Roasted cauliflower is a favorite side dish in my house. The hot oven renders the cauliflower supple and golden-brown, giving it both a caramel color and sweet, nutty flavor. The best part of roasting cauliflower is that it requires almost zero hands-on cooking and can easily be flavored with warm spices or aromatic garlic. And if you’ve ever cooked roasted vegetables before, this isn’t too different.
Beyond a side dish (it’s a natural partner to juicy pork chops, chicken thighs, and mac and cheese), roasted cauliflower makes an excellent addition to salads, pastas, and stir fries, and can be turned into a quick and creamy soup post-roasting. Here’s how to do it.
5 Tips for the Best Roasted Cauliflower
Some universal truths of roasting other cruciferous vegetables (or any vegetable, for that matter) ring true for cauliflower too: Preheat your oven, use some kind of oil or fat, avoid overcrowding the pan, and roast the vegetables cut-side down for maximum browning.
These tips will give you the best roasted cauliflower every time.
1. Use high heat. The minimum temperature for roasting vegetables is 400 F. Give your oven plenty of time to preheat to ensure that it’s hot and ready for roasting.
2. Cut into small florets. Yes, you can roast a whole cauliflower or even cauliflower steaks, but to make this a super-speedy side, use bite-sized pieces that are roughly the size of halved florets. (More on how to break down a whole head of cauliflower below.)
3. Season in a bowl. Many cooks prefer to use their baking sheet for oiling and seasoning vegetables, but a bowl does a better job of ensuring well-seasoned and well-cooked vegetables. As much as I dislike dirtying another dish, using a bowl to coat the cauliflower with olive oil and salt makes for a better finished product.
4. Place cut-side down. The cut side is nice and flat, making direct contact with the baking sheet and giving more surface area for delicious browning.
5. Roast until brown and delicious. You might be tempted to pull your cauliflower from the oven just when it is tender, but your patience will be rewarded if you wait until the cauliflower gets darker and more caramelized in the oven.
How to Cut Cauliflower for Roasting
Arguably the most arduous task of making roasted cauliflower is turning a head of cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Unlike broccoli, which has a long stalk that makes seeing the structure of its head easy enough to dismantle, cauliflower’s florets circle a tight, dense core.
Remove the leaves: But don’t throw the cauliflower leaves away! You can roast them too!
Remove the core: Two options here. You can remove the core by cutting around it and pulling it out, and then cut it into quarters. Or you can quarter the head through the core from the very beginning, allowing you to see exactly where to cut to remove the core.
Remove the florets: From there, you’ll have four large wedges of cauliflower to cut florets from. Lay each wedge on one of its flat sides and cut between the stem and the florets to release them. Cauliflower tends to be pretty tightly packed, so you’ll need to pull apart some of the florets by hand. Halve any cauliflower florets that are larger than two inches for more even roasting and easier eating.
Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces: Cut the head of cauliflower in half and then into quarters through the core, so you have 4 large wedges of cauliflower. Lay each wedge on one of its flat sides and cut between the core and the florets to release the florets. The cauliflower is pretty tightly packed, so you’ll need to pull apart some of the florets by hand. Repeat with the remaining 3 wedges. Halve any cauliflower florets that are larger than 2 inches.
Serves 4 to 6
1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), leaves removed
1 tablespoon oil, such as olive, canola, or vegetable
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Heat the oven: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400 F.
2. Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces: Cut the head of cauliflower in half and then into quarters through the core, so you have 4 large wedges of cauliflower. Lay each wedge on one of its flat sides and cut between the core and the florets to release the florets. The cauliflower is pretty tightly packed, so you’ll need to pull apart some of the florets by hand. Repeat with the remaining 3 wedges. Halve any cauliflower florets that are larger than 2 inches.
3. Toss with oil and salt: Place the florets in a large bowl, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt, and toss to combine.
4. Transfer to a baking sheet: Transfer the seasoned cauliflower florets onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
5. Roast until golden-brown: Roast until golden-brown and fork-tender, 25 to 30 minutes, flipping the cauliflower about halfway through.
6. Serve the roasted cauliflower: Serve the cauliflower warm, with additional salt and pepper if desired.
Recipe Note: Store leftover cauliflower in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
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