When I find myself more excited about a side dish than the main course, I naturally begin thinking about ways to turn that side into the main event. That’s the origin of this whole roasted cauliflower–tender and almost buttery cauliflower, slathered in aromatic red curry and finished with a bright and herbaceous cilantro-lime gremolata. The tendrils of steam as you slice through the tender florets, wafting complex and savory aromas, are guaranteed to make mouths water and bellies grumble!
Roasting whole heads of cauliflower really had a moment in 2021/2022. It’s trendy for a reason: it’s delicious, easy, and gorgeous to behold. I’ll sometimes cut it into hearty wedges to serve, but I often enjoy just plunking it down whole, and carving it table-side like a roast.
One of my favorites to drool over is in To Asia, With Love (Hetty McKinnon), a sassy gochujang cauliflower nestled into a bed of smushed butter beans (photo here). I’m not claiming Hetty pioneered roasting cauliflower whole, but I certainly have to credit her for getting my own creative gears turning.
Pre-made Curry Pastes: A Shortcut to Big Flavor
Using a deeply aromatic spice paste as your base is the perfect way to maximize flavor with minimal fuss. Just one spoonful is packed full of flavor and character. If you have the bandwidth to make your own paste, I’m jealous! I usually reach for one of the many fantastic pre-made pastes. Red curry, massaman, green curry, laksa paste, rendang… My go-to is a red curry, but pick a paste that tastes good to you and suits your mood!
Maximize Aroma and Texture: Tomato Paste and Coconut Oil
A touch of tomato paste is an easy way to add some sweetness and acidity. Many curry pastes are deeply savory and benefit from a second, balancing ingredient. The natural sugars in tomato paste also caramelize when roasted, creating even more depth.
Oil in general helps promote browning. In this recipe it also helps loosen the texture of the curry paste, which can be quite thick and hard to brush on the cauliflower. Some curry pastes have a higher oil content than others, but it’s always helpful to add a bit more oil as an insurance policy. Any oil will work, but I particularly like the subtle sweetness of coconut oil in this recipe.
Complementary Contrast: A Cilantro Spin on Gremolata
Gremolata is an herby Italian condiment that is usually just parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. It’s a fantastic finishing touch that cuts through and balances rich flavors.
For this recipe, I’ve put my own spin on gremolata, instead using cilantro and lime to complement the aromatics in most store-bought curry pastes. Feel free to swap out the cilantro for something like mint, if that’s what herb you like with your particular curry paste.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower Makes a Statement with Zero Effort
Practically no knife work, and the cooking itself is hands-off. And yet…What a visual impact! Whole roasted cauliflower is one of the ultimate vegetarian/vegan crowd-pleasers, but is hearty enough to satisfy your stubborn meat-eating friends.
One of my favorite brands for curry pastes is Mekhala, a woman-owned vegan company. I also adore the red curry paste from Homiah, but not all of their pastes are vegan. Choose based on what’s available to you and what tastes good. If a small taste straight from the jar is bleh, your final dish will be bleh. Make sure you like it before you commit to it.
Looking for more cauliflower recipes?
Pan-Seared Cauliflower and Gnocchi in Lemony Miso-Butter Sauce
Cauliflower Steaks with Smoky Chipotle-Cashew Salsa
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Cilantro-Lime Gremolata
- 1 small cauliflower head, about 1¾ to 2 pounds
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2-3 tablespoons curry paste, such as red curry
- Kosher salt, to taste
For the Cilantro-Lime Gremolata
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- Zest of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- Pepper, to taste
- Step 1Preheat your oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.Trim the base of the cauliflower, removing any tough outer leaves. Make sure the base is flat, so that the cauliflower head can stand upright.
- Step 2In a small bowl, mix together the oil and 2 tablespoons of the curry paste. If your paste isn't naturally salty or savory, add salt to taste. It should taste savory and intense, but well-balanced. If your cauliflower is on the larger side, you may need to use an additional tablespoon of paste. Smear all over the cauliflower head. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and bake until a thin skewer or knife can pierce through to the core with very little resistance, 50 to 60 minutes depending on the size of your cauliflower.
- Step 3While the cauliflower roasts, make the gremolata. Mix the garlic with the lime juice and set aside at least 10 minutes, to allow the garlic to mellow. Mix in the remaining gremolata ingredients, adjusting salt and pepper to taste.
- Step 4Let cool briefly on the tray. Cut into wedges or serve whole at the table for dramatic effect. Serve with the cilantro-lime gremolata.
This post may contain affiliate links. There is no cost to you, but if you buy something from these links I may earn a small commission, which helps keep my stove hot and small pantry stocked–thank you!