This spicy cauliflower burger recipe is the best saucy, finger-licking good, plant-based sandwich you’ll ever want. Easily gluten-free, totally oil-free, and extra delicious, I haven't met a person yet who doesn't love this spicy veggie burger - vegan or not!
Made with cauliflower cutlets baked until tender-sweet with a thick caramelized spicy harissa sauce, this burger is succulent and saucy. Creamy tzatziki wakes everything up, tangy slaw adds texture, and sweet crunchy pickles push it over the top.
This epic beauty is a cross between the popular Buffalo Cauliflower sandwich and the decadent Chicken-fried Cauliflower sandwich - spicy without the Buffalo sauce and crunchy without the frying!
Pro Tip: break the extra cauliflower pieces into florets and this spicy cauliflower recipe becomes the perfect party appetizer or game day food served as hot wings with your favorite dipping sauce like ranch or tzatziki.
Okay, let’s get started.
Spicy Cauliflower Burger Ingredients
This cauliflower burger is easy to make and is pretty versatile. Sub in any vegetables and sauces you enjoy on top of your burger. Here's what I used:
Cauliflower – baked until tender and sweet. The baked cauliflower paired with spicy harrisa is a flavor match made in heaven. Traditionally cut into steaks, I prefer a slightly smaller cutlet for this cauliflower burger. (more below).
Cauliflower batter – putting spices in the batter adds another layer of flavor that gets into the crevices and pockets of the cauliflower steaks. Mix to the consistency about the same as or slightly thinner than pancake batter. Can use gluten-free flour!
Harissa sauce – harissa is a spicy condiment popular in Tunisian cooking. You can buy it as a spice blend or a paste. I add the spice mix to mayonnaise along with a drizzle of maple syrup and a splash of lemon. This sauce is so deliciously outrageous and finger-licking good, it will light up your taste buds!
Bun – because this cauliflower filling isn’t fried and ultra crispy, I like to use a crustier roll for some added crunch. A toasted ciabatta, sourdough or pretzel bun is a good choice. However, if you love a soft potato or brioche bun, just toast it before serving!
Slaw – zingy slaw to cool things off and cut through the richness and spiciness of the harissa sauce.
Tzatziki sauce - easy to make, creamy, and super tangy, this bright and fresh tzatziki sauce is the perfect compliment to the spicy cauliflower. Can sub with Vegenaise, Ranch or Blue Cheese Sauce (we like Follow Your Heart brand).
Optional toppings - thick tomato slice for freshness, Gherkin pickles for sweetness and crunch, white/red onion slices for pungency and leafy greens for freshness.
Ingredient Spotlight – Cauliflower
I always say, if you’ve got a cauliflower; you’ve got a meal! It is so delicious, inexpensive, highly available, and beyond versatile.
Also cauliflower is a healthy, low calorie and carbohydrate vegetable choice with an excellent nutrient profile. It’s wonderful raw, cooked, baked, steamed, grilled or even fried.
Cauliflower has always been one of my favorite vegetables. I use it to make simple, comfort food like Rosé Veggie Pasta Sauce, this hearty and healthy Bolognese recipe, and my Curry Cauliflower Rice Soup. If you like tacos, try this super popular and simple Chickpea Cauliflower Taco recipe or these easy Tacos with Cauliflower-walnut Crumbles.
The humble cauliflower can also be used to make pancakes, cheese sauce, desserts, falafels, and dips. There’s really nothing cauliflower can’t do!
How to Slice Cauliflower into Steaks and Cutlets
Prepare the cauliflower by removing leaves and trimming any excess stem. With a large, sharp knife, slice the cauliflower into ½” ‘steaks’. The outer edges of the head of cauliflower will not remain in one piece; however, they will create pretty good size cutlets.
Since they are attached to the main stem of the cauliflower, the center two slices “steaks” should remain completely intact.
I cut these large steaks in half and trim off some of the main stem so they cook more evenly and fit nicely on the bun.
