~ Absolutely the very BEST Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings! Way beyond typical buffalo cauliflower appetizers, this version is piled sky-high with extra flavors. Even better? It’s so much healthier and takes just 5 minutes of prep work (with no messy batter)! Try this for a fun party snack, game day appetizer – even as a side dish to pep up burgers and basic grilled meats! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Includes Make-Ahead Steps • Vegetarian • Gluten Free (see note) •
This family-favorite recipe is inspired by the very best twist on Buffalo Cauliflower Wings I’ve ever tried. (And I’ve probably tried far more than my fair share.)
It’s a total epiphany, elevating typical buffalo cauliflower to whole new, loaded-up heights with:
- Flavorful, caramelized roasted cauliflower, tossed with just the right hit of spicy buffalo wing sauce
- Tangy pickled banana peppers
- Sweet notes from roasted red bell peppers
- Plus optional (I say optional, but they’re HIGHLY recommended!) creamy-salty-umami blue cheese sprinkles and cooling ranch dressing
It IS amazing. Ahhhhh-maz-zingggg (with plenty of zing)!
Where I Found the BEST Buffalo Cauliflower Wings I’d Ever Tasted
My oven-baked version is a twist on the cauliflower appetizer served up in a tiny restaurant called Darby’s on Fifty-Nine, in a town not far from where we live. (But, of course, mine’s streamlined to be super easy, and it’s lighter and healthier, too! More on that in a sec …)
Darby’s has become something of a destination spot, with maybe just 10 or 12 coveted tables, plus a handful more out back on the patio when summer shines upon Ohio. It offers a tight, focused menu, with items that are familiar enough to be inviting, yet just innovative enough to keep it all interesting.
When Darby’s rolled out a few new menu items a couple of years back, the Buffalo Cauliflower Bites were the hands-down headliner (at least as far as Scott and I were concerned).
The addition of roasted bell peppers and tangy little banana peppers was sheer genius!
Suddenly the Buffalo Cauliflower Wings that had popped up on practically every restaurant menu in every restaurant everywhere were completely revolutionized – piled high with delicious layers of toppings and flavors.
I was so totally hooked.
As Scott and I polished off every last speck on that first platter, I was already dreaming of the next time we could get away from the kids for another cauliflower-filled night out. Or, heck – why wouldn’t we bring the kids, too? I knew Ty (my buffalo wing lover) would especially adore this cauliflower. And really, I didn’t care much who was with me, kids or no kids – I just needed more Buffalo Cauliflower Wings!
So, You Know What I Did, Right??
Several delicious trips to Darby’s later, I still needed more. And I knew I’d have to figure out how to make my own at home!
Healthier, and ready anytime (no need to jockey for hard-to-get weekend reservations at Darby’s)!
Turned out, my version was a winner right out of the gate, on my very first try. (The handwritten note in my recipe testing notebook reads simply: “so, so, so good!” Enough said.)
Scott and Ty devoured nearly the entire platter (hey – leave some for me!). And Ty was wishing I’d made a double batch … and I knew this recipe would be a regular at our house from then on!
How This Oven-Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Is Healthier
The whole buffalo chicken wings scene got a lot healthier when buffalo cauliflower was introduced. And with this recipe, now it’s gotten a lot more uniquely delicious, and even more healthy!
You see, a lot of restaurant recipes for Buffalo Cauliflower Wings involve breaded, deep-fried cauliflower, or cauliflower that’s been pan-fried in a lot of butter.
For me, it was a total no-brainer to simply roast the cauliflower in the oven instead. (In pretty much the same way I do in our popular recipe for Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta). No messy batter or frying!
As I’ve gushed on and on about in so many recipes before – I LOVE me some roasted veggies! Roasting is like the magic wand of the vegetable world. It turns vegetable haters into vegetable lovers, easily adding fantastic deep, caramelized flavors to all sorts of ho-hum, plain-jane veggies.
So much flavor, so easily!
And, from a nutrition perspective, it requires very little oil, so it keeps fats and extra calories in check. Which definitely isn’t something you can really say about most buffalo chicken wings, or even lots of the buffalo cauliflower recipes you’ve probably tried on restaurant appetizer menus.
Plus, if you’re gluten intolerant, this is a great option since there’s no breading.
No doubt, my version is so much healthier, yet still so crazy-craveable!
