15 Cauliflower-Inspired Weeknight Dishes
Cauliflower is the perfect base for midweek meals. It bulks up salads, lightens creamy gratins, and adapts to any and all spice levels. Simply steaming or roasting a head can take care of the rest of the week’s lunches and dinners. It’s the hearty-yet-flexible vegetable we need and deserve. So, if you’re looking for a hero tonight, let one of these cauliflower dishes save the day.
1. Spice-Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Tahini Drizzle
An easy side dish that hits all the right notes: spicy, sweet, bitter, and salty. The spice mix is a winner and the tahini sauce adds a deep nuttiness that compliments the spice blend. Even my notoriously cauliflower-hating boyfriend loved it—and I highly recommend putting the whole lemon in to brighten it up even more.
2. Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower with Activated Charcoal and Goji Berries
Take your cauliflower dish and add that activated charcoal for added health benefits! Activated charcoal helps to aid in digestion and has some cleansing properties as well.
3. Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower
This version has whole cumin, coriander and brown mustard seeds. It's a spice mixture that's very adaptable. Also, if you don't have sliced almonds, substitute some chopped almonds or cashews.
4. Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo Bake
Cauliflower, in this case, amplifies the joys of a real, delightfully starchy pasta creation rather than standing in for one. Cauliflower creates the base for a creamy, rich, and completely dairy-free alfredo sauce, and the cauliflower florets you don’t use in the sauce are folded into the pasta, which means that you’ll get pockets of savory vegetable goodness between the penne.
5. Roasted Squash & Cauliflower Salad with Tahini Dressing
This salad combines roasted vegetables with lots of fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds for crunch. The tahini dressing provides a zingy contrast to the roasted vegetables and fresh herbs.
6. Cauliflower Crostone with Anchovy and Caper Sauce
This sauce is a classic from central Tuscany and known as Salsa del Valdarno, a variation of acciugata that uses capers in place of garlic. It's most often used to dress a thick, t-bone steak that's grilled over charcoal but left bloody in the middle. It's also a wonderful partner to cauliflower, in any way. I often toss the sauce with steamed or roasted cauliflower as a side dish, without the bread—but serving it on toast (as a crostone), turns this into a quick, satisfying-yet-light meal. You can also try the sauce spooned over eggs—boiled and halved, fried, scrambled or poached. Tuscans like it on fried beef or veal, too.
7. Sheet Pan Chicken and Cauliflower "Shawarma"
This is not traditional shawarma, which is typically made with chicken or lamb and cooked on a vertical rotisserie for hours, then sliced thinly. To use boneless breasts instead of thighs, check them after 8 minutes—depending on their size, they may take more or less time than the thighs.
8. Pimenton Roasted Cauliflower
Spanish flavors abound in this recipe, from fruity olive oil, garlic and pine nuts, to the smoky flavor of Pimenton de la Vera and Spanish chorizo. This is a fabulously easy and creative one-pan, weeknight meal, and leftovers are a perfect lunch. Lots of veggies, healthy oils, nuts and flavor. Add a fried or poached egg on top if you want a little extra protein.
9. General Tso's Cauliflower
Like the origin of General Tso's Chicken, the origin of this recipe is also a little fuzzy, a mix of sources and stories. The sauce recipe is adapted from Reddit and the recipe for the battered and deep-fried cauliflower comes, like many great recipes do.
10. Spice Merchant Cauliflower Couscous
Opening a jar of spice is like magic. Adding a dash of spice to a simple dish, feels like letting a genie out of the bottle. A touch of cumin, a touch of lemon, and a few good quality ingredients is all it takes to make this delicious dish.
11. Cauliflower Salad with Pickled Grapes, Cheddar Cheese & Almonds
This salad, inspired by a recipe from The Modern restaurant in New York City, is like one of Shakespeare's comedies (the resemblance is uncanny, really), where every character has two roles: The cauliflower is both roasted and raw; the grapes are both pickled and fresh; the cheddar cheese is both melted and crumbled; the lemon juice seasons the vegetables, the white wine vinegar adds sharpness to the pickle brine, and both come together in a dressing.
12. Sheet Pan Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower and Tahini-Yogurt Sauce
The lamb meatballs are boldly flavored, and mixing in a dollop of yogurt keeps them tender. They cook in about 10 minutes under the broiler, then the cauliflower, drizzled with pomegranate molasses to help it caramelize quickly, follows on the same sheet pan and soaks up all of the delicious drippings. A quick mix of yogurt, tahini, and pomegranate molasses serves as the sauce. Low effort; huge reward.
13. Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Breadcrumbs, Pancetta, and Pepitas
Putting a few breadcrumbs in a pasta dish is a common Italian trick that adds the right counterpoint of texture, taste and color to a simple sauce. Here I’ve paired them with some peppery fall cauliflower and salty pancetta. Owing to the current shortage of pine nuts, I’ve substituted unsalted pepitos – hulled pumpkin seeds – which are more abundant (that is, cheaper), and add both nutty flavor and a shade of green to this otherwise very pale dish.
14. Cavolfiore Palma a la Leah (Pan-Roasted Cauliflower)
The original recipe features currants, but lacking those at the moment I substituted golden sultana raisins and a little bit of sumac for the slight tartness you'd get from currants but is sadly absent from a raisin. You could probably use dried cranberries (the unsweetened kind if you can find them) or any other slightly sweet, slightly tart dried fruit you like.
15. Spicy “Rice” and Bean Salad
This spoonable (or chippable) salad gets its kick from a trick we learned from Roberto Santibañez’ genius guacamole: You mash jalapeño, onion, cilantro, and salt into a paste that then coats all the other ingredient chunks. Here, that’s two kinds of legumes and cheddar cheese, which means lots of protein. Then for crunch, there’s raw cauliflower that’s turned into confetti (or “rice,” as it’s better known) after some time in the food processor. If you’ve made the salad in advance, revive it with a little more lime, olive oil, and salt before eating. Oh sure, add avocado, too—why not?