This shawarma-style roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce is a flavour-packed side dish to elevate any meal. Tender roasted cauliflower cooked in a shawarma-style marinade pair perfectly with creamy, tangy tahini sauce.
A sprinkle of almonds and pomegranate rubies adds a pleasing crunch, and a squeeze of lemon juice brings that balanced acidity we love so much.
This simple roasted cauliflower recipe is the perfect side dish for any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean meal. Or serve it with pita bread and a chopped salad for an easy midweek meal.
Why you’ll love roasted cauliflower with tahini
These shawarma cauliflower florets make a flavour-packed side dish that pairs perfectly with any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean meal. The shawarma-style marinade and the creamy tahini sauce make this simple cauliflower dish an instant crowdpleaser.
If you’re not convinced already, here are more reasons to love tahini roasted cauliflower:
- It’s easy to make: Mix the pantry marinade ingredients, pour it over the cauliflower and roast until golden while you whisk together the tahini sauce. You won’t need any special equipment or techniques for this recipe!
- It’s naturally vegan and gluten-free: The simple ingredients are plant-based, dairy-free and naturally gluten-free.
- It’s versatile: Serve the golden cauliflower florets warm on top of creamy tahini sauce for a vegan showstopper. Or mix it all together for a tahini and roasted cauliflower salad served at room temperature. Add grains for a wholesome bowl, or serve it with warm pita bread and a chopped salad.
- It’s so tasty: Most importantly, it’s utterly delicious. Sweet, smoky and creamy – the perfect side to boost any midweek meal. The tahini sauce also makes a super scrumptious salad dressing. You won’t regret making a double batch of tahini sauce!
Tahini cauliflower ingredients and substitutes
This marinated cauliflower recipe is not only super easy and truly delicious, it’s also very flexible. Use the spices you have at home to create your own shawarma blend or grab a shop-bought one.
- Cauliflower florets: You’ll need about 2 medium-sized cauliflower heads. Cut the cauliflower into individual florets and discard the core and stalks. If you’re short on time, you can also buy pre-cut cauliflower florets.
Shawarma-style marinade ingredients
- Olive oil: I use a good quality extra-virgin olive oil. But you can use your favourite oil for roasting.
- Apple cider vinegar: You can use white wine vinegar, rice vinegar or even a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice instead.
- Ground cumin: It adds an earthy and nutty flavour. You can also use whole cumin seeds and toast them in a dry skillet for a few minutes before bashing them in a mortar and pestle.
- Aleppo pepper flakes: This North-African chilli pepper adds some heat and a mild fruity flavour. Substitute it with red pepper flakes for more heat, or find the best Aleppo pepper substitute for your pantry. Or omit the chilli flakes altogether for a non-spicy shawarma mix.
- Sweet smoked paprika: It adds a smoky flavour and beautiful red colour. Use hot smoked paprika for more kick.
- Garlic powder: It adds a mild garlic flavour. But you can swap garlic powder for onion powder or a teaspoon of freshly minced garlic.
- Cinnamon: This adds a touch of warmth and depth to the marinade. You can also use Allspice instead.
- Ground turmeric: It adds a mild earthy flavour and a bright yellow colour that stains the cauliflower florets golden.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt, but you can use any type of salt you prefer.
You can also replace all the ground spices with 2 tablespoons of shop-bought shawarma spice mix if you have it on hand. Or change the spice ratios based on what you have available. It’s a very versatile spice blend.
Tahini sauce ingredients
- Tahini: I use a good quality tahini paste for the best flavour. If you can’t find tahini paste, you can make tahini from sesame seeds using a food processor.
- Water: It thins the tahini paste to create a creamy, spreadable sauce. Use cold water and add it gradually to achieve the desired consistency.
- Lemon juice: Use fresh lemon juice juice – you’ll need one or two whole lemons. You can add more freshly squezzed lemon juice for a zestier flavour – reduce the water accordingly. Or serve the roast cauliflower with extra lime wedges.
- Garlic: For the smoothest creamy tahini sauce, you can grate the garlic on a microplane. Or simply mince fresh garlic with a knife. You can also use a teaspoon of garlic powder instead.
- Salt: Use a pinch of salt to balance the flavours.
Toppings to serve with roasted cauliflower
- Pomegranate: I love the pop of colour from the pomegranate rubies. But you can also try cranberries if they’re out of season.
- Almonds: Flaked almonds add a pleasing crunch, but you can also use pine nuts or toasted sunflower seeds.
- Parsley: Vibrant green parsley adds that Middle Eastern touch. But the tahini cauliflower also pairs exceptionally well with fresh mint leaves. Or try it with cilantro.
How to make cauliflower with tahini sauce (step-by-step)
This easy roast cauliflower with tahini recipe consists of four main steps.
First, marinate the cauliflower, then roast the florets until golden and tender. As the cauliflower roasts, whisk together the tahini sauce, and finally assemble the tahini sauce and roasted cauliflower on a serving plate with the optional toppings.
