This roasted cauliflower with tahini is an impressive side dish or vegetarian main made with a whole roasted cauliflower that’s painted with garlic-tahini paste and topped with a pistachio and parsley mixture.
Through his two restaurants, Saba and Safta, Alon Shaya is a voice for Israeli cuisine in the States. He does a roasted cauliflower that was our favorite dish when we first ate at his restaurant. We’ve used it as inspiration for this dish so you can cook it as often as you like.–Amy Zitelman
Do I need to steam or boil my cauliflower before roasting it?
Allow us to back up a little. Some recipes for the spectacularly spiffy whole roasted cauliflower have you first steam or boil the whole head of cauliflower. The idea behind this is to partially cook the cauliflower before you roast it, which results in a shorter oven time. Honestly? This approach requires a touch more fuss than we prefer. Plus we’re partial to the slightly less watery nature of cauliflower that is given a dry sauna in the form of the oven.
Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini
- Cooking spray or olive oil
- 1/4 cup tahini paste
- 1 garlic clove minced and smashed with coarse sea salt into a paste
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon store-bought or homemade hot sauce whether red or green or harissa
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large (2 pounds) cauliflower head leaves removed, stem cut flat
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped pistachio nuts
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray a cast-iron skillet, roasting pan, or rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray or slick it with olive oil.
- In a small bowl, stir together the tahini, the garlic paste, the lemon juice, olive oil, hot sauce, cardamom, salt, and pepper.
- Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, slather all but a few tablespoons of the tahini mixture all over the cauliflower. It’s easiest to do this by holding the cauliflower upside down in one hand and using the other hand to brush its underside. Then invert the cauliflower into the prepared skillet, pan, or baking sheet and finish coating the top and sides.
- Roast until the cauliflower is tender and a knife inserted into the center meets no resistance, 55 to 70 minutes, depending on the size of your cauliflower and just how tender you like your cauliflower.
- While the cauliflower roasts, in a small bowl, mix the pistachios and parsley.
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven and brush the reserved tahini mixture over the top. Sprinkle the pistachio-parsley mixture over the top and return to the oven until the nuts are toasted, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Carve in wedges to serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I’ll be adding this whole roasted cauliflower with tahini to my rotation—it’s a great way to roast cauliflower whole that has a lovely spice and flavor profile. I feel like this is versatile enough to go with a lot of different proteins—chicken and fish for sure are good matches. I appreciated getting the little crunch of the roasted pistachios on top as the cauliflower gets nice and tender.
I got 4 servings out of the cauliflower and served it with the JW chicken.
One of our favorite sides is hummus, tahini, chickpeas, garlic, and lemon on some roasted cauliflower. This combination is a very good hybrid of the two.
It preps rather quickly, in about 10 minutes, then it’s mostly roasting time. I used Tabasco for my hot sauce but I think a much better option would be harissa paste or possibly just a little cayenne pepper. There is a lingering hint of Tabasco vinegar, not unpleasant, but it didn’t seem to fit the dish. The pistachio coating adds a nice nutty sweetness at the end. I served this with some Middle Eastern spiced chicken and it paired nicely.
I loved this dish. The lemony tahini blanket that covered the cauliflower was absolutely delicious.
I found that it did get a little crisp after an hour in the oven, but the recoat was a good idea and the pistachios and parsley added extra flavor, relief, and crunch. I would, however, have decreased the pistachios’ time in the oven to only 5 minutes, as the ones that landed near the bottom of the tray did brown too much (burn) and lost their flavor.
I also found that the bottom of my cauliflower stuck to the tray and the parts that were directly on the tray burnt from the tahini that came in contact with the cauliflower and tray. This did not affect the flavour at all, as those parts just pulled away from the cauliflower and were stuck to the tray instead.
I used my fingers to rub the tahini sauce into the little crevices of the cauliflower at the beginning. But the brush was a good idea for when it came time to recoat the cauliflower as it was piping hot at that point. I think saving half the garlic to add with the pistachios and parsley unnecessary step as the tahini sauce still had a good garlic bite on recoat.
On cutting the cauliflower, the presentation was perfect, it looked exactly like your picture, I did have on one side the tahini coating coming off the cauliflower, but it was just a little on top on one of the cuts and I could easily put it back.
I found the inside of the cauliflower didn’t have any flavour as all the flavor was on the outside, so a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt on the inside of the cut white wedges would be a great addition. I used a local brand of jalapeno hot sauce.
I think if I were to remake this recipe, which I definitely will, to shorten the recipe cooking time, I’ll blanch my cauliflower or steam it for a few minutes to soften it. This would also allow the tahini coating not to bake too much. Perhaps the oven time would decrease to at least half the time.
This is another 10/10 recipe. It’s absolutely stunning as a centerpiece and epic as a side. I wouldn’t change a thing about the ingredients or method: the presentation is gorgeous and the flavor is out of this world.
