This easy roasted cauliflower side dish is ridiculously easy to make. It’s a hands-off dish that can be made in the oven or air fryer. With a squeeze of lemon juice and pinch of salt, it lets the toasty flavor of cauliflower really shine. Vegan & gluten-free.
Years ago a friend of mine was trying to incorporate more vegetables into her diet. I suggested that she could pick up a head of cauliflower and roast the florets.
She said, “Oh, you can break it into florets yourself?”
She’d always just bought them prepared in plastic bags.
Her comment took me by surprise. And at first I thought she was joking. I’ve been breaking cauliflower heads into florets since I was a kid.
We tend to assume that people have the same kitchen history that we do. But that isn’t always the case. There are so many convenience items available that people may or may not be as familiar with “the basics” as you’d guess.
So today we’re talking about one of my favorite ways to prepare cauliflower.
(And if you want to use the kind that’s already broken down into florets, hey, that will work too!)
Cook in the air fryer or oven
Whenever people say they don’t like certain vegetables, I have to wonder how they’ve had them prepared. Preparation makes such an enormous difference in terms of taste and texture!
While steamed cauliflower is fine, roasting it really takes it up a notch.
Those dark marks from roasting are not only pretty to the eye, they also mean that the cauliflower has a crustiness around the edges, and a nutty, savory flavor.
Start by breaking down the cauliflower
For either method, you’ll want to start by breaking a head into florets.
Pull off the outer leaves. Then cut the head in half.
Open it up, and you’ll see a hard middle core. Cut that out.
(Want to eat the center core? You can do that! Here are some ideas on using the whole vegetable from stem to core in a post from Epicurious.)
Once that core is gone, it’s easy to use your hands to break off the florets.
You want the florets to be close to the same size, so that they roast in the same length of time. But some variation isn’t going to make or break anything.
If any of the florets are way too big, tear them apart further or cut them in half.
Now it’s time to choose air fryer or oven…
How to roast cauliflower in the oven
The standard way to roast cauliflower is with the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
If you’ve got parchment paper to line a baking sheet, that makes for easy clean-up. But if not, that’s no problem. You can totally do it without the parchment paper.
Toss the florets in oil and sprinkle them with salt. Then line them evenly across the baking sheet.
If there is too much on one sheet or if the florets are touching, they won’t roast as well. You want air between them, so that they can brown. Use a second baking sheet, if necessary.
Cook for 25 minutes, stopping a couple of times to flip for even roasting.
How to roast cauliflower in the air fryer
The air fryer is really convenient, because it’s even faster than oven roasting. And you don’t have to wait for the air fryer to heat up, which means that cauliflower is on your plate that much quicker.
Be careful not to overfill the air fryer basket. It won’t brown as nicely in an overfilled basket.
If you do overfill your basket, you’ll have to shake the basket more often so that the florets have a chance to roast in different places. And you’ll have to increase your cooking time.
Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may want to work in batches.
Toss the cauliflower in oil or use oil spray. Then add a pinch of salt.
Air fry at 400 degrees for 13 minutes, stopping a couple of times to shake the basket, so that the florets can move around and roast in different places.
Floret sizes vary. So if they don’t look quite done enough, cook for a few minutes longer.
Once the it is roasted, move it to a bowl
Sprinkle on lemon juice. Toss the florets, so that they’re evenly coated.
For a little added color, sprinkle with sumac
Sumac is a spice that’s common in Middle Eastern cooking. It comes from the fruit of the sumac, which is a member of the cashew family.
Be aware that most sumac mixes have a little bit of salt in them. So be conscious of that when adding other salt to the dish.
Sumac also has a light, lemony flavor that works well in this dish. However, if you don’t have sumac in your kitchen, no worries. Just leave it off.
Taste for salt, and add more if necessary.
(Isn’t that cauliflower bowl fun? I got it in Washington on vacation a few years back. Read about it in my post on where to go in Seattle.)
Roasted cauliflower is a wonderful side for so many dishes.
Serve roasted cauliflower with:
- Vegan lentil burgers
- Baked farro vegan casserole
- Vegan lentil recipe with caramelized onions
- Double hummus wraps
It would also be an easy side dish for the holidays with your other beloved vegan Thanksgiving recipes.
But my favorite way to serve this easy roasted cauliflower is as the star attraction in a brown rice bowl with hummus, spinach salad, and lemon tahini dressing.
Easy roasted cauliflower in the oven or air fryer
- 4 cups medium-sized cauliflower florets
- 1 teaspoon organic canola oil or a couple spritzes of oil spray
- Pinch salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon sumac Optional
- TO ROAST CAULIFLOWER IN THE OVEN: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put cauliflower florets on baking sheet. Toss them in oil and sprinkle them with salt. Then line them evenly across the baking sheet. If there is too much cauliflower on one sheet or if the florets are touching, they won’t roast as well. You want air between them, so that they can brown. Cook in oven for 25 minutes, stopping a couple of times to flip for even roasting.
- TO ROAST CAULIFLOWER IN THE AIR FRYER: Put cauliflower florets in air fryer basket. Toss them with oil or spray them with a couple of oil spritzes. Add a pinch of salt. Air fry cauliflower at 400 degrees for 13 minutes, stopping a couple of times to shake the basket, so that the cauliflower can move around and roast in different places. Cauliflower floret sizes vary. So if the cauliflower doesn’t look quite done enough, cook for a few minutes longer.
- Once the cauliflower is roasted in the air fryer or oven, move it to a bowl. Sprinkle on lemon juice. Toss the cauliflower, so that it’s evenly coated.
- For a little added color, sprinkle the cauliflower with sumac (optional). Be aware that most sumac mixes have a little bit of salt in them. So be conscious of that when adding other salt to the dish.
- Taste for salt, and add more if necessary.