Every vegetarian has a food that they miss. A lot. For a friend of mine, it’s pulled pork; for another, Taylor Ham. But my bane has always been buffalo wings.
In the four years I’ve been a vegetarian, the one and only time I’ve broken my meatless streak was to eat a single chicken wing (this promptly made my unprepared stomach very upset, which was only compounded by guilt). A search for alternatives has been mostly in vain: imitation chicken is always too salty, and though the seitan at Swings is really close, it just doesn’t quite have the crunch that I crave. It took years for me to find something to fill that gap—years of watching jealously as friends, covered in buffalo sauce and grease, taunted me over dinner.
But no more. I’ve stumbled upon a near-perfect alternative: one that, though hard to mistake for meat, hits all my spiciness/crunchiness/savoriness standards. Whether you’re a carnivore or an herbivore, this recipe will not disappoint. I’ve even had meat-eating friends tell me they prefer the lighter and less-greasy taste. The answer? Cauliflower.
Not raw, obviously—that’s disgusting, and anyone who tells you they like raw cauliflower has something to hide. But if you dress it up with a few simple ingredients, even the worst vegetable in existence can get you where you need to go. Just trust me on this one.
What to get:
1 head cauliflower
1 cup flour
2 cups breadcrumbs
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup buffalo/hot sauce
salt, pepper, red pepper to taste
What to do:
I’ve done some tweaking to this recipe over the past few months—for example, I use way more red pepper than I probably should—but the process of making these is so simple and straightforward that they’re hard to mess up. Though the breading stage is a bit messy, the preparation and tossing shouldn’t take you all that long. These bad boys are best on their own, dipped in some blue cheese or ranch, but also make for good sandwiches or wraps. The crunch and spice of the cauliflower, minus the messy grease that wings create, make for an easy hot or cold lunch when you’re in a hurry. You can even get creative—I’ve tried these tossed in sweet barbecue sauce and a lighter garlic and herb concoction. Whether you eat meat or not, it’s a great alternative. Get some friends together, get your hands covered in breadcrumbs, and make an afternoon out of making and eating these. You’ll be glad you did.
Spencer Arnold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.