This cauliflower recipe is something my mom has made often when we were growing up. I remember waiting impatiently in the kitchen as she was finishing cooking the cauliflower, so that we can sit down with fresh, delicious, crispy pan fried cauliflower florets.
This recipe is super simple and delicious. If you like cauliflower, then this recipe is perfect because the flavor of the cauliflower really comes through, unlike in some deep fried cauliflower bites recipes, or some recipes that call for smothering the cauliflower in spices and roasting it. Don’t get me wrong, I like those things too, but this simple, very lightly battered pan-fried cauliflower is my favorite.
The funny thing is that this time around I was making the cauliflower Aldo couldn’t wait to eat it, and could hardly wait for me to be done taking pictures. There’s just something about this cauliflower recipe that makes people hang around the kitchen waiting impatiently.
This recipe is very quick, and the amount of time it takes to make this will really depend on how you cook the cauliflower (steam or boil) prior to dipping it in batter and pan frying it. I boiled mine in advance, rinsed it under cool water to stop the cooking, and set it aside until we were almost ready to eat. Then it only took me 20 minutes to make this for a side dish.
I’ve also been known to sit down and eat half of the cauliflower for dinner, it is so good, and once you start you really don’t want to stop. It’s actually a pretty balanced meal – a huge serving of vegetables, an egg, and some flour goes into half a cauliflower. Could be worse!
Pan Fried Cauliflower Florets
Makes: About 20-30 florets (4-6 servings). Total time: 20 – 35 minutes.
- 1 small cauliflower, cooked
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk (any kind, I used 1%)
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- Optional: pinch of cayenne pepper, chili powder, or any other ground pepper of your choice
Note: If you have a very large cauliflower, add another egg, an extra splash of milk, and some extra flour to the ingredients list above. The recipe above really makes just enough for a small head of cauliflower.
1. Cook the whole cauliflower (do not separate it into florets!) to your desired done-ness. Keep in mind that you will also pan-fry each floret for about 5 minutes, so it will cook further. Don’t overcook it, because you don’t want it to fall apart. I like my cauliflower to be just barely fork tender at this point. You can either steam the cauliflower, or place it in a large pot of boiling water for 5 minutes.
2. When the cauliflower is cooked, rinsed in cold water and no longer hot, cut it into quarters. Then separate the florets from each quarter of the cauliflower. The reason you cut the cauliflower instead of just separating the florets naturally is that you want a few flat edges to the cauliflower so it’s easier to pan-fry, instead of just having rounded floret shapes.
3. Prepare 2 small containers for the batter. In one, whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt. In the other, mix together the flour and black pepper. If you want, add some spice to it with a pinch of cayenne or chili powder.
4. Dip each cauliflower floret into the egg mixture (really mix it around in there), and then dip it into the flour mixture, making sure to coat each side in a light layer of flour. Set these aside.
Or, if you’re quick in the kitchen, you can do step 4 in batches while frying some of the cauliflower. It gets a bit messy (hands covered in batter end up touching the tongs, there might be some dripping), and you have to move fast because the cauliflower fries fast, but it goes much faster this way!
5. Pan fry the battered cauliflower in batches. In my 11 inch frying pan, I added about 2 tablespoons of oil, heated up the oil and made sure it coated the pan. You might need more or less oil, depending on the size of the pan. Place the cauliflower pieces flat side down into the hot oil (if there is a flat side), and fry without disturbing them for about 2 minutes, or until the underside is a nice golden brown. I was able to get 8-10 pieces in the pan at a time without crowding the pan.
Use tongs to gently flip each cauliflower piece, and cook until the other side is nicely browned. The cauliflower florets are obviously not flat on each side, so try to cook each piece on at least two sides and on the ”top” – or ”upside down,” in a way. The heat of the frying pan will cook all the batter that is caught inside the cauliflower, and it will all be delicious.
Set the cooked cauliflower florets on a paper towel to drain.
6. These cauliflower florets of goodness are best served fresh and hot. If you have any left over, it is best to reheat the florets in an oven, so they crisp up again and don’t get mushy in the microwave.