Air fryer cauliflower parmesan is made with cauliflower florets coated in a seasoned batter, and parmesan cheese, then air fried until crispy and golden brown. Dip the cheesy cauliflower bites in a warm marinara sauce to finish this perfect appetizer.Jump to Recipe
The air fryer makes this cauliflower parmesan so easy and convenient to make. It's a vegetarian dish that can be served with your favorite dipping sauce either has an appetizer for game day or as a side for dinner. Everyone will love this vegetarian, low carb snack.
- What is Cauliflower Parmesan?
- Why You'll Love Air Fryer Cauliflower Parmesan
- How to Make Cauliflower Parmesan in the Air Fryer
- Recipe Tips
- Must Try Variations
- Ways to Serve Air Fryer Cauliflower Parmesan
- Storage and Reheating
- More Air Fryer Recipes You'll Love
- Best Ever Air Fryer Cauliflower Parmesan
What is Cauliflower Parmesan?
Cauliflower parmesan, also known as "Cauliflower Parmigiana" or "Cauliflower parmesan Bake," is a vegetarian dish inspired by the classic Italian Eggplant parmesan. The traditional recipe is made with slices or florets of cauliflower breaded, fried or baked until crispy. Then it's layered with marinara sauce, cheese, and sometimes fresh basil or other herbs, then baked. It's often served as a main course or as a side dish and is often served with pasta, or crusty bread.
This air fryer parmesan cauliflower is inspired by the traditional recipe and it differs in many ways. Our recipe calls for cauliflower to be dredged in a batter and parmesan cheese. Then it's air fried until crispy and serve with a warm marinara. All the flavors are the same but the way it's prepped, cooked, and served is different.
Why You'll Love Air Fryer Cauliflower Parmesan
Crispy Delight: Air fry cauliflower parmesan offers a wonderfully crispy texture that rivals traditional frying, providing a satisfying crunch in every bite.
Healthier Option: Enjoy the flavors of parmesan-coated cauliflower with fewer calories and less oil, making it a guilt-free alternative to deep frying.
Savory Flavor: The combination of parmesan cheese and savory seasonings creates a burst of flavor that transforms simple cauliflower into a savory masterpiece.
Easy Preparation: With the air fryer's efficiency, making cauliflower parmesan becomes effortless, requiring minimal hands-on time for a delicious result.
Customizable: Tailor the seasonings and cheese to your liking, experimenting with different flavors to create a dish that suits your taste preferences. More on that later.
Family Favorite: Its irresistible taste appeals to all ages, making it a hit with both kids and adults, perfect for family meals or gatherings.
Less Mess: Skip the mess and hassle of traditional frying, as the air fryer keeps your kitchen cleaner while delivering equally satisfying results.
Head cauliflower chopped into florets - Be sure to cut the cauliflower into equal sized pieces for the best results. Doing this will ensure even cooking. Want to save some extra time? Buy pre-chopped.
Milk - For creaminess in the batter. Any type of milk can be used.
Water - To thin out the batter.
All purpose flour - To thicken the batter and coat the cauliflower. This helps it get crispy as it cooks.
Garlic powder - To season the batter, powder works best for this.
Onion powder - Also used to season the batter.
Paprika - For color and extra subtle seasoning.
Salt and pepper - To enahnce the other flavors in the batter.
Parmesan cheese - Freshly grated parmesan is going to give the cauliflower the best flavor.
Cooking spray - To prevent sticking in the air fryer basket
Marinara sauce - For dipping at the end. Not into marinara? Choose your favorite dipping sauce for the air fryer cauliflower recipe.
How to Make Cauliflower Parmesan in the Air Fryer
Step 1. In a small mixing bowl combine milk, water, all purpose flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir until well combined.
Step 2. In a small bowl add parmesan cheese.
Step 3. Working in small batches, add the cauliflower to the flour batter then tap off any excess moisture. Place the cauliflower in the parmesan cheese and mix until coated on all sides.
Step 4. Spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray to prevent the cauliflower parmesan bites from sticking.
Step 5. Place the cauliflower in the air fryer basket leaving space between each piece so the cauliflower crisps up on all sides. You may need to cook in batches.
Step 6. Cook the cauliflower in the air fryer at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Flip half way through. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes if needed or until the cauliflower is golden and crispy.
Step 7. Place the air fryer cauliflower on a plate and serve with warmed marinara sauce.
Cut Cauliflower Uniformly: Try to cut the cauliflower florets into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking. This will help avoid overcooking some pieces
Preheat Your Air Fryer: Just like with conventional ovens, preheating your air fryer for a few minutes can improve the cooking process and help achieve a crispy exterior on the air fryer roasted cauliflower.
Dry the Cauliflower: Before coating the cauliflower in the batter, make sure it's dry. Excess moisture can lead to excess moisture which can prevent them from crisping up as they should. Pat the cauliflower with paper towels to remove any moisture.
Double Dipping: For an even crispier coating, you can dip the cauliflower florets in the batter and cheese twice. This will create a thicker, crunchier layer.
