This whole roasted lemon tahini cauliflower is tender, flavorful, and incredibly easy to make. It’s also the most elegant and impressive centerpiece for entertaining, and it can be enjoyed by everyone: vegans, gluten-free eaters, and enthusiastic omnivores! The secret of the recipe is a tangy lemon tahini dressing with a hint of harissa spice.
One of the things I always tell clients about vegan Thanksgiving is that many of the side dishes, including mashed potatoes, green beans, roasted squash and other root veggies, and cranberry sauce, can easily be made vegan. This means that, even if you attend a family gathering that features traditional turkey as a main dish, you’ll probably still have quite a few things to eat–especially if you chat with friends or family about veganizing the sides in advance. Still, it’s nice to have at least one dish that feels like a “main”–something substantial and eye-catching, a centerpiece in its own right.
This whole roasted lemon tahini cauliflower is the best of both worlds. It’s as quick and as easy to prepare as a side dish: really, you just whip up the lemon tahini sauce, baste the cauliflower, and let it roast till tender. But, for a dish that’s so simple to prepare, it’s effortlessly impressive and attention-grabbing. Which means that you can confidently offer it up as a table centerpiece at any gathering.
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There are many different approaches to preparing whole roasted cauliflower. Some are as simple as giving the cauliflower head a rub of oil, salt and pepper–even herbs are optional. Other methods are a little more complex; I love Jamie Oliver’s whole roasted cauliflower, for instance.
For this dish, I wanted a super streamlined approach, because let’s face it, preparing for the holidays involves enough details!
So, I used as a flavor base a lemon tahini sauce that’s similar to many others I’ve shared in the past: a tried-and-true blend of tahini, garlic, lemon, smoked paprika (which complements cauliflower really nicely), and a touch of harissa powder.
You make a lot of it–more than you think you need–but then you use just less than half of it to baste the cauliflower, and the rest for serving. No juggling separate gravies or sauces or toppings for this dish!
As you can see, the cauliflower takes on a beautiful, golden hue as it roasts, and the garlic, lemon, and tahini flavors seep right into the vegetable. You can baste it a few times as it cooks if you like, but I just slathered it in the tahini sauce and let it cook. Because you serve the cauliflower with extra sauce at the end, you can take a hands-off approach while it cooks, trusting that the finished product will be very flavorful.
In preparing this dish, I realized that it’s not just suitable for gatherings or holidays, even though the presentation is a little fancy. It’s also a really simple way to prepare cauliflower–easier in a lot of ways than chopping the cauliflower up ahead of time. And it creates such an incredibly tender vegetable: you can see how easily I sliced into the center, to make serving wedges.
To serve, I’d simply pair your cauliflower wedges with the sauce and–if you want to get festive–a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds or fresh herbs. That’s it. With a dish this arresting, you don’t need a lot of fancy garnish.
One note about the cooking process: you’ll want to pick a medium sized head of cauliflower for it (about 6-7 inches in diameter). If you choose a really huge one, it may take too long to cook, in which case the crust could burn before the vegetable is tender. If you’re serving more than 6 folks, I’d simply recommend doubling the recipe. Also note that you’ll probably have a bit of tahini sauce leftover, which you can easily use as a dip or dressing or sandwich condiment in the days after your feast. Better to have a little extra on hand, trust me, than to run out.
One important nutritional note about this recipe: while it makes a fabulous presentation, it’s not super high in protein. So, if you like, pair the cauliflower with a dish that features some legumes, a simple side of grilled tofu or tempeh, or your favorite Tofurkey roast. The nutritionist in me is always focused on dietary macronutrient balance, so I thought it was worth a mention!
And needless to say, there’s no reason to wait for Thanksgiving (or another holiday) to enjoy this tender and healthful dish. Paired with a soup and/or a grain salad, it would make for a wonderful weekend supper.
I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. A very happy Tuesday to you all!