And so easy to make (especially since it skips that whole batter process)! Check it out …
How to Make These Buffalo Cauliflower Bites
STEP #1 – PREP
To save a little time, I almost always buy pre-cut, bagged cauliflower. Of course, you can also purchase whole heads if you’d prefer. But either way, you’re looking for medium-sized chunks of florets.
You’ll also want to cut some red pepper into fairly thin strips. And, while you’re at it, I recommend that you slice your banana pepper rings in half so you have little squiggly semi-circles instead of whole rings. I personally like having smaller little pops of tangy banana pepper distributed throughout, instead of larger rings.
STEP #2 – SEASON AND TOSS
Toss the cauliflower and red pepper slices with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you love washing dishes, you can opt to do this in a bowl, but I always take the cheater shortcut and just do it right on my parchment-lined baking sheets. Why dirty a bowl if you don’t have to???
Also, I’d suggest using your hands to toss the veggies with the olive oil and seasonings. You want to be sure that there’s a nice, thin slick of olive oil covering all the florets, and your hands are really the best tool for the job.
You’ll also notice that I move all the red peppers to their own separate area on one baking sheet. That’s because the red peppers aren’t going to stay in the oven the whole time, and I think it’s easier to hustle them off of the hot baking sheet if they’re all in the same place.
STEP #3 – SPREAD ’EM OUT (SUPER IMPORTANT!)
Now, here’s a tip I’ve mentioned lots of times before (like in our recipes for Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Cheesy Oven-Baked Pizza Fries, Roasted Root Vegetables and Parmesan Roasted Broccoli Stalks). One of the absolute most important secrets to awesome roasted vegetables is to SPREAD THE VEGGIES OUT on your baking sheet.
It’s truly important that they’ve got some space, and aren’t piled on top of each other. If they’re too crowded, they’ll steam more than they’ll actually roast. Just not the same.
That’s why we use two (large) baking sheets for this recipe, instead of crowding all the veggies together on one.
STEP #4 – ROAST
Next, get those veggies in the oven for their roasty-toasty transformation into the best Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites you’ve ever tried! You’re almost there …
After about 10 minutes, remove the red pepper strips from the baking sheet to keep warm on the side.
Stir the cauliflower, making sure to spread it all back out again (you know … plenty of space …). And pop just the cauliflower back in the oven for a few more minutes.
STEP #5 – GET SPICY!
Once you take the cauliflower out of the oven, immediately toss it with some hot sauce (we use Frank’s RedHot).
I do this on one of the baking sheets. Because … again … why dirty extra dishes!?!
Pile all the cauliflower together on one sheet, and thoroughly toss it with that wonderfully spicy sauce, so every cauliflower “wing” gets its share. (At this point, chicken wings everywhere will be feeling mighty jealous. Sorry, chicken!)
STEP #6 – BUILD YOUR PLATTER OF BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER WINGS!
Now the real fun begins!
Pile your buffalo cauliflower, roasted red peppers and banana peppers onto a serving platter. (It’s ok to nibble a little as you work – I always do!)
You could honestly stop right here and be perfectly happy. The balance of spicy cauliflower with sweet red peppers and tangy banana peppers is sensational, just as it is.
But if you’re making LOADED Buffalo Cauliflower Wings (and that’s why you’re here, right?!?), why go only halfway?
I think you’ll be even happier still if you move on to those optional (but really and truly highly recommended toppings) …
STEP #7 – FINISH WITH A FLOURISH
If you like blue cheese, you’ll definitely want a generous sprinkling on top.
But it’s also ok if you don’t like blue cheese. (Ty doesn’t … and he still loves this buffalo cauliflower without any blue cheese at all).
Another possibility: You could serve a little dish of blue cheese on the side, so everyone can choose to sprinkle some … or not. Blue cheese can be kind of divisive. No worries – just serve it as an option, and keep everybody happy!
And BTW – if you can score good reduced-fat blue cheese, that’ll shave some saturated fat and calories.
Oh – and don’t forget the ranch dressing!
I like to drizzle a little on top of that big ol’ pile of buffalo cauliflower. Then I also offer some extra ranch alongside for dipping, to cool down that wonderful buffalo-spiciness.
Serving Ideas and Inspiration
• Game Day! – Without question, this baked cauliflower is a must-try recipe for Super Bowl parties and game day noshing. (And psssst … we’ve got lots more fantastic Super Bowl Snacks for you if you need ’em!)
