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Dan Barber's Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Purée

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Every week -- often with your help -- FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Take one head of cauliflower. Add almost nothing. Serves two.

Cauliflower has all kinds of noble ends -- sleek soups, fritters, "couscous" -- but its most impressive feat yet is hidden away inside.

cauli head

If you carve two inch-thick planks from a cauliflower's middle, not only do these cross-sections hold together much better than you'd think, they look like a tree! A beautiful little oak you can fry up like a steak and eat.

  cut steak

There are plenty of cauliflower steaks out there on the internet, but I'm partial to this recipe from farm-to-table genius Dan Barber -- true to his mission, it's the fullest celebration of cauliflower's talents.

Dan Barber

He sears the steaks in a little vegetable oil, salt, and pepper and finishes roasting them in the oven, which gives them a deep brown crust. The remains of the cauliflower becomes florets that are simmered till soft in water and milk, then blitzed into a weightless white cloud.


He uses every part of the buffalo, as they say, and adds almost nothing to distract you. The cauliflower's sweet, subtle flavors are unobscured; its textures are at their best. He brings together the nutty crisped edges you get from roasting, and the unearthly creaminess of a purée (remember, whipping up cauliflower's natural pectin turns it creamy even without dairy).

full pot 


Of course, you could just make one part of this recipe or the other. If you wanted to stick with the steaks and top them with olive relish or gremolata, I for one have no problem keeping a tupperware of squeaky florets in the fridge for a satisfyingly punishing snack.

But there is something deeply appealing about slashing through your slab of cauliflower, and plunging it into the downy bed of puree -- like a chicken-fried steak surrendering to its cream gravy.

How to serve it? I admit it's not exactly a complete meal. So add a salad, maybe with some lentils or meaty lardons. Or serve it as a first course at a dinner party, before winey braised short ribs or a shank of some sort.

Or maybe with a side of cauliflower. Just kidding.

final plate

Dan Barber's Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Purée

Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit (February 2008)

Serves 2

One 1 1/2-pound head of cauliflower
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus additional for brushing
Salt and freshly ground pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.


Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom


More ways to work a cauliflower:

 roasted gremolata  bertolli's soup  moorish paella

Roasted with Gremolata Crumbs

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

Moorish Paella

Tags: genius, Dan Barber, cauliflower, vegetarian, winter, special diets

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Comments (34)


5 months ago allans

Not only was this excellent, it was easy and beautiful. Have made it several times.


over 1 year ago DragonFly

Looks so good, I can't wait to try this. I'm on a "everything cauliflower" craze right now!


over 2 years ago Nora-Leah S.

i made this the other night and it was so easy and good. had to grill the cauliflower longer than 2 minutes, and used almond milk in the puree. had other ideas to make pineapple steaks over yogurt/fruit puree and acorn squash grilled rings over squash puree. great recipe!


over 2 years ago Mary Moos

This is a spectacular and delicious way to serve califlower. I fix it regulairily for my husband who is not big on Veggies and it wows guests.


over 2 years ago Leslie Hill

Just made this for dinner, adding only a bit of fresh dill in the puree. Fantastic! Saved the extra cooking liquid for a soup since it was just too flavorful to toss out.


over 2 years ago Amanda White

I made a 'paleo' version of this with coconut milk and a little fresh basil for the puree. It was excellent!


over 2 years ago Inko

I thought this sounded beautiful but bland. So I found a recipe on your website for Indianish mint sambal with cauliflower. I used the sambal recipe with this cauliflower recipe and it was delicious and beautiful. I made it a full meal by cooking some chard and roasting some chick peas in the oven as I prepared the cauliflower. The greens looked pretty with the white and the chick peas added some crunch and protein.


over 2 years ago Ole Andreas Hoen

Add grated nutmeg to the pureé - makes it taste like bechamél sauce, it's delectable!


over 2 years ago saltandserenity

This version of roasted cauliflower truly is genius. The combo of the creamy puree with the crispy cauliflower "steak" was perfection. I took it to the next level of deliciousness and topped it with a fried egg!


over 2 years ago Alicia Van De Kop

That sounds awesome! Though I might go with a poached egg... Love poached eggs.