Use Cooking Spray: Lightly coat the cauliflower with cooking spray or use an oil mister. This will help the air fryer cauliflower bites to become crispy without using excessive oil.
Don't Overcrowd the Basket: To ensure even cooking and a crispy texture, avoid overcrowding the air fryer basket. Cook the cauliflower in batches if necessary.
Experiment: Feel free to get creative with the recipe. Add some mozzarella cheese along with the parmesan for extra creaminess or even a touch of red pepper flakes for some heat.
Must Try Variations
Air fryer cauliflower parmesan is versatile and can be customized in various ways. Below are some ways to get creative with this recipe.
Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Parmesan:
- Toss the air-fried cauliflower in spicy buffalo sauce before adding parmesan cheese.
- Then serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping.
Garlic and Herb Cauliflower Parmesan:
- Add minced garlic and a variety of fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and basil to the batter for added flavor. Don't have fresh herbs? Try italian seasoning instead.
- Finish with extra freshly grated parmesan and fresh parsley.
Pesto Cauliflower Parmesan:
- Instead of marinara sauce, serve the air-fried cauliflower with a drizzle of basil pesto instead of marinara.
- Top with shredded mozzarella cheese for a pesto-inspired twist.
Cauliflower Parmesan with Alfredo Sauce:
- Instead of marinara sauce, serve the cauliflower with creamy garlic parmesan Alfredo sauce.
- Sprinkle with extra grated parmesan and a pinch of nutmeg once the cauliflower is cooked for extra flavor.
Mushroom and Spinach Cauliflower Parmesan:
- Sauté mushrooms and spinach in garlic and olive oil.
- Place the cauliflower parmesan crisps on a bed of sautéed vegetables, then top with marinara sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
Ways to Serve Air Fryer Cauliflower Parmesan
Classic Cauliflower Parmesan: Serve the air-fried cauliflower parmesan as a main course with a side of pasta or a simple green salad. Top it with marinara sauce and extra parmesan cheese for a classic presentation.
Cauliflower Parmesan Sandwich: Make a sandwich by placing the crispy air fryer cheesy cauliflower inside a toasted sub roll or baguette. Add marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese for a hearty and satisfying sandwich.
Pizza: Use the air-fried garlic parmesan cauliflower as a pizza topping. Spread marinara sauce on your pizza crust, add the cauliflower, and sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden.
Stuffed Peppers: Stuff bell peppers with the parmesan crusted cauliflower. Top with extra marinara sauce and cheese, then bake until the peppers are tender and the cheese is melted.
Pasta: Toss the air-fried cauliflower with cooked pasta, marinara sauce, and some extra Parmesan cheese. This creates a comforting and satisfying pasta dish.
Salad: Add the air-fried cauliflower to a bed of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices. Drizzle with a light vinaigrette dressing and sprinkle with parmesan for a healthier option.
Appetizer: Serve the parmesan cauliflower bites recipe as a party appetizer with toothpicks for easy snacking. Provide small bowls of marinara sauce for dipping.
Storage and Reheating
If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Make sure the cauliflower is cooled to room temperature before refrigerating to prevent condensation. Leftovers can be stored for 3-4 days. Be sure to store the cauliflower separate from the marinara sauce.
I don't recommend freezing the cauliflower parmesan because as it thaws it will no longer be crispy.
To reheat you have a few options:
Air Fryer (Recommended):
- Preheat the air fryer to around 350-375°F (175-190°C).
- Place the leftover parmesan cauliflower bites in a single layer in the air fryer basket.
- Reheat for 4-6 minutes or until it's heated through and has regained its crispiness. Check and shake or flip as needed for even heating.
- Preheat your oven to around 350°F (175°C).
- Place the cauliflower parmesan crisps on a baking sheet in a single layer.
- Reheat for 10-15 minutes, checking periodically to ensure it doesn't overcook.
- While the microwave is the quickest method, it may not maintain the crispy texture as well as the air fryer or oven.
- Place the garlic parmesan cauliflower on a microwave-safe plate.
- Microwave in 20-30 second increments, checking after each interval until it's heated to your liking.
- Preheat your toaster oven to around 350°F (175°C).
- Place the parmesan crusted cauliflower on a baking sheet or toaster oven-safe tray.
- Reheat for 10-15 minutes, checking to ensure it doesn't burn.
More Air Fryer Recipes You'll Love
Best Ever Air Fryer Cauliflower Parmesan
- 1 head cauliflower chopped into florets
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- cooking spray
- 1/2 cup marinara sauce
- In a small mixing bowl combine milk, water, all purpose flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir until well combined.
- In a small bowl add parmesan cheese.
- Working in small batches, add the cauliflower to the flour batter then tap off any excess moisture. Place the cauliflower in the parmesan cheese and mix until coated on all sides.
- Spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray to prevent the cauliflower parmesan bites from sticking.
- Place the cauliflower in the air fryer basket leaving space between each piece so the cauliflower crisps up on all sides. You may need to cook in batches.
- Cook the cauliflower in the air fryer at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Flip half way through. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes if needed or until the cauliflower is golden and crispy.
- Place the air fryer cauliflower on a plate and serve with warmed marinara sauce.