There is a secret to making the BEST roasted cauliflower! This foolproof recipe gives you oven roasted cauliflower that are sweet, tender, and perfectly caramelized in all the right parts! A few tips make all the difference. And you'll love the flavor combo cumin and fresh lemon, but you can play around with flavors to your liking.
Some think of cauliflower as bland and unimaginative, but I'd rather think of it as the perfect blank canvas.
If you like to keep its essential taste, go ahead and steam or blanch your cauliflower in boiling water for 5 minutes or so. From there, jazz it up with your choice of spices and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. And just like that, you've got yourself a healthy side dish.
But if you're looking for something more exciting and want to really taste the sweeter, much nuttier side of cauliflower, I highly recommend roasting.
There is a secret to achieving sweet, tender, nutty, and perfectly charred oven roasted cauliflower. And I'm super excited to share this recipe and tips with you!
If you haven't worked with fresh cauliflower before, you may have a few questions...
How do I choose cauliflower?
Every good meal begins with good ingredients, so it's important to select a good cauliflower. Here is what I look for
- A firm cauliflower with tightly packed florets
- Florets should be without blemishes or browning
- And if the cauliflower smells too strong to you, it is likely old and will not taste the best
How to store fresh cauliflower?
If you're not making this roasted cauliflower recipe right away, you should make sure to properly store the head of cauliflower.
Most grocery stores will sell cauliflower heads sealed in plastic wrap. Once you get home, unwrap the cauliflower and pat it dry with a paper towel. Store it in a loosely sealed bag in the fridge (I like to add a clean paper towel in there to absorb moisture). It should keep well in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Give the cauliflower head a quick whiff before using though, it should not smell bad.
How do you cut cauliflower for roasting?
Cutting a whole fresh cauliflower could not be any easier. You'll need a good chef's knife (affiliate link), and here is what you do:
- Place the cauliflower on a cutting board, stem end down (the leaves are on that end)
- Cut the cauliflower in half through the stem
- From there, you'll see the florets are each attached to the core by their own small stems. Go around and separate the florets from the core using the tip of your knife.
- Now you have large florets, you can begin to separate them into smaller pieces that are similar in size
Do you wash cauliflower before cooking?
The easiest way to wash cauliflower is once you've cut it up into florets. I simply place the florets in a colander and wash well under running water. It's important to dry the florets well before roasting.
5 Tips for the best oven roasted cauliflower
The best oven roasted cauliflower is: perfectly tender and sweet, while caramelized and even charred in some parts on the outside. Here are a few tips:
- Cut the cauliflower into florets that are close in size (as much as possible.) This will help them cook evenly and at the same time.
- Coat the cauliflower florets well with extra virgin olive oil. Coat the florets in the EVOO to make sure they are well coated, this will help them cook and create those caramelized edges. But don't overdo the oil to the point that the cauliflower roasted cauliflower is soggy!
- Select a large enough sheet pan so that you're able to spread the cauliflower florets in one single layer. You want to make sure the florets do not overlap so that they can touch the hot surface of the pan and cook well.
- Roast in a high-heated oven and cover for the first 10 to 15 minutes of roasting, then uncover and finish roasting. Covering the cauliflower initially will trap enough moisture to help cook the cauliflower properly. Once you uncover the cauliflower, it will remain moist enough to withstand the high heat and will not dry up while parts of it crisp up and char nicely!
- Rotate the pan and make sure to turn the cauliflower over. This will help everything cook evenly and well.
Roasted cauliflower with cumin and lemon
Like I said earlier, cauliflower is an excellent blank canvas. Because it's so plain, cauliflower is the perfect carrier for any number of flavors. And you can dress it up however you like.
I usually drizzle the cauliflower with quality extra virgin olive oil first, then add spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Give everything a good toss to distribute the spices well.
This time, for my flavor choice, I'm going for a bit of a warm Moroccan theme:
- Ground cumin. Cumin is the perfect compliment to caramelized oven roasted cauliflower, adding depth and warmth. Cumin is also a digestion-enhancing spice. This is good because while cauliflower is tasty super-food, for many of us, eating this cruciferous vegetable can cause some stomach issues.
- Harissa spice blend. You may not be as familiar harissa, it is a unique spice blend which carries sweeter chili notes along with coriander, caraway and fennel. (If you haven't tried it yet, find all-natural harissa at our online shop here!)
- Fresh lemon juice to finish. While the spices are added to the cauliflower before roasting, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice is added to our hot-out-of-the-oven roasted cauliflower. This adds brightness and really rounds out flavor.
