Just the Cauliflower Facts, Ma’am

Just the Cauliflower Facts, Ma’am

This Just the Cauliflower Facts, Ma’am: We’ve Done the Detective Work! Learn How to Cook Cauliflower & Pick Up Some Creative Cauliflower Recipes! post includes affiliate linksWhen I find a great product or service, I like to share it with my readers. Sometimes I use affiliate links so I can earn a commission for my recommendations. Thank you for your support!

We’ve Done the Detective Work! Learn How to Cook Cauliflower & Pick Up Some Creative Cauliflower Recipes!

Want to know one of the best foods for vegan cooking? If you guessed cauliflower, you’re right!

Cauliflower Facts

Cauliflower is an ingredient that seems to make its way into my recipes on a regular basis. It’s not only a good-for-you-ingredient, it’s also incredibly versatile. Cauliflower blends into soups, whips up into a mashed potato alternative, makes a kick-ass chicken wing substitute (seriously… you’ve got to try my baked cauliflower wings with buffalo sauce) and provides the “meat” behind many of my vegan Chinese food dishes. Heck, you can even rice cauliflower.

In this post, we’ll dive into this low-calorie, nutrient-dense food and talk about the benefits of cauliflower, how to cook cauliflower and, finally, we’ll wrap up with some of the most creative cauliflower recipes out there.

What Is Cauliflower?

Well, you may not have guessed it, but cauliflower is actually a member of the mustard family. If you want to test that, taste one of the leaves (they’re edible!).

Cauliflower is an annual, cool weather crop, making it a great way to warm up as the weather cools in the fall. Think cauliflower rich soups, luscious mashes and cozy casseroles.

Usually only the head of cauliflower is consumed, but both the leaves and the stem are edible. Consider blending the stem into soups and sauces or roasting the leaves with a little bit of olive oil and salt to avoid wasting any part of this deliciously versatile vegetable.

What Color is Cauliflower?

Cauliflower is well known as a white vegetable, but it also comes in a variety of different colors, from orange, to green to purple. As you might expect, orange cauliflower contains more beta carotene, while green cauliflower (also called Romanesco) gets the prize for the prettiest known vegetable. Purple cauliflower contains more anthocyanins – the same flavonoids that make blueberries blue and raspberries red!

Cauliflower Facts: What is Romanesco?

Is Cauliflower Good for You?

You bet! Cauliflower is low in fat & calories, high in fiber and is 92% water, which makes it a great way to fill up on a healthy ingredient. Because of its high fiber/water content, some diets cite cauliflower as a good mechanism for losing weight. But that’s not all that this vegetable brings to the table.  

Cauliflower is high in B (B9 and B6), C and K Vitamins, which means it helps your body clot blood, fight off free radicals, build bones, metabolize and form red blood cells.

Cauliflower Facts

If you are on blood thinners, be sure to consult with your doctor before adding cauliflower to your diet. The high levels of vitamin K could react adversely with medication that you are taking.

Cauliflower is also high in antioxidants, specifically isothiocyanates and glucosinolates, which are believed to play a role in reducing the risk of cancer. Certain cooking methods are better than others in delivering these health benefits, so be sure to keep on reading to learn how to cook cauliflower.

Cauliflower Facts: Is Cauliflower Good for You?

So, what does all this mean? Well, we talked about antioxidants’ role in preventing cancer, but did you know that cauliflower’s high fiber, low fat and high vitamin content also helps to decrease the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes? Not bad for a vegetable, huh?

What Does Cauliflower Taste Like?

When eaten raw, cauliflower has a sometimes sharp, mustard flavor. When cooked, cauliflower becomes more mild. Personally, I like to roast cauliflower (and often do before making it into soups and sauces) because it takes on a sweet, slightly nutty flavor.

How to Shop for Cauliflower

When shopping for cauliflower, look for a firm head with bring green leaves. The head should not have any dark spots or markings.

When you get it home, store the unwashed cauliflower in the refrigerator and plan on using it within 5 days.

How to Prepare Cauliflower

When you first cook with cauliflower, you might consider it a bit unruly. But it’s easy to get cauliflower into a more manageable size (by this I mean breaking the head into cauliflower florets).

Start by washing the cauliflower thoroughly. I also like to take a vegetable brush and give the head a good scrub. Then by remove the leaves and place the cauliflower on a cutting board, stem side down. Slice it directly down the middle into two halves. Then slice those halves in half again. Finally, use your knife to cut out the thick stem. From there, it should be easy to separate the cauliflower into individual florets.

Cauliflower Facts

If you notice any bugs, don’t panic! These little aphids won’t hurt you. They’re just not appetizing. This sometimes happens with just-picked, farmer’s market cauliflower. To get rid of them, give your cauliflower a good dunking in cold water. The bugs will drown and sink to the bottom.

How to Cook Cauliflower?

There are so many ways to cook cauliflower. You can roast it, steam it, fry it and boil it. It’s also great pickled. Seriously. You heard it here first. As you’ll see below, I get into the nitty gritty on different cooking techniques. But first…

Cauliflower Facts: How to Cook Cauliflower

What Is the Healthiest Way to Eat Cauliflower?

As I mentioned earlier, cauliflower is high in both antioxidants, but certain preparations reduce their levels. Boiling, as is the case with many foods, has a tendency to leech valuable nutrients from foods. This is the case with cauliflower. Because of this, steaming, microwaving and stir-frying are considered better ways to prepare cauliflower.

How to Steam Cauliflower

Steaming can be done over the stove with a steaming basket (just make sure that cauliflower isn’t in contact with the water) or in the microwave.

Steaming over the stove with a steamer basket takes about 4-6 minutes once the water is boiling. Less time produces a crisper floret (great for making into cauliflower wings); while steaming longer makes the florets soft (perfect for mashing).

While microwaving tends to get a bad rap, it’s actually a great way to good vegetables and preserve the nutrients. It’s best to work in small batches when steaming cauliflower in the microwave.

Add the cauliflower to a microwave-safe bowl just after rinsing. Cover the bowl with a plate or microwave safe lid and then cook on high for one minute. Test the florets with a fork and continue microwaving for 20 second intervals until the desired tenderness is achieved.

Cauliflower Facts

Can you boil cauliflower instead of steaming it? Some blogs include steaming cauliflower in a covered pot with a small amount (1 inch) of water in the bottom. Rather than using a steaming basket, the cauliflower sits in the shallow water. This will achieve the desired effect (soften, steamed cauliflower) but will result in some of the nutrients being lost in the water.

How to Roast Cauliflower

As I said above, roasting cauliflower tends to be my favorite way to cook cauliflower. So much so, that I will sometimes take the time to roast cauliflower before blending it into a savory soup or creamy sauce. Roasting cauliflower brings out so much of its wonderful, sweet, nutty flavor.

I recommend roasting cauliflower at a high temperature (450º). High temps prevent vegetables that have a high-water content from steaming in the oven and becoming mushy. Rather, you’ll be left with a crispy, golden exterior.

To roast cauliflower, first break it into small florets and toss it in a couple of tablespoons of high-temperature tolerant oil (I like safflower oil). The small size will help to ensure that the cauliflower is cooked through. Then spread the cauliflower out on a baking sheet and sprinkle it with salt. Roast on the middle rack for 25-25 minutes, pausing to flip the florets half-way through.

How to Stir-Fry Battered Cauliflower

After I’ve steamed the cauliflower, I batter it with a 1:1 ratio of flour & water. Then I add the lightly dipped (and fully dripped) battered cauliflower to a very hot wok with as little oil as I can get away with. Then I toss it until it is crisp.

To make this work, it’s important to work in small batches. Too much battered cauliflower in the wok will lead to steaming and thwart attempts at that deep-fried-esque texture. Likewise, I do recommend a wok because it provides plenty of space to keep the cauliflower moving. And, finally, that wok needs to be hot. This is what makes battered cauliflower so crispy.

