Sheet Pan

Sheet Pan Chicken and Cauliflower Bake

January 31, 2017
39 Ratings
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
Author Notes

Nearly three years ago Molly Wizenberg wrote a blog post on Parmesan-roasted cauliflower, a recipe she discovered from Bon Appétit one that, as the magazine promised, would become her go-to. The process is simple: Toss a head of cauliflower florets, a few unpeeled garlic cloves, and a sliced onion with olive oil, salt and a few thyme sprigs. Roast in a hot oven, and after 30 minutes, when everything—the florets, the onions, the garlic—begins caramelizing, sprinkle it with Parmesan and cook until the cheese melts, forming what Molly describes as “lacy, frico-like webs and shards.”

Molly offers a few ideas on how to serve the cauliflower, including tossing it with pasta or spooning it into bowls and topping with a fried egg. She also notes you could just eat it, and “call it a meal,” the title of her post. For years, I called it a side dish, and rarely strayed from the recipe. But since discovering the beauty of the sheet pan supper, I used the recipe as a jumping-off point, adding spices to change the flavor, and chicken to make it a more complete meal.

The seasonings in my recent variation evoke shawarma, a Middle Eastern street food typically prepared on a vertical rotisserie with lamb or chicken, which cooks for hours. Everything comes together in about the same amount of time as the original recipe, the only additional work being making a spice mix and buying chicken. It’s simple: First, rub the cauliflower and onions with a mix of toasted cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and cayenne. Roast for 30 minutes, then add boneless, skinless chicken thighs (rubbed in the same spice mix) to the sheet pan, and cook for 10 minutes more. By the end, just as in the original recipe, the cauliflower and onions caramelize, becoming meltingly tender and irresistibly sweet. As the chicken thighs cook, moreover, they release their juices, which seep into the vegetables, making them even tastier.

Serve this mix of smoky, spicy chicken and vegetables with naan and a lemony yogurt sauce, and call it a meal—a new go-to sheet pan meal.

A Few Tips:

- If you have a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, toasting whole cumin and coriander seeds will impart better flavor—fresher, smokier, earthier—than pre-ground. Toast the seeds in a small skillet over medium-high heat until they turn light brown and smell fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Grind in a mortar and pestle with the smoked paprika and cayenne. This step requires just a few more minutes of time and effort, but the scent and flavor are worth it. I also like the visual appeal as well as the texture of the partially crushed seeds coating the vegetables and meat.

- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts could be substituted for the thighs. To use boneless breasts instead of thighs, check them after 8 minutes—depending on their size, they may take more or less time than the thighs.

- This could certainly be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken—the spiced onions and cauliflower are irresistible on their own. You could use a mix of cauliflower, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, or any of your favorite roasting vegetables.

- Some sort of sauce is essential. A cooling Greek yogurt sauce, whose tang so nicely complements the sweet vegetables, works particularly well here, but you could also use a tahini sauce or an herby sauce with a good amount of acidity. To make a simple yogurt sauce: Stir together 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Taste and adjust with more salt or lemon to taste. Another delicious sauce option is this: Yogurt-Tahini Sauce.

Note: This is not traditional shawarma, which is typically made with chicken or lamb and cooked on a vertical rotisserie for hours, then sliced thinly. —Alexandra Stafford

