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Sticky Sesame Cauliflower

Sticky Sesame Cauliflower – the sweet, sticky, & addictively delicious dish that tastes like a better-for-you version of Panda Express!

Sweet, sticky, addictive sesame cauliflower, a healthy & delicious meatless recipe

A few weeks ago, I got a text from a friend saying his sister was trying to add more vegan meals to her diet and asking if I had any good tips.

The first advice I had was something I always recommend to anyone who wants to incorporate more plant-based meals into their diet, especially for non-vegans just trying to eat more meatless meals in general.

My first recommendation is to NOT replace meat with vegan meat substitutes, which can just set you up for disappointment when you expect one thing and get another.

Instead, think of it as an opportunity to explore new recipes and look at vegetables in a whole new light.

The popular Buffalo Cauliflower Wings are especially delicious!!!

So many people never venture further from preparing vegetables in a “mainstream” way—such as steamed or in a side salad—but when you start looking at vegetables as the main event, it opens up a brand new realm of possibilities.

Try taking one of your favorite meat-based recipes and recreating it with your favorite vegetable instead.

Think Kung Pao Eggplant, Mushroom Stroganoff, Sweet Potato Tacos, or Crispy Lemon Cauliflower.

vegan cauliflower

Or this sticky-sweet sesame cauliflower.

The best part of sesame chicken has always been the sauce…

It’s the sauce, not the chicken, that makes you crave Panda Express every time you walk past the food court in the mall.

It’s the sauce, not the chicken, that makes sesame chicken so addictive.

And this healthy meatless makeover of the classic recipe keeps all the goodness of that sticky-sweet sesame sauce intact. Plus, since you’re not using a fake meat substitute, there’s no expectation—subconscious or otherwise—that the dish will taste like chicken.

Non-vegan dinner guests won’t be wary of trying a taste.

And then another taste…

And then one more…

Trending Right Now: Veggie Burger Recipe – Just 6 Ingredients

cauliflower raw
sesame cauliflower recipe

Cauliflower—the darling vegetable of the year—is definitely having a moment.

And with more and more cauliflower-based products hitting shelves each day, the cauliflower excitement doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I’ve loved cauliflower since long before it was trendy.

The following are just a few of the cauliflower recipes you can find on my blog.

Starting with the craziest first:

Healthy Chocolate Cake

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower Soup Recipe

I’m predicting cauliflower is going to be the most popular vegetable of next year as well!

Note: When I researched soy sauce alternatives online, I found a few comments who said you can combine 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce with a tbsp or two of water to replace half cup of soy sauce. I haven’t tried it, but if anyone successfully tries this or another option, please feel free to report back for other readers.

Secretly Healthy Sticky Sesame Cauliflower (Vegan)

Also be sure to try this Cauliflower Mac And Cheese!

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Sticky Sesame Cauliflower

This delicious secretly healthy sticky sesame cauliflower tastes like a better-for-you version of Panda Express!
4.8/5 (114)
Total Time 25 minutes
Yield 3 – 4 servings


  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped (6 1/2 cups florets)
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, honey, or agave
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 1/4 cup water
  • sesame seeds and scallions, for garnish


  • Preheat your oven to 450 F. Grease a baking pan or line with parchment. Cut cauliflower into florets, then slice so one side of each floret is flat. Arrange in a single layer in the greased pan. Bake 10 minutes on the center rack. Meanwhile, whisk together the soy sauce, sweetener, vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, and ginger in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. While waiting, stir together the cornstarch and water until cornstarch dissolves fully, then slowly whisk this into the saucepan as soon as it boils. Turn heat to medium and cook 2 minutes, stirring more frequently once it returns to a boil. Cook until thick. You can also make the sauce ahead of time if desired, and it thickens more as it sits in the fridge. Flip cauliflower florets and bake 10 additional minutes. If desired, you can now move the pan to the top rack and broil 1-2 minutes. Pour sauce over florets. Sprinkle sesame seeds and optional scallions on top, and serve.
    *A few readers have commented to say this works in the instant pot, but I've not tried it. If you try, be sure to let me know how it goes!
    View Nutrition Facts


Leftover cauliflower? Use it up in this Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce!

