Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric-Tahini Sauce & Pistachios

March 22, 2018
15 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 12 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

From ABCV's chef de cuisine Neal Harden: "At the restaurant, we use specialized ovens, such as a combination oven (half steam, half heat) to start it, and we finish it in a wood oven for a smoky char. I definitely had to simplify that, but otherwise I mostly kept it the same. It has a pretty gratuitous list of garnishes, and I suspect many may choose to leave a couple out with little loss of deliciousness."

This recipe is a doozy, but don't let that intimidate you! (It's worth it.) Many of these components will yield more than is necessary for the recipe, and chef Harden would encourage you to go ahead and make those sturdy pickled pearl onions and dehydrated Kalamata olives to enjoy long after you've made this dish. Be sure to let us know how it goes.

Featured in: The Cauliflower Dish 100+ People Order Every Night (& How to Make It at Home!)Food52

What You'll Need
  • For the pickled pearl onions:
  • Set 1:
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • Set 2:
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 Thai chiles, split
  • Set 3:
  • 3 cups red pearl onions (white okay), halved lengthwise and peeled
  • For the whole roasted cauliflower:
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 medium head cauliflower (orange, if available)
  • For the pistachio-sesame condiment:
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo chile flakes
  • 1 cup raw pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • For the dried Kalamata olives:
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
  • For the turmeric-tahini sauce:
  • 2-inch piece peeled fresh turmeric
  • 1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chickpea miso or white miso
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 small shallot, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 large pinch garam masala
  • To serve:
  • 1 whole roasted cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon pistachio-sesame condiment
  • 1 teaspoon dried Kalamata olives, roughly broken up
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of herb mix (equal parts parsley chiffonade, mint chiffonade, and dill roughly chopped)
  • 5 to 6 thin slices finger (or Fresno) chili, seeds removed
  • 7 or more thin petals pickled pearl onion
  • 10 fresh pomegranate seeds
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 lemon slices
  1. Make the pickled pearl onions in advance: Bring Set 1 to a boil. Place Set 2 in cheesecloth and place in a large jar with Set 3. Pour hot Set 1 over Sets 2 and 3. Let cool, then seal and refrigerate. You will have the bulk of this pickle to enjoy long after this recipe is done.
  2. For the whole roasted cauliflower: Preheat oven to 400° F. Blend first 3 ingredients until smooth in a high-powered blender, like a Vitamix. Rub onto cauliflower head. Wrap in foil and bake for 45 minutes. Unwrap and roast at 375° F for an additional 20 minutes to brown and cook until fully tender. This may require more time based on size (for example, Romanesco cooks faster than other varieties). Check doneness by testing the tenderness of the bottom stem with a paring knife.
  3. For the pistachio-sesame condiment: Place all ingredients in a sauté pan and slowly cook over a very low flame until lightly toasted and the lemon zest is fully dried. Cool and reserve.
  4. For the dried Kalamata olives: Place drained Kalamata olives in a dehydrator and dehydrate on 160° F degrees overnight (alternately, you can dry roast on your oven's lowest/warming setting). Remove and chop. Reserve (you will have leftover dried olives that you can sprinkle over salads).
  5. For the tahini sauce: Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender, like a Vitamix, until very smooth. Strain through a chinois or fine strainer to eliminate any potential ginger hairs.
  6. To serve: Top hot cauliflower with pistachio-sesame condiment, olives, herbs, chiles, onions, and pomegranate. Finish with fresh black pepper. Serve lemons and sauce on the side. Stab a steak knife into the top if you so desire.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sue Helfand
    Sue Helfand
  • Elizabeth Bocka
    Elizabeth Bocka
  • Emilie Roper Smart
    Emilie Roper Smart
  • Jade DaRu
    Jade DaRu
  • epicharis

