Saffron and turmeric infuse this whole roasted cauliflower with color and flavor. This vegetarian centerpiece is then drizzled with olive oil, roasted to perfection, and set atop a creamy sauce of lemony whipped feta. It’s healthy, delicious, and gorgeous on the table.
One evening, while out in East London, I stumbled upon a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fusion concept restaurant where I saw a whole roasted cauliflower served to diners.
Intrigued, I tucked into the restaurant and ordered the dish for myself. The whole roasted cauliflower was yellow in color, nestled on atop a creme fraiche and lemon sauce, drizzled with pomegranate molasses and finished with a scattering of pomegranate seeds. It was a delightful dish, and after my first mouthful, I knew I had to create a version to have at home.
This whole roasted cauliflower recipe has everything you’re looking for in a vegetarian main dish. It has fresh, bold, flavors, and a variety of textures. In my adaptation, I swapped the restaurant's creme fraiche for a creamy whipped feta sauce. When the sauce is paired with the slightly charred cauliflower and the joyful bite of pomegranate seeds it's heavenly.
Whole roasted cauliflower is a showstopping vegetarian main, especially rounded out with filling and equally showy Persian Rice with Potato Tahdig. It also works as a side for chicken or fish like these baked lemon drumsticks or baked cod.
Table of Contents
Ingredients for Whole Roasted Cauliflower
This recipe for a whole roasted cauliflower consists of 3 main parts: the saffron and turmeric infused roasted cauliflower, the feta and yogurt sauce flavored with lemon and garlic, and the pomegranate dressing. To finish it all off, I garnish this dish with fresh mint and pomegranate seeds.
- Cauliflower: The recipe below is intended for a large cauliflower. Choose a firm cauliflower with tightly packed florets without browning or blemishes.
- Saffron: Derived from the crocus flower, this vibrant red spice is often sold in dried strands, which are the stigma and styles of the flower. Saffron is expensive so you'll want to make the most of it. To do so see "Tips for making Saffron Roasted Cauliflower" below on how to make your saffron goes further. If you're curious about this elusive spice, learn all about saffron in our What Is Saffron? Essential Guide.
- Turmeric: This yellow spice gives delicious earthy tones to the cauliflower.
- Olive oil: Drizzle high-quality extra virgin olive oil over the cauliflower before roasting.
- Kosher salt: To season the cauliflower while cooking.
- Garlic: I add a roughly chopped clove to the water before boiling the cauliflower to let it infuse through.
- Bay leaf: Adds a floral, peppery profile without needing to add pepper, which would make the final dish less aesthetically pleasing.
Feta and Yogurt Sauce
I love a good sauce, it just brings so many elements together. In this case, the sauce is inspired by Suzy’s recipe for 5-minute creamy whipped feta dip but with the addition of a few extra ingredients. It's one of those back-pocket recipes you can amend and adapt in so many ways. If you happen to have more sauce than you need, use it as a dip for veggies or thin it and drizzle over a salad.
- Feta Cheese: Use good quality feta that's been refrigerated in the brine. Do not use already crumbled feta, which is often too salty and dry to make creamy sauces.
- Greek yogurt: Plain, unflavored, whole milk Greek yogurt will help make the sauce creamy.
- Garlic: Two cloves minced or crushed garlic give just a subtle boost of flavor and heat.
- Lemon Zest and Juice: Lemon brightens the flavors and richness of the sauce.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil helps to create the smooth, velvety texture.
- Pepper: A little pepper adds one more pop of flavor. No salt needed because the feta will provide enough seasoning.
How to make Saffron Roasted Cauliflower
This recipe might look complicated with making a sauce and a dressing, but you make both while the cauliflower cooks so it comes together more quickly than you might expect.
To make this whole roasted cauliflower recipe, I infuse the cauliflower with saffron and turmeric first then roast it in the oven until slightly charred. While the cauliflower is roasting in the oven, I whip up a lemony yogurt feta sauce.
To put it all together, spoon the feta sauce onto a serving platter. Then, set the slightly charred cauliflower on top. To finish, I drizzle a simple pomegranate molasses dressing over the top and a sprinkle fresh mint.
