Step aside, whole roasted cauliflower, because we need to take a moment to talk about the magic of these cauliflower steaks with smoky chipotle-cashew salsa. This cauliflower steak is super savory, but kept vibrant with plenty of lime and fresh herbs. And the textures! Tender cauliflower with crispy edges? Buttery, crunchy roasted cashews? It's phenomenal.
You're probably here because you saw this recipe on a PBS show or in a magazine. I'm so glad it caught your eye--it's my recipe! I developed the recipe in a past life, when I was a senior developer for that New England-based food media company. I've adapted and improved it for publishing here (for FREE, no paywall!), but it is indeed the recipe you're looking for! Enjoy! xoxo
As much as I truly enjoy a dramatic whole roasted head of cauliflower (like this gorgeous recipe with gochujang by Hetty McKinnon), I often prefer slicing my cauliflower into "steaks." In part it's the visual drama: I love seeing the gorgeous browning spread along the branched, tree-like pattern of the cauliflower slabs. But I also love the flavor of deeply caramelized cauliflower, and slicing the head increases surface area for optimal browning. It also makes it easier for seasoning to penetrate each bite.
A Case for Eating More Cauliflower Steaks
There is something so satisfying about the texture of cauliflower. It’s dense and hearty, but with a distinct buttery tenderness. Its stems tend to have a more delicate outer surface than broccoli, and its denser florets are able to take on a delicious amount of browning without shriveling to a crisp. It really is the perfect centerpiece to a meal, and its buttery flavor is so easy to customize! Sometimes I really like eating with a knife and fork (as opposed to just a fork or spoon), and a big hearty cauliflower steak really scratches that itch.
Tip: Make sure you cut your slabs of cauliflower thick enough. A thickness of 1½-inch will help make sure there is enough core for the florets to hang on to. It also is the ideal thickness for balancing cooking rate with the rate of browning. By the time your cauliflower steaks are tender, you also want them to be deeply browned, but not burned. If your slabs are too thin, they are more likely to get too soft by the time you achieve that beautiful brown color. It’s better to err on the thicker side.
Smoky Chipotle-Cashew Salsa Macha
When you combine the almost buttery flavor of well-roasted cauliflower steaks with smoky-spicy chipotle cashew salsa, it's pure heaven. The acidity of the lime juice and the fresh, fruity aroma of the zest wake up the deeper flavors of the steak, while the nutty-savory ingredients boost the savoriness of the cauliflower's crispy edges.
Any nut or seed will add extra crunchy texture, but there is a decadent tender-crunch that is unique to cashews. In my opinion, that buttery crunch is a key pairing with the texture of the cauliflower. You can chop the cashews up as finely as you want, but I personally like to keep the texture fairly uneven. That results in a good balance of small bits that cling and larger chunks that keep their character.
Roasting vs Searing Cauliflower Steaks
I like both pan-searing and roasting cauliflower, but I usually lean towards roasting-- it's easier to cook multiple cauliflower steaks at once. Plus, it frees you up to whip up a salad or some other side! You can certainly get more fancy with the seasonings when roasting, but I really like to keep it simple, especially when pairing with a punchy sauce: just salt, pepper, and a good dose of paprika.
Changing up the flavors: If you are in the mood to get a bit creative, the options are limitless! How about your favorite curry powder, paired with a peppery arugula salad? Or, maybe you're in the mood for more of an American Thanksgiving flavor. Try Bell's poultry seasoning, or make your own blend with ground sage, ground bay, and dried thyme. Serve that with honey-glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, and blanched green beans for a cozy holiday meal! (Bonus points for a mushroom gravy and cranberry sauce.)
A note on spice level: The salsa overall is a solid "medium" heat level. If you're sensitive to heat, use just one chipotle, and make sure to seed it. Keep the adobo sauce quantity the same. If you're looking for a fiery salsa, increase to 3 chipotle chilies and leave the seeds in.
If you only have raw cashews, give them a quick toast in a 350°F oven before proceeding with the recipe. It should only take a few minutes, but the texture and flavor payout is huge. Roasted cashews have a crisper texture when compared to the denser raw cashews. The toast will also help activate the flavor, drawing out depth and extra nuttiness.
For roasting the cauliflower, neutral oil is best thanks to its higher smoke point. Any unrefined oil will get smoky and acrid at 450°F. For the chipotle cashew salsa, the heavier flavor of olive oil would interfere with the flavors of the sauce. The oil acts as a carrier rather than a key flavor component. Not only is a neutral oil the ideal choice in each component, it's much tidier to only call for one type of oil for the whole dish!
You can. It will taste slightly different-- there is something magical about the way lime and chilies support each other! But lemon juice will get the job done and still be very tasty.
Yep! That is my recipe, too. This version has been adapted to be more user-friendly, and it's free instead of hiding it behind a paywall.
Looking for more spicy, vegan and vegetarian recipes?
Cauliflower Steaks with Smoky Chipotle-Cashew Salsa
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus ~1 teaspoon zest, From 1 lime
- 1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
- ¾ cup roasted cashews, chopped, Either salted or unsalted
- 1 to 2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce, See Notes
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
- 8 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 medium cauliflower heads, trimmed and leaves removed
- Cilantro leaves
- Lime Wedges
- Preheat your oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
- Step 1In a small bowl or jar, combine the lime juice, zest, and garlic. Set aside at least 10 minutes to let the garlic mellow. Stir in the cashews, chipotles and adobo, cilantro, 4 tablespoons oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- Step 2Place the cauliflower heads on your cutting board stem down, then cut each one in half vertically. Cut a 1½-inch thick slab from the center of each half. You should end up with 4 "steaks," held intact by the core. Save the remaining florets for another meal.
- Step 3Brush all sides of each steak generously with the remaining oil, then arrange in one layer on your prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper. Sprinkle the blend over all sides of the cauliflower steaks, including the edges.Transfer to the oven and bake, flipping once halfway through, until well-browned and the cores are tender when pierced with a toothpick or paring knife, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve topped with the salsa, extra cilantro, and lime wedges.
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