over 2 years ago Margaret McArthur

The brilliance of this recipe is the puree, not the steak. I did the Dan Barber pure version, and liked it. The leftover puree will be the base of mac and cheese. But necx time, I'm cutting loose and stirring red pepper, butter and parm into that divine puree.


over 2 years ago Nancy Cameron

This is fantastic and I can't wait to make it. Needs a drizzle of truffle oil...


over 2 years ago MaSaBeMama

great idea!


over 2 years ago Sandro Diazzi

Nancy that's how i do it. I drizzle a few drops of white truffle olive oil, and garnish the puree with parmesan crisps that you can make in 10 minutes :)


over 2 years ago misspettistew

I never cared for cauliflower until I found a similar recipe not too long ago. Now it's become a staple. The "steaks" also make a great sandwich filling: slide one into a pita pocket, add some hummus and greens -- delicious.


over 2 years ago Sweet Goose

I more than adore cauliflower. My husband cares for very few vegamals, as I like to call them. I will in any given week steam 2-3 heads at a time and eat cauliflower morning noon and night. About 10 years ago while watching Dennis Miller on HBO, he had a guest chef, Bob Blumer - Surreal Gourmet Bites, who roasted cauliflower. HOLY COW, my steamed cauliflower became roasted and my husband will actually eat it roasted. all the sugars caramelize and the edges get toasty and crisp. I use only a bit of canola or nut oil ( I can not have olive products, sigh) and a little salt or a bit of creole seasoning. Sometimes I add friends to the roasting pan, brussel sprouts, fennel, shallots, etc. Why I never translated that to the stove top is beyond me but cauliflower as a steak sounds beyond fabulous to me. Can't wait to try it out but I just roasted two head yesterday so for the next couple of days I will have to simply dream. Thank you once again for a divine vegamal recipe. You guys make my heart sing int he kitchen!


over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

We love vegamals!


over 2 years ago Sweet Goose

Just makes me happy saying vegamals! OF course I do get accused of anthropomorphizing too much in life, our dogs, the food we eat, furniture... But I think it makes me happy to give life and qualities to things that lack it, so what, right?


over 2 years ago Patrisha

Looks awesome! Going to make this and use almond milk.


over 2 years ago gluttonforlife

I had a version of this at Daniel Humm's Nomad, but it was a cross-section of broccoli. Some of the florets had been fried or marinated or dehydrated and were then reassembled. Amazing! Can't wait to try this somewhat easier version...


over 2 years ago Auburn Meadow Farm 1

Wow - beautiful. Simple and elegant. I wasn't going to grow cauliflower this year, but I think you just made me change my mind.


over 2 years ago allysahn

This looks amazing. A restaurant I went to years ago used to serve a cauliflower steak with a caper raisin relish. The contrast between the tangy relish and the roasted cauliflower was really fantastic.


over 2 years ago GrandmaGG

Caper-raisin relish sounds like a great partner with this. Any idea as to what else was in it?


over 2 years ago Kathy S.

Love the roasted cauliflower steaks. But, seems a lot of liquid to puree the rest. I generally steam cauliflower when I plan to puree it, just to keep the liquid at a minimum. Otherwise, I find the puree can get too mushy/runny. A Tlbs. or 2 if needed of warm cream can go a long way. And I like to addition of cumin. Great idea.


over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thanks for bringing this up Kathy S. You only reserve some of the liquid for pureeing, but, to your point, Dan Barber's original version actually called for drying the cooked florets in the oven for 10 minutes at 250F as well. I didn't love cleaning the baking sheet after that, so I tried pureeing with 3/4 the liquid instead and still loved the results. Hence, the very slightly adapted recipe!


over 2 years ago Sweet Goose

I always line my baking sheet with a sheet of foil when I bake my vegamals. I bake them so often and those baking sheets are unwieldy in the dishwasher. Makes clean up a whiz.


over 2 years ago esperago

Top rate recipe, although I made mine with almond milk. My wife dislikes cauliflower but thoroughly enjoyed this take on it. Said it was the best cauliflower she'd ever had. Thanks for posting the recipe.


over 2 years ago barbara960

I had this at Blue Hill, and it was wonderful. I can't wait to make it at home.