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

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

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

4.50 / 2 votes
This whole roasted cauliflower is an easy and impressive side dish that’s drizzled with a tangy lemon, olive oil, caper, and parsley dressing.
David Leite
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories101 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes


  • 1 to 2 medium heads cauliflower, leaves removed
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


  • 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.


Roasted Cauliflower Florets

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.
See You On Sunday Cookbook

Adapted From

See You on Sunday

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 101 kcalCarbohydrates: 8 gProtein: 3 gFat: 7 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 5 gSodium: 1027 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2020 Sam Sifton. Photo © 2020 David Malosh. All rights reserved.

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!

This is such a stunning way to prepare cauliflower. I’ve seen recipes swirling around on the internet for whole roasted heads of cauliflower, so I was really excited to try it. I have to admit, I got nervous about the temperature and time for cooking the cauliflower. I kept peeking in the oven to make sure it wasn’t burning. I thought the bottom of it was going to be too done when I took it out, but it was the most beautiful golden color instead. The outside was perfectly crisp and the inside was beautifully cooked. The lemon and caper sauce was perfect drizzled over the whole thing. This would make a show-stopping main or side dish!

My cauliflowers weighed 3 pounds. The hour was perfect for the roast time.

I served it with pork loin cooked with white wine, garlic, capers, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes.

This was a great twist on the normal roasted cauliflower that I make about once a week. The lemon and capers gave it a nice flavor without being overpowering.

I used 2 heads of cauliflower. This was about 10 servings of cauliflower so we will be eating it for a while but I don’t mind. It had a great flavor and was more sophisticated than the usual olive oil and salt seasoning I usually use. The briny flavor brightened up the end product for sure! It might even be good with some Kalamata olives and a splash of vinegar.

We had it with green beans and roasted chicken. YUM

Serving a whole roasted cauliflower is a unique, fun, and easy way to enjoy this popular low-carb vegetable. It makes for lovely presentation when you serve the cauliflower heads family-style at the dinner table and carve slices of it for each person. And when roasted in a super hot oven with olive oil, the cauliflower gets nicely golden brown and tender on the inside, and I loved the bright vinaigrette that goes along with the cauliflower. I can also see a curry-spiced vinaigrette, za’atar, or even a harissa-spiced rub working well here, too. The flavorings are endless!

My cauliflower heads were organic and rather small (about 1/2 lb. each). I checked them in the hot oven after 50 minutes and they were tender when pierced with a sharp knife. My 2 heads of roasted cauliflower served 6 people total. This is such a healthy and versatile side dish; perfect as an accompaniment to a grilled skirt steak and a nice green salad.

This is a great way to serve cauliflower for a family meal. It literally pulls apart like monkey bread, which my kid loved (even though he wouldn’t eat it). The roasting gives the outside of the cauliflower a texture almost like bread crumbs, which adds a nice toothiness.

I did have a bit of a problem getting the core out without destroying the head. Overall, though, the taste was delicious and the presentation very unique.

When you’re adding “fun to serve and be served” to “easy” and “tasty” to describe a recipe, it’s a winner. I loved the quick and effortless prep for this dish and that I could leave it alone in the oven for an hour while I figured out the rest of the dinner. It’s hard to imagine roasting cauliflower any other way now. The entire heads were cooked evenly with a beautiful golden exterior, and the flesh was so tender, we broke into it with a serving spoon at the table. The bright lemon caper dressing countered the sweet vegetable very well, too.

One step I did that was not in the recipe was turning the cauliflower again AFTER sprinkling the salt, as much of it fell off the cauliflower. Using my hands, I made sure most of the salt was stuck to the oiled cauliflower.

We enjoyed this as a side dish to black bean burgers (small-ish patties served naked, not in sandwiches) and cardamom-scented basmati rice.

By the way, I can picture this served as “baked brains” for Halloween—I already hear little ones go “ewww” in delight!

Anyone who is not a fan of cauliflower will definitely change their mind after making this recipe! Not only was this recipe so flavorful but super easy to make. Even the novice cook can make this recipe perfect to taste. The cauliflower was the perfect texture of soft yet al dente. It had a savory flavor from the combination of the capers and salt with just the right blend of citrus flavor from the lemon juice. The exterior char on the cauliflower brought out all of the amazing combined flavors. The hint of ground pepper also gave it nice yet mild peppery flavor.

The end result were two perfectly cooked whole roasted cauliflowers that looked so appetizing.

I would say this recipe gives 8 generous servings. I cut each whole cauliflower into 4 even pieces. I didn’t serve this with anything, we actually ate it as a snack. But this recipe would go great as a side dish for any meal. I would pair this with a nice roast chicken, pan-seared steak, or shrimp.

I love cauliflower and am game for ricing, saucing, rubbing, wrapping…you name it. This recipe taught me to keep it simple! Trim, plunk on a sheet pan, coat with a film of oil and salt, and roast until the thing looks amazing. Contrast those golden, textured tips with a soft-steamed heart and a pungent lemon-caper-parsley sauce and you have an easy side with 5 minutes of hands-on time.

I’d like to suggest pounding the lemon juice with the capers and salt in a mortar and pestle, then stirring in the parsley instead of sprinkling, which gave a nice pesto-like sauce. Another way to present the dish could be spreading this sauce underneath the head, for swiping the cut florets through, which would extend the “wow” factor for a few more minutes.

The roast time for a head that was speckled golden brown all over and fell apart to a prod with a paring knife, but stayed together for lifting off the tray, was 1 hour.

This would be a nice side alongside a grain salad and perhaps a scoop of lentils dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette.

For a long time I have been wanting to roast cauliflower. My husband really does not like cauliflower and I thought this recipe may change his mind. The flavor of the sauce is so good and the lemon and capers gave the cauliflower a nice pop. Parsley always adds a nice fresh taste to everything. I loved the flavor and the texture of the cauliflower on its own, too. In the end I loved this but it did not make my husband into a cauliflower lover. He did, however, say to make the sauce again!

The recipe is super simple and I had all of the ingredients already except the cauliflower.

I served the cauliflower with grilled ribeye. I have to mention the sauce was great on the ribeye, too! I think next time I may add more lemon to the sauce since mine was a little too thick.

Let me start by saying I love roasted cauliflower. It was only a few years ago that I discovered roasted cauliflower and fell in love. Then came roasting it whole, which can make for a dramatic presentation. I knew I had to try this take and it did not disappoint! Everything about the recipe worked perfectly. Plus it adds three of my favorite ingredients—lemon, capers, and parsley! Definitely a winner in my book.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Ina Garten’s Mashed Potatoes with Lemon

If Ina believes mashed potatoes need a little acidity to smooth out the richness, so be it. Here’s our new go-to approach to this oh-so-comforting side dish.

40 mins

Roasted Potatoes with Dill

A handful of cheap ingredients. The exact perfect temperature and timing. And a little patience, please, while spuds are elevated from simple to stellar.

1 hr 5 mins

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Yes. Soft, pillowy gnocchi bathed in a luxurious blue cheese sauce can be on your table in under 30 minutes. Wonders never cease.

25 mins

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating