Editors' Picks

Dan Barber's Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Purée

February 13, 2013

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.

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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

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Laura McCloskey
    Laura McCloskey
  • allans
  • DragonFly
  • Nora-Leah S.
    Nora-Leah S.
  • mary moos
    mary moos
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Laura M. November 29, 2017
Tried this recipe. Didn't come out right. Decided I am not really a cauliflower person - though I have always loved vegetables. Will need to give it another 'go' at it soon.
allans April 8, 2015
Not only was this excellent, it was easy and beautiful. Have made it several times.
DragonFly February 8, 2014
Looks so good, I can't wait to try this. I'm on a "everything cauliflower" craze right now!
Nora-Leah S. May 16, 2013
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!
mary M. March 24, 2013
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.
Leslie H. March 4, 2013
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.
Amanda W. February 25, 2013
I made a 'paleo' version of this with coconut milk and a little fresh basil for the puree. It was excellent!
Inko February 25, 2013
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.
Ole A. February 21, 2013
Add grated nutmeg to the pureé - makes it taste like bechamél sauce, it's delectable!
saltandserenity February 19, 2013
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!
Alicia V. April 16, 2013
That sounds awesome! Though I might go with a poached egg... Love poached eggs.
Margaret M. February 18, 2013
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.
Nancy C. February 18, 2013
This is fantastic and I can't wait to make it. Needs a drizzle of truffle oil...
MaSaBeMama March 3, 2013
great idea!
alex D. March 4, 2013
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 :)
misspettistew February 17, 2013
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.
Sweet G. February 17, 2013
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!
Kristen M. February 17, 2013
We love vegamals!
Sweet G. February 17, 2013
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?
Patrisha February 17, 2013
Looks awesome! Going to make this and use almond milk.
gluttonforlife February 17, 2013
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...
Auburn M. February 17, 2013
Wow - beautiful. Simple and elegant. I wasn't going to grow cauliflower this year, but I think you just made me change my mind.
allysahn February 17, 2013
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.
GrandmaGG February 18, 2013
Caper-raisin relish sounds like a great partner with this. Any idea as to what else was in it?
Kathy S. February 17, 2013
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.
Kristen M. February 17, 2013
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!
Sweet G. February 17, 2013
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.
esperago February 17, 2013
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.