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South Indian Crispy cauliflower pepper fry stars cauliflower covered in a flavor-packed peppery batter, that is baked and tossed in a delicious onion curry leaf chili sauce with even more black pepper! It’s an amazing appetizer or side dish, and I have tips for how to make it a meal, too! Gluten-free Soyfree nutfree

cauliflower pepper fry in a bowl
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This is another pepper fry from South Indian cuisine. It’s a simple veggie pepper fry recipe with cauliflower. We are making the dry version of this, which you serve as an appetizer, like my potato pepper fry.

Usually, the cauliflower is deep fried and then tossed with this onion, black pepper sauce mixture. For this version, I am baking the cauliflower. I’m coating it in this simple, flavorful batter and then baking it so that it gets nice and crispy. Then, you toss it with the pepper fry sauce.

You can bake the pepper fry sauce in the same pan with the cauliflower or cook it in a pan on the stovetop while the cauliflower bakes in the oven.

cauliflower pepper fry in the pan after baking

Cauliflower pepper fry is a side dish or and appetizer, but if you want to make it into a whole meal you can add some cooked chickpeas in the end or some crisped up tofu along with the cauliflower and serve it with rice or flatbread of choice.

However you serve it, cauliflower pepper fry is insanely delicious! You do want to serve it immediately after mixing it with the sauce, as the sauce has a bit of moisture and it’ll take away from the crunch of the cauliflower. But even if it has gone a bit soft, it is still very very tasty! so don’t have to worry about that if you have leftovers. If any is left, Just store in the fridge, reheat on a skillet or oven or microwave, and serve it as a side.

cauliflower pepper fry in a bowl

Why You’ll Love Cauliflower Pepper Fry

  • crispy cauliflower in peppery spicy pepper fry sauce
  • delicious appetizer or side dish with options to make it a meal
  • sauce uses so many kinds of fresh and dried peppers!
  • baked not fried for a lighter dish than the original
  • soy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free
close up of cauliflower pepper fry in the pan after baking and mixing together

Cauliflower Pepper Fry

5 from 1 vote
By: Vegan Richa
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
Course: Appetizer, Side, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian, South Indian
Cauliflower Pepper fry. This South Indian side has pepper in the batter and black pepper, chilies and green pepper in the sauce! This onion curry leaf black pepper sauce is addictive! Serve with a curry or with fried rice! Gluten-free Soyfree nutfree
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Ingredients 
 

For the Cauliflower

  • 3 cups cauliflower florets, about an inch or smaller in size

Dry Batter Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, or use paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour, or use all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, or tapioca starch

Wet Batter Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste, or use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons water

For the Pepper Fry Sauce

  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, not minced but chopped
  • 1 hot green chili, such as Serrano, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped or thinly sliced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, or use paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 6 curry leaves,, fresh, frozen, or dried is fine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

To Add Just Before Serving

  • 1/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • lime juice

Instructions 

Make the cauliflower.

  • Preheat the oven for 410° F (210° C)
  • Chop the cauliflower, if you haven't already, and set it aside.
  • In a bowl, add all the dry batter ingredients and mix it well. Then, add the wet batter ingredients, starting with the 2 tablespoons of water. Mix well, adding in more water, as needed, to make a thick batter. We want a thick batter to lightly coat, so don’t thin it too much.
  • Add in the cauliflower florets, and toss well to a coat.

To make the cauliflower and sauce together in the baking pan

  • Spread the cauliflower onto one half of a greased baking pan that's big enough to fit the cauliflower on one side and onions on the other.
  • On the other side of the baking pan, mix the onion, garlic, peppers, and curry leaves with the oil.
  • Mix all spices together in a small bowl, and sprinkle that all over the onions, then mix well and spread on the other side of the baking dish.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, stirring the onions at 20 minute mark. If the onions are starting to scorch, bring them together, cover that part of the dish with parchment, and continue baking.
  • After baking, check if the cauliflower is cooked to preference. Then toss the cauliflower in the onion mixture. Just before serving, add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro and a good squeeze of lime juice, and serve as an appetizer or as a side. You can also use this cauliflower as a filling for wraps or tacos.

To make the pepper fry sauce on the stove instead

  • Instead of spreading the cauliflower into half of a baking pan, spread it onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and a good pinch of salt, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Mix in the garlic and add splashes of water, as needed, to help the onion continue to cook evenly. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion is starting to turn golden.
  • Add in the green chili and bell pepper, and mix and cook for half a minute, then stir in all of the ground spices, the curry leaves, and the salt. Reduce heat to medium.
  • Take the cauliflower out of the oven, and transfer to this sauce mixture and toss well to coat the cauliflower evenly.
  • Switch off the heat, add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro and a good squeeze of lime juice, and serve as an appetizer or as a side with curries or fried rice.

Video

Notes

This recipe is soy-free and nut-free. It’s gluten-free as long as you use rice flour instead of all-purpose flour.
To add more protein to the dish, use just 2 cups of cauliflower florets and a cup of cubed tofu instead of the 3 cups of cauliflower, and follow the recipe(bake tofu with the cauliflower) as written. Or add a cup or more of cooked chickpeas to the sauce along with the cooked cauliflower, and toss well. Add in a little bit more salt and some extra garam masala for the chickpeas, and serve.
You can also add in some toasted nuts along with the tomato and cilantro to up the crunch and to add some more protein.

