Learn how to cook Trader Joe's Kung Pao Cauliflower! Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower is an easy vegan side dish that will help you eat more veggies. You only need one ingredient to make air fryer Trader Joe’s cauliflower tempura that comes out crispy golden brown. Get nutrition information, Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower instructions, a dietitian’s review of this product, and more!
Have you tried the frozen tempura cauliflower at Trader Joe’s (AKA Trader Ming’s) yet? If not, you need this Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower recipe in your life.
I’m going to admit, I was pretty skeptical of this product when I bought it. Would it have that weird cauliflower aftertaste? (Spoiler alert: nope, it didn’t!) Also, I’m not a fan of replacing healthy protein foods with low-protein veggies.
If you don’t want Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Chicken, making kung pao tofu would be a decent nutritional replacement. But kung pao cauliflower? Not so much.
It’s not that cauliflower is bad; it just doesn’t contain enough protein to replace protein group foods. Legumes (such as soy foods) are good options for plant-based protein.
However, if you look at this tempura cauliflower as a side dish, not a main, it’s easy to work it into a balanced meal. It would also work as an appetizer or snack.
If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area, PF Chang’s Kung Pao Cauliflower is at many major U.S. supermarkets. It also comes in a frozen 24-ounce package, and can be prepared using the air fryer directions below.
- 🤔 What is cauliflower tempura?
- 🤷 What is kung pao sauce made of?
- 📋 Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower Nutrition Facts
- ⭐ Benefits of Making Tempura Cauliflower in Air Fryer
- 🥘 Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- 🔪 How to Air Fry Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower
- ️⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🌡️ Leftovers
- 😋 What do you eat with Trader Joe's Kung Pao Cauliflower?
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👨🏾🍳 More Trader Joe’s Air Fryer Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
🤔 What is cauliflower tempura?
Tempura vegetables and meats have been battered with a flour or starch-based batter, and then deep fried. Though tempura is considered part of Japanese cuisine, it originated in Portugal. Shrimp tempura is popular in many restaurants, but cauliflower tempura is a preferred option for vegetarians.
🤷 What is kung pao sauce made of?
Kung pao sauce typically contains soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar along with spices. The spices may make the kung pao very spicy, or more on the mild side.
Here are the ingredients for Trader Joe’s Kung Pao sauce:
- Soy sauce
- Modified cornstarch
- Pineapple juice concentrate
- Rice vinegar
- Tomato paste
- Sesame oil
- Yeast extract
- Dried garlic
- Xanthan gum
📋 Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower Nutrition Facts
One serving of Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower has 280 calories, 38 grams net carbs, and 6 grams protein. This is for one-third of the package (a more realistic serving size than the 6 servings listed on the packaging).
⭐ Benefits of Making Tempura Cauliflower in Air Fryer
Why make Trader Joe’s cauliflower tempura? Here are some reasons you’ll love this air fryer recipe:
- Faster than oven baking: According to the Trader Joe’s packaging, you need to preheat the oven to 450F (232C) and then bake the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes. Preheating an air fryer takes half the time of preheating an oven (5 minutes versus 10). In addition, air frying tempura cauliflower only takes 12-14 minutes, saving you lots of time!
- Crisp not soggy: Air fried tempura cauliflower gives you the perfect texture contrast. The cauliflower under batter remains soft and tender, while the batter gets crispy and brown.
- Plant based: It can be tough for omnivores to figure out what to feed vegan friends. Trader Joe’s cauliflower tempura is an animal-free option for vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians, and anyone who wants a tasty veggie side.
- Easy way to eat veggies: All the breading here plus the sugary sauce covers up that slightly funky cauliflower smell and aftertaste. If they don’t mind a bit of spicy heat, even cauliflower haters may love this one. This is a fun (though not the most nutritious) way to eat more veggies.
- Delicious: I was genuinely surprised at how good this Trader Joe’s freezer side dish tastes. It’s one of the most delicious ways to eat cauliflower I’ve had in quite a while. If you lean more towards taste than nutrition when making food choices, this vegetable dish is worth checking out.
🥘 Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower Ingredients
To make this easy air fryer recipe, all you need is a 24-ounce (680g) package of Trader Joe’s Kung Pao cauliflower tempura. You don’t even need oil spray!
I discussed the ingredients in the kung pao sauce above. Here is the ingredients list for Trader Joe’s Tempura Cauliflower:
- Tempura Batter Mix (Rice Flour, Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour, Sugar, Leavening, Palm Oil, Monoglyceride, Guar Gum, Riboflavin)
- Soybean Oil
If you have allergies to soy or wheat, you should avoid this product. Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower is not soy free or wheat free.
To make Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower in an air fryer, you need an air fryer (of course). You should also have two bowls on hand: one for defrosting the sauce, and the other for adding it to the cauliflower.
I use a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven for this recipe. It is a large air fryer with two trays, so I can cook the entire bag of cauliflower tempura at once. If you have a small air fryer basket, you will probably need to make this recipe in multiple batches.
The Ninja Foodi, Philips, Nuwave, Pampered Chef, Actifry, Instant Pot Vortex, Cosori, Breville, and other air fryers can cook frozen cauliflower tempura. However, air fryers are not like ovens in that different air fryer brands cook differently. I highly recommend checking the food early the first time you try any new recipe with your air fryer.
🔪 How to Air Fry Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower
This Trader Joe’s air fryer recipe couldn’t be easier. Preheat your air fryer to 400F (200C) for 5 minutes. Fill small-sized bowl with very warm water.
One Kung Pao sauce packet should be in the bag of cauliflower tempura. Put the sauce packet in the bowl of warm water to defrost it.
