A cauliflower dish full of sweet, salty, and rich flavors to satisfy all! Raisins and cashews pair well with the roasted florets when dressed in a simple tahini dressing and garnished with fresh mint.
Allow me to introduce you to one of the best appetizers at my favorite plant-based restaurant – Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing. This isn’t just another excuse to add cauliflower to every meal. It’s an opportunity to explore a combination of flavors from sweet and salty to rich and caramelized.
Cauliflower is found in many different food products such as in oatmeal, pizza crust, crackers, and even pasta. But, like I tell many of my clients as they start to incorporate more vegetables into their day, keep it simple. Aim to keep your veggies in their most natural state. The closer a fruit or vegetable is to its natural state, the more nutrients are retained and the great benefit you will receive.
So today we are taking it back to the basics. A good ole roasted cauliflower with soft centers and lightly browned, crunchy edges for the perfect texture. Toss those lightly charred florets in the easiest tahini dressing with a sprinkle of raisins and cashews, and you are left with a satisfying dish using whole food ingredients.
Roast It Your Way
Cauliflower can be cooked in a variety of ways – oven roasted, steamed, grilled, sautéed, and air-fried. Oven roasted, grilled, and air-fried cooking methods bring out a nutty flavor and can easily be enhanced with cooking oil, dried seasonings, or a sauce. These are fairly hands-off cooking methods, too, allowing you to multitask in the kitchen. Sautéing cauliflower is a good choice for small florets and for one pot meals such as stir fry or curry. Sautéing requires more time and attention. Steamed cauliflower is a step of its own requiring a steaming basket and saucepan. Steaming typically takes ten minutes or less and is one of the best methods for retaining the cauliflower’s minerals.
While oven roasted is the most common cooking method for cauliflower, the air-fryer is a game changer. An air-fryer tends to use less energy and produces less heat compared to an oven, making it a great appliance for the warmer months. This roasted cauliflower recipe has the option to use the oven or the air fryer, but we made ours with the air fryer. Both methods use high heat and minimal cooking time to retain as many vitamins and minerals as possible.
How to Air Fry Cauliflower:
Air fryers come with a variety of different shaped baskets. Depending on the depth and width of the frying basket, you may need to adjust the cooking time and rotate the florets halfway through cooking. If the cauliflower is not arranged in a single layer, it makes it more difficult for the heat to reach around the entire floret.
- Cut cauliflower into equal-sized florets. Add to a mixing bowl and drizzle with cooking oil. (Air fryers allow us to eliminate or reduce the amount of cooking fat used, but some added fat is beneficial to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin K.)
- Add seasonings of choice. Toss to coat again and transfer florets to air fryer basket.
- Set the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Start with the timer at 10 minutes.
- Check florets halfway through cooking time. Give the basket a good shake to rotate the placement of the florets. Continue cooking.
- Adjust time as needed until cauliflower is soft in the center and edges are lightly browned.
How to Roast Cauliflower in the Oven:
You will need a baking sheet which you can cover in foil or parchment paper for easy clean up. Foil will help brown the edges of the cauliflower making them crispy. Dark or well-seasoned sheet pans can also help create crispy edges without any foil. Setting the oven to high-heat helps with the caramelization process of vegetables. Caramelization is when the food’s sugar reacts with high heat leading to a change in color and flavor. That is exactly what we want with our roasted cauliflower!
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare baking sheet using your preferred method.
- Cut cauliflower into equal-sized florets. Add to the baking sheet and drizzle with adequate cooking oil. We want these florets to be well coated!
- Add seasonings of choice. Toss to coat again.
- Roast in oven for 5 minutes. Use spatula to toss and rotate cauliflower. Continue to cook 3-5 more minutes, or until cauliflower has soft centers and the edges are golden brown.
Crazy for Cauliflower
There is good reason for cauliflower to be deemed the “superfood” title. Although, I firmly believe that all whole foods can be considered “superfoods”, but cauliflower has some notable nutrients. Cauliflower is home to the cruciferous vegetable family along with arugula, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, Bok Choy, and cabbage. These vegetables have a reputation for cancer prevention thanks to the sulfur-containing compounds glucosinolates. During the digestion process, the glucosinolates break down into indoles and isothiocyanates. In animal studies, these compounds have been shown to inhibit cancerous cell growth. All the more reason to add this tahini flavored roasted cauliflower to your regular meal plan!