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Published on May 16, 2020

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  1. Andrea Eisenberg says

    This looks awesome Katie. Reminds me a bit of Gobi Manchurian–though the cauliflower is deep fried in that–but wow it’s delicious!! I would not recommend using maple syrup though, I think it would alter the flavor.
    I know a lot of people hate faux meats, but they can be a good transition trick. I don’t use them much, but the one that is totally convincing is the beefy grounds. I’ve tried three different brands, and they are all great for stuff like tacos or lasagne. Though I still prefer just a good black bean taco or Daiya cheese lasagne!

  2. Linda @ The Fitty says

    The sauce that makes this sticky looks just like what we’d use in chinese cuisine to make kung pao chicken!

    I eat keto, so I can’t use this recipe due to the cornstarch, though looking at it already wets my appetite!

    • Audrey Eugénie Schlegel says

      Have you tried using almond meal/flour instead of the cornstarch? If it still fits whatever macros you have to respect in order to remain keto? Having no starch at home but loooads of almond flour, I did this last time I tried a recipe fot a sticky sauce, and it worked wonders. I will probably make this recipe with this sauce as well. Only that for some reason my mouth is watering when I am thinking about making this sauce with pumpkin instead of cauliflower. Won’t be the same texture but might turn out to be delicious!

    • joanna schupp says

      I wouldn’t be concerned with such a small amount of cornstarch on keto. It’s all the sugar in this recipe that isn’t keto friendly. You can always use a little xanthan gum as a thickener but I’d forget about this recipe as a keto one. There are lots of “sweet n sour” keto recipes out there.

  3. Dorothy says

    This does really look delicious. I am just beginning to enjoy cauliflower. I am also on a Ketogenic Diet. What are your thoughts about using Sugar Free Maple Syrup, Sweetleaf Maple or Sukrin Gold instead of Honey, Maple Syrup or Agave? How about replacing the cornstarch or arrowroot with Xanthum Gum. Do you think it is doable?? Thanks so much!

    • Lea says

      For the maple syrup or any sticky syrup required for a recipe what I’ve been doing for our keto lifestyle is using Mrs. Butterworth’s no sugar added, I actually got it from Amazon as an add-on but just becareful because it’s easy to get mixed up between the sugar and the no sugar added. I find it subs well for maple syrup and also for honey. As for the soya sauce, some one got me on to something that is just like soya sauce but better and it’s called Tamari because most are gluten free. Thank you for the wonderful recipes! I just mentioned to my hubby about all these wonderful cauliflower recipes and he said ohhh those sound awesome! I said yup time to go to the grocery store and stock up on large heads of cauliflower and frozen cauliflower I love to use too because they are fantastic on those nights when u are in a hurry all I do is put them in a colander and run it under hot water until its well thawed and then I just dump them out on to paper towels and dry them off the best I can and then pop them in a very hot oven to roast them!!

  4. Bonnie says

    A good substitute for soy sauce is coconut aminos. The brand I have in my fridge is “Coconut Secrets.” I got it at the whole foods store.

  5. Cathe Campbell says

    Thank you for this incredible recipe Katie! I love your dessert recipes but I think I love these more! Thank you for sharing. Hugs, Cath

    • Rosemary says

      I’ve never really tried cauliflower and your comment makes me think I will like it. 🙂
      She has so many amazing recipes.

  6. Kim says

    Katie, as much as I love your chocolate recipes, I am most excited when I see a new savory recipe. This looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it. Your Coconut Curry recipe is still our family number one favorite and ‘go to’.

  7. Ashley says

    I have made something similar to this, and it does not disappoint! Sesame cauliflower will be on the menu soon.
    I agree about not just switching to meat substitutes, although it depends on the person. For some people, switching to vegetarian/vegan is a rough ride, and meat analogues can make it easier. However, they are expensive and generally high in sodium, so it’s best not to depend too heavily on them. I love that you offer so many recipes that don’t include meat substitutes!