28 Reviews

Sue H. September 3, 2020
Great recipe only too much salt on the cauliflower!!! I cut it back to 2 teaspoons sea salt and that was too much! All in all I would make it again.
anjali August 26, 2020
Its looks like delicious I have tried the same recipe in this blog
Steve March 9, 2020
Hands down the best cauliflower recipe I have ever made. I used three heads of Cauliflower - purple, orange and white. The only thing I cheated on was I bought pickled onions and used those instead. This is the second time I made this. Tons of effort but that Tahini sauce is one of the most complex sauces I have ever had. Make sure you strain it through a fine sieve or you will get ginger hairs in the sauce. Made for 12 people, it was a huge hit. I even but a bowl of water in the oven for the last 15 minutes of the cook and then used my smoker to get the smoky char flavor. Well worth the effort....Thank you!
David H. February 25, 2020
This is, hands down, one of the best vegetable, vegan dishes I’ve ever tasted. It takes effort but the results are brilliant.
jess November 21, 2019
From Step 2- "For the whole roasted cauliflower: Preheat oven to 400° F. Blend first 3 ingredients until smooth." What are the first 3 ingredients?
Elizabeth B. November 21, 2019
From under: For the whole roasted cauliflower:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 medium head cauliflower (orange, if available)

So it's the olive oil, sea salt and lemon zest. :)
eveross November 20, 2018
I made this tonight - its a great presentation but I must have missed some secret in the sauce - it wasn't great. The cauliflower itself looked beautiful and is delicious but tons of work. I should have read the comments first and split it over several days......I used half sesame seeds, half tahini in the condiment it worked fine and spread easily and adhered after cutting.
Enjoyed eating it more than making it!
Tamarind May 31, 2018
I threw my first dinner party as a vegan with this cauliflower as the centrepiece, and it was such a HIT! Every one loved it, and it's changed my entire perspective of what cauliflower could be. Try it!
Elizabeth B. May 7, 2018
This was awesome! I skipped the pickled onions because I didn't have time and was determined to eat this for dinner. So much fun to make, so beautiful, and absolutely delicious! Gonna make the onions this week and do this again for mother's day! Thanks for sharing the recipe!
xhille April 3, 2018
Made this for Easter dinner with a few modifications... So good! Do yourself a favor and make your condiments and garnishes a couple of days ahead.

I doubled the cauliflower, but kept much of the recipe the same. I made the sauce a little differently to limit the amount of special ingredients we were buying (fresh turmeric and tahini are wonderful, but harder to track down in rural areas).

We ended up eating the onions with everything and by themselves.

I roasted two cauliflower heads, adding a minced clove of garlic to the rub. At serving time, we separated one head into florets to cover the platter, and placed the other head on top whole, and sliced most of the way down before garnishing. We used mini sweet peppers as part of the garnish rather than spicy. The sauce, when doubled (I added lemon juice, used powdered turmeric and sesame oil) would have overflowed the platter so we didn't use it all.... it makes a great salad dressing.

