Baked Parmesan-Crusted Cauliflower Bites w/ Chipotle Aioli

This right here is a cauliflower game-changer.

And while I know you’re probably sick of seeing cauliflower everything, don’t be. Because these crispy, crunchy, delightful little bites are about to revolutionize your snacking game in the most delicious way possible.

Before diving any deeper I should mention that these are also low-carb and gluten-free. Now prior to this recipe I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit of a cauliflower skeptic. We’ve had good times here and there, sure. But when I see recipes like “cauliflower grilled cheese” and “cauliflower tortillas” trending on Pinterest, I want scream.

JUST EAT A REAL GRILLED CHEESE. Bread should not be treated like it’s arsenic.

But when used appropriately, cauliflower is a great way to eat low-carb without being a total bore. And these bites are the perfect example.

My thought process here was to mimic zucchini-sticks, but in cauliflower form. As a kid I would order zucchini sticks as the “healthy” alternative to mozzarella sticks — I was chubby and not too bright — but as a refined adult I recognize that both of these options are terrible. But in theory, zucchini sticks could be healthy, so long as you don’t drown them in oil. So I took this notion, translated it to cauliflower, and voila!

Best snack ever.

You start by breaking down a small head of cauliflower into florets, discarding of the stems. Next dredge the florets in a mix of egg, egg white, and skim milk, then coat ’em in panko, almond flour, seasonings, and parmesan! It’s a pretty quick process — the cauliflower’s size makes them easier to work with than chicken — and in less than 15 minutes you’re ready to bake. It’s crazy simple for something that tastes so delicious, so you can honestly start making these all the time.

The key to getting that extra-golden crunch is a touch of olive oil or olive oil spray. I used spray to cut-down on calories, and I detail my top spray brands in this post, if you’re curious. Spray each floret before it goes in the oven, then spray them again mid-way. It’s a little annoying, but as an easily irritated person just about everything gets to me.

While the florets bake prep the aioli, which takes all of two minutes. Obviously these would taste bomb with warmed marinara sauce, but I wanted to take things a step further. So I pureed some chipotle peppers in adobo, then mixed them with reduced-fat mayo, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice! In just a few whisks you’ve got a delightfully spicy spread that you’ll want to use on EVERYTHING, these bites obviously being first.

One of the things I love about this recipe is the crazy texture contrast between the crispy, parmesan-crusted shell and warm, soft cauliflower insides. It’s an explosion of flavor and sensation with every bite, and that’s before you dunk them in the aioli.

But best of all, these freeze INCREDIBLY!

Bake a giant batch, freeze ’em up, then re-heat whenever you get a craving. xo

Baked Parmesan-Crusted Cauliflower Bites w/ Chipotle Aioli

Ingredients:

  • CAULIFLOWER BITES:
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tbsps skim milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour, sifted
  • 6 tbsps grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsps oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • a pinch of salt & pepper
  • olive oil spray to coat

 

  • CHIPOTLE AIOLI:
  • 2 – 3 tbsps pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small lemon, juiced (should yield 1 1/2 tbsps)
  • 2 tsps crushed or minced garlic

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Amply cook a large-rimmed baking sheet with olive oil spray.
  2. On a cutting board cut the cauliflower into florets, discarding of the stems. Next, in a small mixing bowl combine the egg, egg white, and skim milk, whisking well. In another mixing bowl combine the panko crumbs, almond flour, parmesan, oregano, garlic powder, and salt & pepper, tossing well until mixed.
  3. One floret at a time, dredge in the egg mixture, then amply coat with panko crumbs before transferring to the greased baking sheet. Repeat until all florets are coated.
  4. Spay the top and sides of each floret with olive oil spray, then bake on oven middle rack for 30 – 35 minutes until crisp and golden. Mid-way through cooking, coat each floret again with olive oil spray.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl combine all aioli ingredients, whisking until smooth. Start with 2 tbsps pureed chipotle peppers, then taste-test to see if you’d like to add a third.
  6. Once the cauliflower bites are browned and crunchy, allow them to cool slightly, then eat! Pairing with the chipotle aioli on the side. The cauliflower bites can be frozen in a ziploc bag and reheated at 350F whenever you want them — they’re good for about 2 months in the freezer — and the chipotle aioli stays nice for a week in the fridge.
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