whole roasted cauliflower

Whole roasted cauliflower

This is probably the most glorifying way to prepare and serve roasted cauliflower:  baked whole, golden and crisp on the outside, lovingly melting and soft on the inside, a true centerpiece!

It is one of the most beloved ways to prepare and serve the cauliflower and has that show-stopping power as it arrives to the table. That is why I chose to feature it in ma Cauliflower cook book (page 62).

steamed cauliflower
That is all the water you need to steam a whole cauliflower. Photo by: Assaf Ambram

Whole oven roasted cauliflower was made famous in the US thanks to James Beard awarded Chef Alon Shaya (featured on food52 Genius Recipe book), and is considered a signature dish of chef Eyal Shany, who serves it in his Miznon restaurants in Melbourne, Paris, Vienna, New York and Tel Aviv.

As simple as this recipe is, there are some things you should note. If you were to take a whole cauliflower and just place it in a hot oven, the inside will remain tough and crunchy, and you want it tender and carve able.

steamed cauliflower
And that’s how she will look like after 13 minutes of steaming. Photo by: Assaf Ambram

That is why I start by steaming the cauliflower in order to partially soften its fibrous structure. Only then it goes inside a hot oven to roast, becoming excitingly crisp and golden on the outside, tender and juicy within.

Why do I steam and not boil?
Some recipes call for boiling a whole head of cauliflower in a pot full of water, but for me, it is not the best way to tenderize it.

Once the cauliflower is added to the pot, the water needs some time to recover the heat and return to simmer, and nutrients from the florets leach out to the water during the long cooking time.

Same goes for blanching florets (but to a lesser extent). Also, boiling can easily result in over cooked, water logged cauliflower, and that is never a good thing.

steamed cauliflower
Allow your cauli to rest for 10 minutes after steaming. Photo by: Assaf Ambram

The tree method
My solution? Stand the cauliflower upright, like a tree! This is a technique I first developed for broccoli, and it works even better with its pearly white sibling.

When you stand the cauliflower in a pot, you only need to add around 4 cm (2.5 in) to cook the entire head! Once the pot is covered and the water reaches a boil, the heat from the water vapor penetrates the florets, collapsing their cell walls and making them more tender. The main stem of the cauliflower also softens in the process (don’t worry – it won’t burn).

Once steamed, all that is left to de is oil it generously and place in a very hot oven to roast, just like you would roast a prime cut of beef.

whole roasted cauliflower
Then move to a baking sheet, massage with olive oil and salt and onto the oven! Photo by: Assaf Ambram

Note that:
Although most roasted cauliflower recipes want you to trim away the outer stalks of the crown, here they are more than welcome: they become crisp in the oven, just like kale chips.

This recipe is best during the peak season of cauliflower – fall/winter/spring. If you have any reason to believe the cauliflower will not be clean of bugs on the inside, break it down into florets, clean, steam and then roast.

>> Have you ever tried roasted cabbage?


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whole roasted cauliflower

The best whole roasted cauliflower

vegan, gluten free, paleo

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 1 cauliflower medium size (1 kg / 2 lb)
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste


  1. Heat your oven to 210 C (410 F gas 6).

First, steam the cauliflower:

  1. Trim the base of the main stem of the cauliflower, so that it could stand upright. Keep some outer leaves intact if they are nice and fresh. 

  2. Place in a medium size pot (make sure that the head fits and that the pot can be closed with a lid beforehand). Add water to a height of 4 cm (2.5 in).

  3. Place over high heat, bring to a boil and cover. Steam for 12-14 minutes until the florets are tender and the cauliflower is no longer pearly white in color. 

  4. Remove from the pot (using a metal spoon) and let the cauliflower cool down a bit (for about 10 minutes). 

To roast:

  1. Move cauliflower to baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Drizzle the olive oil on top and message the cauliflower so all the florets are oiled. Season generously with salt and pepper

  2. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown all over (and some bits are slightly charred). 

  3. Carefully move to a large serving plate and serve at once. Goes great with homemade tahini, salsa verde, Greek yogurt and more!

  4. Leftovers keep in the fridge 4-5 days. 

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