- Prepare the Cauliflower. Remove the larger tougher leaves from the cauliflower and trim the stalk a little. A few smaller leaves are fine to keep.
- Boil the Cauliflower. Fill a saucepan large saucepan with water. The pan should be large enough to fully submerge the cauliflower. Add kosher salt, turmeric, bloomed saffron, 2 bay leaves and a roughly chopped clove of garlic. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and slowly and carefully lower the cauliflower into the saucepan. Cover the pan with the lid and cook for 10 minutes, just until tender.
- Make the Feta and Yogurt Sauce. While the cauliflower cooks, blend the feta, yogurt, crushed garlic, pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice in a food processor. While the processor is running, drizzle olive oil through the opening until the sauce is whipped to a smooth texture.
- Make the Pomegranate Dressing. Stir the pomegranate molasses, maple syrup and olive oil to make the dressing.
- Roast the Cauliflower. Once the cauliflower cooking time on the stove has finished, remove it from the pot and drain it well. Place the cauliflower on a foil-lined baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a preheated oven (400°F) for approximately 40 to 45 minutes.
- Assemble the dish and serve. Spread the feta and yogurt sauce on a serving dish, place the roasted cauliflower on top and drizzle with the pomegranate dressing and extra olive oil. To finish the dish, scatter pomegranate seeds and freshly chopped mint as a garnish before serving.
Tips for making Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- Grind and bloom the saffron. To get the best out of this expensive spice, grind the strands into a fine powder either in a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar. Once ground, use an ⅛ teaspoon of the powder and bloom it in 3 tablespoons of water. This process will draw the bright red hue and complex flavor from the spice far more effectively than using the strands.
- Use high quality and fresh ingredients. Good quality olive oil and feta are a must for this recipe, as are fresh ingredients such as the cauliflower.
- Use the cauliflower cooking time to make the sauces. Make the feta and yogurt sauce and the pomegranate dressing while the cauliflower is cooking.
- Check to see if the cauliflower is cooked. Insert a sharp knife gently into the middle of the cauliflower. If it's tender, it's cooked and ready for the next step.
What to Serve with Cauliflower
This dish is really a meal on it's own. Enjoy with homemade pita bread to scoop up any leftover sauce. Think beyond weeknight dinner and serve this whole roasted cauliflower as part of a mezze-style offering with lots of other dishes for your guests to load their plates.
I love eating this with a side of a hearty salad made with lentils or legumes such as Balela Salad, some crispy potatoes such as Crispiest Garlic Smashed Potatoes or even this fluffy and fragrant Saffron Rice.
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Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- 1 large cauliflower
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Feta and Yogurt Sauce
- 5 ounces block quality feta cheese, drained
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
Pomegranate Dressing and Garnish
- 2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, homemade or store bought
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Pomegranate seeds
- Fresh mint leaves, chopped
- Prepare the oven and baking sheet: Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Bloom the saffron: Grind a ½ teaspoon of saffron threads (about 10 threads) in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. This should yield about an ⅛ to a ¼ teaspoon of ground saffron. Add ¼ teaspoon of ground saffron to 3 tablespoons of water. Set aside until ready to use.
- Trim the cauliflower: Take the cauliflower, remove the larger tougher leaves, and trim the stalk a little. You still want the cauliflower to remain whole.
- Boil the cauliflower: Fill a saucepan, large enough for the cauliflower to fit in it and be fully submerged, with water. Add kosher salt, turmeric, bloomed saffron, bay leaves and chopped garlic. Bring the cooking liquid to a low boil over medium high heat. Slowly and carefully lower the cauliflower top side down into the saucepan. Cover the pan with the lid and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, depending upon the size of the cauliflower.
- Make the feta and yogurt sauce: While the cauliflower cooks, combine the feta, Greek yogurt, crushed garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, pepper, in a food processor and blend. While the processor is running, drizzle the olive oil through the top opening, until whipped to a smooth texture. Set aside until ready to serve. Depending on the size of your cauliflower, You may have some leftover sauce for dips to use later in the week.