It was a lot of fun to make, and so pretty to serve. It was wonderful to have a vegetable dish for everyone to ooh and ahh over!
Kevin K. April 1, 2018
Leave it in, Emilie, at least for a while. You can always remove it at a later point if you wish.
Emilie R. April 1, 2018
Question about pickling the onions: Do you leave the pickling spice bundle in with the vinegar and onions in the jar forever or do you remove the bundle once it's cold?
judy March 31, 2018
Well. I got started on this, and life got in the way. So Isaved the condiments and thought I would make the next night. didn't;t get around to it. But had lots of sauce, so I thought I would use some for salad dressing. Mixed with some mayonnaise to soothe it out a bit. Used it on kale slaw. Felt it needed a sweet note, so balanced it with raisins and then pipits for crunch. then decided to throwing a few spoonfuls of the pistachio/sesame condiment. Let is sit for about 10 minutes after tossing.Wonderful salad. got lots of complements. So think outside the box with this. Didn't do the onions, as I didn't want to peel all those little onions. Uses some chopped green onions for a bit of a bite. I still have sauce and nuts left over. Plan to get to the cauliflower tonight. I am going to shut in florets, though . Seems to me that roaring whole just leaves the flavor on the very outside. Also, very long cooking time. I'm going to toss in the sauce and roast for 10-15 minutes. OF course, will not have the presentation value that cooking whole gives. But I hope to make up with more flavor. But this sauce is so good I am going to use it to cook my Easter lamb. Put some in the yogurt for marinating the shanks, then slow cook in the pressure cooker. Should be delicious. I have a lot of turmeric. I think I will make another batch of the sauce for further use to have on hand. So good on that salad! I used about 1 tsp garam masala, though.
judy May 5, 2018
Well, have since used up all the sauce. The lamb was AMAZING in this sauce. I braised lamb shanks. I mixed the sauce with a 1/2 cup of yogurt and marinated for about 10 hours, then slow roasted in the oven. Served with cauliflower florets tossed in the sauce and roasted. Sprinkled all with the pistachio-sesame condiment. This is excellent. Made more of the seed condiment, but used pepitas as did not have any more pistachios. Still try good, and a little more affordable. WE are enjoying sprinkled on a lot of different salads and meat dishes...
Jade D. March 29, 2018
This sounds exciting. I can't wait to try this. I'm particularly excited about the pickled onions...I love pickled onions and have never made them myself before. Could you also use small shallots?
Hana A. March 30, 2018
Hi Jade - I'm sure you could! I bet shallots would also be stunning with their lovely hue.
Morgan K. March 29, 2018
Looks great! How long would you say the pickled onions last?
Hana A. March 29, 2018
Hi Morgan! Homemade pickles can last at least a few weeks in the fridge, especially if tightly sealed and kept cold. They never last that long in our house though, where we pile them on top of sandwiches, tacos, salads, really anything that could use a little kick. Good luck!
epicharis March 28, 2018
We have split the prep work over days (pickled red pearl onions Sunday, dehydrated olives Monday, pistachio condiment Tuesday, tahini sauce today) so we can just put it all together tomorrow. I've noticed every component yields at least double what you need for the cauliflower. We have made everything exactly as specified except for the chickpea miso; we used white. I'll update tomorrow! Thanks for sharing this fascinating recipe. It's so absurdly complicated it's actually kind of fun. I'm excited!
Hana A. March 29, 2018
Hi epicharis! Wow, I applaud you! Chef Harden admits this is a bit of a project for the home cook, but I think that's what makes it fun, too (also, you can choose to sub in components as many home cooks are doing, while focusing on the whole roasting technique for the cauliflower). I'm sure you'll be enjoying the other components atop salads, grilled veg/meats for meals to come. Please report back after you enjoy it tonight!
epicharis March 29, 2018
I want to say it was unnecessary, the garnishes were gratuitous, it wasn't worth it...but oh my goodness, it was glorious. This is one of the best things I've made in a long time. Everything fits together beautifully; the olives, pomegranate arils and turmeric tahini sauce are DIVINE together. I have enough garnishes left over to do this at least three more times, and I very well might. We absolutely loved this dish. It's a tad time-intensive, but as people who do a lot of canning and infusing we had most of this on hand already. It's not bad at all when split up over several days. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! This is a new special occasion favorite for sure.
Hana A. March 30, 2018
Oh epicharis, you've made my day! Sounds amazing, and so happy to hear you enjoyed it (and the long process) so much!
Kevin K. March 26, 2018
Delish. Skipped the olives; used coconut aminos instead of miso; switched the pistachios to slivered almonds; skipped the pomegranate (out of season); used powdered turmeric and ginger in the sauce; used cilantro instead of mint.
Hana A. March 29, 2018
Sounds amazing, Kevin! I'm so interested in the coconut aminos, and the cilantro sounds perfect. Thanks for reporting back.
na March 25, 2018
In the turmeric-tahini sauc, is that sweet or mellow white miso? Is there a suggested sub for the pomegranate seeds?

Thank you!
Hana A. March 29, 2018
Hi na! I don't think there's a great substitute for pomegranate seeds, unless you can find them frozen? Perhaps macerated raisins or even raspberries would be nice. Here is a thread you can follow as well:

As for the miso, neither is specified, so choosing mellow versus sweet is up to your taste. Good luck!
Paula March 25, 2018
The tahini sauce - does it get poured over the cauliflower head and then spills over onto the platter or do you just our it on the platter around the cauliflower??
Hana A. March 25, 2018
Hi Paula! At the restaurant, it gets served alongside the dish in a small pitcher. In our test kitchen, our stylist poured it around the cauliflower on the same serving dish. Any way works, let us know if you try it out!