With this Air Fryer Cauliflower recipe, you get a deliciously caramelized vegetable in less time with less oil! Crispy on the outside and tender within, it cooks in 12 minutes with endless seasoning options.
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Why You’ll Love This Easy Air Fryer Cauliflower Recipe
- That Crispy Outside and Tender Inside. If you’ve had Roasted Cauliflower, then you already know: it’s transformative. With its golden and crisp exterior and lightly sweet interior, it (along with Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts) is basically the vegetable version of candy. While Oven Roasted Vegetables are yummy, using an air fryer makes them even crispier.
- It Requires Very Little Oil. An air fryer is essentially a compact, very powerful, and quick-heating convection oven. As Air Fryer Zucchini and Air Fryer French Fries know, it’s an expert at making vegetables crispy with less calories. While deep fried cauliflower isn’t healthy because of the amount of oil required to make it, air fried cauliflower needs very little oil.
- It Pairs Well with any Meal. Whether you keep it classic with S&P (and serve it with Mediterranean Pasta), spice things up with curry or chili powder (try it with Chicken Tikka Masala), or go all out and top your air fryer cauliflower with cheese (we love this with Air Fryer Steak), it will pair with whatever else you are serving for dinner tonight! (For cauliflower with a Tahini sauce, check out Whole Roasted Cauliflower.)
How to Make the Best Air Fryer Cauliflower
- Cauliflower. A seemingly humble vegetable that has the power to transform into a swoon-worthy side dish. It’s absolutely scrumptious when air fried with oil and spices. Cauliflower is also rich in fiber and antioxidants.
- Olive Oil. Helps the cauliflower caramelize and gives it flavor. Just 2 teaspoons are all you need and worth it!
- Garlic Powder. Garlic tastes delicious with cauliflower.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Gives the cauliflower a little kick without being overly spicy.
- Lemon Juice. A squeeze of lemon juice adds brightness.
- Add the Cauliflower to a Bowl. Make sure it’s large enough to mix in.
- Prepare the Oil Mixture. Add it to the cauliflower and toss.
- Fill the Air Fryer Basket. Lay the cauliflower in a single layer.
- Air Fry. Cook at 390 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and DIG IN!
- Air Fryer Buffalo Cauliflower. Toss your air fried cauliflower with 1/2 cup buffalo sauce mixed with a little melted butter (check out these Air Fryer Chicken Wings for tips). Serve with a dipping sauce like blue cheese or ranch dressing for a full buffalo wing experience.
- Mexican Air Fryer Cauliflower. Season your cauliflower with 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika. Keep the garlic powder, salt, and pepper listed in this recipe. Finish your cooked cauliflower with lime juice.
- Indian Air Fryer Cauliflower. Season the cauliflower florets with 2 teaspoons curry powder, plus a pinch of cumin.
- Italian Air Fryer Cauliflower. Season your cauliflower with 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning.
- Cheesy Air Fryer Cauliflower. For air fryer cauliflower with cheese, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese over your air fried cauliflower. To keep the air fryer cauliflower vegan, use nutritional yeast. (I haven’t tried an air fryer cauliflower with panko and Parmesan yet, but I think it would be tasty.)
- To Store. Refrigerate cooked cauliflower in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F, in the air fryer, or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze cauliflower in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Cut and refrigerate the cauliflower up to 1 day in advance.
What to Serve With Air Fryer Cauliflower
- Salmon. From Lemon Pepper Salmon to Cedar Plank Salmon, you can’t go wrong! Buffalo Baked Salmon would also be delightful.
- Pork. Grilled Pork Chops, Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, and Instant Pot Ribs would all be tasty with cauliflower.
- Burger. Serve this cauliflower alongside a Portobello Mushroom Burger, Quinoa Burgers, or Turkey Burgers.
- Casserole. A side of crispy air fryer cauliflower would pair nicely with Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole, Easy Shepherd’s Pie, or Vegetable Lasagna.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Air Fryer. This is the air fryer I own and love.
- Liquid Measuring Cup. Perfect for measuring and mixing ingredients.
- Citrus Juicer. The best way to juice lemons and limes.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Don’t Overcook the Cauliflower. Yes, you can cook cauliflower too long! If your florets are soggy, mushy, or burnt, you’ll know they’re overcooked. Follow the cook time and temperature listed in the recipe and check periodically, and yours will turn out perfectly!
- You Need (Some) Oil. I don’t recommend you air fry cauliflower without oil, as it’s more likely to burn. The oil also helps the cauliflower caramelize and taste like it’s “roasted.”
- Don’t Sweat It! Not a fan of heat? Swap the red pepper flakes for a small pinch of black pepper. You can offer some at the table for those who do enjoy a little spice.
Air Fryer Cauliflower
- 1 head cauliflower about 2 pounds, cut into bite-size florets (about 8 cups)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes the spice is subtle; add more for additional kick; or, swap ground black pepper
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice optional
- Place the cauliflower in a large mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
- Pour over the cauliflower, then toss to coat. Take time to make sure each floret has some oil coating it.
- Preheat the air fryer to 390°F. Place the cauliflower in the basket in a single layer (some overlap is OK, but don’t overcrowd or the cauliflower will not get as crisp; you’ll likely need to work in batches and can keep cooked cauliflower warm in a 300°F oven if you like).
- Air fryer the cauliflower for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the basket at times throughout, until it is crispy outside and tender when pierced with a fork. Enjoy hot, with a squeeze of lemon juice and light sprinkle of additional salt to taste.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate cauliflower in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350°F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze cauliflower in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The best foods to air fry are ones that you’d like to make as crispy as possible outside while keeping the inside tender, or foods that are traditionally deep-fried that you’d like to make healthy. Cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower, Air Fryer Broccoli, and Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts), fries (Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries), and simple proteins like Air Fryer Salmon and Air Fryer Chicken Breast are some of the best recipes to use your air fryer.
We love to enjoy our cauliflower as a side dish or snack on it by itself. It also makes a wonderful addition to pastas (like Pesto Pasta), Indian dishes (it would be tasty with Chicken Tikka Masala), tacos (see my Cauliflower Tacos for inspiration), casseroles (like Cauliflower Casserole), and even soups (like Broccoli Cauliflower Soup).
Yes, you can swap the olive oil for another oil like avocado oil or canola oil.
No, you do not have to soak cauliflower before cooking in this recipe. The cauliflower will turn out perfectly tender and crispy without this extra step.