This spicy cauliflower shawarma recipe is easy to pull together, healthy and makes great leftovers for workday lunches. I roast cauliflower and onions with the same bold Mediterranean flavors as my beef and chicken shawarma until they’re juicy and caramelized. You won’t believe how good this humble vegetable can taste!
I wanted to create a vegetarian shawarma that is as fragrant, juicy, and delicious as the meatier versions I remember from my childhood in Port Said, Egypt. So I replaced the meat with vegetables and this cauliflower shawarma recipe was born!
If you like the robust flavors of shawarma, but want to pack extra vegetables into your diet this vegetarian Cauliflower Shawarma is for you. First, I season the cauliflower with a shawarma spice blend of cumin, turmeric, coriander, garlic, paprika and more, then I it roast until it’s caramelized, slightly charred, super flavorful, and incredibly tender.
While the cauliflower roasts in the oven, I whip up a batch of 3 ingredient Mediterranean Salad (or just slice up some tomatoes and cucumbers) and Tahini sauce to drizzle over the top. Both the salad and the sauce only take minutes to come together.
I typically serve cauliflower shawarma in a pita, but you can skip the pita and serve it salad-style like I do in this Chicken Shawarma Bowl.
Serve shawarma for lunch, dinner, as a late night snack, and everything in between. Check out my tips and tricks for making this delicious vegetarian shawarma below!
Table of Contents
Ingredients for Cauliflower Shawarma
The key to making this Cauliflower Shawarma the vegetarian sandwich of your dreams is all the fixings. Make sure to whisk up your Tahini sauce, stock up on your favorite pickles, and grab some fluffy pita.
- Homemade Shawarma Spice Blend: My secret to taking a simple head of cauliflower and making it flavorful and delicious is a magical blend of spices—cumin, turmeric, coriander, garlic, paprika, cloves, and cayenne. Most of them are probably in your spice cabinet already, if not you can find them in our shop.
- Tahini Sauce is made from garlic cloves, salt, tahini paste, freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, water, and parsley. This sauce is delicious drizzled on just about everything–especially salads, sandwiches, or on top of roast veggies.
- Cucumber pickles: I like to grab Quick Picked Cucumbers from my fridge for this shawarma, but if added steps aren’t your thing, store bought works well too. Or, if pickles aren’t your thing, you can leave them off!
- Pita bread: Fresh homemade pita is worth every minute of extra work when you have the time, but store bought pita works well here too. I try to find the softest, fluffiest option at my grocery store or Middle Eastern market.
- Mediterranean Salad: Using just tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, salt, pepper, sumac, olive oil, and lemon juice, this salad is a must.
- 1 red onion or pickled red onion: Red onion adds a nice bite to the sandwich. If you prefer a milder flavor, try quick pickled onions.
- Kosher salt and black pepper: Salt and pepper bring out the flavor of the cauliflower shawarma.
- Cauliflower: A large head of cauliflower (about 1 ½-2 pounds) is the main ingredient in this dish.
- Yellow onion: Yellow onions are sweeter and more flavorful than white or red, so they caramelize well. If you have white or red on hand, you can feel free to substitute.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Use a high quality extra virgin cooking olive oil, like Koroneiki Organic Greek EVOO from the shop.
How To Make Cauliflower Shawarma
This cauliflower shawarma is simple: the cauliflower is oiled, spiced, roasted on a sheet pan, and done in no time. Follow my step-by-step guide for how to make Cauliflower Shawarma so it’s super tender and flavorful.
- Get ready: Preheat your oven to 450°F. While your oven is heating, break up the cauliflower into florets. Put the florets into a large mixing bowl as you go. Halve the onion, peel, and slice it into half moons. Add to the bowl with the cauliflower.
- Season the vegetables: Toss the cauliflower and onions in a large bowl with the Shawarma Spice Blend and a large pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and toss to make sure florets are coated.
- Roast the vegetables: Spread the seasoned cauliflower and onions in one single layer on a large sheet pan. Cover the sheet pan with a large piece of foil. Bake, covered, on the center rack of your heated oven for about 15 minutes.
- Caramelize the vegetables: Carefully remove the foil and allow the cauliflower to roast for another 25 to 30 minutes. Check occasionally to rotate the baking sheet and turn the cauliflower over using a pair of tongs. (Cauliflower should be very tender and caramelized or even charred in some parts).
- Make the Mediterranean salad and the tahini sauce: While the cauliflower is roasting, make the salad and tahini sauce.
- Serve: Pile the roasted shawarma cauliflower on a pita. Top with the salad, some pickled red onion, cucumber pickles (if using), and a drizzle of Tahini Sauce. Wrap the pita up and enjoy!
What Is Shawarma?
Traditionally made with chicken, beef, or lamb, shawarma is meat that’s seasoned and slow-roasted on a spit–think of those towers of meat slowly turning in Middle Eastern restaurants or al pastor in Mexico.
That delicious slow cooked meat is shaved very thin and served wrapped in pita with a various sauces and vegetables.
Here, I use cauliflower in place of chicken or beef, and there is no slow-roasted spit required! Just a sheet pan and your oven. I season the cauliflower with fragrant Mediterranean spices and then slowly roast it until the florets become caramelized and tender, with just the right amount of char.
