They’re a brilliant party food snack, or a starter when entertaining. To avoid last-minute rushing around, coat the cauliflower florets in the crumbs and keep chilled in a single layer on a tray. Then all you need to do is fry them and serve with garlic mayonnaise, ketchup, chile mayonnaise, or just a squeeze of lemon.–Jo Pratt

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

Our recipe testers gobbled these crispy cauliflower popcorn bites up for a couple of reasons. They loved that they were “delightfully crisp and not the least bit greasy,” and quick to make. Damn!

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • Chickpea flour or all-purpose flour–Either type of flour will work well here, and the flavor difference won’t be noticeable, but chickpea flour is higher in protein.
  • Milk–Any type of milk, including low-fat or dairy-free, is fine here.
  • Cauliflower–A medium to large-sized head will give you the right amount of cauliflower for this recipe. To save time, you can purchase bagged cauliflower florets.

How to Make This Recipe

  1. Prepare the coating. Whisk the flour, seasonings, and milk in a medium bowl. Place the panko in a separate bowl.
  2. Batter the cauliflower. Dip each cauliflower floret in the batter, let any excess drip back into the bowl, then roll each floret in panko. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Fry the popcorn cauliflower. Heat 2 inches of oil to 300°F in a wok or frying pan. Working in batches, fry the cauliflower bites until golden, then drain on paper towels.
  4. Serve. Pile the popcorn cauliflower on a serving plate and serve hot, with dipping sauce on the side.

Common Questions

What is chickpea flour?

Gluten-free and full of protein, chickpea flour is used to coat veggies for pakoras and to make socca, a super delish flatbread. It’s a pretty dense flour, but when used, it cooks up light and crisp–especially when fried.

It doesn’t have more flavor than plain white flour but packs a punch of protein (and fewer calories and carbs). Made from finely-milled chickpeas, you can make it at home from dried garbanzos, if you can’t find it in stores. Just give it a good whizz in your food processor and sift before use.

Can I make these in advance?

You can coat the cauliflower florets in the batter and panko a few hours before you plan to serve them. We recommend frying them just before serving.

Helpful Tips

  • For extra flavor, double the amount of spice in the batter.
  • This cauliflower popcorn recipe is suitable for a vegetarian diet. To make it vegan, use non-dairy milk in the batter.

More Great Cauliflower Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

A blue skillet with paper towel and a pile of breaded, deep-fried cauliflower. A bowl of dip in the background.

Popcorn Cauliflower Bites

4.67 / 3 votes
Dipping anything in breadcrumbs and frying until golden is always going to be a winner, and for anyone telling you they don’t like cauliflower, they may well change their minds if they try this.
David Leite
Servings8 servings
Calories195 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


  • 2 cups chickpea flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • One (1 1/2 lbs) cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets
  • Mild vegetable oil, for frying
  • Garlic mayonnaise, ketchup, chile mayonnaise or just a squeeze of lemon, for serving


  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, paprika, oregano, garlic salt, and milk together until you have a smooth batter. Place the panko in a separate bowl.
  • Dip the cauliflower florets in the batter, allow excess to drip off, then roll them in the breadcrumbs to evenly coat. Place on a large plate or baking sheet while the oil heats.
  • Fill a wok or deep frying pan with about 2 inches (5 cm) of oil and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering and has reached 300°F, working in a few batches, carefully add the cauliflower florets. They should start to sizzle instantly when they hit the hot oil.
  • Fry until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Repeat with the remaining cauliflower florets.
  • Serve with garlic mayonnaise, ketchup, or chile mayonnaise to dip into or finish with a squeeze of lemon.


  1. Make ahead–Batter the cauliflower florets a few hours before frying. 
  2. Double the spice–For extra flavor, double the amount of spice in the batter.
  3. Dietary–This is suitable for a vegetarian diet. To make it vegan, use non-dairy milk in the batter.

Adapted From

The Flexible Family Cookbook

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 servingsCalories: 195 kcalCarbohydrates: 31 gProtein: 10 gFat: 3 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 2 mgSodium: 439 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 7 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2020 Jo Pratt. Photo © 2020 Malou Burger. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These fried nibbles of popcorn cauliflower bites are addictive. A little fried snack, but a vegetable! The combination of the chickpea flour-based batter and the panko makes the perfect team, so delightfully crisp and not in the least bit greasy.

A small lotus shaped plate with 3 deep-fried, breaded cauliflower bites and a dollop of mayo dip, all sprinkled with sea salt.

I chose a Venezuelan avocado-and-garlic dip, but a sriracha or chipotle mayo would work great, too.

These little popcorn cauliflower bites are great–they fried up fast, stayed crisp, and weren’t greasy. The batter had a decent amount of flavor. The batter could have used more spices, but it all depends on what kind of dip you serve with it.

I used chickpea flour because I love it for deep frying. It always fries up light and crisp. We used joppiesaus (mayo with caramelized onions and curry) and Kewpie mayo mixed with crispy chile-garlic oil. They were both terrific.

Who doesn’t like anything fried? This recipe yields super crispy popcorn cauliflower bites and doesn’t take much time to prepare.

I’d suggest crumbing the cauliflower and storing it in the freezer. This way, you can have hot popcorn bites whenever you want. Pair this dish with some garlic aioli or ketchup, and you have the perfect evening snack.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 4 stars
    Super crunchy and surprisingly light so I’m glad I used chickpea flour. One of the testers said that the batter could use more spice so I doubled it. They had quite a bit of flavour but we didn’t find it overpowering with the aioli.

    1. Definitely not blasphemy, Tina! Trying it in the air fryer is a great idea, however, we didn’t test it this way so we have no guidance to offer you. If you (or any of our readers) make them in the air fryer, we’d love to hear your experience.