Air Fried Buffalo Cauliflower

Air-fried Buffalo Cauliflower is the perfect vegetarian and lower fat answer to Buffalo Wings. The crispy coating on the outside gives you the crunch and flavor that you want, while the cauliflower inside stays tender. Marinating the cauliflower first is the key to maximizing the flavor.

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Air fried Buffalo Cauliflower on a wooden board with carrot and celery sticks and blue cheese dressing with a blue background.

What is Buffalo Cauliflower?

Buffalo Cauliflower has become a super popular snack ever since cauliflower’s rise to fame as a low carb, low fat and general all-around substitute for anything. With Buffalo Cauliflower, the cauliflower steps in to take the place of chicken wings in one of the US’s favorite snacks of all time. Buffalo wings are delicious, there’s no doubt, but they are fatty and greasy and generally a high calorie snack because they are first deep-fried and then tossed with the Buffalo hot sauce. One way to make this snack lower in calories is to make Air Fried Buffalo Wings. Another way to make the snack even lower in calories is to make air-fried Buffalo cauliflower!

Cauliflower cut up on a wooden cutting board with a chef's knife.

First the Cauliflower

How big is a head of cauliflower? Sounds like a trick question, doesn’t it? Truth is, there’s no one size when it comes to products of nature. This recipe calls for ½ a large head, and I’ve also given you a rough weight (about 1½ pounds), but you should just think about how many people you’re serving and get enough cauliflower to feed all. If you run out of marinade, just make a little more (it’s a simple ratio of two ingredients) and if you run out of crumbs, just throw some more into the mix. But first… cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. This is because you really want to be able to eat the Buffalo cauliflower in one or two bites at most, but more importantly the pieces should be roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. Use your chef’s knife and start from the root side with the florets on the countertop. Cut into the root to separate big florets and then cut the florets down from there.

Cauliflower florets soaking in buttermilk and hot sauce in a stainless steel bowl with a blue background.

Marinating Buffalo Cauliflower

Now, most of the time when making Buffalo anything you just air-fry (or deep-fry) the food and then toss it in Buffalo sauce. That gives you great flavor …on the outside of the food. Marinating the food (in this case cauliflower) in the hot sauce-based marinade first allows the flavor to really penetrate the cauliflower, giving it way more flavor. The only other ingredient in the marinade is buttermilk. The buttermilk is there to lessen the intensity of the hot sauce and also to provide something for the crumbs to stick to. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own quick version by using milk and a little lemon juice. You only have to marinate for about 15 minutes, so it’s not much of an inconvenience and it really pays off.

Breaded buffalo cauliflower florets on an air fryer rack.

Coating the Buffalo Cauliflower

When it comes to coating the cauliflower, we’re looking for two things – coverage and crispiness. That’s why this recipe calls for two different types of breadcrumbs – fine breadcrumbs (coverage) and panko breadcrumbs (crispiness). It also calls for a couple tablespoons of cornstarch (to enhance even more crispiness) and some spices. Tossing the marinated cauliflower in the crumbs is very easily done with a zipper sealable plastic bag as long as you just do 5 to 6 pieces at a time. Once coated, be sure to spray the bites on all sides with a little vegetable oil. If you leave some crumbs uncoated with oil before sending it to the air fryer, guess what happens… they will still be dry breadcrumbs on the outside of your cauliflower after they come out. So, there’s no need to spray heavily, but do spray evenly and coat all surfaces.

Cooked Buffalo cauliflower florets on an air fryer rack.

How Long to Air-Fry Cauliflower

This could be another trick question. The answer is it depends on how big your cauliflower pieces are. If you’ve kept the pieces bite-sized, they should take about 12 to 14 minutes in your air fryer at 400ºF, and that’s without turning them over halfway through. As long as they are on a rack or in a perforated or mesh basket, you won’t need to flip them. That’s nice!

Air Fried Buffalo Cauliflower on a wooden board with carrot and celery sticks and blue cheese dressing, all on a blue countertop with a beer in the background.

Low Carb Buffalo Cauliflower

If you’re looking for a low carb buffalo cauliflower, I suggest omitting the breadcrumb coating altogether! Just air-fry your cauliflower until the florets are cooked through with little charred and crispy edges on some of them – same timing. Then, toss your air-fried cauliflower in a mixture of hot sauce and butter (the traditional ratio is 1:1, but you can ease up on the butter a little if you like it spicy). 

How to Serve Buffalo Cauliflower

Serve Buffalo Cauliflower the same way you would serve Buffalo Wings – with blue cheese dressing, carrots and celery sticks –  but here’s where the calories come in. It’s that darned Blue Cheese Dressing that gets us every time! If you are trying to watch what you’re eating, you might opt for this Lemon Dill Buttermilk Dressing instead and load up on the vegetable sticks!

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Air-Fried Buffalo Cauliflower

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 12 m
  • second batch: 12 m
  • Servings:


  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup red hot sauce
  • ½ large head of cauliflower cut into florets (about 1½ pounds)
  • ½ cup fine plain toasted breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • vegetable oil
For Serving:
  • blue cheese dressing
  • celery sticks
  • carrot sticks


  1. Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce in a large bowl.
  2. Add the cauliflower and toss really well to coat all the nooks and crannies with the sauce. Let the cauliflower marinate in the buttermilk-hot sauce for 15 minutes, tossing every now and then to re-coat.
  3. Combine the breadcrumbs, cornstarch, salt and paprika in a zipper sealable plastic bag (or bowl). Working in batches, lift the cauliflower florets out of the marinade, letting extra liquid drip off the pieces and place them into the breadcrumbs. Seal the bag and toss the florets to coat with the crumbs (or toss in the bowl gently with your hands). Transfer the coated florets to the basket of your air fryer and spritz with vegetable oil on all sides.
  4. Air-fry for 12 to 14 minutes at 400ºF, until the coating is crispy and the cauliflower is cooked through. You shouldn’t need to flip the cauliflower.
  5. Transfer the cauliflower to a serving platter and serve warm with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.
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Comments (8)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    This is the best healthy version of buffalo cauliflower I have ever tried! I liked it crispy, so I cooked it an extra 5 or so minutes. Next time I will add a little more spice (we like spicy!). Even my BF was impressed with this version!

    1. You could try a little BBQ sauce instead. That would keep it mild and still give you a little flavor. Or you could omit it altogether and just use your favorite dipping sauce when serving.

  2. HORRIBLE. WORST RECIPE EVER. There was nothing to bind the milk with the breadcrumbs. After dipping the cauliflower into the buttermilk, i would dip into the breadcrumbs and ut would just peel right off! It was not crispy AT ALL. It felt like I was eating corn starch and breadcrumbs raw.

    1. Sorry you had a problem with the recipe. This is meant to be a lighter version of buffalo cauliflower and not have a heavy coating that would get soggy by adding sauce at the end. When you remove the cauliflower from the buffalo marinade, you have to let the excess drip off before shaking it in the breadcrumb mixture to lightly coat it. If the cauliflower is too wet, it will not stick as well. You also need to really spritz the cauliflower well with oil when air-frying to coat the breading and make it crispy.

  3. I just made this tonight and it was really good. To the earlier commenter about breading falling off, you need to let the cauliflower drain well. I put the marinated florets in a colander for at least 20 minutes then dropped them into the breading. Superb. Don’t miss this recipe. You will not be sorry.

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