Whole Roasted Cauliflower

A stunning main or side dish, this whole roasted cauliflower is tender, delicious, and simple to make. A quick harissa sauce adds bold flavor.

Whole roasted cauliflower

Let’s make a whole roasted cauliflower! This veggie “roast” might be my all-time favorite dish to make for a dinner party or a holiday meal. It’s simple (the oven does most of the work for you!), it can pass as a main dish for some folks and as a side for others, and it looks so impressive at the center of the table.

And this whole roasted cauliflower recipe doesn’t disappoint on taste either. Thanks to a long, two-part roast, it’s beautifully browned on the outside and meltingly tender to its core. I’ve included instructions for roasting it plain in the recipe card below, but you also have the option of dressing it up with the vibrant, harissa-based sauce pictured here. This sauce is quick and easy to stir together, and it adds rich, earthy, smoky flavor to the whole roasted cauliflower. I think you’ll love it!

Whole roasted cauliflower recipe ingredients

Whole Roasted Cauliflower Recipe Ingredients

First thing’s first: to make this whole roasted cauliflower recipe, you’ll need a cauliflower! Choose a medium-sized one weighing about 2 pounds. A slightly smaller or larger cauliflower head will also work fine, but note that you’ll need to adjust the baking time accordingly.

If you want to roast it plain, you’ll need olive oil to help it soften and brown in the oven and salt and pepper for seasoning it.

If you’re making the sauce, you’ll also need these ingredients:

  • Mild harissa – I like the Mina harissa brand.
  • Ground cumin – For earthy, savory flavor.
  • Smoked paprika – For smokiness.
  • Dried thyme – It adds fresh, woodsy, citrusy flavor.
  • And red pepper flakes – For heat.

Either way, you’ll want lemon wedges and fresh cilantro for serving.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Brushing sauce over head of cauliflower

How to Make a Whole Roasted Cauliflower

You can find the complete recipe with measurements below, but here’s a quick overview of the process:

  • First, make the sauce. It’s super simple to stir together! Skip this step if you’re making the plain version.
  • Next, prepare the cauliflower. Remove any tough outer leaves, and use a sharp knife to carefully cut off the bottom of the stem so that the cauliflower sits flat. Place it in a cast-iron skillet and brush with 1/3 of the sauce. If you’re making the plain version, rub the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Now for roast part 1. Cover the skillet with foil and roast at 425°F for 30 minutes.
  • And roast part 2. Remove the foil from the skillet. If you’re making the plain version, drizzle the cauliflower with more olive oil at this point. Either way, roast for another 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender in the middle.
  • Season and serve. If you’re making the sauce version, remove the cauliflower from the oven and brush it with half the remaining sauce. Cut into wedges and serve with squeezes of lemon juice, fresh herbs, and the remaining sauce. If you made the plain version, serve the roasted cauliflower head with a sauce of your choice! Find some suggestions in the tips below.

That’s it!

Whole Roasted Cauliflower Recipe Tips and Variations

  • Use a two-part roast. This technique is key for getting the roasted whole cauliflower tender inside and browned on the outside. Roast it for 30 minutes covered, then uncover it and roast until the center is tender, for about another 30 minutes. Note that the exact timing will vary depending on your oven and the size of your cauliflower.
  • Add more sauce after baking. It gives the cauliflower a gorgeous glossy look and adds bold flavor. Serve with more sauce on the side!
  • Experiment with a different flavor profile. I love the harissa sauce I recommend here, but you can take this whole roasted cauliflower in plenty of other directions. Make the plain recipe, and serve slices with drizzles of turmeric tahini sauce or dollops of romesco sauce, fresh parsley, and toasted almonds. It’d be excellent with pesto, roasted tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts too.
  • Make it a meal. If you’re serving this whole roasted cauliflower at Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll likely have plenty of side dishes to round out the meal. But you can also make this whole roasted cauliflower a satisfying vegan main dish on its own. Plate wedges over herb-flecked farro and top them off with roasted chickpeas, or serve them on top of a swoosh of hummus or white bean dip. These bean-based spreads will add delicious creamy texture and a boost of protein to this plant-based recipe. Enjoy!

Whole roasted cauliflower recipe

More Veggie Main Dish Recipes

If you love roasting an entire head of cauliflower(!), try one of these veggie entrees next:

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower

rate this recipe:
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves 4
This whole roasted cauliflower recipe is a delicious plant-based main or side dish! I offer two variations here. You can roast the cauliflower in a flavorful harissa sauce, or you can roast it plain (see the notes below). For either option, find serving suggestions in the post above.


  • 1 medium cauliflower, about 2 pounds, tough outer leaves removed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges, for squeezing
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish



  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Make the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the harissa, olive oil, cumin, paprika, thyme, salt, and red pepper flakes.
  • Slice the bottom of the core off the cauliflower so that it sits flat. Place the cauliflower in a cast iron skillet and brush the cauliflower with ⅓ of the sauce. Cover the skillet with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Uncover and roast for 30 more minutes, or until the cauliflower is fork-tender in the middle.
  • Remove from the oven and brush with half the remaining sauce. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze with lemon juice. Garnish with cilantro, slice into quarters, and serve with the remaining sauce on the side.


**For the version with no sauce, slice the bottom of the core off the cauliflower so that it sits flat. Place the cauliflower in a cast iron skillet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon sea salt. Use your hands to coat. Cover the skillet with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Uncover, drizzle with another 2 tablespoons olive oil, and roast for 30 more minutes, or until the cauliflower is golden brown on the outside and fork-tender in the middle.


5 from 5 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Linda Keller

    The tenderness and juiciness of the cauliflower were outstanding. I also loved not having to spend time dividing all those little flowerets.
    Since I don’t like things spicy, I omitted the harissa and red pepper flakes, added extra cumin, plus some garlic powder and tripled the ingredients. It all worked well. However, using lemon at the end was very important.

  2. Rodney Sykes

    5 stars
    Thank you for sharing this delicious whole roasted cauliflower recipe! I love the idea of serving it with a harissa sauce for added flavor. I’ll definitely be trying this recipe out at my next dinner party. It looks so impressive and I’m sure it will be a hit with my guests. The two-part roast method sounds like the perfect way to get the cauliflower tender on the inside and browned on the outside. I can’t wait to give this recipe a try!

  3. Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

    So glad you enjoyed it!

  4. R2Consulting

    wonderful receipe of roasted cauliflower, its too delicious and east to make.

  5. Cemre

    I love cauliflower, it will be nice to eat in this style, I love to shape these kinds of dishes.

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Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.