Vegan Buffalo “Wings”

Spicy Buffalo style cauliflower or tempeh – easy and healthy!

Vegan Buffalo Wings

I think one of the important things with vegan cooking (or really any dietary restriction cooking) is to accept that certain things can’t be imitated exactly, but that you can often create something equally satisfying in a similar way.

Take Buffalo wings – you’re obviously never going to have something vegan that is exactly like traditional wings, with the little bones and whatnot. You could use fake chicken and get really close to Buffalo strips, but that does involve using fake meat, which I’m not always inclined to do.

So what I often try to do is create a recipe that isn’t really trying to fool anyone into thinking it’s the original, but that tastes great in its own right and hits similar notes (in this case, spicy Buffalo sauce and ranch dressing!)

This is a great recipe idea for a Super Bowl party, but I think Buffalo wings can really be enjoyed anytime, especially when they are vegan, gluten free, and pretty darn healthy (a little high in fat, but that’s a hard one to get around with Buffalo wings. At least they are baked, and I didn’t use saturated fat!) Looking at the photos, I am honestly having a hard time not getting up to go make these again, they are that addictive.

Lucky for you guys, they are also pretty easy to make. I even have a couple of options for you as far as what you use as the base – for this post I tried both cauliflower and tempeh, but I think you could also get away with zucchini, eggplant, tofu…really there’s a ton of options. The nice thing about Buffalo sauce is that it has a pretty strong flavor, so if your base has a good texture and is reasonably neutral, you can get away with a lot.

Anyway, let’s get to the recipe. First you’ll want to chop up your base ingredient. For cauliflower, just chop it into bite-sized chunks. For tempeh, slice it into strips:

Then mix together a bit of flour, water, and hot sauce (you can use any flour, really – I’ve done it with brown rice flour and amaranth flour and both worked great.) Dip your cauliflower or tempeh into the batter until it’s nice and evenly coated, like so:

Then just pop it into the oven at 450 for about 15 minutes. The batter should harden up and get nice and crusty – it won’t taste especially exciting at this point, but that’s what the Buffalo sauce is going to help with. Speaking of which, you can mix that together while the cauliflower/tempeh is baking. It’s essentially just hot sauce and oil (I used Frank’s RedHot Hot Sauce because it’s a tasty Buffalo sauce and it doesn’t have any unpleasant ingredients, but if you have a favorite Buffalo wing sauce you can use whatever you want.)

If you like your wings spicier, use more hot sauce and less oil, and vice versa if you want them to be more mild. I felt like a 1 to 1 ratio was a pretty good balance, but many people will probably want more hot sauce in the mix. You can just taste it as you go until it’s where you want it to be.

Once you’ve got it mixed and your cauliflower/tempeh is done baking, you can coat the pieces with sauce:

Then pop them right back in the oven for about 5 minutes. There will probably be some sauce left, but that’s okay because you’ll use the rest of it to coat them again once they come out of the oven to get them nice and flavorful and delicious.

Once you’ve removed them from the oven and brushed them with more sauce, serve them right away with some ranch dressing, leftover hot sauce, or just by themselves.

I think the tempeh is a little more “chicken-y,” as far as texture and flavor are concerned (and don’t worry, the sauce and baking process get rid of that sort of bitter tempeh flavor — it ends up being pretty neutral), but the cauliflower is sort of awesome as its own thing. I could totally see these as a fun party appetizer or side dish. Just don’t try to tell people it’s chicken, they’ll be on to you pretty quick since it looks exactly like cauliflower!

I tried making this recipe again using the same breading technique but instead of doing a 50/50 oil to buffalo sauce mixture, just using 100% buffalo sauce with no oil at all – and they were really good! Obviously a little more spicy than the other ones, but Frank’s isn’t too terribly spicy so I think most people would like them just fine. If you’re avoiding oil or trying to eat low fat, please try them this way, it’s a great way to make a snack that feels decadent but is actually pretty healthy!

