Roasted cauliflower salad is a creamy and delicious dish you can make with little effort and simple ingredients.
Our recipe has no bacon, mayonnaise, or dairy; we roast the cauliflower florets with olive oil and toss them in a creamy-dreamy tahini lemon dressing.
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Creamy, smoky, earthy, nutty, and tasty, this cauliflower salad is a Mediterranean-inspired recipe that will leave you nourished and satiated for a long time.
Roast the cauliflower florets in the oven or air fryer with heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, until tender-crisp and slightly charred outside to get a pleasantly smoky flavor.
Mix the roasted cauliflower with chickpeas to add a mild hearty flavor and make the cauliflower salad more nutritious and fulfilling.
Toss everything in a finger-licking creamy-dreamy tahini and lemon dressing that will coat every nook and cranny of the roasted cauliflower, making it the best-tasting veggie in the world.
Sprinkle with a big handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley, toasted almonds, red pepper flakes, and another generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice to make the best cauliflower salad recipe you'll ever have.
This is our favorite way of making a salad with cauliflower because it's creamy, tasty, healthy, and packed with vitamins, antioxidants, healthy fats, and wholesome plant protein. We hope you'll like it too!
Pick a large fresh cauliflower head. Frozen cauliflower is not the best for this recipe because it gets soggy, watery, and soft.
To roast the cauliflower, you'll need extra virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper. You can roast the cauliflower in the oven or the air fryer. It takes about 30 minutes in the oven and 15 in the air fryer.
Chickpeas are our legume of choice for this cauliflower salad recipe because they go very well with roasted cauliflower and the tahini lemon dressing.
You can add canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or dry chickpeas that you cook at home.
We toast the chickpeas on a pan before adding them to the salad because they taste a lot better this way. We use olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika to toast them.
If you go for dry chickpeas, soak them for 8 to 12 hours in plenty of water with a teaspoon of baking soda. Then change the water and boil then for about 2 hours. Some chickpeas might take a little longer than that. Taste them to be sure they are ready.
We add a legume to increase the protein content of the dish, making it more nutritious and satiating.
You can substitute white cannellini beans or lentils for chickpeas.
Fresh flat-leaf parsley is preferable to curly parsley because it has more flavor, is less coarse, and is the variety people use in the Mediterranean countries.
You can also use fresh dill or chives, finely chopped.
Nuts and cauliflower are a great flavor match. Also, nuts add a nice crunch that otherwise would be missing in the cauliflower salad.
We recommend using toasted almonds as they are a perfect flavor match with the other ingredients, affordable, and easy to find.
You can substitute hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan, and pine nuts for the almonds. It's best if you toast the nuts first. Toasted nuts are more crunchy and tastier.
Toast the nuts on a pan for a few minutes, moving them around. Or in the oven at 340°F or 170°C for about 8 minutes.
Red pepper flakes
We like to add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes for light spiciness.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice is another key ingredient we use twice in this recipe. First, in the tahini dressing, to add freshness and cut the creaminess of the tahini. Second, we squeeze it on top of the salad.
The roasted cauliflower, coated in the tahini sauce, can take quite a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice to balance out its rich, creamy, and smokey taste.
So make sure you have a couple of lemons at hand because this salad won't be the same without extra lemon juice squeezed on top at the last minute.
Tahini sauce is a simple yet delicious dressing for many salads and veggie-based dishes.
Ours is the authentic recipe for tahini sauce, and we make it with tahini imported from Lebanon and made with 100% hulled sesame seeds. Then we add freshly squeezed lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt, and water.
Note: the quality of your tahini will make all the difference here. Try to get one made with 100% hulled sesame seeds. It should also be pretty runny, not thick like a paste, and have a light color. Ideally, tahini should come from a country like Lebanon or Palestine. We find that those are the best!
Diced cherry tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, and chopped red bell pepper are our favorite add-ins for this cauliflower salad recipe.
They add freshness and a hint of sweetness. Also, their bright red color looks beautiful with the earthy colors of the cauliflower salad.
Olives would also be a good add-in, or some pickles like cucumbers or onions.
Step 1: Roast the cauliflower
Preheat the oven to 390°F or 200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Wash the cauliflower head, with a paring knife cut off small florets and dry them with a kitchen towel. Transfer them onto the baking tray and toss with olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
Tip: you can also chop up the stem if you like, or save it to make cauliflower rice.
Bake for 20 minutes, then turn them around and bake for 10 more minutes or until tender-crisp and slightly charred.
Step 2: Make the tahini dressing
While the cauliflower roasts make the tahini sauce. To a small bowl, add tahini, freshly squeezed lemon juice, water, salt, and pepper.
Whisk until the ingredients are well combined, then add a crushed and peeled garlic clove. Give it another stir and set aside.
Tip: crushed garlic is more than enough to add a mild garlic flavor to the tahini dressing. We advise against grating the garlic in the sauce because it ruins its creaminess and the garlic overpowers the dressing and the dish.
Step 3: Toast the chickpeas
This step is optional; however, if you want to make your cauliflower salad extra tasty, we recommend it.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then add them to a nonstick pan with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, black pepper, and a teaspoon of paprika.
Toast on medium heat for 10 minutes, moving the chickpeas around often.
Step 4: Build the salad
Let the cauliflower cool down for 10 minutes, then add it to a large bowl with the other ingredients: toasted chickpeas, toasted and chopped almonds, chopped flat-leaf parsley, tahini sauce, red pepper flakes, and some more lemon juice.
Toss gently but well, taste, and adjust for salt and lemon juice before serving.
