Weeknight Cooking

How to Transform a Head of Cauliflower Into Dinner

October 15, 2014

Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, Gabriella Paiella shows us how to make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Cauliflower may not be the belle of the farmers market ball, but it's cheap and delicious.

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In the world of farmers market food porn, cauliflower doesn't stand a chance next to to vibrant red radishes and emerald-hued kale. It's white, lumpy, and unattractive. It's the Ron Jeremy of the greenmarket. 

But cauliflower is cheap -- a head typically runs about $3 and can yield enough florets for two to three meals. It can be cooked whole and presented as an impressive main dish (a non-Tofurkey holiday option for vegetarians), or transformed into endless soups and side dishes. Its initial visual blandness is its greatest strength: Cauliflower is a blank slate, allowing it to slip seamlessly into a variety of cuisines.

So pick up the least sexy crucifer of them all, and make some dinner -- here are a few cheap cauliflower recipes to get you started:

Fried Cauliflower Sandwich


Cauliflower Patties


Pasta with Slow-Cooked Cauliflower, Anchovies, and Garlic


Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup


Warm Vegetable Curry


Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce


Rustic Cauliflower Bake

What's your favorite way to cook cauliflower? Tell us in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Cecelia M. August 24, 2017
I made Shrimp "fried rice "with riced cauliflower...delicious!!
Lori C. July 7, 2015
Our personal favorite: http://www.food.com/recipe/pasta-with-spicy-cauliflower-and-walnuts-395884
Nadananda May 11, 2015
Anuradha S. March 27, 2015
I like to make this Indian recipe:
Cauliflower Rice Recipe/ Cauliflower Pulao or Pilaf (Indian style)
Ingredients needed
Basmati rice - 2 cups
Cauliflower - 1 medium sized
Onion - 1 big
Tomato - 2 big and juicy ones
Peas (fresh or frozen) - handful (optional)
Ginger - 1 inch piece finely chopped/minced
Garlic - 3 cloves minced or finely chopped
Green chilli - 1-2 finely chopped ( optional -depending on how hot you can take it)
Salt to taste
Spice Powders:
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 1-2 tsp ( to your heat level)
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Biryani masala powder OR Garam Masala powder- 3/4 tsp (available ready made in Indian Stores or on Amazon)
For the seasoning
Oil - 2 tbsp
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Whole Cloves - 2-3
Cardamom - 1-2
Bay leaf - 1-2
Wash and soak basmati rice in water for 30 minutes. Drain the water completely.
Finely chop onions, green chilli, ginger and garlic.
Chop the tomatoes finely.
Heat oil in a pan and add the ingredients mentioned under seasoning.
Then add finely chopped onions and saute until it turns golden brown.
Then add the ginger, garlic, green chilli and saute for a few more minutes.
Add tomato puree, turmeric powder, salt needed, remaining chilli powder, coriander powder, biryani masala powder and cook until the raw smell is gone and the oil separates. Now add the cauliflower. Mix everything well and simmer for a few more seconds so that everything gets blended well.
Add almost 4 cups of water give it all a stir to mix . Cover with a lid and cook until the rice is done and water is evaporated.
Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and serve with a cup of fresh yogurt
Delicious Cauliflower Pulao is ready!

