Teriyaki cauliflower “popcorn”

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The combination of crispy, sticky, spicy and utterly delicious ticks every box for me. Ingredients such as soy sauce, garlic, ginger, chilli, sesame seeds and panko breadcrumbs combine with the cauliflower to give an exceptional dish.

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Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables and I love cooking with it. Roasted until it goes deep golden brown and then smothered in a pungent cheese sauce and you have THE most enticing cauliflower cheese.  However, a punchy roasted cauliflower soup (recipe here) is also up there among my favourite cauliflower dishes.

However, I reserve this particular cauliflower dish for those occasions when I want great, simple street food at home. The breadcrumbs absorb the gorgeous juices and go wonderfully sticky, with a few crusty bits. Divine!

I sometimes serve this just with boiled rice, but I usually simply pop the pieces of sticky cauliflower onto a platter – either with roasted cauliflower leaves (they have a lovely flavour) or on a bed of shredded lettuce – for people to help themselves to!

The air fryer version

In the recipe below so give the times and temperature for cooking in an oven. However, this works so well in an air fryer, retaining moisture inside the cauliflower yet giving a sticky yet crispy exterior.

Simply prepare as in the recipe below: with or without the panko.

Once coated, air-fry then at 190C for about 15 minutes before tossing lightly in the remaining glaze, sprinkling over a few sesame seeds and air-frying a further 3-4 minutes at 190C or until the sauce is bubbling on the surface.


  • For even quicker version, instead of making the Teriyaki-style sauce I sometimes use a mixture of sweet chilli sauce, sriracha and a splash of dark soy sauce.
  • Add fresh coriander, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves to the sauce ingredients  for a Thai-style version.
  • For extra heat, but a lovely chilli tone, add a couple of teaspoons of Gochujang paste.
  • Stir a couple of tablespoons of desiccated coconut into the coating ingredients for a delicious coconut version.
  • This dish works really well with slices or chunks of aubergine, potato or even butternut squash.

Recipe: Teriyaki cauliflower “popcorn” – serves 3-4

  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into medium florets about an inch or so wide
Teriyaki-style sauce (the wet coating)
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2” piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 3 fat cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded – optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Dry coating:
  • 100g breadcrumbs, ideally panko (I often crush them first to break them down a bit)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes or finely chopped fresh red chilli, optional
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
To finish:
  • a couple teaspoons sesame seeds
  • finely chopped or sliced red chilli
  • finely chopped or sliced spring onion
  • lime juice to squeeze over when serving

The oven should be preheated to 190C (fan)

(1) To make the Teriyaki sauce, add the ingredients to a food processor and blitz to give a smooth mixture. Pour into a large bowl.

(2) Dip the cauliflower into the sauce, giving it a good stir so that the sauce seeps into the holes within the florets. Don’t throw the sauce away as some of it will be spooned over the cauliflower part-way through cooking.

(3) Mix the dry coating in a large bowl.

(4) Take the cauliflower pieces, a few at a time, out of the sauce and into the dry coating. Give a gentle toss around to coat each piece fully and put onto a baking trays lined with greaseproof or silicon sheets.

Note: this can be done well in advance and finished in the oven before serving.

(5) Place the trays into the preheated oven and cook the coated cauliflower for about 15 minutes, or until until going nice and crispy around the edges.

(6) Remove the trays from the oven and spoon over 2-3 tablespoons of the sauce, along with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

NB: you can coat the cauliflower fully if you prefer, but be careful not to knock off the coating. You also lose some of the crispy bits, but to be honest the soft spicy coating you then get is fabulous!

(7) Return to the oven to cook for a further 5 minutes or so, or until bubbling and sticky. It is now ready to serve, needing just a scattering of chilli and spring onion, along with squeeze or two of lime to finish it off.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

4 thoughts on “Teriyaki cauliflower “popcorn””

  1. Oh, I am smiling here – I have a “similar” cauli dish to blog about but it is waiting as second on that line…. I decided to do a rice dish first… but I intend to try your version too and who knows, maybe if I am fast enough I can pull a double-take on the same post????


    1. 🤣🤣ooo now I can’t wait to make your cauliflower dish: I love cauli so much, so it is always exciting to have different takes. I have a few air-fryer versions of cauli – but for when I get round to posting 😀


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