Our hands-off technique yields truly irresistible results.

By Victoria Spencer
November 16, 2020
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Something magical happens to cauliflower when it's roasted. It starts out raw and crisp, becomes soft and tender, and ends up caramelized and delectable—simply put, it's flavor transformed. Sure, you could sauté it, steam it, use it as rice, or even eat it raw in a salad, but cauliflower is truly at its best when it's roasted.

Credit: Bryan Gardner

What's the Best Cauliflower for Roasting?

Short answer, the cauliflower in your refrigerator. While the success of most recipes depends on the quality and freshness of the ingredients, pretty much any cauliflower will roast well. The tips and technique here apply to uniformly sized, plastic-wrapped white cauliflower from the grocery store as well as to orange or purple cauliflowers and larger more irregularly sized vegetables that you might find at a farmers' market or farm stand.

How to Prep Cauliflower for Roasting

First and foremost, whether you are cooking them or using or eating them raw, all fruits and vegetables should be washed before use. That includes cauliflower, so be sure to clean yours before cooking. Cauliflower's shape lends to being intuitively broken down from one large floret into smaller and smaller florets using your hands or a knife. For roasting, cauliflower florets should be divided into large bite-size pieces for even cooking and ease of eating. You can also cut your cauliflower lengthwise into thick slabs, about 1/2-inch thick for roasting. These are sometimes called "cauliflower steaks." And a roasted whole head of cauliflower makes a spectacular vegetarian entrée.

How to Roast Cauliflower

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wash and prep an average-sized cauliflower into evenly sized small florets and drizzle it with three to four tablespoons olive oil (be generous, not stingy here), then season with salt and pepper. Add any spices or aromatics (try cumin or red-pepper flakes) and spread on a rimmed baking sheet; don't overcrowd the sheet or the florets won't brown. Roast until browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Roasting cauliflower is easy but there are a couple of potential pitfalls. Have you roasted cauliflower before and it was tough or mushy? A common problem is either roasting it at too low a temperature or stopping once the cauliflower is tender, both mean the florets do not caramelize. Roast until the color goes from creamy white to dark golden brown.

Variations

Is there a flavor that doesn't work with roasted cauliflower? Dust the florets with paprika or chili powder, roast it with crushed cloves of garlic or capers or with shallots and golden raisins. Just make sure that you coat the florets in plenty of olive oil, so they almost sizzle. That's the key to truly delicious roasted cauliflower.

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