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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:

Cauliflower 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!

Pin it now to save for laterPin Recipe

Sticky Sesame Cauliflower

This delicious secretly healthy sticky sesame cauliflower tastes like a better-for-you version of Panda Express!
4.78/5 (104)
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!

Have you made this recipe?

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4.78/5 (104)

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Published on May 16, 2020

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  1. Abigail says

    I cooked this in my Ninja Foodi. I air crisped the cauliflower first and then did the sauce on the sear/saute setting. It worked great!

  2. Lynette says

    Be sure not to crowd the cauliflower it will steam instead of roast leaving it mushy. I used two pans and finished under broiler. The sauce was thick using cornstarch even after adding the juice and zest of one orange, simmering and stirring until thick. Yummy with cashews and hot pepper flakes!

  3. Terri says

    For all of you in search of a great soy free/gluten free alternative sauce…the best I have found is Ocean’s Halo No Soy Soy-Free Sauce. It’s organic and there is a low sodium and regular version. I have found it at Meijer (in MI and OH) & Whole Foods. I’ve tried coconut liquid aminos and to me it just doesn’t have the flavor profile of soy sauce. The Ocean’s Halo versions taste very similar to soy sauce, it’s kelp based. Amazon sells it too, but I think it’s a bit overpriced on their site.
    I can’t wait to try this recipe! I’ve spent over an hour pinning so many recipes from your site, thank you!
    Here’s a link for the soy sauce alternative.

  4. Michelle says

    Made this and doubled sauce . Should have cut soy sauce in half ( too salty) . I added sugar snap peas and mushrooms along with the cauliflower. Served over fried rice .

  5. Suzanne says

    Followed the recipe exactly and it tastes pretty good but salty. I should have used low sodium soy sauce hubby likes it too! Mine came out quite dark and didn’t have the sesame seeds.will make again add a few things and serve with rice.

  6. Brittney says

    I noticed you mentioned substitute for soy sauce. I always use Braggs liquid aminos instead of soy sauce. Not sure if it’s vegan.

    • Jason Sanford says

      It is indeed vegan! I don’t think it’s as salty as soy sauce, but it might still be good here if you just added some salt to make up for it. Be sure to report back if you try!

  7. Darla J Ruark says

    I just found this recipe tonight and tried it with cauliflower…ate a couple of bites and thought peas would be good in it too , and they are…then i ate some more…and i really tried to keep it meatless, but shrimp are delicious in this recipe too- are shrimp really meat? REALLY???? Anyway, its a winner!! Two YUMS up!

  8. Bianca says

    Not enough sauce as in the picture. I followed the recipe but I should’ve doubled, trippled the sauce recipe to get that amount. Not sure what went wrong.

    • Jason Sanford says

      Hmmm, maybe cooked it down too much? What ingredients did you use? Lol mine always has too much sauce if anything, and I use a little extra cauliflower!

  9. Dorothy Wyatt says

    So yummy!!! I will probably reduce the soy sauce a little next time but that was just like Panda’s old recipe!!

  10. Ebony says

    It was delicious! My cauliflower wasn’t sticky however. I cooked the sauce dish and it was very sticky until I poured it over the cauliflower, it liquified and was runny. I coated the cauliflower but it was more of a sauce, didn’t really stick to the cauliflower. Not sure what I did wrong. Delicious nonetheless!

  11. Sabrina says

    I must have done something wrong with this, it didn’t come out sticky at all and the color was all wrong, way too dark. Did I not heat it long enough maybe? It’s like the cornstarch didn’t work or something.

  12. Denise Johnson says

    Great recipe! Doubled the sauce and also added sauteed white onion cut in quarters and sliced green pepper. Give this recipe a try! My vegans & non-vegans loved it.

  13. Fatima says

    It was a hit! You’re right, the sauce is the addictive part! Living with my vegetarian partner and cooking for us both has been a shift for me, but we both liked this recipe. Thanks!

  14. Shelly Johnson says

    I love the taste of this cauliflower dish, however, mine looks anemic in comparison to the photo. Does the dish go back in the oven after the sauce is poured on top?
    Thanks! It does taste delicious!

    • Jason Sanford says

      I think maybe it depends on the specific ingredients used, as I’ve seen so many different final results from the photos readers have posted of this dish on Katie’s pinterest pin. Some are dark, and some are light. What type of soy sauce do you use?

  15. shapelessjourneys says

    I had the perfect amount of sauce for the cauliflower! I only had regular soy sauce so used less and added more water. I also used regular brown sugar because I did not have maple syrup in the house.

    Loved it, especially with the green onions! Enjoyed it most fresh out of the oven, left overs were mehh because of the sauce that became a bit jelly like.

  16. Shelby says

    I made this and it was ok. Sauce was runny and dark, way too salty and didn’t stick to the cauliflower. Seems as though everyone’s comments are the same.

  17. Rhonda Turley says

    I just made this in my instant pot, and I loved it! I threw the cauliflower florets in the instant pot, whisked the sauce ingredients until the cornstarch was dissolved, poured the liquid over the cauliflower, sealed, and then cooked 4 minutes on high pressure. After cooking, did a 5 minute natural release, then a quick release Until the pressure was gone. Took the lid off, set to sauté and stirred occasionally while it simmered 4 minutes to thicken. The cauliflower was cooked perfectly. The sauce was sweet and delicious.

  18. Janice Olano says

    This is a great recipe with rice. I used low sodium soy sauce, rice vinegar, fresh garlic, sesame oil, fresh grated ginger, honey, cornstarch, water, chives, and toasted the sesame seeds. Very EZ too!
    I’ll make this again! Thanks for sharing.

  19. Gamma J says

    This is a great recipe! I ended up leaving the cauliflower in the oven after flipping for 18 minutes and it was perfect. Also I only had date nectar for sweetener, but again it worked perfectly.
    Thank you!

  20. Jessica says

    Absolutely delicious! Perfect amount of everything, even though it seemed as though there wouldn’t be enough sauce. I roasted my cauliflower longer than recommended – probably to a total of 35 minutes, because I like it more crispy and carmelized. I also tossed the cauliflower in the sauté pan instead of pouring it over the cauliflower. Served with brown rice and side of asparagus, delicious! I like the idea of adding onion and snap peas.

  21. Douglas says

    I made this and it was sooo goooodddd!!!!!!!. Had no powedered ginger so I grated in a smallish nob. Added extra garlick, because, well, I like garlick.
    I think I am going to get an air-fryer and use that for the cauliflower next time too. And maybe experiment with some molasses.
    Dedibitly one that will be made again but I am also going to vary the sauce, maybe have three for our different sauces so when lated it adds a touch of complexity and nuance.

  22. Macy says

    I subbed apple cider vinegar for rice vinegar so it came out a bit funky, but that’s my own fault! I doubled the sauce recipe and used it on tofu and veggies throughout the week. It had the consistency of jello in the fridge but then microwaved into a nice glaze. I’m looking forward to making it with rice vinegar!

  23. Yana a says

    I used apple cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar. Also added double the amount of ginger powder and also added chilli flakes for a kick. Worked really well. Although I would cut back on the soy sauce next time

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