Whole Roasted Cauliflower

This whole roasted cauliflower is an easy and impressive side dish that’s drizzled with a tangy lemon, olive oil, caper, and parsley dressing.

Two whole roasted cauliflower heads on a rimmed baking sheet with a glass jar of dressing and a spoon resting inside it.

Heads up! This whole roasted cauliflower is so novel to serve (and so delicious to eat) that you, as well as any finicky eaters at your table, might just forget any previous notions regarding this oft-maligned though uber-trendy vegetable. Crisp and golden on the outside, tender within, and superbly accented by a lemon-caper vinaigrette, this one’s an all-around crowd pleaser.–Jenny Howard

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 1 H, 10 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
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Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).

Using a paring knife, cut off the stem and carve out the inner core of the cauliflower, being careful to leave the head(s) intact.

Place the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle each head with 2 tablespoons oil and rub to coat it well. Sprinkle each head with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Roast the cauliflower until tender and golden, about 1 hour. Roasting time will vary based on the size of the cauliflower, so begin checking it after 40 minutes. How do you know when cauliflower is cooked through? Insert a small knife in the center of the head to check for doneness. It should meet little resistance. You may need to roast it longer than an hour.

Tester tip: Due to the cauliflower’s slightly unpredictable roasting time, you may want to start it a little early and if it’s done before the rest of the meal, no worries, it can just sit at room temperature and will still taste quite fine.

While the cauliflower is roasting, in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Taste and, if desired, add more lemon juice.

When the cauliflower is done, transfer it to a platter. Drizzle some of the lemon-caper sauce over each head, reserving any extra for passing at the table.

Sprinkle the cauliflower with the parsley and serve.

Tester tip: Any leftover vinaigrette is also perfect on just about any other roasted vegetables or meat.
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    Roasted Cauliflower Florets

    • Tux variation

      For a speedier, albeit less dramatic, version of this recipe, you could ditch the impressive whole-head treatment and proceed as you would with roasting any vegetable on a sheet pan: Simply break the cauliflower into large florets, toss with olive oil, and roast until tender and golden. Then drizzle with the lemon caper vinaigrette. Just as good. And in about half the time.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This is probably the best roasted cauliflower dish I’ve ever made. I usually break down the cauliflower before roasting it, but the method of roasting it whole in a very hot oven produced even better results. The outside was golden and crisp and had deep flavor while the interior was moist and perfectly done after 45 minutes in the oven. Then applying the topping while the cauliflower was still warm allowed the flavors of the lemon and capers to meld with the vegetable so that every bite was a perfect combination of the crispy exterior, the moist interior, the saltiness from the capers and the tartness of the lemon juice.

    I was planning to serve this as a side with pork chops, but decided it was too nice of a dish to be just a side and served it as a first course.

    It’s surprising how much wonderful, deep flavor is created when you roast cauliflower. Add olive oil and salt for roasting, whip together a dressing, and this is a tasty and easy side dish.

    It was impossible to avoid tasting it right out of the oven with its aroma and beautiful brown coloring. Even at this point, it was really good—but the lemon and caper dressing added just the right flavor to complement and make this a little different.

    We really enjoy capers, so I might make a little extra dressing next time to pass around the table, but really, this was so good just poured over the heads and this amount probably ensured you don’t overdo it. We all found it very well-balanced and thoroughly enjoyed it. I would definitely make this again, and I would serve it as an appetizer, light lunch, or a side vegetable.

    I served it as a starter (before pasta and a light tomato sauce), although some people went back to it for more after, too.
    I’m so glad I made this. A great dish!


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