Watch This Recipe
Sheet Pan Chicken and Cauliflower Bake
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
  • Neutral oil, for greasing
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2.5 lbs pre trimming), cut into florets, large florets halved or quartered if necessary (see photo above as a reference)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds or ground cumin, see notes above
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds or ground coriander, see notes
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about 1.5 lbs.
  • Lemon wedges, flatbread, and yogurt sauce (see notes) for serving
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF and position a rack in the center. Rub a sheet pan with about a teaspoon of neutral oil. Place cauliflower florets and onion on top. Season all over with a teaspoon of kosher salt and pepper to taste, and 3 tablespoons of the oil.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and cayenne. (If using whole seeds, see notes above.) Pour half (about 1 tablespoon and a scant teaspoon) of this mixture over the cauliflower. Use your hands to toss the cauliflower and onions evenly with the oil and spice mix. Transfer pan to the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, tossing once after about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place chicken thighs in a large bowl. Season all over with salt (at least another teaspoon). Add the remaining spice mix, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and minced garlic. Toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature while vegetables roast.
  4. Remove the sheet pan from the oven. Toss everything around. Nestle the thighs around the vegetables. Return pan to the oven and cook for 10 minutes—if thighs are large, they may need 5 more minutes or so. Cut into one to check. Remove pan from the oven and let everything rest on the sheet pan for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, stir together the yogurt sauce (see notes), warm up some bread, cut the lemons, etc. When chicken has rested, transfer it to a platter to cut or cut directly on the sheet pan, taking care not to ruin your pan. The chicken should be in 1- to 2-inch cubes or so—about the same size as the cauliflower. Return chicken to sheet pan or to a serving platter along with the cauliflower. Toss everything together. Taste. Adjust with more salt and pepper if necessary and squeeze a lemon over everything, if desired. To serve, spread flatbread with yogurt sauce, nestle chicken and cauliflower inside, and eat taco-style. Alternatively, serve the flatbread on the side and eat with a knife and fork. Serve lemon wedges on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Naomi
  • Anne Horrocks O'Connor
    Anne Horrocks O'Connor
  • C
  • Elizabeth  Athens
    Elizabeth Athens
  • JanaH
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