I think the cardamom is the secret to the success here—it perfectly balances the tart lemon, the slight heat, and and rich nutty flavor combination and really allows the other flavors to shine in contrast. I used Mama O’s Kimchi Paste for Hot Sauce (I might be addicted to the stuff…)
My only suggestion as a tweak to this whole recipe would be how to plate it at service… Instead of slicing into wedges, which leaves sections of “blank” cauliflower which didn’t receive any sauce or crust, I recommend chopping the whole thing up, once everyone has had a moment to appreciate the cauliflower in all of its golden-herb crusted glory. It honestly started to fall apart as soon as it was touched, and simply tossing it all together in a bowl, or in cast iron skillet or whatever dish it was baked in would evenly distribute the incredible flavors. It’s just gorgeous, and this way every bite is bursting with flavor and has more textural variety!
I will be making this again 1000% and definitely as a dish to share at dinner parties!
I loved both the impressive presentation of this dish and the creative mix of flavors. The tahini paste gives the cauliflower a nutty taste, the cardamom and warm flavor, a touch of spice from the hot sauce, and the lemon juice the perfect amount of acidity.
The cauliflower was perfectly browned right at 1 hour of cooking, but I would keep an eye on it in case your oven tends to run hot—you don’t want this lovely dish to burn!
The only thing I noticed was that adding half of the garlic on top of the cauliflower for the last 10 minutes of cooking (along with the nuts and parsley) might be a step I would change; some of the garlic at this stage cooked fine on top of the cauliflower head, but some was a bit burnt and some was undercooked. I would be tempted to add all of the minced garlic to the tahini mixture instead of saving it to add on for those last 10 minutes. Once carved, this served 6 as a side dish, but if you were to serve it as a vegetarian main dish, I would carve the cauliflower into 4 equal parts instead.
As for the recipe itself, I used Tabasco for my hot sauce I served this dish with some pan-roasted turkey tenderloins flavored with za’atar and a squeeze of orange juice.
This is a wonderful recipe. A meal on its own, a star side-dish, and certainly a vegan showstopper main. The smell and flavor integrated in this was made to salivate. A gorgeous meal with complex flavors. The topping browned up beautifully. The cauliflower soaks up the flavor beautifully. A crisp top protects and enhances a beautifully tender-to-the-bite cauliflower. Garlic and cardamom are standouts but don’t overpower in a great balance.
Thumbs up from both kids and hubby. A gorgeous meal with complex flavor, this will be another dish added to the repertoire.
A tip to make this even more miraculous would be to hollow out the bottom stem/root bit of the cauliflower to make the ratio of topping to cauliflower more uniform. You could chop the stem/root up and cut them on small bias 1 inch pieces, toss in oil and salt, and surround the cauliflower in its pan. Place in the oven at the same time as raw dressed cauliflower.
I would also brush all of the tahini mixture at the beginning. On the step to add pistachio topping, I would just add the pistachio, remaining garlic, and remaining parsley and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter. We found the topping to be a bit gummy in texture on the top layer when it only had the last 10 minutes to brown.
We loved this dish. The blend of spices with the tahini and pistachios made for a delicious side dish although we thought it could also work well as an entree for two of us. The recipe was easy to follow and worked just as written. Overall time with prep and baking was 90 minutes. I highly recommend this as a simple way to take cauliflower to a new and heightened level.
This is a very good recipe for our vegetarian friends.
This was delicious and a completely new flavor profile for me. Cardamom with cauliflower and tahini? YES! It works, and there’s a nice addition of acid from the lemon juice. I use tahini a lot, but it’s normally paired with these ingredients. My favorite part was the garlic and pistachios you added in the last step that got perfectly caramelized and crunchy. It totally felt and looked like something you’d get at a restaurant. Fairly hands off for how impressive it is.
I found that 1 hour was accurate for a sharp knife to be inserted and easily removed, but personally, I would have cooked it about 20 more minutes before the final addition of parsley, garlic, and pistachios, because the inside would have been a little more tender and the outside would have been caramelized, but 1 hour was also acceptable. I found 10 minutes to be accurate for the additional baking—the garlic was perfectly caramelized and the nuts were crisp.
I served it with a hash of Brussels sprouts, hot Italian sausage, and butternut squash.
Roasted cauliflower is a vegetable favorite in my house and this version is superb. I think what sends it over the top is the cardamom in the tahini sauce, which I’ve never tried before and adds a delightfully subtle flavor. The crunchy pistachio, parsley, and garlic topping is another bonus.
The prep is quick and easy, then just stick the pan in the oven and wait for perfection to emerge. I added an extra tablespoon of lemon juice to the tahini sauce to thin it out a bit so it would get in all the nooks and crannies, and because I always increase the garlic I used one large clove for the tahini sauce and one large clove for the pistachio and parsley mixture. Roasted in a cast iron skillet at 375°F convection oven, the cauliflower was tender in 50 minutes. Ten minutes with the pistachio topping and the best cauliflower ever comes out of the oven.
We had grilled skirt steak and swordfish to accompany and it made a fantastic Saturday dinner. I will be making this on a regular basis and happily serving it to guests when social life returns.