After the air fryer is preheated, carefully spread the frozen cauliflower tempura out on two hot air fryer trays. Space the cauliflower tempura pieces out for good air circulation and even cooking. Place the trays back into the air fryer.
️⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
How long to cook Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower in air fryer? What temperature to air fry Kung Pao cauliflower? Air fry frozen cauliflower tempura for 12-14 minutes total at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200C).
Begin by air frying the two trays of battered cauliflower for 12 minutes. Flip the cauliflower pieces and switch the position of the air fryer trays after the first 6 minutes of cooking time.
If the cauliflower on the bottom rack hasn’t crisped to your liking at this point, no worries. Simply move them to the top rack and air fry 2 more minutes.
After the cauliflower tempura is cooked, put it in a medium-sized bowl. Open the thawed sauce packet and pour it over the top. Gently stir the cauliflower to coat it with the sauce, and you’re ready to serve!
For the best texture, only make the cauliflower tempura you’ll eat that day and leave the rest in the freezer. Leftover air fryer cauliflower tempura can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. However, the crispy cauliflower breading will get soggy if left sitting in the spicy kung pao sauce.
😋 What do you eat with Trader Joe's Kung Pao Cauliflower?
What sides go with Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower? I like to serve tempura cauliflower with a grain (to help soak up some sauce) plus a protein. Here are some options for side dishes:
- White rice (basmati rice or jasmine rice)
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
- Cauliflower rice
- Rice noodles
And here are some plant based protein ideas:
You could also serve this with some additional veggies (I added broccoli for even more cruciferous veg goodness). For an East Asian-inspired vegan feast, you could add some Air Fryer Pot Stickers in addition to all of the above!
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). I think if you add enough breading and sugar, you can make anything taste amazing. Haha The Trader Joe’s packaging lists ⅙ of the package as a serving, but this won’t be realistic for many.
This Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower gets most of its calories from carbohydrates, with fat in second place. What’s really lacking here is the protein. If you are vegan or vegetarian, know that this product is not a good substitute for meat nutritionally.
One-third of the package provides 280 calories and 6 grams of protein (i.e., 24 calories from protein). This is about the amount of protein in one large egg, but for FOUR times the number of calories. Though it contains some protein, cauliflower is not a protein-rich food.
With that same serving, you are getting 10 grams of added sugar (i.e., 40 calories from added sugar). That means you get more calories from sugar with this product than from protein. I would choose Trader Joe’s cauliflower tempura as a once-in-a-while treat rather than a dietary mainstay.
Ultra-processed foods, such as this frozen cauliflower tempura, don’t tend to offer a lot of filling volume relative to their calorie count. Unfortunately, this is the sort of product that gets a bit of a health halo because it’s made with cauliflower. Roasting plain cauliflower with minimal oil, and flavoring with herbs and spices, would give you a far more nutrient-dense dish.
At the time of writing, Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower cost $4.99 at a store near me. Prices may vary by location. You can also purchase Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower on Amazon (but at a much higher price).
Yes, Trader Joe’s Kung Pao cauliflower is vegan! Serve it with rice and your favorite plant-based protein to make it a balanced vegan meal. Some edamame or this crispy air fryer tofu would be wonderful accompaniments.
No, Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower is not gluten free. This product has white flour and soy sauce that contain gluten. Those with celiac disease, NCGS, and wheat allergy should skip this product. Make your own cauliflower tempura with your favorite GF tempura batter and GF kung pao sauce for a gluten free version.
Yes, the sauce used in this Kung Pao cauliflower does offer up some spicy heat. If you’re feeding kids or other picky eaters who don’t like spicy foods, you may want to skip this one.
The answer to this is completely subjective, so why not try it yourself to decide? IMVHO, this bready and sugar-laden way to eat veggies is very tasty. So yes, I do think Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower is good.
👨🏾🍳 More Trader Joe’s Air Fryer Recipes
There are so many yummy Trader Joe’s frozen foods to make in the air fryer! After air frying Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower, try these Trader Joe’s foods next:
- Trader Joe’s Mac and Cheese Bites (Air Fryer)
- Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken (Air Fryer)
- Air Fryer Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Zig Zags (not frozen)
- Trader Joe’s Fish Nuggets (Air Fryer)
- Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi (Air Fryer)
Looking for more vegan recipes? Of the air fryer recipes above, the cauliflower gnocchi and butternut zig zags are vegan. Also, don’t miss my entire collection of vegan recipes.
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower (Air Fryer)
- 1 package Trader Joe's Kung Pao Cauliflower (24 ounces; 680 grams)
- sesame seeds, chopped chives or scallions (optional; for garnish)
- Preheat air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for 5 minutes.
- Fill a small bowl with very warm water. Put the Kung Pao sauce packet in the bowl of warm water to defrost it.
- After the air fryer is preheated, carefully spread the frozen cauliflower tempura out on two hot air fryer trays. Space the cauliflower tempura pieces out for good air circulation and even cooking. Place the trays back into the air fryer.
- Air fry the frozen cauliflower pieces for 6 minutes at 400°F (200°C). Then flip the cauliflower, switch the position of the trays in the air fryer, and air fry 6 minutes more.
- Check the cauliflower. If the cauliflower on the bottom rack hasn’t crisped to your liking, no worries. Simply move it to the top rack and air fry 2 more minutes.
- After the cauliflower tempura is cooked, put it in a medium-sized bowl. Open the thawed sauce packet and pour it over the top. Gently stir the cauliflower to coat it with the sauce, garnish (if desired), and you’re ready to serve!