Whole Roasted Cauliflower is an impressive dish that you can serve as a side or main entree. You can slice into it just like you would a turkey, so it’s a fun alternative for a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving menu.
How to Cook a Whole Cauliflower Head
Roasting a whole cauliflower head is easier than you might think. Unlike traditional roasted cauliflower florets, there’s less chopping involved so the prep work is even easier.
Just follow these 3 easy steps:
Step #1: Prep the Cauliflower. Instead of chopping the head into cauliflower florets, simply remove the leaves on the bottom and slice the core flat, so that the cauliflower will stand up evenly on a pan.
Rinse the cauliflower well (I like to rinse the bottom after the leaves have been cut off, to make sure there are no tiny bugs inside) and pat well to dry.
Step #2: Season the Cauliflower. It takes at least a full hour to roast a whole cauliflower, so you’ll want to brush the cauliflower with olive oil to help lock-in moisture.
I like to mix together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt, then brush the mixture all over the cauliflower, including the bottom! That way the whole cauliflower will be infused with flavor.
Step #3: Roast the Whole Cauliflower. Once it’s seasoned, you’ll place the whole head in an oven-safe dish, and let it roast in the oven until it’s golden and tender, all the way to the center.
How Long to Roast Cauliflower
The average head of cauliflower is roughly 2- to 3-pounds. Here’s a rough estimate on how long to cook cauliflower by weight:
- 2-pound cauliflower: 1 hour
- 2.5-pound cauliflower: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 3-pound cauliflower: 1 hour 30 minutes
These cooking times may vary based on how dense the cauliflower is, so check on it periodically as it roasts in the oven. When it’s done, let the whole roasted cauliflower rest for 10 minute before serving, which will help the core to soften even more.
How to Serve It
Slice the roasted cauliflower into wedges, then serve it over mashed potatoes with vegan gravy. It’s a great alternative to turkey if you’re hosting a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving, and it makes an impressive-looking side dish for any meal.
More Vegetarian Recipes
Check out my Vegan Thanksgiving recipes, which includes lots of crowd-pleasing options, or browse my vegetarian recipes, for more veggie-packed ideas.
Whole Roasted Caulilflower
- 1 head cauliflower (2 to 3 pounds)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF and move your oven rack to a low setting, so the cauliflower will be at least 4 to 6 inches away from the top heating element. Trim the bottom of the cauliflower, slicing the core so it's flush with the bottom of the rest of the cauliflower head and will stand up evenly when placed in a pan. Carefully remove any leaves from the bottom, without cutting off the florets. Rinse the cauliflower well (I like to rinse the bottom after the leaves have been cut off, to make sure there are no tiny bugs inside) and pat well to dry.
- In a small bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the salt, garlic powder, lemon juice and several grinds of black pepper. Use a pastry brush to stir it together. Place the cauliflower in a rimmed baking sheet or cast iron skillet, and flip it upside down so you can brush the bottom of the cauliflower head with roughly half the mixture. Shake the cauliflower to help distribute the seasoning inside.
- Flip the cauliflower head back over, and brush the entire outside with the remaining olive oil mixture. Be sure to use any excess that has dripped into the pan, too. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the pan, then place the pan in the oven and roast for 60 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, remove the pan and use a knife to check the core of the cauliflower. If the cauliflower is 2 pounds or less, it might be tender already. If not, return the cauliflower to the oven to cook for 15 more minutes. If you're worried about the cauliflower getting to dark on top, you can brush those areas with additional olive oil, to help slow the browning process. If your cauliflower head is 3 pounds or more, it will probably take closer to 1 hour and 30 minutes to become tender all the way through.
- When the cauliflower is tender, remove it from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, then slice into wedges and serve warm with your favorite side dishes. Leftover cauliflower can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you try this Whole Roasted Cauliflower, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it! And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too. We can all benefit from your experience.
Reader Feedback: Would you serve this as a main course or a side dish? We always serve this with lots of side dishes, so it sort of turns into the “main event” because it’s so beautiful! But, it’s definitely not as filling as my Vegan Meatloaf or vegetarian Nut Roast, if you need something more hearty.
Questions and Reviews
A dish that is both strange and familiar, I love it because it retains the broccoli’s crunch which is quite attractive and easy to eat.
How do you clean/ wash the cauliflower for any worms that we generally see?
When you cut the stem off and the leaves, you should be able to see inside the cauliflower from the bottom! Rinse well and shake to remove any dirt or debris. I’ve never seen a worm in cauliflower before, but if that’s something you find often, you could also just roast the cauliflower as florets or try cauliflower steaks if that would make you more comfortable.
I’m not taking any points off of this recipe due to my own error of putting the cauliflower in an 11×14 pan! EEEk. Okay, don’t anyone else do that. The 1/4 cup of water ended up evaporating and then the pan was smoking and the oil droplets burned and my smoke detector went off.
Or, if you DO use a giant pan like I did, I would imagine putting in 1 whole cup of water would probably be better? Chef, what are your thoughts? 🙂 I think the flavor was grand! I just had to take it out after an hour (due to the burning of my pan) and switch it to a smaller one. Oops. Rookie move. GREAT recipe though! Thanks for sharing.
OMG ,I loved this recipe, for once I looked at the ingredients and I had everything. It was so easy. I basically followed the recipe but added more lemon juice and I had to double the mixture, perhaps I just like painting veggies, hahaha. Well done thank you and if you have more of these simple whole food recipes I’m a great test subject!!!
I love this recipe easy nutritious and delicious! It’s also a real crowd pleaser! Thank you!