It turns out that some kind of magic happens when you bake tahini. The texture becomes creamy, kind of crunchy, almost crackly, and super satisfying. Add that texture to roasted cauliflower and you get a really simple but delicious dinner that’s perfect for a meat-free Monday meal. I recommend having this with a simple green salad and a glass of chilled rosé!
The timing was accurate to have the nuts nicely toasted and the coating lovely and slightly dried and a little crackly. The finished cauliflower looked like the picture and the outer florets were nicely cooked. The stem still had quite a bit of bite and maybe could have done with more cooking, but as it was, the florets kind of disintegrated a little when brushing on the final layer of tahini mix. I think on balance it was the right amount of cook time, and we didn’t mind the more al dente bite to the stem.
My husband and I enjoyed it with a simple green salad with some extra toasted pistachios on top and a simple lemon olive oil dressing and glass of Israeli rosé. Delicious. Perhaps better to say, it serves 2 as a meal with a salad or 4 as part of a mezze meal, which is likely how it would be served in an Israeli restaurant (I live in Jerusalem, so can claim some knowledge on this point!).
The thing I’ve always loved about cauliflower is how versatile it is and how well it mixes with different flavors and toppings. Whether roasted plain with olive oil, salt, and pepper, topped with cheese and breadcrumbs, or turned into a rice-like grain it never fails to taste delicious with whatever it’s partnered. That turns out to be true with tahini, too. The nutty flavor of the tahini combined with the lemon juice, garlic, hot sauce, and cardamom becomes the main player in this dish, with the cauliflower playing a great supporting role. The hot sauce adds just the right amount of subtle heat and the combination of nuts, garlic, and parsley adds a satisfying crunch to complete the dish. The instructions are easy to follow and timing is pretty accurate. My fellow taster wanted more of the tahini flavor throughout and I have to agree. Coating the outside of the cauliflower resulted in delicious taste, but that combination in every bite would be even better.
1. Roasting time was 1 hour plus 10 minutes. One hour for the first roast seemed slightly more time than necessary, but timing would depend on the size of the cauliflower and at one hour didn’t hurt the final outcome at all.
2. For a hotter version increase the amount of hot sauce in the tahini mixture. The amount used adds a subtle heat that some might prefer to increase.
3. An alternative method that would increase the tahini mixture coverage would be to cut the cauliflower into pieces (including the stem) and immerse the pieces in a portion of the tahini mixture. That approach would reduce the overall roasting time and ensure that each piece of cauliflower is coated. The reserved mixture could be drizzled over the cauliflower and tossed in the pan before sprinkling with the pistachio-parsley mixture. A sheet pan with a layer of tin foil or parchment would be helpful for cleanup with this approach.
I served this with sweet potato-chickpea patties flavored with cumin and the combination hit all the right notes.
Hot sauce: Chalula
My finished cauliflower didn’t have the deep brown coating shown in the photograph and was a lot greener due to the parsley. The wedges were significantly less even, but opened in the same pattern.
Even though I work from home, it’s hard to find time to cook (actually COOK) lunch on a weekday. But this recipe makes it a snap with only a few minutes of prep required. The cauliflower is piquant and full of deep umami. I loved it for lunch with a simple green salad with a mustardy dressing and cheese on the side. The best part—no chopping an unruly head of cauliflower!
It seemed fork-tender after an hour, so I proceeded to the next step. However, after cutting into it to eat, the inner stems were a bit too tough. I would add an additional 10 minutes to the original roasting time.
After adding the pistachio mixture, I had to take the cauliflower out of the oven after about 7 minutes. The nuts would have started to burn had I left it in for any longer.
This recipe wins on many levels. It’s easy to put together, tastes delicious, and looks amazing. Seriously, this recipe requires minimal effort. All you’ll need to do is a little chopping, a little mixing, and a little painting on your cauliflower. That’s it. The oven does the rest. It’s that easy.
I expected to like this recipe but I ended up loving it. It’s a fun and healthy veggie option. (I say fun because I really enjoyed painting the cauliflower! Who knew painting veggies was fun?) We ate half of the cauliflower the first night and the other half the second night. It reheated well and didn’t become overcooked or soggy.
I used Franks Red Hot Original. One note, I did grind my cardamom from pods and I thought it was a skosh much. Next time, if using freshly ground, I will use just under 1/2 teaspoon.
My daughter normally won’t eat cauliflower, but she loved this recipe! The tahini sauce caramelizes and gives it a great flavor. Full of umami!
As noted in the recipe forward, this is a copy or adaptation of an Alon Shaya dish. Having had the dish and also making the goat cheese version from his cookbook (highly recommend the cookbook as well), I had to try this. It lived up to its inspiration.
We eat a lot of cauliflower and most often we just roast it plain or as steaks. This was a nice addition of flavor without a ton of extra effort or steps. The lemon and tahini with the crunch of the pistachios were a perfect combination. It also had a nostalgic feel for me as my mom used to roast cauliflower with mayo and cheese on top, and oddly this reminded me of that.
I will definitely be making this one again. I used two pepper hot sauce from Central BBQ in Memphis. I think Crystal would also work. I served it with ginger lime chicken thighs and rice and the cauliflower stole the show.
Originally published December 09, 2020