Comforting American soul food made healthy and plant-based! This Gluten-Free Vegan Chicken & Waffles recipe is not only a meatless wonder, but allergy-free, oil-free, made with crispy air fried cauliflower “chicken” and fresh, fluffy, homemade waffles. Serve it with maple syrup and maybe some hot sauce for an ultimate treat!
This recipe has been a long time coming! I’ve been tossing the idea around in my head for so long and finally got around to testing some variations out! Chicken & waffles is a dish so far from being allergy-friendly and gluten-free, let alone vegan! But, is that ever a problem on Strength and Sunshine? Not if I have any say! Lucky for you, I actually put an allergy-free, gluten-free, and vegan chicken & waffles recipe to the obsession with learning and reading about all types of Southern and soul food. From hot chicken to dirty rice, these dishes are rich with history and just begging to be made accessible for all special diets!
How do you make vegan fried chicken?
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. I bet you’re saying, “The ultimate American comfort food can’t be vegan, Rebecca!” Of course, it can! While we’re at it, let’s swap out the gluten too since we’re celiacs over here! The key ingredient (yes, it’s trendy right now, but that’s not why I chose it!), CAULIFLOWER! Cauliflower is pretty neutral in taste, hearty enough to mimic “meat”, as well as shaped in such a form that it makes for aesthetically pleasing “fried chicken”. Grab a beautiful head of cauliflower, cut it into big florets, bread it in some gluten-free panko, and pop those veggies in the air fryer!
I used my GoWISE USA Air Fryer, which you know I love! Making the vegan “fried chicken” in the air fryer keeps this chicken & waffles recipe not only super healthy and oil-free (oil-free fried chicken win!), but super quick and easy! Pop the breaded cauliflower pieces in your air fryer at 400F for 15 minutes and that it! Not babysitting or messy deep fryer clean up! If you don’t have an air fryer (yet) use the code: STRENGTHGW for 20% off your purchase in the GoWISE store!
Can you bake cauliflower vegan fried chicken instead?
Of course, in lieu of an air fryer, you can toss this vegan fried chicken in the oven. The cauliflower won’t be as crispy and you’ll need to be extra careful about burning one side, but you do what you have to do when there’s a meatless chicken & waffles recipe on the line!
What’s the best gluten-free breading to use?
Start with a slurry of plant-based milk and corn starch to create a sticky “egg-free” egg effect. Choose your favorite gluten-free panko bread crumbs for the actual crunchy coating. Many (many!) gluten-free pankos are NOT egg, dairy, and/or soy-free. Be careful when choosing one that aligns with your dietary needs (double if you’re vegan). Here are two I recommend at are free-from and vegan. You want gluten-free panko, not sure gluten-free bread crumbs. We want as much crunch and crispy as possible on this “fried” cauliflower chicken!
What’s the best waffle for chicken & waffles?
From buttermilk waffles to cornbread waffles, you really can use whatever type of waffle is your favorite! Something neutral and more towards the savory side, with enough heft to hold up to the fried chicken (*cough, cough*, cauliflower) and syrup you’ll be piling on top! The waffle should not be taken lightly, however. It is the base, the foundation, the bedrock on which all good things get piled! The waffle soaks up the traditional fried chicken grease, butter, maple syrup, and hot sauce. It helps keep things less messy in this “all hands on deck” meal. The gluten-free waffles for this vegan chicken & waffles recipe are made with a batter similar to my applesauce waffles, but with added cornmeal. A little throwback to Southern cornbread and the added corn taste and sturdiness is perfect for creating waffles that WON’T get soggy and flimsy!
What do you serve chicken & waffles with?
Sweet, delicious, pure maple syrup! Savory chicken (cauliflower) always goes great with some sweetness and maple syrup is just the thing (no brainer for pairing syrup with waffles!) Why not take it up a notch and drizzle on some hot sauce too? Nashville Hot Chicken is SUCH a big thing right now for a reason! Of course, totally optional, but adding hot sauce bring us to the question of…
Is chicken & waffles a breakfast or dinner?
I feel like it’s best to call it a “main dish”, an entree. A main dish for breakfast: served with maple syrup and maybe some vegan butter, plus a side of fruit. A main dish for dinner: served with maple syrup and hot sauce, plus a side of veggies. A main dish for brunch: served with any and everything your heart desires! More of a weekend breakfast or a fun dinner meal (the kids would go crazy!) Have it for lunch if you really want to shake things up!
How do you eat chicken & waffles?
Just dive in, full body? Hands or fork? Again, it’s up to you on just how messy you want to be by the end of this meal! A fork and knife are a great option if you want to keep things proper. Although, chicken & waffles is an odd meal to have if you care about any sort of fancy etiquette! Going all in with your hands (like pizza) if super helpful. You are using those sturdy gluten-free cornmeal waffles for a reason! Some people eat the fried chicken (cauliflower) separate from the waffle. As long as you get this gluten-free vegan chicken & waffles dish in your mouth…you’re good!
Gluten-Free + Vegan Chicken & Waffles
- Vegan Fried Chicken:
- 1 Small Head of Cauliflower
- 1 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
- ¼ Cup Cornstarch
- 2 Cups Gluten-Free Panko
- 2 Tsp Dried Parsley
- ½ Tsp Garlic Powder
- ½ Tsp Onion Powder
- ½ Tsp Paprika
- ¼ to ½ Tsp Black Pepper
- Crispy Cornmeal Waffles:
- ⅔ Cup Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
- ¼ Cup Stoneground Cornmeal
- 1 Tsp Baking Powder
- 1 to 2 TB Erythritol (or preferred sweetener)
- ½ Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
- ¼ Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
- ½ Tsp Pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
- Pure Maple Syrup
- Hot Sauce
- Vegan Butter
- For the Vegan Fried Chicken:
- Cut the cauliflower into large florets (you don't have to be precise here) and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and cornstarch.
- In a large bowl or plate, toss together the panko, herbs, and spices.
- Dip the cauliflower pieces in the sticky milk mixture, then coat the wet pieces in the seasoned panko, before placing the coated piece in your air fryer basket (see note for oven-baked).
- Continue with the rest of the cauliflower (enough for two people).
- Set your air fryer to 400°F for 15 minutes and allow it to air
- For the Waffles:
- Grease and preheat a standard waffle iron.
- In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then mix in the wet until you have a smooth batter.
- Use half the batter to make 1 large waffle and repeat the process to make another waffle for a total of two.
- To Assemble:
- Place the waffles on plates, top each with half of the fried cauliflower, then drizzle on the syrup, hot sauce, and any other toppings you'd like. Serve piping hot!
While chicken & waffles is typically seen as Southern soul food, there is another version. The Pennsylvania Dutch (i.e. Amish) version! It’s made with a stewed and pulled chicken, instead of fried, still served over a plain waffle but with gravy. If you ask me, I’ll leave the gravy to biscuits. Southern chicken & waffles sounds (and looks) MUCH better!
Want more air fryer recipes?
So tell me:
+ Chicken & waffles…is it really a breakfast food?
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