Cast Iron

Fried Cauliflower Sandwich

October 31, 2013
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 2 sandwiches
Author Notes

Crispy fried cauliflower, garlicky greens, salty-sour peppers, and gooey provolone cheese. I got the idea for this sandwich from a Serious Eats post on the Boston restaurant Strip-T's Fried Cauliflower sandwich. —Laurie

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Crunchygooey is a food blogger living in Minneapolis. And with a name like “crunchygooey,” she must be a sandwich aficionado.
WHAT: Two hot-ticket salad items get covered in melty cheese and transported to your mouth via ciabatta bread.
HOW: Slice the cauliflower into thin steaks, then pan-fry them in olive oil until brown and crispy. Wilt some kale and garlic in the still-hot pan, then stack everything atop toasted rolls, blanket with provolone, and broil until the cheese melts.
WHY WE LOVE IT: A kale and cauliflower salad is good. A kale and cauliflower sandwich is better. Much better. This sandwich, though vegetarian, doesn’t shy away from bold flavors. It makes perfect sense to crisp up mild cauliflower and layer it with earthy kale and sharp peppers, yet the combination feels new and punchy. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 head cauliflower
  • 2 cups lacinato kale (or similar)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (approximately)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 ciabatta rolls (or similar good, crusty white bread)
  • 2 tablespoons pickled banana pepper rings
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  1. Trim the cauliflower, leaving the core intact, and cut into 1/4-inch slices (don't worry if they don't stay perfectly intact -- as long as the have a relatively "flat" side they should brown up nicely). Set aside.
  2. Slice the kale into thin ribbons and peel and mince the garlic. Set aside.
  3. Pour enough oil in a heavy fry pan so that it completely coats the pan's bottom and will slightly edge up the sides of the cauliflower pieces when you add them. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it's very hot, add the cauliflower slices and let them sizzle, untouched, for 4 to 5 minutes (you may need to adjust heat so that they cook long enough to get brown and cook through). Flip the slices and cook them for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with a little salt.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the kale and garlic to pan. Cook in the residual pan heat for a minute or two until the greens are wilted, then scrape onto a plate.
  5. Turn the oven broiler on. Split and toast the ciabatta rolls. Take the two bottom halves and layer on the fried cauliflower slices, then the greens, and lastly, the peppers. Top with 2 slices of cheese and broil in oven just until melted. Top with the other ciabatta halves and enjoy.
  6. Note: I highly recommend using a cast-iron skillet if you have one. If you don't, they cost about $12 at your local hardware store. Otherwise, choose a very heavy pan so you get a nice crust on the cauliflower.
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44 Reviews

bettinashoe January 1, 2021
I made this for dinner a few nights ago. Both my husband and elderly neighbor (who both are meat eaters) absolutely loved it. I didn't have any pickled banana peppers at the house so I substituted bread and butter pickles (the only crunchy condiment I had on hand) and, surprisingly, it made for a really nice flavor combination. The browned cauliflower was simple yet came alive with the addition of the garlicky greens. This will definitely be one of my "go to" recipes from here on out.
kschurms December 9, 2019
very good, but a little bland. to jazz things up i seasoned the cauliflower with cumin/paprika and added some lemon juice/vinegar to the kale. i had a sliced deli provolone but next time i'd use something sharper.
cmcrawford2011 January 24, 2019
Delicious! I had some homemade pesto in the fridge that i slathered on . . . Even better
Trina C. November 18, 2018
This recipe is great! My daughter doesn't like banana peppers, so we use fried capers instead. However, this sandwich is so good that it has made it into our dinner rotation.
Laurie November 19, 2018
So great to hear—love the capers idea...same salty, briny tang.
nicole September 5, 2018
In an effort for no waste Kitchen I actually use the leaves from the cauliflower head for this. They work great. Love this recipe.
Laurie September 6, 2018
My hero! I never thought to eat the cauliflower leaves.
Shayna September 3, 2018
So simple and so satisfying. Husband loved it, which is amazing because he couldn't fathom a sandwich without meat.
Miles L. December 23, 2015
I made this using Follow Your Heart vegan provolone cheese and it was fantastic!
Jesse P. October 27, 2015
Made this a few nights ago. I thought it was great. I'll definitely be making this again. Loved the garlicky kale.
Laurie November 9, 2015
Good to hear! Sometimes I double the kale and eat it on a slab of toast kind of like a big, gooey salad.
Nancy September 7, 2015
Success with this sandwich!
I made it tonight for my husband and I for a picnic. I heated it cubano style with my flat top burner and pressed a heated heavy skillet over it. The melted provolone sealed the cauliflower to the sandwich. Nothing fell out of it. It knocked my husband's socks off. We shall be making this again.
The provolone is very mild for me though. I may do a mix of sharp gouda and provolone next time. Good idea or other suggestions?
Laurie September 8, 2015
Yeah! I've made it with feta and it's pretty darn good. So glad it worked out for you.
michelle K. May 4, 2015
We make something similar but drench the cauliflower in egg wash before frying then sprinkle with (a lot of) salt. Never tried sliced presentation though! Great idea!
Amanda U. February 15, 2015
Made this for a lunch today on a bitter cold Sunday and it was such a delight. We didn't have banana peppers so I subbed sport peppers, one per sandwich, chopped up to distribute their heat. I also used gruyere instead of provolone, which was fine...but next time (and there will be a next time) I'll go for provolone as you suggest. Yum!
Akiko December 20, 2014
I made this sandwich for our Saturday lunch. It was wonderful :) We are big fans of cauliflower but didn't have idea to use like this. Thank you for the great recipe!
Laurie December 20, 2014
Happy to hear (and love your profile picture:)
susan December 11, 2014
Totally agree with boomdog02.....
Bread my cauliflower, and fry to crisp always. Use broccoli rabi , dressed of course, and sharp provolone! YUM!!
ArtoriusRex November 3, 2014
I made this for dinner tonight and loved the idea more than the actual result. Each of the ingredients was tasty in isolation, but I couldn't get my cauliflower to caramelize enough to get a crunch on it even using a preheated cast iron skillet at pretty high heat for an extended period. It didn't really sing like a GREAT recipe should.

