Our hands-off technique yields truly irresistible roasted cauliflower.
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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 take it from us: Roasted cauliflower is truly the best.

crispy roasted cauliflower
Credit: Bryan Gardner

What Is the Best Cauliflower for Roasting?

Here's the 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 roasts well. The tips and techniques outlined here apply to the uniformly sized, plastic-wrapped white cauliflower from the grocery store, as well as to the orange or purple cauliflowers and larger, more irregularly-sized cruciferous vegetables that you might find at a farmers' market.

How to Prep Cauliflower for Roasting

First and foremost—whether you are cooking them or eating them raw—all fruits and vegetables should be washed before use. That includes cauliflower, so be sure to scrubs yours before cooking.

When cutting cauliflower, you should transform the large floret into smaller florets using your hands or a knife. For roasting, cauliflower florets should be divided into large, uniform, bite-size pieces for even cooking and ease of eating. 

Alternatively, you can cut your cauliflower lengthwise into thick slabs, about one-half-inch thick, for roasting. These are sometimes called "cauliflower steaks." You can skip the carving process altogether: A roasted whole head of cauliflower makes for a spectacular vegetarian entrée.

How to Roast Cauliflower

Follow these steps for the best roasted cauliflower.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Wash and prep an average-sized cauliflower into evenly-sized small florets and drizzle them with three to four tablespoons olive oil (be generous!), then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add 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.
  4. Roast cauliflower until they are browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Roasting Cauliflower

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

Roasted Cauliflower Variations

Is there a flavor that doesn't work with roasted cauliflower? You'll be hard-pressed to find one. Try dusting the florets with paprika or chili powder—or 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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