Air Fryer Cauliflower is a fast weeknight side dish. Using the air fryer helps to circulate the heat more evenly, making the cauliflower become much crispier than traditional roasted cauliflower.
How to Prepare the Cauliflower
When working with cauliflower, I think it’s important to cut any large pieces down into smaller florets so that they will cook quickly and evenly. You want the pieces to be roughly the same size, for the most even cooking.
I like to cut thick cauliflower stems in half, or even into quarters, because the stems typically take the longest to become tender. Once the cauliflower is cut, you’ll just have to toss it with a touch of olive oil and seasonings, and it’s ready to cook!
Can You Cook Without Oil in the Air Fryer?
The benefit of using an air fryer is that you can cook with less oil than you might need for other cooking methods. I’ve found that using 1 tablespoon of oil to 1 pound of cauliflower is a pretty good ratio for this recipe. Using a little bit of oil allows the edges of the cauliflower to become melt-in-your mouth crispy around the edges, which I find really appealing.
In theory, you can cook without oil entirely in the air fryer, but the texture of your cauliflower will turn out differently. When you use no oil, the cauliflower has a dryer texture and the seasonings won’t stick as well to it, so when you bite into a piece, you won’t have that same buttery mouthfeel.
Feel free to experiment with using less oil and see how you like it, though.
Benefits of Cauliflower
Cauliflower is a great source of nutrients, and I love how its mild flavor makes it the perfect side dish for practically any main entree.
- As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower contains antioxidants that may help to lower the risk of certain cancers, including lung and colon cancer. (source)
- Cauliflower is high in choline, which is important for brain development and metabolism. Not getting enough choline has been linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and heart disease. (source)
- It contains sulforaphane, which may help to suppress cancer growth (source) and it may also help to lower blood pressure, which is linked with a lower risk of heart disease. (source)
How Do You Know When the Cauliflower Is Cooked?
Air fryer cauliflower takes about 20 minutes to become tender, but you’ll know that it’s cooked when you can easily pierce the cauliflower with a fork.
(from left to right: cauliflower cooked at 360ºF for 15 minutes, 360 for 20 minutes, and 400ºF for 20 minutes)
I like my cauliflower to be tender on the inside, and slightly crispy on the outside, but the air fryer can sometimes make it TOO crunchy. I tested the cauliflower several different ways, so you can choose the temperature based on what you’re looking for.
- For cauliflower that has a bit of bite & is lightly brown: 360ºF for 15 minutes
- For cauliflower that is tender & crispy: 360ºF for 18 to 20 minutes
- For very crunchy cauliflower, that is darker brown and very crispy: 400ºF for 18 to 20 minutes
Be sure to toss the cauliflower after the first 10 minutes of cooking, as I’ve noticed that the cauliflower towards the back of my air fryer cooks faster than the cauliflower in the front. If you have any small pieces, you may want to pull them out after 10-15 minutes of cooking so that they won’t burn.
You can season this cauliflower however you like. It’s really delicious with just olive oil and salt, but when you add a squeeze of lemon juice and a touch of fresh parsley right before serving, it’s even better! If you like cheese, I think a sprinkling of Parmesan would also be really nice.
Crispy Air Fryer Cauliflower
- 1 pound cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Lemon slices , for serving (optional)
- Freshly chopped parsley , for serving (optional)
- Preheat the air fryer to 360ºF while you prepare the cauliflower, so it's ready to use right away.
- Cut the cauliflower into evenly-sized pieces, making sure to cut the thick stems in half so that they will cook faster. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and salt, and use your hands to make sure the oil is evenly distributed.
- Pour the cauliflower into the air fryer basket or tray, arranging it into roughly a single layer. (If you want to work with more than 1 pound of cauliflower at a time, you'll probably have to work in batches to get crispy results.)
- Set the air fryer to cook for 10 minutes at 360ºF. When the timer goes off, shake the basket to make sure the cauliflower is turned during the cooking process.
- Return the cauliflower to cook for 10 more minutes. (So, you're cooking the cauliflower for 20 minutes total.)
- Serve the cauliflower warm right away, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to brighten up the flavor. (It's so good!) Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.
Nutrition information above is for half the batch (half a pound) of cauliflower.
If you try this recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how it turns out for you. And if you try something different, I’d love to hear about that, too. We can all benefit from your experience!