- Make the pomegranate dressing: Take a small bowl and make the dressing by stirring together the pomegranate molasses, maple syrup and olive oil until fully incorporated. Set aside until ready to serve.
- Drain the cauliflower and roast: Once the cauliflower is tender enough to insert a knife in the stem without resistance use a large, slotted spoon or a large fork and tongs to remove it from the pot. Set it in a colander to drain well. Place the cauliflower stem-side down on a foil-lined baking tray. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the cauliflower and roast in the oven for approximately 40 to 45 minutes.
- Assemble the dish: Once the cauliflower has cooked through and has charred a little on top, remove from the oven and assemble the final dish. Spread the feta and yogurt sauce on a serving dish. Place the whole roasted cauliflower on top of the feta and yogurt sauce.
- Garnish and serve: Drizzle with the pomegranate dressing and a little more extra virgin olive oil if you wish. Scatter pomegranate seeds and freshly chopped mint before serving.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams and spices.
- Olive oil should be high quality. It should have spice and or floral notes. In this dish I prefer to use Nocellara Olive Oil imported from Italy.
- Size matters: Cauliflower comes in different sizes. If you're cauliflower is on the smaller side, check it during the boiling process sooner. You want it tender but not mushy.
- Pomegranate Molasses: Depending upon where you live it may be easy or challenging to find pomegranate molasses, but you can probably find pomegranate juice. As long as you have the juice it's super easy to make homemade pomegranate molasses.
Could the leftover wTer from boiling the cauliflower be used for anything? Like soup or rice?
Sure, Jill! Either of those options would work!
The dish looked and out of this world good, and provided excellent flavor. Prep and cook time took me longer, and I feel I boiled the cauliflower about 3 minutes too long. I will for sure be making this again. Thanks for all of the fun and delicious flavors for this dish!
So glad you enjoyed it, Libby! The prep will get faster the more it you make it :).
This was excellent. The cauliflower turned out perfect. The whipped feta was a little strong but was nice with the pomegranate dressing. I used the broth to make some basmati rice amd it was a great addition to the dinner.
So glad you enjoyed it, Sarah!
Délicieux, préparé aujourd'hui.
This is a dish with a lot of complex flavors. The cauliflower is lost among these flavors and is not the star. Overall I am not a fan.
What if you can't afford saffron. Is there something else I can use?
Hi, Pam. You can simply omit it here and it will still be quite delicious.
Holy heck is this dish delicious! And the presentation is awesome. Even the next day leftovers are so tasty!
Lol! Thanks, Elaina!
Not difficult and tasted amazing!
The Feta and Yogurt dip was wonderful.
I just cooked the cauliflower in the big pot of delicious stock. The cauliflower is now in the oven but what about the stock? Can I use it to make rice? beans? Or? I hate to throw it away.
Hi, Leslye. I'm sorry I'm just seeing this. We're not always able to get to comments right away. I hope you enjoyed the cauliflower! I totally think you could try to use the leftover broth to make some rice if you don't want to waste it.
Crazy EASY to make and a show stopper. The lemon/feta (I subbed in plant based Feta) whip is the icing on the proverbial cake!
Thank you for the tip with using safron. I have some and fid not know how to use it. I will have to try this recipe now.
Hope you enjoy it!
Can I substitute fresh cranberries for the pomegrantes?
Renee -- Do you mean for the pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top? If that's the case then no, I wouldn't make the substitution I would just leave the seeds off. If you wanted to try to make a cranberry molasses to replace the pomegranate molasses you could, but I have no idea how that would turn out because we didn't test it that way. Cranberries have a high pectin content so they would likely gel over being liquid so you might need to add water and strain off any solids. If you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen and try it let us know how it turns out. However, pomegranate molasses is wonderful ingredient worth adding to your kitchen.
Can I substitute goat cheese for the feta cheese in your sauce? Feta is extremely high in sodium. I have a low sodium diet.
Or, do you have a recipe for the crème fraiche lemon sauce?
Hi, Tammy! you could totally sub the feta for goat cheese. Let us know how it goes. (I tested this recipe, and it's one of my FAVORITE recipes on the site. So good.) Enjoy!
Thank you Summer!