Step 1: Marinate the cauliflower
Start by cutting two medium-sized cauliflower heads into florets, or buy pre-cut florets. Place the florets into a large bowl.
Mix the shawarma-style marinade ingredients in a small bowl.
Then pour the marinade over the cauliflower and mix until well-coated. I use my hands for this part.
Leave the cauliflower to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature – if you have the time. Or refrigerate overnight to get ahead.
Step 2: Roast the cauliflower
Preheat a conventional oven to 450 °F (230 °C). Once hot, add a rimmed baking sheet to preheat for 5 minutes.
Carefully arrange the marinated cauliflower florets in an even layer on the hot baking sheet. Place it on the middle shelf of the preheated oven.
Roast for 15 minutes, then stir and flip the cauliflower pieces to brown evenly. Return the cauliflower to the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes. The cauliflower should be golden brown outside and tender inside.
Step 3: Make the tahini sauce
While the cauliflower roasts, make the tahini sauce. Grab a small bowl, and whisk together the tahini sauce ingredients. For an extra smooth sauce, you can use a microplane to grate the garlic clove.
The mixture will turn grainy and thick before it turns smooth.
Just keep on whisking. Your tahini sauce should be thick and creamy for a spreadable sauce.
Add more water if your sauce is too thick, only a teaspoon at a time.
Taste and add more sea salt (or kosher salt) if needed.
Step 4: Assemble the dish
Spread the tahini sauce on a shallow serving plate, or use individual plates. Top it with roasted cauliflower.
Finish with parsley, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.
Tahini cauliflower serving suggestions
This roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce is a flavourful side dish that goes well with any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean meal. It is also great for light meals or as a plant-based main course.
Serve with pita bread: Serve the roasted cauliflower family-style on a large serving platter. Add a classic Arabic chopped salad and warm pita pockets for a simple vegan-friendly meal.
Serve with grains: Make a satisfying one-bowl meal by serving the roasted cauliflower on top of a bed of basmati rice with dollops of tahini sauce. You can also use cooked barley or quinoa. Add tomato wedges and avocado slices. And, for a satiating meal, add a few crispy Middle Eastern falafel.
Serve it in a wrap: Make cauliflower shawarma and wrap the roasted cauliflower in a soft wrap or flatbread. Spoon over the tahini sauce and add chopped vegetables, pickles, and fresh herbs. Drizzle with a Middle Eastern hot sauce like shatta.
Serve with mezze: Serve the roasted cauliflower with lots of small plates and sauces like harissa hummus, zhoug (spicy cilantro sauce), labneh balls, and sumac onions. Add some quick-and-easy yoghurt flatbreads to scoop up all the sauce.
Or simply serve the tahini cauliflower as a side dish with grilled fish or meat.
Let me know in the comments below how you served your tahini roasted cauliflower!
Roasted Cauliflower With Tahini Sauce
- Baking sheet (I use a half-sheet pan)
- 2 pounds cauliflower florets, from about 2 medium-sized cauliflower heads
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes, or red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup tahini
- 4 tablespoons water, more as needed
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
Cauliflower salad toppings (optional):
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate rubies
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- lemon wedges, to serve
- Place the cauliflower florets in a large mixing bowl. And mix the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the marinade over the cauliflower and mix until well-coated. Set the cauliflower aside to marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature, or refrigerate overnight to get ahead.
- Preheat oven* to 450 °F (reduce convection oven temperature to 410 °F). Once hot, add a rimmed baking sheet to preheat in the oven for 5 minutes. I use a half-sheet pan.
- Carefully arrange the marinated cauliflower florets in an even layer on the hot baking sheet. Place it on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. And roast for 15 minutes, then stir and flip the cauliflower pieces to brown evenly. Return the cauliflower to the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes. The cauliflower should be golden brown outside and tender inside.
- While the cauliflower roasts, make the tahini sauce. Grab a small bowl, and whisk together the tahini sauce ingredients. The mixture will turn grainy before it turns smooth. Just keep on whisking. Your tahini sauce should be thick and creamy. Add more water if your sauce is too thick, only a teaspoon at a time. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- I prefer to spread the tahini sauce on a shallow serving plate and top it with roasted cauliflower. But you can also mix the cauliflower and tahini sauce in a salad bowl. Finish with parsley, almonds, pomegranate seeds, and a generous grind of black pepper with salt to taste. And serve with lemon wedges.
- I tested this recipe in a conventional oven, though I suggest convection oven temperatures based on industry standards. Every oven is different, so use your senses to adjust your oven temperature accordingly. You want the cauliflower to be tender inside and well-browned on the outside. The size of your cauliflower florets also impacts the cooking time.
- This tahini cauliflower recipe uses a shawarma-style spice mix. You can replace all ground spices with 2 tablespoons of shop-bought shawarma spice mix. Or use more of the spices you have available. See ingredients and substitutes for more substitute options.
- You can serve the roasted cauliflower hot from the oven, or allow the tahini cauliflower mix to cool to room temperature before sprinkling the toppings.
- Refrigerate leftover tahini cauliflower in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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