Roasted cauliflower florets are a weeknight staple, but Whole Roasted Cauliflower is a show-stopping dish impressive enough for holiday get-togethers. Oil-rubbed cauliflower is roasted to tender perfection, then drizzled with a lemony tahini sauce and finished with fresh herbs and nuts. You’ll love it!
Why You’ll Love This Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sauce
- EASY Recipe. Unlike other whole roasted cauliflower recipes, you don’t have to boil the or steam cauliflower before cooking it. Instead, I use a preheated Dutch oven and lightly wet cauliflower to create steam right in the oven as it cooks.
- Tahini Sauce Always and Forever. Is tahini sauce the best sauce? It definitely ranks up there with Barbecue Sauce if you ask me. It’s nutty, bright, and sublimely earthy—and it pairs especially well with Roasted Cauliflower. (You’ll also find it in this Buddha Bowl with Veggies and Tahini Dressing.)
- Roasted Cauliflower Is the Best Cauliflower. While the debate about whether tahini is the best sauce rages on, there’s no question that roasting is the best method for preparing cauliflower. It’s an easy technique that results in tender, caramelized florets with slightly crisp edges, miles more flavorful than steaming.
- A Centerpiece, Not a Side. Okay, it could definitely be a side too. But! If you’re looking for vegan Thanksgiving ideas that don’t involve turkeys made of tofu, meet your main dish. Plus, this is the best kind of vegan Thanksgiving entree because it doubles as a side for everyone else. (Sorry, tofu turkey.)
- Completely Customizable. Like, Air Fryer Cauliflower and Grilled Cauliflower Steaks, the beauty of this whole roasted cauliflower recipe is that you can use the same basic technique and switch things up with different seasonings and sauces. I share some more ideas later in this post!
How to Make Whole Roasted Cauliflower
For the Cauliflower
- Cauliflower. I recommend a medium or large cauliflower, but if you have a smaller one and want to use it for this whole roasted cauliflower recipe, you can—just note that you may need to adjust the cooking time a bit.
- Olive Oil. No need for anything fancy here.
- Garlic. Optional, but always delicious.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Also optional! It’ll add a little kick to your cauliflower—or a big kick if you use a lot.
- Kosher Salt. I prefer the flavor of kosher salt to table salt for cooking. You’ll also need some for the sauce.
For the Tahini Sauce & Serving
- Tahini. AKA sesame paste. If the oil has separated from the solids, give it a good stir before making your sauce.
- Lemon Juice. Use fresh, not bottled—it has a brighter flavor.
- Water. Just a bit, to thin the sauce.
- Herbs. Fresh parsley, cilantro, or chives, if desired.
- Nuts. Chopped toasted almonds, walnuts, or pistachios, also optional.
- Preheat a Dutch Oven. This is my trick for roasting cauliflower without boiling or steaming it first.
- Remove the Cauliflower Leaves. Trim them off with a small knife.
- Flatten the Base. So it sits flat without wobbling.
- Core. Cut out the hard core of the cauliflower.
- Mix the Seasoning. I love adding garlic but it’s optional.
- Coat the Cauliflower. Make sure it’s still a little wet.
- Roast. Use the parchment to lift the cauliflower and set it into the heated Dutch oven. Roast whole cauliflower covered for 45 minutes.
- Add More Oil. Uncover, brush the remaining oil over the top, then roast uncovered until tender.
- Make the Tahini Sauce. Add more water if needed.
- Finish. Then top with the tahini, herbs, and nuts. Slice, serve, and ENJOY!
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Brown Butter. Omit the red pepper flakes and drizzle the finished cauliflower with brown butter instead of tahini; cook sage leaves in the brown butter for an herbal note.
- Cheesy Whole Roasted Cauliflower. Skip the tahini. After the cauliflower is done roasting, add shredded cheese over the top and broil until it’s melted and browned in spots. Whole roasted cauliflower with Parmesan is wonderful!
- Indian-Inspired Whole Roasted Cauliflower. Instead of red pepper flakes, add garam masala or curry powder to the oil. Swap the tahini sauce for mint chutney or a yogurt sauce.