What this combination of ingredients would really scream in would be a take on a panzanella salad with the cauliflower roasted in the oven first and then tossed with some chunks of diced bread, a soft cheese, and a garlicky dressing.

Keep challenging us with stuff like this though.
Laurie November 7, 2014
Panzanella always sounds good—thanks for giving this a try!
Stephanie October 30, 2014
Okay, this is amazing. Like the best way in the world to cook cauliflower. And I love the stuff. I usually roast it with cumin and black mustard seeds. Now, I do this. I had my first batch as a cauliflower sandwich (as bread), with the kale and garlic & provolone in the middle. My finicky daughter, who likes cauliflower only raw or in soup, and only in small amounts, couldn't stop eating it. I made more plain cauliflower for both of us.
Re the oily: make sure your pan is really hot, consider a little bit of breading (I had some leftover mix of cornmeal and garlic powder from a potato recipe and sprinkled it on), and don't worry about using enough oil for it to crawl up the sides of the cauliflower. It's soo good whether it gets cruncy or not...
Laurie October 31, 2014
I have got to try a little breading on this—sounds like a good idea. Glad you and your daughter like this! I've been experimenting with frying broccoli too and it's a little trickier because of the delicate flower to tough stalk ratio, but still tasty.
B N. October 24, 2014
Do you think I could broil the cauliflower (oiled, salted) instead of frying? Tried this tonight and it was quite delicious, but the insane mess on my stove just isn't worth the frying to me. Not sure what it was about this specifically, but the splatters went way beyond what I typically experience.
Laurie October 25, 2014
I think I might try higher heat roasting, i.e., 400 degrees so the cauliflower gets tender and brown. I think broiling might leave it too raw. If you try it, let me know how it works. I don't recall getting a particular mess on the stove with this, other that the usual fry splatters. Was the cauliflower wet? Glad you like it though! Thanks
B N. October 28, 2014
I would love to try it in the oven, will report back (hopefully) soon :). My mom and I tried to figure out what went wrong here, speculated that moisture in cauliflower may have done it or that maybe our heat was too high? Cauliflower browned nicely though. Skillet was cast-iron, pretty basic, who knows! It was a pretty epic mess. Not that I don't experience those somewhat frequently in the kitchen...
Lindsey E. October 21, 2014
Yum! I'm going to be doing a month of cauliflower recipes over at next month! This was great inspiration! Xo, Lindsey
Laurie November 7, 2014
Sounds ambitious (and delicious)—I'll check it out!
geekchorus October 19, 2014
Fantastic recipe. BUT it's incredibly unhealthy to use extra virgin olive oil (which is, of course, what most foodies keep on hand) at this high heat. Don't get all caught up in the "toxins" debate. Any oil becomes somewhat toxic at it's "smoke point"--in other words, when it BURNS. If you want to cook this way with olive oil you need to use extra light. Or use another high-heat oil. This chart lines up will with good research:
Kathy Y. October 19, 2014
I'm madly "In love"...can't wait to try, thank you :)
Boomdog02 October 19, 2014
Philly cauliflower steak anyone? Wit wiz and onions of course!