How to roast cauliflower (step-by-step)
recipe and video below
1. First, cut the cauliflower into smaller florets of equal size (they don't have to be perfectly equal)
2. Drizzle with Private Reserve extra virgin olive oil, then hit up the cauliflower with spices, salt and pepper. Toss to make sure everything is well coated. Spread well on baking sheet.
3. Cover with foil and roast in high-heated oven for 15 minutes, then uncover and roast until well caramelized and even charred in some places (make sure to rotate baking sheet occasionally, and turn cauliflower over). This will take about 30 minutes or so. You can adjust the cooking time, if you don't like your cauliflower too caramelized or charred (but it's so good this way!)
4-Transfer to a serving platter and, while nice and hot, hit it up with lemon juice. Garnish with toasted nuts and fresh parsley.
You can dress up cauliflower however you like. Sprinkle some nutty dukkah on top as a finishing touch. Or, try a different flavor combination altogether...you can use
- Try a bit of an Italian twist using dry oregano for your seasoning and finishing with a sprinkle of paremsan cheese
- Or try a combination of za'atar and sum
For me, fresh lemon juice over hot oven roasted cauliflower is a must no matter what combination of spices!
Can I roast frozen cauliflower?
Frozen cauliflower is convenient-- it comes in bag already cut into florets and all. You can absolutely roast frozen cauliflower, although in this recipe, I used fresh cauliflower.
You do not need to thaw frozen cauliflower in order to roast it, but be sure to toss the frozen florets in extra virgin olive oil and coat them well. And of course, season to your liking.
From there, place the frozen cauliflower on a sheet pan and roast, but DO NOT cover with foil at any point.You want the high heat to evaporate any ice condensation on the frozen florets.
Remember that frozen cauliflower had been blanched or steamed earlier before it was packaged to freeze, so they will likely roast more quickly. Do watch and turn the tray around, flip cauliflower over as needed.
What to serve it with
How to store leftovers
If you have any leftover roasted cauliflower, let them cool then refrigerate in tight-lid glass containers for 3 to 4 days. Leftovers are great cold or at room temperature!
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Best Roasted Cauliflower Recipe
- 1 head cauliflower cored and divided into small florets
- Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp harissa spice
- Salt and pepper
- 1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice or juice of ½ to 1 lemon to your liking
- Handful fresh parsley for garnish optional
- ¼ cup/30 g toasted pine nuts or toasted slivered almonds, optional
- Preheat the oven to anywhere between 450 to 475 degrees F (or 250 degrees C)
- Place the cauliflower florets on a large baking sheet. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and toss to make sure florets are coated, add more EVOO as needed but don't overdo it!
- Combine the cumin and harissa in a small dish. Season cauliflower with the spice mixture and a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Toss again to combine. Spread cauliflower florets well on the baking sheet so that they are in one layer.
- Cover the baking sheet with foil and place on the middle rack of your heated oven. Roast covered for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and return the baking sheet to the oven. Roast for another 20 to 30 minutes or so, occasionally rotating the baking sheet and turning cauliflower florets over, using a pair of tongs. (Cauliflower should be so tender and caramelized or even charred in some parts).
- If serving with tahini, use the roasting time to make tahini sauce according to this recipe.
- Remove from heat and carefully transfer roasted cauliflower to a serving dish. Immediately add the lemon juice, a little drizzle of tahini (if you like), toasted nuts and a little fresh parsley for garnish. If you're like me and want even more flavor, sprinkle a bit more harissa spice.
- Serve the tahini sauce in a bowl on the side for dipping.
- How to Serve this Cauliflower: this roasted cauliflower is a super versetile dish. Great as an appetizer with tahini and warm pita bread. Or as a side dish next to your favorite entree like baked fish; lemon chicken; souvlaki; or Greek Keftede meatballs.
- Roasted Cauliflower as a Main Course? Sure! Turn this roasted cauliflower into dinner bowls or this tasty, wholesome vegan sandwich wrap.
- Tip for Storing leftovers: If you have any leftover roasted cauliflower, let them cool then refrigerate in tight-lid glass containers for 3 to 4 days. Leftovers are great cold or at room temperature, and you can re-purpose them in dinner bowls or sandwich wraps as mentioned above.
- Visit our Online Shop to browse our all-natural and organic spices, extra virgin olive oils and more.
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in March 2019 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers benefit. Enjoy!