- To Store. Refrigerate whole roasted cauliflower in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. I recommend breaking the cauliflower into smaller pieces for storage.
- To Reheat. Reheat leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave. You can also eat them chilled or let them come to room temperature.
- To Freeze. Transfer the cauliflower to an airtight freezer-safe storage container or zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Reheat from frozen or let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.
Meal Prep Tip
Mix the tahini sauce and refrigerate it in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days; let it come to room temperature before drizzling it over the cauliflower.
What to Serve with Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- Chicken. Hummus Chicken is perfect for serving with this whole roasted cauliflower, or try Slow Cooker Greek Chicken.
- Vegan Holiday Sides. Serving this up as a main dish for Thanksgiving? You’ll also love Crockpot Wild Rice Stuffing, Roasted Green Beans, and Sautéed Carrots.
- A Grain-Based Salad. Make your whole roasted cauliflower a meal by serving slices over Quinoa Chickpea Salad or Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad.
- Rice. Another way to round out this recipe is with Lemon Rice or Turmeric Rice.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Silicone Brush. I like silicone brushes because they don’t shed bristles and they’re easier to clean.
- Sharp Chef’s Knife. You’ll need a good knife for prepping the cauliflower.
- Non-Slip Cutting Board. A roomy cutting board is essential for big veggies like cauliflower!
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Leave a Little Water on the Cauliflower. You don’t want it to be completely dry because the water clinging to the florets will create steam, helping cook the inside of the cauliflower while the outside gets crispy. The most common problem with whole roasted cauliflower is a hard center, but this does the trick!
- Check for Doneness. The best way to check if your cauliflower is done is by piercing it with a fork or knife. If it goes through easily, then it’s done. If not, keep cooking. It’s better to judge by piercing it than looking at the time on the clock because different sizes of cauliflower will require different cooking times.
- Broil for Crispy Florets. Transfer the cauliflower to a baking sheet and broil for several minutes if you want the top browned and the outside of the cauliflower to be slightly crisp.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower
For the Cauliflower
For the Tahini Sauce & Serving
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons water plus more as needed
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Chopped fresh parsley cilantro, or chives, optional for serving
- Chopped toasted almonds walnuts, or pistachios, optional for serving
- Place a lidded Dutch oven or similar sturdy, oven safe lidded pot in the center of your oven and preheat to 375°F. Core the cauliflower: With your hands or a knife, break off and discard the outer leaves and tough stems from the outside of the cauliflower. With a sharp knife, carefully cut off the base so it’s flat. With a smaller knife, trim away the leaves connected to the stem. Last, use the small, sharp knife to cut out the cauliflower’s hard core, leaving all of the stems and florets connected and intact.
- In a small bowl, stir together the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Wash the head of the cauliflower (do not dry; you want some water to create steam). Place on top of the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle one-quarter of oil mixture over the top, brush to coat, then flip the head over and pour another quarter right into the core. Brush and rub as needed so that the cauliflower as nicely coated. Sprinkle all over with the salt, then stand it up on its core, so the head is facing up.
- Carefully open the oven remove the preheated Dutch oven. Using the parchment paper like a sling, carefully lower the cauliflower down into the Dutch oven right along with the paper (keep it head-side up). Replace the lid.
- Roast the head of cauliflower covered for 45 minutes. Uncover, brush the remaining oil mixture over the top, then continue roasting uncovered until the cauliflower is super tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 to 1 hour more. If desired, transfer to a baking sheet and broil for several minutes to brown the top.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the tahini sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, water, and salt. The sauce should be smooth and pourable; if it’s not, add additional water a few teaspoons at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.
- Transfer the cauliflower to a serving plate. Let cool a few minutes, then drizzle the tahini sauce over the top. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and chopped nuts. To serve, cut into thick wedges or slices.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate whole roasted cauliflower in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. I recommend breaking the cauliflower into smaller pieces for storage.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave. You can also eat them chilled or let them come to room temperature.
- TO FREEZE: Transfer the cauliflower to an airtight freezer-safe storage container or zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Reheat from frozen or let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.
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