    108 Reviews

    zesteedaveed November 3, 2020
    My family has been using this recipe since it came out. We LOVE it! It's super easy. I also brought it to college with me. There, I would make it for friends or put it in containers for the week (meal prep style). I like to add diced sweet potatoes to contrast the spice. We've also made it a few times with tofu instead of chicken. It works just as well!
    pattiebrown52 November 3, 2020
    Love the idea of sweet potatoes as an addition. I have added carrots before and it was a great addition.
    pattiebrown52 September 24, 2020
    This recipe is a keeper! Made this for dinner tonight with chicken tenders, yellow cauliflower and onions. Served with white rice. After reading through the reviews, I followed the suggestion of mixing everything together and used a baking dish instead of a sheet pan. Didn't have the ingredients to make tahini yogurt sauce so served it with some homemade leftover ranch dip which was surprisingly good with it. Only thing I would do next time is use two onions instead of one and hope to be able to have the ingredients to make the tahini yogurt sauce to go with it.
    pattiebrown52 September 24, 2020
    This recipe is a keeper! Made this for dinner tonight with chicken tenders, yellow cauliflower and onions. Served with white rice. After reading through the reviews, I followed the suggestion of mixing everything together and used a baking dish instead of a sheet pan. Didn't have the ingredients to make tahini yogurt sauce so served it with some homemade leftover ranch dip which was surprisingly good with it. Only thing I would do next time is use two onions instead of one and hope to be able to have the ingredients to make the tahini yogurt sauce to go with it.
    Samantha September 2, 2020
    So easy and delicious! I used a baking dish as others recommended, which made it super easy to give everything a stir about 10 minutes in (my thighs needed about 15-17 minutes total). I added some red pepper flakes, but otherwise followed the recipe and served with crusty bread. Don't skip the squeeze of lemon at the end or the yogurt sauce--that tang shouldn't be missed.
    Naomi July 12, 2020
    I absolutely loved this. I was worried about using pre-ground spices but there wasn't a mealy texture. I followed the recipe as exactingly as I could but my cauliflower was only half the size I needed so I supplemented baby carrots for the remaining half, and I don't have smoked paprika so I used 1 tsp regular paprika and 1 tsp turmeric. The half a large walla walla onion I had was superb, so sweet and it soaked up so much of the flavor. I used 6 chicken thighs of varying sizes so I tacked on an extra 5 minutes, then flipped them for another 5. Altogether the chicken cooked for 20 minutes, on top of the 30 minutes the veggies cooked alone. It was perfect. I served this with saffron rice cooked with cumin seeds and will definitely do this again. So easy and delicious!
    Rita June 30, 2020
    I’d really only been looking for a quick passable weeknight dinner, and this ended up being really delicious. It’s flavorful and comes together quickly, and I love that you don’t have to chop up raw meat (my least favorite prep). I didn’t have flatbread or plain yogurt on hand, so with lemon wedges on the side, this ended up being filling for hard-shell tacos.
    June April 19, 2020
    Very good. Made with bone-in drumsticks, used ground spices, cut back on cayenne, and added four small potatoes. Served with the yogurt sauce and whole wheat pitas. My cauliflower was just over two pounds, smaller than specified, but I didn't have room on my sheet pan for more than about half. Likely partially due to adding potatoes but I wonder if my pan is full size because everything was squished together more than should be. I know cooking times have already been thoroughly discussed, and I'd already planned to cook the chicken more than ten minutes, but the time for the cauliflower was, to me, too long. Thanks for the recipe!
    Marion April 15, 2020
    Not good. Will not make it again
    Brad H. May 17, 2020
    Care to expand on this?
    Anne H. April 14, 2020
    This recipe was great and my family loved it. Will definitely make again. Substituted chicken breasts for thighs, cut the them into smaller pieces, and cooked the chicken with the cauliflower. Also substituted red chili powder for cayenne for a bit more heat.
    Beth February 18, 2020
    Wow this was so good! So much better than I expected and EASY!
    C January 13, 2020
    100000 stars!
    Dana M. March 29, 2019
    wow! this is good. Great flavor and the right amount of heat. Heated and ground the spices as suggested. Love the tahini-yogurt sauce, too!
    Goo March 21, 2019
    Love, love, love! So easy and incredibly delicious....YUM! Great for a quick weeknight meal. I also baked everything together in a casserole for 30 - 40 minutes. I also cut the chicken thighs into 3rds so they would cook evenly with the cauliflower. Served over a lemon couscous with tzatziki and naan.
    Elizabeth A. February 18, 2019
    Delicious! Similar to other reviewers the chicken took longer than suggested, despite using smaller boneless thighs. I also suggest putting the chicken in with the veggies. Next time I will bake it in a casserole dish so more of the juice is saved. We paired it with Israeli couscous, lemon juice over it, and homemade tzatziki, and whole grain pita on the side. It was a GIANT hit.
    JanaH February 13, 2019
    We really enjoyed this. I used the shawarma blend from World Spice in Seattle which made it a lot easier!
    Stacey M. January 14, 2019
    This is a favorite regular recipe in our household. Our whole family loves it even those who thought they didn't like cauliflower!! My question is, where is the nutrition information? I'm watching calories and can't find then anywhere.
    Jeanie P. January 9, 2019
    I just love this recipe so much! We added chickpeas, served with brown basmati rice, and topped it with lemon yogurt sauce and pickled red onions. Delish!
    Lauren B. December 17, 2018
    Made this last night - and just wow! Served it with a choice of naan or rice and yogurt sauce. This dish really packed the flavor and was a hit with everyone - even the picky eaters! I ended up using more chicken than recipe called for and it was perfect. Would use more cauliflower again next time to make up for it. In addition used a casserole dish instead of a sheet pan and it just made everything so tender and juicy!
    Kristen H. December 3, 2018
    This was amazing! Made with a yogurt sauce and got rave reviews. Recommend serving it with naan.
    Steve December 2, 2018
    Stumbled across this recipe today and based on my wife’s rave reviews and demands that I make this again, this recipe is a keeper! We eat low carb so didn’t do the yogurt sauce and bread but next time we will definitely do that. I put the chicken in with the cauliflower and everything came out just right at 30 minutes. Kitchen clean up was painless as well.