How to Make a Spicy Cauliflower Burger
Although there are a few components to prepare for this burger recipe, everything is easy. Here’s the step-by-step guide for best practices and kitchen management . . .
- Cut and trim the cauliflower.
- Make the spicy batter.
- Coat the cauliflower pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until tender and sweet on the inside and slightly crunchy and golden on the outside.
- While the cauliflower is baking, prepare the spicy harissa sauce, the tangy slaw, as well as any optional toppings (onions, tomatoes, pickles, greens).
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven and slather with the spicy harissa sauce then back into the oven for 5-7 minutes until the top is bubbly and caramelized.
- Butter and toast the buns until crispy and golden then pile everything on top.
- Don’t forget extra napkins.
Storage Tips and Leftovers
The cauliflower is best served straight out of the oven. However, if you have some leftover (lucky), store them in the fridge and use them over the next two days in a Buddha bowl, as a pizza topping or added to a taco. I love getting two meals from one!
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Spicy Cauliflower Burger with Harissa Sauce
Preparing and Cutting the Cauliflower
- 1 cauliflower, cut into steaks and cutlets
Spicy Cauliflower Batter
- ½ cup AP flour (sub gf flour)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoky paprika (or paprika)
- S&P to taste
- ¾ cup water
- 3 tbsp Vegenaise
- 1 ½ - 2 tbsp harissa spice blend
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
- 1-2 tsp maple syrup
- 3 cups shredded cabbage or slaw mix
- 3-4 tbsp cilantro, fine chop
- 1 tbsp Vegenaise
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1 large lime, juiced
- salt and pepper to taste
Make Tzatziki Sauce Recipe or sub vegan mayo or store-bought ranch or blue cheese dressing
- 2-4 tomato slices, thick
- 2-4 red onion slices, thick
- leafy greens
- gherkin pickles
- 4 buns (ciabatta, potato, pretzel)
- Preheat oven to 425º F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment.
Preparing and Cutting the Cauliflower
- Cut the cauliflower head in ½" slices. Typically there are 2 'steaks' from the middle portion of the cauliflower that stay intact (the florets will still be attached to the stem).
- You will get some mini cutlets/nuggets from the leftovers.
Making Spicy Cauliflower Batter
- Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk together. Add about ⅔ of the water, mix the batter up and then add the rest of the water to achieve a pancake batter (or slightly thinner) consistency.
- Cover the cauliflower steaks with batter. Use a brush or your hands to make sure the batter gets in all the crevices and pockets of the cauliflower.
- Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and then into the oven for ~20-25 minutes.
- If your cauliflower pieces are larger/thicker, you'll need to adjust the cooking time. Test with a fork for tenderness - should be tender but still firm. Up to 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the harissa sauce in a small bowl. Add 1 tsp of the lemon juice and 1 tsp of the maple syrup, taste the sauce. Add the remaining lemon and maple syrup to taste.
- When the cauliflower has cooked for ~25 minutes, remove it from the oven and using a brush, slather the harissa sauce very generously on the tops and edges of the cauliflower.
- Bake for another 5-10 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and tender and the harissa sauce is bubbly and caramelizing. *The smaller pieces/nuggets will be ready much faster.
Make Tzatziki Sauce Recipe or sub with vegan mayo, ranch or blue cheese sauce
- Make the tzatziki sauce for slathering on the buns. Add the lemon and vinegar a little at a time so that the sauce doesn't get too thin.It's also a delicious sauce stirred into the slaw!
Quick and Easy Slaw
- Shred cabbage and chop cilantro (or use pre shredded bag of slaw from grocery store).
- Mix the slaw dressing together, pour over shredded cabbage, and toss together.
- Cut the buns in half and toast them in the oven or on the grill. Buttered or plain.
- Smother the toasted bun with tzatziki sauce (mayo or your favorite ranch or blue cheese sauce). Top with a few saucy cauliflower cutlets, a heap of slaw, and any other optional toppings.
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