Per one cup cooked cauliflower in oil:
- Calories: 83 calories
- Protein: 3 grams
- Total fat: 5 grams
- Total carbohydrate: 8 grams
- Dietary fiber: 3 grams
- Vitamin C: 66 mg
- Folate: 78 µg
- Choline: 71 mg
- Calcium: 35 mg
- Magnesium: 24 mg
- Phosphorus: 70 mg
- Potassium: 483 mg
- Sodium: 235 mg
Although this Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing is full of flavor, the list of ingredients is actually rather simple. Simplicity is exactly what we like here at Chef Shannon Nutrition!
- Cauliflower: Our star of this show! I prefer to purchase the whole head of cauliflower which allows me to save scraps for other recipes and reduce plastic bags. Purchasing bagged cauliflower florets will make the prep work more convenient. Frozen cauliflower florets is another option if using the air fryer.
- Fresh mint: As a garnish, mint adds tremendous flavor and can also help with digesting this fiber-rich dish.
- Lemon: Aim to use fresh lemon juice whenever possible as it will have more vitamin C compared to bottled lemon juice.
- Garlic: Fresh is best here, too. To get the most out of fresh garlic, use the “chop then stop” method. Check out this post if you’re not familiar with it.
- Olive oil: After volunteering at Cooking in Tuscany, I prefer olive oil over everything. You can also use avocado oil or another neutral cooking oil.
- Raw cashew pieces: Raw nuts and seeds give you more versatility in using them in different recipes. You can easily roast or season raw nuts at home as you need them. Plus, raw is generally less expensive than roasted or seasoned.
- Raisins: A bite of sweetness with a hint of plant-based iron.
- Tahini: Roasted and pureed sesame seeds with a slightly salty and powerful nutty flavor. Tahini makes for a great base to dressings, marinades, and sauces.
- Maple syrup: This sweetener is optional, but encouraged to help balance the salty, spicy and bitter flavors of the other dressing ingredients.
- Seasonings – dried dill, ground cumin, salt & black pepper: Dried seasonings are an essential pantry staple. Seasonings not only help balance and enhance flavors, but also contain fiber and antioxidants.
This dish is naturally gluten-free and vegan, so it meets a variety of dietary preferences. For a nut-free version, swap in sunflower or pumpkin seeds for the cashews. We love preparing this roasted cauliflower as an appetizer, but it also makes for a great side dish on weeknights. Serve this fresh while warm with a few extra mint leaves as colorful garnish. Show off the eclectic ingredients by using a wide, shallow serving dish. You may also want to save some tahini dressing on the side for those who like it extra saucy. I can’t wait for you to enjoy this roasted cauliflower with tahini dressing as much as we do!
Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Dressing
- Air fryer (preferred method)
- Baking sheet (if using oven method)
- Large mixing bowl
- Knife & cutting board
- Small blender or sealable jar
- Cooking spatula and/or mixing spoon
- 1 medium head cauliflower
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp dried dill
- salt & pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup roasted, unsalted cashew pieces
- 2-3 tbsp raisins
- 6 leaves fresh mint, roughly torn in half
- ¼ cup tahini
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
- ½ tsp ground cumin (optional)
- Wash your hands thoroughly with warm soap and water.
- Oven method: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Cut cauliflower into bite-size florets, about 2-inches in thickness, and place in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with dried dill, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
- Air fryer method: Transfer cauliflower into air fryer. Set temperature to 375 degrees F and time for 10 minutes. Check florets after 5 minutes. Toss around and continue to cook additional 2-3 minutes, or until cauliflower edges start to brown and centers are soft.
- Oven method: Arrange cauliflower florets in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until cauliflower edges start to brown and centers are soft.
- While cauliflower is cooking, prepare Tahini Dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small blender and process until smooth. Alternatively, place all dressing ingredients, except for water, in a small sealable jar (such as a mason jar); seal and shake vigorously until dressing is smooth. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water at a time to help thin the dressing until desired consistency. Adjust seasonings as needed. Add more maple syrup (or honey) for more sweetness; more garlic for more of a kick; more salt and cumin for saltiness. (If dressing ingredients were refrigerated, carefully warm prepared dressing in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave or in a small saucepan on low until desired serving temperature.)
- Transfer cooked cauliflower to a large mixing bowl. Add cashew pieces, raisins, and mint leaves. Pour Tahini Dressing over all ingredients and stir until everything is well coated.
- Serve warm on choice of serving plate as an appetizer or a side dish.
- Allow leftovers to completely cool before storing in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days.