GARLIC POWDER.
      The “butter type flavor” doesn’t have any animal products, either as one fellow vegan found out:
      “I recently inquired about Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wings Sauce because it contains “natural butter type flavor” and other “natural flavors” and was told the following: “In response to your inquiry, the natural butter type flavor is made with natural ingredients derived from sources other than milk and butter. Please be assured that the current formulations of Frank’s® RedHot® Sauces do not contain any animal derivatives or synthesized milk proteins”.”
      Hope this helps! What do you think about it?

      Reply
    • thanks so much for letting us know! Back when we created the recipe we might have overlooked that this brand isn’t oil-free or we just recommended a store-bought one for those who don’t mind a bit of oil very much and don’t want to follow our homemade version (which is what we meant by the label “oil-free”). Just changed it :)

      Reply
  2. Made this last night & loved it so much i’m making the rest of my cauliflower like this today! BEST cauliflower “wing” recipe i’ve found!!

    Reply
    • wow this is the kindest feedback I received this week! thank you so much for sharing, makes me super happy to know how much you liked them :)

      Reply

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