This healthy easy Cauliflower Stir Fry with bell peppers is flavor packed, smothered in a sticky maple soy sauce, and ready in 20 minutes! Delicious and naturally low carb, vegetarian and vegan, plus gluten free.
Love cauliflower stir fries? You might also love teriyaki chicken and cauliflower!
Table of contents
Cauliflower has become one of my versatile go to ingredients for making low carb alternatives like cauliflower mashed potatoes and cauliflower pizza crust. It’s an impressive vegetable for delicious and nutritious sides like air fryer buffalo cauliflower wings and this sesame cauliflower stir fry.
Cauliflower stir fry is packed with flavor but far lighter than Chinese takeout versions, which are usually battered and deep fried. It combines florets with bell peppers and stir fries them until tender before mixing in a flavorful sauce with soy sauce and maple syrup.
Ingredients in This Cauliflower Stir Fry
Ready in only 20 minutes this stir fried cauliflower is a great low effort, midweek meal! Plus with only 8 ingredients, you have less mess to clean up.
- Cauliflower: You can use a fresh head of cauliflower or frozen (thawed first) florets, though I prefer fresh for the best texture and results. Save your cauliflower rice for any of these cauliflower rice recipes.
How to cut cauliflower for stir fry? It’s best to use even, bite sized florets for this sticky sesame cauliflower stir fry recipe to ensure they cook in time and evenly. You can read how to cut cauliflower here for all the top tips.
- Bell peppers: Use any colored pepper you like. I used red and yellow bell peppers this time.
- Sesame oil: This helps infuse a ton of flavor into the Asian cauliflower dish.
- The garnish: I use a combination of sesame seeds (raw or lightly toasted) and green onions (scallions), finely chopped. Chives would also work.
- Stir fry sauce: Soy sauce, maple syrup, water, and cornstarch.
Nutritional note: Cauliflower and bell pepper recipe is nutrient dense loaded with fiber, vitamin C, K, E and B6, plus antioxidants. It’s a great option for anyone following a low carb, gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan diet!
Stir Fry Sauce Notes
This cauliflower stir fry has a simple sauce that brings in alot of flavor with it’s sweet and salty taste! You could also use the sauce options from my chicken and broccoli stir fry recipe, beef stir fry, salmon stir fry, or shrimp and vegetable stir fry recipes.
Soy sauce: Use tamari/coconut aminos instead for a gluten free option. Dark soy is best for a deeper, umami rich, salty flavor over low sodium soy sauce, but use what you’d prefer for cauliflower stir fry.
Maple syrup: I prefer the flavor with maple. However, you could use another liquid sweetener in its place if preferred (brown rice syrup, agave, or even a sugar free liquid sweetener).
Water: To make more of a sauce. Alternatively, you could use a low sodium vegetable broth.
Cornstarch: This will help thicken this simple sauce, so it clings to the broccoli and peppers. Other starches would also work like arrowroot powder.
Optional add-in’s: Take this sticky sesame cauliflower sauce up a notch by adding 1-2 tsp fresh garlic, 1/2 – 1 tsp fresh or dried ginger, a splash of rice vinegar, a touch of miso paste for umami flavor, red pepper flakes or sriracha for heat, or onion powder for additional savory taste.
How to Make Cauliflower Stir Fry
This cauliflower stir fry comes together quickly, here are the easy directions plus some tips to make sure it comes out perfectly!
- Chop the ingredients: First, wash and cut the cauliflower into bite sized florets, roughly dice the bell peppers into 1-inch pieces, and slice the green onion (scallions). Similar bite sized florets will cook evenly and provide the best results.
- Stir fry the vegetables: Preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat and coat with sesame seed oil. Once hot, add the chopped vegetables, cover with a lid, and cook for 8 minutes (or until tender-crisp), stirring every few minutes. Don’t overcrowd the pan for best results. For crispier cauliflower on the stovetop stir fry without a lid.
- Add the sauce: Meanwhile, whisk all the sticky sauce ingredients in a small bowl, continue to whisk up to the time you add to the skillet to avoid lumps. Pour your stir fry sauce into the skillet and stir well. Continue to cook for several minutes until the sauce has thickened, then sprinkle over the chopped green onions and sesame seeds and enjoy!
Coconut aminos/ liquid aminos are the best substitutes for a soy based soy sauce.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of lightly toasted sesame seeds to the sauce, note that the sauce will not be as flavorful when skipping sesame oil.
The starch works to thicken the sauce. For it to work, bring the sauce up to a boil, then allow it to simmer for a further few minutes (usually 2-3) until thickened.
Ensure you use tamari/coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
Yes. Follow my oven method for roasted cauliflower with parmesan cheese or air fryer cauliflower. Meanwhile, combine all the sauce ingredients (including the sesame oil) in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook, constantly stirring, until thickened. Once the cauliflower is roasted/air fried, pour the sticky sweet sauce over the florets, toss well, and garnish with the sesame seeds and green onion.
Protein Main Dish Options
Cauliflower stir fry is an excellent plant based main dish option! I include it often as part of my menu rotation for quick and easy healthy dinner ideas. Consider adding a lean protein to keep it filling!
- Grains: Serve over Instant Pot brown rice or learn how to cook quinoa!
- Seafood: Make grilled salmon or air fryer shrimp and serve on the side or add to the stir fry once it’s done.
- Vegan protein: This naturally vegan cauliflower stir fry recipe will also pair with vegan proteins, including crispy pan fried tofu or Instant Pot chickpeas.
- Lettuce wraps: This sesame cauliflower is a delicious addition to healthy chicken lettuce wraps.
Serve as a Side Dish Option
This simple cauliflower stir fry is a great all purpose vegan cauliflower side dish for tons of mains/meals. Just a few of which include:
- Chicken: An excellent side for all sorts of mains, like healthy orange chicken or simple baked chicken breast.
- Fried rice: Add alongside Instant Pot fried rice with chicken.
- Noodles: Serve with peanut chicken soba noodles.
More Healthy Cauliflower Side Dishes
Easy Cauliflower Stir Fry with Bell Peppers
- 2 lbs cauliflower small-medium head, coarsely chopped
- 2 large bell peppers coarsely chopped
- 2 tsp sesame seed oil
- 3 tbsp green onions chopped
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- Preheat large skillet on low-medium heat and coat with sesame seed oil. Add cauliflower and bell peppers, cover with a lid and cook for 8 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk soy sauce, water, maple syrup, cornstarch and pour into skillet. Stir to coat veggies and cook a few more minutes until sauce has thickened.
- Stir again, sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds. Serve hot with meat of choice, or over pasta, quinoa or brown rice.
Store: Refrigerate in a glass airtight container for up to 3 days.
Reheat: In microwave or stovetop until heated through.
Freeze: Do not freeze.
- Chop the cauliflower evenly: Similar bite sized florets will cook evenly and provide the best results.
- For crispier cauliflower on the stovetop: You could stir fry the veg without a lid, though the process will take longer.
- Whisk the sauce often: To avoid lumps.
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