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I made this last night because I had all the ingredients, and wow! So perfect! I thought I’d wrecked it with too much harissa paste but I trusted the recipe and the lemon juice changed it all into a beautiful dish. I also loved the dietary note because that’s important (I will think about it next time – this time I just had to eat it because it smells and looks as delicious as it is. Thank you 🙂
Hi! I’m so glad that the recipe was a success for you. Enjoy!
Cooked at 400 for almost an hour and love flavor and presentation!
Sliced an onion put extra tahini dressing on put in air fryer 370 for 15 minutes and love it!
Wish I could send photos
Many thanks for recipe
I’m so happy you loved it!
I made this recipe to go with a plant-based Christmas dinner and it worked perfectly. The extra sauce went really well with latkes that we made as well and would be a delicious salad dressing too. Thanks for this great recipe!
I Love this recipe, I can’t stop eating this delicious cauliflower. Thanks.
I love this too, but 400 degrees cooks it in about 25 minutes and it’s golden brown. Instead of salt I used 1 Tbs. white miso – YUMMY!
I Just love it!!! Thank you.
Cooking time is way off! 1.75 hrs later and it is still not done at 375. Even checked the oven temp on this Wolf oven and now I’m boosting it to 400.
I boil my cauliflower head for 10 minutes prior to baking. Cuts the baking process in half and comes out perfectly tender.
Hi Gena, I am a new visitor to your site, but after making this I will definitely return again. I LOVE this cauliflower; I could bathe in your lemon tahini dressing. Thank you for this deliciousness!!!
I’m so glad that you enjoyed it!
I made this last night and it came out pretty good but I probably should have let it cook longer than 45 minutes. I was really hungry though, haha! The flavors were excellent, I had it with a green salad and crusty bread. I’m already thinking about trying it again but with a miso based sauce.
Making this tonight. Can’t wait
Hope you enjoy it!
Oooh perfect holiday food. Sounds dee-licious!
Looks like a great version! I’ve made a few variations of whole roasted cauliflower and i was most successful with the recipe from bon appetite where the whole cauliflower is first boiled partially (which makes sure the inside isn’t raw) and then baked on a high heat in the oven for a shorter period of time.
This looks incredible! Cauliflower is a favorite of mine, but I’ve never whole-roasted it.
I love how you made something so simple into such a standout dish.
what a lovely looking dish:) I love roasted cauliflower, but usually use simply oil, herbs and seasoning – but I’m going to try this, maybe for Christmas dinner, with spicy polenta as a base to sit it on. Thanks for the idea:)
Looks lovely, Gena. I always worried about it taking forever to cook a while cauliflower head, so I haven’t tried it yet. Yours looks super fresh, though, I hope to try it soon.
So long as it’s a reasonable size, Janet, it won’t take long. Promise. And it’s so tender!
oh gena you’ve stopped me in my tracks – what an awesome method for cauliflower. i just adore how the flavors seep in while cooking – it looks so inviting. the spices here are some of my favorites. beautiful and festive!
This is such a creative and fun dish, I can’t wait to try it. Thanks!
Made this tonight, amazing!! Super easy to whip up dressing in a blender and the taste is just astounding. Glad I have left overs. Even the hubby ate the cauliflower! Roasted with a bit of dressing but served with dressing drizzled on top. Would be great on anything!
This is such great news, Mikelle! I’m thrilled it turned out so well. I had a bunch of leftovers, too, and I actually ended up pulling apart some of the cauliflower and serving it in soft tacos, along with black beans — delicious.
Gena, this is such a beautiful, brilliant main dish! I have been trying to plan a perfect Thanksgiving menu and I’m definitely adding this! Thank you 🙂 🙂
You are an inspiration.
Gena, what a wonderful treatment for whole roasted cauliflower! Thanksgiving or not, I would enjoy this any day of the week.I I like your tip about choosing a medium sized cauliflower–I once chose a large one and had the kind of problem you describe. And I agree it wouldn’t be a problem to have this wonderful sauce left over–it’s a version of my favorite salad dressing! Thanks!! xoxo
I can’t wait to try this for Thanksgiving!
Gena, this sounds incredible. It’s the perfect holiday main. I’ll be dreaming about this until I make it, xx!!