How to Air Fry Battered Cauliflower

When air-frying, I always preheat my air fryer. I want it to be hot in there before I add my cauliflower.

I lightly oil the grate of my air fryer and then add the lightly dipped (and fully dripped) battered cauliflower to it. I give it a light spray with a high-temperature tolerant oil (check out this non-aerosol spray oil dispenser) then I put it in the air fryer for 6-8 minutes, checking it as it cooks.

Vegan Staples: Stock Your Pantry with Vegan Essentials

I’ve tried a few different air fryers and I prefer those that have a long, flat surface that allow for a single layer of food to be air fried. I own the Cuisinart Convection Toaster Air Fryer and it produces great air-fried food (and offers a way to bake some items without having to warm an entire oven). If you don’t own an air fryer, a convection oven also works well. Set the temperate at 425º and bake the battered cauliflower for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy, stopping to flip the cauliflower halfway through.

How to Pickle Cauliflower

Move over pickled cucumbers, there’s a new kid in town. Pickled cauliflower.

I’m a big fan of refrigerator pickling. I almost always have a jar of pickled red onions in my refrigerator. But onions and cucumbers aren’t the only vegetables that are well-suited for pickling.

In the summer, when I’ve been outside hiking or biking and come home craving something salty, pickled carrots, beets and yes, cauliflower, are so satisfactory. To pickle cauliflower, you can follow my recipe for quick pickled vegetables here.

Creative Cauliflower Recipes

Now that you’re full of cauliflower facts, it’s time to take this new knowledge and plate it. With some creative cauliflower recipes, that is. Here are some of my favorites:

Chinese Cauliflower Recipe Air Fryer General Tso Cauliflower Recipe

General Tsos Air Fryer Cauliflower

This Air Fryer General Tso Cauliflower dish highlights how Chinese cauliflower recipes can be a great way to adapt your favorite dishes to a plant-based diet. I like to substitute cauliflower for chicken in many of my old-favorite Chinese food recipes. The texture is so satisfying and cauliflower is a healthy option, especially when air fried.

Vegan Croutons: Up the Ante on Your Vegan Soups & Salads with this Vegan Crouton Recipe

Roasted Cauliflower & White Bean Soup

A few days ago, I was thinking about food. You’re shocked, I’m sure. Anyway, I was thinking about what I wanted for dinner specifically and I had this huge, undeniable craving for cauliflower soup. That’s right… of all things, I really wanted a big bowl of creamy, roasted cauliflower soup.

So, I did what any sane person would do and drove to the grocery store for some roasted cauliflower soup ingredients. As I walked the aisles of the store, some new ideas came to me: what if I upped the ante and made it roasted cauliflower and white bean soup? And then, what if I add homemade vegan croutons? But not just any vegan croutons, but basil pesto baked croutons.

Crispy Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich

Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich

If you’ve ever encountered the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich, you’ll know that I had no choice but to create the vegan version. This recipe goes out to my husband and my friend Erin G. — two of my favorite people who are fans of this Southern-fried fare.

Crispy Cauliflower Vegan Tacos

Crispy Cauliflower Vegan Tacos

Vegan tacos just got a little bit yummier! These crispy cauliflower vegan tacos have all the delights of a fish taco without the fish! The cauliflower lends itself to that satisfying crunch, while the purple cabbage slaw, fresh tomatoes and sliced avocado make for a colorful, healthy vegan dinner.

About Herbivore’s Kitchen

Kate Friedman Herbivore's Kitchen Headshot

Herbivore’s Kitchen is a plant-based food blog started by me, a vegan home chef, cookbook author, aspiring food photographer and how-to-be-a-better-food-blogger junkie. You’ll mostly find creative and tasty vegan recipes and detailed deep dives into vegan ingredients (check out my Vegucation section) on my blog. I love knowing as much as I can about the food that I make. I’m also really into running a food blog as a business, so I’ve also got a section of my blog titled: Confessions of a Food Blogger where I get into the nitty gritty on how to build, manage, market and monetize a food blog.