Vegan Buffalo Wings

Vegan Buffalo Wings

Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free
Click stars below to rate, or leave a full review in the comments
5 from 9 votes
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower or 1 package tempeh cut into bite-sized pieces

For the batter:

  • Dash of Frank's Original Hot Sauce If you have a different favorite Buffalo sauce you can use that
  • 1/2 c. brown rice flour or whatever flour you want
  • 1/2 c. water
  • Pinch salt

For the Buffalo sauce:

  • 1/4 c. Frank's Hot Sauce
  • 1/4 c. oil safflower, canola or something neutral - or you can skip the oil and just use hot sauce
  • Pinch salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the batter ingredients in a medium bowl. Dip the cauliflower or tempeh pieces in the batter until evenly coated and lay them out on a greased or lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the batter hardens.
  • While those are baking, mix together sauce ingredients in a small bowl (You can also make this without any oil, just coat them liberally with hot sauce). Once the cauliflower or tempeh pieces are done baking, brush them with the hot sauce mixture and bake again for about five minutes.
  • Remove from oven, and brush with remaining hot sauce mixture to taste. Serve immediately.
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28 Comments

  • this recipe looks very yummy i did a version of this with tofu. Where have you been? was looking for your posts for awhile and you have not posted since the summer. GLAD UR Back. THANKS

  • I just found your blog today after one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a vegan pulled pork recipe with Jackfruit. Although the recipe wasn’t from your site, I ended up here after a search for Pulled Jackfruit.

    I’m aspiring to become a vegan (was a vegetarian years ago) and when I found your blog and started looking at your recipes, I wanted to try at least 20 of them all today.

    My husband picked up ingredients for 4 of the recipes today and so we tried this one (both the cauliflower one and the tempeh one) today along with the Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto.

    We REALLY enjoyed both recipes. I liked both of these “wing” variations but I think it liked the cauliflower better. My husband liked the tempeh a little bit better. He said the meal was “awesome” several times.

    Thanks for these recipes and the inspiration. Eating animals just doesn’t feel right to me and I really, really want to become a vegan.


  • I made the cauliflower version, so good!! I intended it to be my lunch tomorrow, but I’m not sure if there will be any left. I did make one change; I made the batter with 1/4 cup franks red hot and 1/4 cup water. I have a strong hot sauce addiction. Thanks for the recipe!


  • Hey! I thought I had left a comment before on these but just went to make them again and realized I had not. OH MY GOD. This recipe is a staple and may be my new favorite tempeh recipe. I’ve made it 5+ times (3 in the past week!) and love it. I have made it with 100% hot sauce but it tastes better with earth balance, lol. Thanks so much for a phenomenal vegan recipe and I’ve subscribed to your blog in hopes of finding more keepers.


  • Thanks for the recipe! I did the tempeh version of this recipe and they turned out really good. They are even better in a sandwich!

  • I’m making these for a pot luck and will have no way to make sure I serve them right away after cooking, any one know if they’re good just hanging out at lukewarm temperature, or should I even bother??


  • Just made these and wow! I really don’t miss much meat since I opted for a plant-based diet, but hot wings are the exception. This recipe is genius not only in flavor, but also in simplicity. I used chickpea flour with cauliflower and omitted the oil in the sauce. Into my hot sauce, I mixed a little garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast. I can see I’ll be making this over and over. THANK YOU!


  • Thank you SOOOOO much!!!! The one thing I crave the most you just took care of 🙂 I used the cauliflower and it is wonderful!!


  • Awesome recipe! I’ve always liked cauliflower, but it was somewhat boring. ‘Been vegan for about a year, and this looked great and it is! Yum! Easy and flavorful! Thanks for a fabulous recipe.

    My obvious next thought is that this would probably be great made with teriyaki sauce for a more asian theme, or maybe made with a favorite barbecue sauce — serve the cauliflower next to beans and greens and cornbread, etc.

  • Frank’s Red Hot is not clean. It has natural flavors, preservatives, and it even says “Natural Butter Type flavor” on the label. Otherwise, this looks delicious!

    • Good point – it’s important to get the original Cayenne Pepper Sauce, not the Buffalo Wing Sauce. The original hot sauce is pretty clean – just peppers, vinegar, and water. The Buffalo Sauce (and some of their other sauces) is a pre-made mix with all sorts of ingredients that aren’t clean. If you use the original sauce and cut it with oil (or don’t, if you can handle the heat!) it’s much cleaner than their pre-made mix.

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