Crispy, Spicy Cauliflower Tacos with Jicama-Carrot Slaw
It’s taco night, but Rainbow Plant Life author Nisha Vora is flipping the script with these crispy, spicy cauliflower handhelds. They’re entirely plant-based, but thanks to a spicy cilantro crema and cooling jicama-carrot slaw, they’re a little more special than your average weeknight meal.
“These tacos are so flavorful that no one will miss the meat,” she writes. “The cauliflower is crispy, sticky, spicy and a little sweet.”
To make things efficient as possible, Vora recommends starting with the cauliflower. Once you put it in the oven, make the slaw. During the last minute or two, make the hot sauce. Once you baste the cauliflower and return it to the oven, make the cilantro crema. Voilà, dinner is served.
Crispy, Spicy Cauliflower
1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
¾ cup all-purpose flour (for gluten-free, use white rice flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour)
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup unsweetened nondairy milk (such as cashew milk, oat milk or almond milk)
2 cups panko breadcrumbs (for gluten free, use gluten-free panko)
4 to 6 tablespoons hot sauce (I use Cholula; tailor the amount based on how spicy your hot sauce is and your own spice tolerance)
3 tablespoons vegan butter
2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or any sugar/sweetener)
2½ tablespoons lime juice
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
3 medium carrots, grated
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped finely
¼ cup fresh mint, julienned
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
3 Medjool dates, finely chopped (can substitute with a swirl of maple syrup or agave)
1 cup hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 heaping cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Soft corn tortillas, for serving
1. Make the Crispy, Spicy Cauliflower: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 1 or 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (you might only need 1 if your cauliflower is small).Place the cauliflower florets in a large bowl.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, onion powder, smoked paprika and pepper to combine. Pour in the milk and whisk until no large clumps remain. Pour the batter over the cauliflower florets, tossing with your hands to coat each piece.
3. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Working in batches, dip the battered cauliflower in the panko and toss to coat, ensuring each floret gets coated.
4. Spread the cauliflower onto the prepared baking sheets, allowing space so that they don’t touch. Bake for 20 minutes.
5. Make the Jicama-Carrot Slaw: In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
6. Place the jicama, carrots, cilantro, mint, jalapeño and chopped dates in a large bowl. Pour the lime dressing on top and toss well to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the vegan butter, hot sauce and coconut sugar just until the butter is melted, then remove from the heat. (Alternatively, melt the ingredients together in the microwave.)
8. After 20 minutes, remove the cauliflower from the oven. Drizzle the hot sauce mixture on top of the florets, and toss to coat using your hands or a thin metal spatula. Return to the oven and bake until the cauliflower is deeply golden brown in some spots and tender when pierced with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes more.
9. Make the Cilantro Crema: In a high-speed blender, combine ½ cup water, the hemp seeds, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, nutritional yeast, cumin, salt, pepper (to taste) and olive oil, if using. Blend until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as you go. Add more water to adjust the texture; taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper as needed.
10. Assemble the Tacos: Optionally, heat the tortillas over an open flame (I place them directly on the burner of my gas stove) and use tongs to flip them when small brown spots appear, 30 to 45 seconds, then cook for another 15 to 30 seconds. Stack them in a clean kitchen towel or in foil to keep them warm. To assemble, top each tortilla with a few pieces of the cauliflower, top with a few spoons of the slaw, then drizzle some crema on top.