This za’atar roasted cauliflower salad with harissa tahini dressing is bold, flavorful, and meal-worthy! Made with roasted red onions and lentils for plant protein.
I first started making this vibrant, colorful cauliflower salad when I was in graduate school to become an RD. I needed salads that could easily pack up and transport. They had to be meal-sized as well as portable, hearty enough to keep me full as I studied and sat through three hour lectures.
This za’atar roasted cauliflower salad fit the bill. It’s super flavorful, full of texture, and satisfying. Best of all, the leftovers keep really nicely for a few days in the fridge. And the harissa tahini dressing that accompanies the salad lasts for about five days. The entire salad is good for meal prep.
I’m not a student anymore, but I always appreciate any recipe that I can make-ahead. Salad included.
This salad is full of big texture and big flavor. It was created with Middle Eastern influences in mind, namely the za’atar spice on the roasted veggies and the swirl of harissa in the tahini dressing. I love these flavors, and they add so much character to a simple marriage of ingredients.
Other ingredients: cauliflower, of course! The cauliflower gives the salad substance and lots of good nutrition; cauliflower is a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and folate.
I also add lentils to the za’atar roasted cauliflower salad. You can use brown, green, pardina, or black (beluga) lentils. I don’t recommend red lentils, which are too mushy to work in a salad like this.
I top this salad with a lemony, spicy harissa tahini dressing. The harissa is optional if you don’t have it—garlic and lemon and creamy tahini go a long way—but it adds a lot of character to the dressing.
Za’atar is an herb. The way I’m using the word here—and what it often references—is a spice mixture that includes the herb itself, along with sesame seeds, sumac, salt, and (sometimes) other spices.
If you don’t have za’atar at home and you’re keen to make the salad anyway, you can try using oregano, sumac, or a combination of both to roast the cauliflower.
You’ll need to roast veggies and cook lentils for the za’atar roasted cauliflower salad. Therefore, it’s not a quick-assembly salad, though it’s easy to make if you do some meal prep in advance. You can roast the vegetables and/or prep the lentils a day in advance. And you can definitely used canned lentils to save yourself a cooking step, too.
The harissa tahini dressing can be whisked together up to four days in advance.
If you do want to make the salad ahead of time, I recommend storing the roast vegetables and lentils in one airtight container. Store the arugula and dressing separately.
When you’re ready to pack up the za’atar roasted cauliflower salad for work or school, pile the arugula at the bottom of a storage container. Top it with veggies and lentils, and then seal the container. Transport the dressing in a small, separate container (I love these).
If you love meal-sized salads for your take-to-work or take-to-school or work-from-home routine, I have a bunch of favorites:
This is most definitely a filling salad. However, pairing it with a nice soup (like my carrot, turmeric and ginger soup) would be a perfect accompaniment. You could also add some cooked quinoa, farro, or barley for extra nutrition and satisfaction. Sometimes I serve the za’atar roasted cauliflower salad with whole grain pita wedges. They’re also a great addition!
However you serve this flavorful salad, I hope you’ll enjoy it.