Have you tried roasted cauliflower? I don’t get very excited about raw cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower, though—I can eat it straight off the pan like French fries.
Raw cauliflower transforms into golden, caramelized deliciousness in the oven. If you roast it with just olive oil, salt and pepper, it’s a tasty snack. This roasted cauliflower recipe is the perfect simple side dish for your fall and winter meals.
You can also use basic roasted cauliflower to add bulk and tasty roasted flavor to other veggie dishes, like my lentil tacos and farro salad. It’s neutral enough that it doesn’t overwhelm other flavors, so it goes well with a variety of cuisines.
As much as I love basic roasted cauliflower, it’s the perfect vehicle for creative flavorings. I came up with three fun flavor combinations this week inspired by Italian, Mexican and Indian cuisines. I can’t decide which one I love best! In the recipe below, you’ll find options for plain roasted cauliflower plus my simple variations.
How to Roast Cauliflower
Here are a few quick tips and techniques to ensure that your roasted cauliflower turns out perfectly.
1) Slice to maximize flat edges.
For optimal results, we want to cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces with plenty of flat edges. The flat sides will lay flush against the pan, giving them a chance to caramelize. Caramelization equals flavor, and we want as much as possible.
Here’s how to do it: First, slice off the stem end of the cauliflower to form a flat base. Turn the cauliflower so it’s resting dome-side up on the cutting board. Slice downward to cut it into four even wedges. Slice off just the inner core areas to get rid of the tough, fibrous stem. Then, cut across each piece to make slices 1/2-inch wide. Pull apart any florets that are stuck together. This will all make sense as you do it—it’s easy!
2) Don’t overcrowd the pan.
Like all veggies, cauliflower needs some breathing room on the pan. Otherwise, the florets will produce so much steam that they’ll never turn crisp on the edges. It’s better to use two pans, arranged on separate racks near the middle of the oven, than to cram too much onto one pan.
Tip: Here is my favorite large, rimmed baking sheet (they’re called half-sheet pans, and that’s an affiliate link).
3) Bake the cauliflower at a relatively high temperature.
High enough to get crispy, golden edges. Not so high that the olive oil burns, which both smells and tastes bad. I recommend baking at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
4) Turn halfway through baking.
We’ll flip over all the pieces halfway through baking, so each side gets a chance to caramelize. Like I said, we want as much caramelization as possible.
5) Roast until the cauliflower is deeply golden.
Don’t stop too soon, or you’ll miss out on some of that caramelization that I keep talking about. Roast until the florets are deeply golden on the undersides, with some brown spots on top. The cauliflower will require somewhere between 25 to 35 minutes, so keep an eye on it toward the end.
Basic Roasted Cauliflower
“Basic” or plain roasted cauliflower is a wonderful easy side dish that goes with almost anything! Cauliflower’s flavor is more neutral than most other vegetables, which means that you really can’t go wrong with it.
Uses for Basic Roasted Cauliflower
You can also incorporate roasted cauliflower into many main dishes for a boost of extra flavor, texture and nutrients. Here are a few ideas:
- On tacos: Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Sauce
- On risotto: Lemony Roasted Cauliflower Risotto
- In salads: Roasted Cauliflower and Farro Salad with Feta and Avocado
- With whole grains: Curried Coconut Quinoa and Greens with Roasted Cauliflower and Roasted Cauliflower, Freekeh and Garlicky Tahini Sauce
- In casseroles: Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables and Roasted Veggie Enchilada Casserole
- Even in soup: Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Italian Roasted Cauliflower
My Italian-inspired variation features an irresistible, golden crust of Parmesan cheese, topped with fresh parsley, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. (By the way, you can buy vegetarian Parmesan at Whole Foods—look for their 365 brand and Bel Gioso’s vegetarian versions.)
The Italian version was inspired by my recipe for cauliflower steaks with spaghetti marinara—if you enjoy this variation on its own, you’ll love the cauliflower steaks.
Mexican Roasted Cauliflower
The Mexican-inspired version is spiced with cumin and chili powder, and topped with toasted pepitas (also known as green pumpkin seeds). We’ll add raw pepitas to the pan when we toss the cauliflower at the halfway point, so they get toasty but not burnt. Garnish with cilantro and lime zest for the perfect Mexican side dish for my veggie enchiladas.
Indian Roasted Cauliflower
For the Indian-inspired version, we’ll toss the cauliflower with curry powder before roasting, and finish it off with fresh cilantro and red pepper flakes, for some heat. This variation would be the perfect side dish for the chickpea tikka masala recipe in my cookbook, Love Real Food (page 157).
Please let me know how your roasted cauliflower turns out in the comments. Which variation is your favorite?
Looking for more roasted vegetable side dishes? I can’t get enough, either! Don’t miss these recipes:
- Perfect Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries & Pecans
- Perfect Roasted Carrots (Three Ways!)
- Perfect Roasted Broccoli (Plus Four Variations)
- Perfect Roasted Asparagus
- Crispy Smashed Potatoes
Roasted Cauliflower (Four Ways!)
1 large head of cauliflower
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- To prepare the cauliflower, use a chef’s knife to slice off the nubby base, then quarter it into four even wedges. Slice off just the inner core areas, leaving the rest intact (see photo). Cut across each piece to make ½″ wide slices, then use your fingers to break apart any florets that are stuck together.
- Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Toss until the ingredients are evenly distributed and the cauliflower is lightly coated in oil, adding another drizzle of oil only if necessary.
- Arrange the cauliflower in an even layer and bake until it’s deeply golden on the edges, tossing halfway, about 25 to 35 minutes.
- Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit and my curried coconut quinoa with roasted cauliflower.
- MAKE IT DAIRY FREE/VEGAN: For the Italian version, omit the Parmesan or sprinkle on vegan Parmesan after baking. All the other variations are dairy free as written.
- RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT: A Microplane (affiliate link) is the perfect tool for finely grating Parmesan and removing the zest from lemons and limes.