How delicious the humble cauliflower is when treated right never ceases to amaze me—I could truly eat this cauliflower shawarma at any time of day!
How to Break Up Cauliflower into Florets
First let’s take it back a step: what is a cauliflower floret? If you think of cauliflower like a tree, the florets are the branches: it’s the bumpy piece of cauliflower that’s attached to the stem.
How to easily break up cauliflower into florets:
- Set the cauliflower on its stem and cut in half from top to bottom.
- Put each half on its side so you’re looking at the core. Slice through each core to make 4 quarters.
- Cutting at a diagonal, slice off the core (very thick white center) of each quarter.
- Use your hands to break off the florets into bite-sized pieces.
What to Serve with Cauliflower Shawarma
Cauliflower shawarma–especially with all the extras–is a full meal by itself.
If you’re serving cauliflower shawarma for a party and want a few more things going on, I love to get my favorite mezzes ready and have them on my table when my friends arrive.
The shawarma alone is filling, so a variety of light and fresh dips served with raw veggies–like carrots, radishes, and cucumber–is perfect here: Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant Salad), Loaded Hummus with Shallots and Shishito Peppers, and Easy Tzatziki Sauce are some of my favorites.
Other Cauliflower Recipes We Love
Browse all Mediterranean recipes.
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Bundle Your Spices
Our shop has cumin, coriander and sweet Spanish paprika to make your own shawarma blend.
Spicy Cauliflower Shawarma
For the Cauliflower Shawarma
- 1 large head cauliflower, divided into florets
- 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
- 2 tablespoons shawarma spice blend
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Pita bread, homemade or store bought
- 3-Ingredient Mediterranean Salad
- Tahini sauce
- 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced, or pickled red onion
- Cucumber pickles, homemade or store bought (optional)
- Get ready: Preheat your oven to anywhere between 450°F.
- Season the vegetables: Place the cauliflower and onions in a large bowl and toss with the shawarma spice blend and a large pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and toss to make sure florets are coated.
- Roast the vegetables: Spread the seasoned cauliflower and onions in a single layer on a large sheet pan. Cover the sheet pan with a large piece of foil. Bake, covered, on the center rack of your oven for about 15 minutes.
- Caramelize the vegetables: Carefully remove the foil and allow the cauliflower to roast for another 25 to 30 minutes or so. Check occasionally to rotate the baking sheet and turn the cauliflower over using a pair of tongs. (Cauliflower should be very tender and caramelized or even charred in some parts).
- Make the salad and tahini sauce: While the cauliflower is roasting, make the salad and tahini sauce.
- Serve: Pile the roasted shawarma cauliflower on a pita and add a couple spoons of the salad, a few slices of sliced or pickled red onion, cucumber pickles (if using) and a drizzle of Tahini Sauce. Wrap the pita up and enjoy!
- Mix it up: for a low-carb option, swap out the pita for extra greens and crispy chickpeas.
- Make sure to grab the ingredients for your fixin’s! Don’t forget the pita, tahini sauce, Mediterranean salad, red onion, and pickles.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams and spices.
This is really A-MAZING! Had it on top of a grain bowl. It made my stomach sing. Thanks for the recipe.
Made this for lunch today, along with Suzy's homemade Pita recipe and her 3 Ingredient Salad and it was amazing!! I don't bake bread because it seemed so hard before. But this was a great experience with all three recipes together and my husband and I agreed this shawarma has to go into our regular meal rotation. Thanks Suzy!
Yay! Thanks so much, Sherri!
I just made this recipe and LOVE IT! Although I had to use store bought pitas, my intention is going to concentrate on making those FIRST next time! Gosh, this was so good, I could almost eat the entire recipe in one sitting. THANK YOU Suzy!
It our pleasure, Barbara! So happy to hear this was such a hit for you :).
Suzy, you’ve done it again, this recipe was a HIT!!!! My carnivore husband didn’t even miss the meat. I love love love your shawarma spice blend - it makes everything SO GOOD! This recipe is perfect, wouldn’t change a thing … except for maybe doubling it 😉 Thanks for another great recipe! xoxo
Yesssss! Thanks so much, Candice!
Yes! This was absolutely perfect and it fed my family of 4 with a little leftover for lunch the next day. So much flavor and goodness.
Oh, wonderful! Thanks, Cindy!
What a wonderful, tasty, filling meal! It's fantastically flavorful and easy to make. I found I had enough filling for six sandwiches. Will be making this again for sure!
Looks delicious very tast and easy to follow thank you
I am so very grateful for the vegan and vegetarian recipes you share! They are filled with flavor and easy to prepare. Since I live alone I always have leftovers and I think most of the time they taste better the next day! I’m looking forward to more wonderful recipes!
Thanks, Carol! We have lots more recipes on the way for ya!
Cauliflower is SUCH a good substitute for meat - even as steaks! The "meatiness" of the texture truly holds up to such bold spices!!! And it's DEFINITELY filling!!! When I go Vegetarian-Mediterranean or Indian/Egyptian, I typically will make a super-quick food processor hummus to serve as a protein component (a can of drained chickpeas makes magic in the food processor with tahini, lemon, a little cumin, and a couple of ice cubes to make it "fluffy" - SUCH a great trick!!). Anyway, this was DELICIOUS; hubby had it on pita, I just ate it with a side salad. Delicious!!!!!
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts, Chrissie!