Gayle I. March 22, 2015
Aloo Gobi. It's Indian. Amazon has packaged spice mixes, though I haven't tried them yet.
Mary G. February 7, 2015
I beg your pardon. cauliflower is very expensive. it is very good for you too.
Robin January 19, 2015
I make mock popcorn shrimp with cauliflower. I actually like it better than real popcorn shrimp. All you have to do is par boil or steam smallish cauliflower pieces until tender (not soft!), and cool well. You can dust with garlic salt at this point, and use an egg mixed with water to dip them in, then roll in bread crumbs. You can chill in the fridge at this point until ready to fry in oil. Serve with spicy cocktail sauce. Yum! (Note: Make sure you cool the florettes before breading them or you may end up with scrambled eggs between your florettes!) These are great as cold leftovers with just a little salt.
Grateful C. January 18, 2015
My favorite cauliflower is a trimmed head, steamed and slathered in a mustard cheese sauce!
richard P. November 9, 2014
I have been making this for some time.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
1 large heavy Cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
1 large onion, diced
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups milk (I use low fat)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3/4 cup favorite grated cheese ( I have used cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan, asiago)
Steam the florets for 5 to 7 minutes
Saute the onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil until just starting to brown around the edges
Combine the Cauliflower and onion in a large bowl
In a medium sauce pan add 3 tbsp of olive oil and heat then add the flower and whisk to make a roux. When cooked for 1 minute add the 1/2 cup white wine and stir to combine and making sure there are no lumps then add the milk. Whisk continuously until thickened. Take off the heat and add 1/2 cup of cheese and whisk until smooth.
Pour white sauce over the onions and cauliflower add salt and pepper to taste and combine well.
Pour into a greased 9 x 12 baking dish
Combine the bread crumbs and 1/4 cup of grated cheese drizzle a little olive oil and mix until bread crumbs are moist. Spread over the gratin and bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes to brown the top. Enjoy
Corinna S. November 10, 2014
Thank you Richard! Can't wait to try it!
Corinna S. November 7, 2014
Does anybody have a Cauliflower Au Gratin or Gratin recipe? I'd really love to have one. Thanks!
Kmmanri October 20, 2014
My family has been making this recipe for years - and everybody that eats it asks for the recipe:
1 Whole cauliflower, trimmed of leaves
Large Pot of Boiling Water
1 Tbs. salt
1/2 C Real mayonnaise
1/2 C Dijon Mustard
Juice 1 Lemon
1/2 C grated Parmesan

Blanch the cauliflower for
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a baking dish or casserole large enough to hold the cauliflower.
Boil water, add salt, and blanch the entire head of cauliflower for 2 minutes. Drain and run the cauliflower briefly under cold water, drain completely before placing in baking dish.
Whisk the mayo, Dijon and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Pour the mix over the top of the cauliflower, using your hands to coat the sides. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan all over. Bake for about 30 -40 minutes, until the surface is nicely browned.

Paul H. October 19, 2014
I roast the florets tossed with cumin, coriander and turmeric, and serve it with a lemony tahini sauce, toasted almond flakes and lots of parsley leaves. It used to be a side dish but it's so good that now I just make it by itself.
richard P. October 19, 2014
I make a cauliflower gratin which is so simple. Great flavors. I also make a french version of the cauliflower soup. I have made Bartoli's which is wonderful, but prefer my version which is much simpler and less ingredients. I love the fresh flavor of cauliflower!
Miche October 19, 2014
fewer ingredients than olive oil, onion and cauliflower?
richard P. October 19, 2014
yes, I will post the recipe this evening
Miche October 19, 2014
richard P. October 20, 2014
Finally found the recipe. I have to make the soup today to confirm the measurements so I can post. Will get it done today! Sorry for the delay.
Jaime C. October 19, 2014
I have used it to make fried "rice", paella, cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower quiche crust. www.parisbrunchclub.com if you love food and live in Paris!
christine October 19, 2014
I roast it either in a cast iron pan or in the oven. Cut into small florets, drizzled with olive oil, lots of fresh garlic, turmeric, garam masala, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, fresh lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Sometimes I add peas at the end too.
oh so yummy!
Elizabeth S. October 19, 2014
Simmer the florets in seasoned milk. Roast 4 large baking potatoes. Mash insides of potatoes with cauliflower and some of the milk. Add some minced flatleaf parsley. Stuff the potato shells. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 until hot and brown on top.
Elizabeth S. October 19, 2014
See recipe in today's NYTimes.
Diana G. October 19, 2014
sounds wonderful!
marsha October 19, 2014
love it raw or au gratin
Patty October 19, 2014
I roast a batch of cauliflower florets tossed in olive oil at 375 until browned and just tender. Cook some short pasta al dente (I like rotini or orchiette; don't forget to save a cup of pasta water!) and toss pasta in a large pan with the roasted florets and (preferably) homemade pesto. Add pasta water for a richer sauce and serve hot with extra parmesan reggiano to taste. Heaven!
zora October 19, 2014
I often do Ottolenghi's grilled cauliflower with cherry tomatoes, spinach, and caper-dill vinaigrette. Lightly steam cauliflower slices and then grill on stove top cast iron grill until they have grill marks and a lightly smoky flavor. Toss with vinaigrette and layer with other ingredients on a platter.
charlieb October 19, 2014
We've also turned it into "Cauliflower Parmesan" after slicing, breading lightly and frying it.