  8. Maria says

    Yesss!! I agree! Subbing veggies into these types of dishes is the way to go!!! I have even tricked my family into actually liking some of them as much as the originals that inspired them!!! I love the sesame sauce! Excited to try your version of the sauce and with roasted cauliflower. I usually do it over baked tofu:)

  9. H. says

    A great soy sauce substitute can be made from a product called Gravy Master combined with water, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, ginger powder, and garlic powder.

    There is no real recipe; just water and gravy master about 1/2 and 1/2, then add the other ingredients to personal taste, and more water to suit your purpose. I’ve added dark agave and oj concentrate, plus a bit of agar to make glazes for meats and vegetables from this combo.

    I use this because it’s low sodium, and hypertension runs in my family.

    Gravy Master–and a similar product called Kitchen Boquet–is a vegetable broth flavor enhancer that has been cooked down to a thick syrup. It’s used in soups and gravies. I do not know if it is gluten free….

    • Julie Dove says

      The taste will of course be different, but the sauce is fine by itself so if you like the taste of raw cauliflower (I don’t), then why not?

    • Natasha says

      I doubt it. I tried making sesame sauce, and it clearly needs to be cooked to get thick. You can’t just stir the stuff together and get a sauce 🙁

    • Julie Dove says

      You never know if something will work unless you try, but feel free to experiment, and be sure to report back if you do!

    • Kathryn says

      What about Apple cider vinegar? It has a different flavor, but it’s what I always use when a recipe calls for rice wine vinegar. Or Balsamic vinegar might work here, too. I know both of those are Whole30 approved, so I’m assuming they’re approved on your diet.

  10. Gustavo Woltmann says

    At first glance, I thought it was meat. Aside from being healthy, cooking and eating will be fun with this recipe.

  11. Jane b says

    Looks Healthy and Delicious!, i always run out of ideas when it comes vegetables like cauliflower, but this one is definitely on my to do list for the weekend, Thanks for posting!

  12. Deanna says

    It was alright. I made it tonight. I think it needed more sweetness (I used maple syrup) or more cooking time to develop the flavors of the sauce. I’ll make it again but maybe with less soy sauce (I used a GF sauce but usually I just buy tamari) and I’ll try it with a different sweetener.

  13. Cat says

    It was pretty tasty! My sauce wasn’t quite as sticky though & did not coat the cauliflower like in the picture, you could definitely see that it was white cauliflower. Anyway, I enjoyed it & will make it again. I put it over brown rice & added some rotisserie chicken

    • Julie Dove says

      Hmm maybe it needed to be cooked down longer (the sauce)? The sauce will get thicker as it cooks and the cornstarch does its job. Did you use maple syrup or another sweetener? And cornstarch or arrowroot?

      • Rainey says

        I had the same problem and my sauce did not stick to the cauliflower. i had used part maple syrup and part agave and cornstarch and cooked it until it was thick before pouring over the cauliflower. any advice?

  14. Bethany Jones says

    I was so excited I made this for brunch! I roasted some leftover cabbage with the cauliflower and it was delicious over jasmine rice. Another great one, Katie!!

  15. Cassie Autumn Tran says

    I’m OBSESSED with orange-glazed, sesame-glazed or lemon-glazed ANYTHING. Chinese food was one of my favorites to indulge on–SO good. Definitely going to try out this cauliflower–but I bet tofu, tempeh or even soy chicken would taste fantastic with this sesame sauce too!

  16. Sarah says

    Delicious recipe! My sauce didn’t thicken and stayed runny, even after being baked on the cauliflower — didn’t think I did anything wrong, though ☹ But it tasted great and the cauliflower cooked perfectly.

    • Sarah says

      If anyone’s curious as to which options I used (maybe that affected the sauce?), I used cornstarch for the thickener and honey for the sweetener. I also subbed some garlic power for the chopped garlic, but that shouldn’t have affected consistency.

      • Kate says

        I had the same thing–sauce didn’t thicken as much as I would have liked once I poured it on the cauliflower. It was still delicious, though.

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