There is simply nothing quite like the combination of buffalo wings and sports. And with the current popularity of Buffalo Cauliflower Wings … this recipe will be the trendy hit of your game day spread, for sure!
Plus, your vegetarian friends won’t feel like they’re left on the sidelines (yeah – bad sports pun intended) while everybody else chows down on chicken wings. Just warn veggie lovers ahead of time that they might have to fight off the carnivores if they hope to keep this cauliflower all to themselves!
And, with no breading to worry about, even gluten-free sports fans can dig in!
• Healthy Snacks and Party Appetizers – I also 100% think that this recipe is the perfect excuse to take buffalo wings way beyond game day! Since my version is so much healthier, it’s a no-guilt option for all sorts of parties and even any-day snacking.
If you think people won’t devour a huge pile of cauliflower and swear it’s the best snack they’ve had in a long time … well, then, there’s a tiny cauliflower-shaped hole in your life that’s just waiting to be filled with this Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Wings recipe!
• A NOT-Boring Vegetable Side Dish – Don’t usually think of buffalo wings as a side dish? Now ya do!
I mean, this recipe starts out as 2 pounds of cauliflower. Yes … 2 pounds! I absolutely challenge you to find a faster way to get your family to shovel in two pounds of cauliflower with dinner! In fact, if my son had his way, I’d make a double batch every time. (Easy math … that’s 4 pounds of cauliflower. At one meal. For a family of four. #Magic)
It’s a big kapow of flavor to serve up next to a basic burger instead of fries, or with simple grilled meats instead of something like potato salad or pasta salad. And, this would be a super-fun side for our speedy Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes – that’d definitely be a memorable weeknight meal!
Bottom line here: no matter how or when you serve this, it’s bound to be a smash hit.
Load it up, friends! Pile it high and make it often. Buffalo wings will never be the same – and you’ll never look back!
- 2 pounds (about 11-12 cups) medium-large cauliflower florets (I often buy pre-cut, bagged cauliflower florets)
- 3/4 cup thin red bell pepper strips
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
- 1/4 cup jarred/pickled banana pepper rings, halved (we use mild)
- optional: crumbled blue cheese (can use reduced-fat), and ranch dressing (preferably reduced-fat or Greek-yogurt-based) for drizzling or dipping
- Preheat oven to 475º F.
- On two parchment-lined baking sheets, toss the cauliflower florets and red pepper strips with the olive oil, and then again with the salt and pepper, making sure the oil and seasonings are evenly distributed. (I like to use my hands for this, to be sure there's a gloss of oil and a bit of seasoning on every bit of the vegetables.) Group all the red pepper strips to one area of the baking sheets and spread the vegetables out evenly, so they're not heaped on top of each other (this will ensure they roast properly, instead of steaming).
- Roast the vegetables for about 10 minutes. Remove the red peppers, set aside, and keep warm. Stir the cauliflower and continue roasting for about 8 minutes longer, until it has toasty, browned, roasted spots but isn't burned or mushy.
- Toss the cauliflower with Frank's RedHot Sauce (I do this right on a baking sheet) and pile it on a serving platter, intermingled with the roasted red pepper strips and banana peppers.
- Optionally, sprinkle with blue cheese and drizzle with ranch dressing before serving. Alternately, either of these can be served on the side for those who don't like them.
- Serve immediately with additional ranch dressing for dipping, if desired.
Make-ahead steps: I almost always save a little time by purchasing bagged, pre-cut cauliflower in my store's produce section. (Sometimes there are a few really big pieces that still need to be cut slightly smaller, though.) If you choose to buy whole heads of cauliflower, you can cut the florets apart several days in advance. You can also cut the pepper strips and slice the banana pepper rings a day ahead. Store each vegetable in separate containers in the refrigerator so they're all ready to go.
Gluten-free note: Although blue cheese has not always been considered gluten free, evidence now seems to indicate that it is generally acceptable in gluten free diets (you can read more about that HERE). In addition, while many purchased ranch dressings may be gluten free, some are not. So, if you are following a gluten free diet, be sure to carefully check labeling on purchased products and select those that are clearly noted as gluten free.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10.5 servings Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 119Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 248mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 7gSugar: 5gProtein: 5g