You can serve this Mediterranean cauliflower salad as a starter, lunch, or side dish. You can also make it ahead and bring it to potlucks and picnics.
Roasted cauliflower salad is best served at room temperature, so if you store it in the fridge, take it out 15 to 30 minutes before eating.
Our favorite way of serving it is as an appetizer with other delicious Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern recipes. Try making a large platter with some of our:
- Baba ganoush or eggplant salad
- Creamy-dreamy chickpea hummus
- Zaalouk or Moroccan eggplant salad
- Delicious avocado spread
- Tomato bruschetta with basil and garlic
- Tabbouleh salad or Shirazi salad
- Moroccan carrot salad
- Greek Tzatziki sauce
Add something red
Chopped cherry tomatoes, diced red bell peppers, chopped red onion, or pomegranate seeds are a perfect addition to this salad.
They add a beautiful bright red color that contrasts with the green and earthy browns of the cauliflower salad. They also bring freshness and a touch of sweetness, making this salad even more delicious.
Cauliflower lentil salad
Cauliflower lentil salad is another Mediterranean-inspired salad we make with roasted cauliflower and lentils.
In this recipe, we use a fresh and bright dressing we make with ground cumin, freshly squeezed lemon, minced garlic, and olive oil.
Needless to say, those flavors together make for a scrumptious and irresistible dish. Check out our cauliflower lentil salad recipe.
Air-fried cauliflower salad
If you own an air fryer, it's a no-brainer. Air fry the cauliflower instead of oven-roasting it, and you can make this recipe in under 30 minutes.
Preheat the air fryer for 3 minutes at 390°F or 200°C. Add the cauliflower florets to a bowl and toss them with olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
Add the florets to the air fryer basket. The florets can overlap in the basket.
Air fry at 390°F or 200°C for about 15 minutes, shaking the basket every 4 minutes to ensure even cooking.
This recipe is suitable for making up to 4 days ahead. However, from the second day, the dressing might have dried up, so we recommend adding some freshly squeezed lemon juice before serving it.
Store cauliflower salad leftover in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. We do not recommend freezing this recipe.
Yes. Cauliflower is consumed widely in most Mediterranean countries.
It's best to cut cauliflower into bite-size florets to use in salads.
Cauliflower comes from the Mediterranean region; some suggest from Cyprus, an Island in the Mediterranean.
The name cauliflower comes from the Italian word "cavolfiore," which means cabbage flower from "cavolo" or cabbage and "fiore" flower.
It depends on how you cook the cauliflower. To preserve most of its nutrients, it's best to microwave, roast, air-fry, or steam the cauliflower.
The gentlest is microwaving, preserving almost all antioxidants.
Boiling and pressure cooking will result in some loss of nutrients as vitamins and minerals leach into the cooking water (although it is better to eat boiled cauliflower than no cauliflower at all as only about 14% of nutrients will be lost).
Yes. Our roasted cauliflower salad is gluten-free, dairy-free (no sour cream, cheddar cheese, or other cheese), and without eggs.
Our trick to add flavor and a creamy texture is to use a delicious finger-licking tahini dressing, toasted chikpeas, and other wholesome ingredients.
More Salad Recipes
If you love salads, you might also like some of our other delicious salad recipes:
- Carrot salad with crunchy vegetables
- Chickpea quinoa salad for a boost of plant-based energy to keep you satiated
- Winter fennel and orange salad like they do it in Sicily
- Healthy and crispy tofu salad with endlessly creamy tahini dressing
- Green Bean Salad with mustard dressing and red onion
- Juicy tomato salad with heirloom tomatoes
- Roasted sweet potato salad with fresh vegetables and feta
- Crunchy red cabbage slaw with walnuts for a must-eat winter salad
FOR ROASTED CAULIFLOWER
- 1 large cauliflower (about 2½ pounds or 1.2 kg)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 twists black pepper
FOR TAHINI DRESSING
- ⅓ cup tahini made with 100% hulled sesame seeds, light-colored
- ⅓ cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ teaspoon salt
FOR TOASTED CHICKPEAS
- 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 twists black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
- ⅓ cup almonds toasted and chopped, or slivered
- ½ cup flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large lemon the juice, to squeeze on top of the salad
STEP 1: ROAST THE CAULIFLOWER
- Preheat the oven to 390°F or 200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.Wash the cauliflower head, cut off small florets and dry them with a kitchen towel. Transfer them onto the baking tray and toss with olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then turn them around and bake for 10 more minutes or until tender-crisp and slightly charred.
STEP 2: MAKE THE TAHINI DRESSING
- To a small bowl, add tahini, freshly squeezed lemon juice, water, salt, and pepper.Whisk until the ingredients are well combined, then add a crushed and peeled garlic clove. Give it another stir and set aside.
STEP 3: TOAST THE CHICKPEAS
- Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then add them to a nonstick pan with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, black pepper, and a teaspoon of paprika.Toast on medium heat for 10 minutes, moving the chickpeas around often.
STEP 4: BUILD THE SALAD
- Let the cauliflower cool down slightly, then add it to a large bowl with the other ingredients: toasted chickpeas, toasted and chopped almonds, chopped flat-leaf parsley, tahini sauce, red pepper flakes, and some more lemon juice.
- Toss gently but well, taste, and adjust for salt and lemon juice before serving.
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I love everything you’ve used in this recipe! Sounds so delicious and hearty. Nice job. I will be making this! It would be wonderful on pasta as well I think.
Wonderful, Joan! I'm so happy you feel like making the salad 🙂 It would be great with pasta - and it's also quite amazing with toasted bread or a serving of rice. Happy cooking! Kindest, Louise