Nutrition

Calories: 121kcal, Carbohydrates: 19g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 0.5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Sodium: 509mg, Potassium: 348mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 374IU, Vitamin C: 76mg, Calcium: 43mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this recipe? Rate and comment below!
cauliflower, onions, spices, and other pepper fry ingredients in bowls on the kitchen counter

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • cauliflower – If you want more protein, replace 1 cup of the cauliflower with tofu or cooked chickpeas. If you do add chickpeas, add a little bit of extra salt and garam masala.
  • dry batter ingredients – You’ll need Kashmiri chili powder or paprika, salt and pepper, rice flour, and cornstarch. You can use all-purpose flour instead of rice flour, but the batter won’t get quite as crisp, and the dish will no longer be gluten-free. You can use tapioca starch instead of cornstarch, if you prefer.
  • wet batter ingredients – Ginger garlic paste or garlic powder, oil, and water add more flavor and moisture to the batter.
  • oil – To help the veggies get crisp.
  • aromatics – Sautéed onion and garlic give the sauce so much flavor!
  • fresh peppers – Hot green chili, like Serrano, plus green bell pepper start bringing the pepper flavors into the sauce.
  • dried spices – For the sauce, you’ll also need Kashmiri chili powder, black pepper, coriander, garam masala, curry leaves, and salt. That’s two more kinds of pepper (Kashmiri chilis and black pepper)!
  • toppings – Just before serving, add tomato, cilantro, and lime juice.

💡 Tips

  • If the pan dries out while cooking the onion and garlic for the stovetop sauce method, add splashes of water to help add moisture and conduct the heat. It will help everything brown evenly!
  • Wait to add the toppings until just before serving.

How to Make Cauliflower Pepper Fry

Make the cauliflower.

Preheat the oven for 410° F (210° C)

Chop the cauliflower, if you haven’t already, and set it aside. 

In a bowl, add all the dry batter ingredients and mix it well. Then, add the wet batter ingredients, starting with the 2 tablespoons of water. Mix well, adding in more water, as needed, to make a thick batter.

dry batter ingredients in a bowl
adding the wet batter ingredients
mixing the batter together

Add in the cauliflower florets, and toss well to a coat.

adding cauliflower to the batter
cauliflower mixed into the batter

Spread the cauliflower onto one half of a greased or parchment lined baking pan that’s big enough to fit the cauliflower on one side and onions on the other. (If making the sauce in the pan as well)

battered cauliflower in the pan

On the other side of the baking pan, mix the onion, garlic, veggies, and curry leaves with the oil.

adding aromatics and spices to the other half of the pan

Mix all spices together in a small bowl, and sprinkle that all over the onions, then mix well and spread on the other side of the baking dish.

adding spices to the aromatics

Bake for 25 minutes, stirring the onions at 20 minute mark. If the onions are starting to scorch, bring them together, cover that part of the dish with parchment, and continue baking.

After baking, toss the cauliflower in the onion mixture. Just before serving, add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro and a good squeeze of lime juice.

aromatics mixed with the spices in the pan
cauliflower and aromatics in the pan after baking

Serve as an appetizer or as a side. You can also use this cauliflower as a filling for wraps or tacos!

cauliflower pepper fry in a bowl

If you prefer, you can make the pepper fry sauce on the stovetop.

Instead of spreading the cauliflower into half of a baking pan, spread it onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and a good pinch of salt, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Mix in the garlic and add splashes of water, as needed, to help the onion continue to cook evenly. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion is starting to turn golden. 

Add in the green chili and bell pepper, and mix and cook for half a minute, then stir in all of the ground spices, the curry leaves, and the salt. 

Take the cauliflower out of the oven, and transfer to this sauce mixture and toss well to coat the cauliflower evenly. 

Switch off the heat, add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro and a good squeeze of lime juice, and serve as an appetizer or as a side.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this recipe allergy friendly?

This recipe is soy-free and nut-free. It’s gluten-free as long as you use rice flour instead of all-purpose flour.

How can I make this into an entree?

To add more protein to the dish, use just 2 cups of cauliflower florets and 1 cup of cubed tofu instead of the 3 cups of cauliflower, and follow the recipe as written. You can also add 1 cup or more of cooked chickpeas instead of tofu to the sauce along with the cooked cauliflower, and toss well. Add in a little bit more salt, tomato and some extra garam masala for the chickpeas, and serve.

More crunch: add in some toasted nuts along with the tomato and cilantro to up the crunch and to add some more protein.

What can I serve with cauliflower pepper fry?

You can serve it as a side with Kerala White Bean Stew or Sambar- split pea stew and rice!
Or you can serve it with Indo-Chinese fried rice.

About Richa

Hi, I'm Richa! I create flavorful plant based recipes that are inspired by my Indian upbringing, including many gluten-free, soy-free, and oil-free options.

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5 from 1 vote

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2 Comments

  1. Emily says:

    5 stars
    Made this for lunch and it is deelish! I love trying out your Indian recipes. They always introduce me to many new flavors!

    1. Richa says:

      Thanks!