You’ve likely enjoyed many easy cauliflower recipes over the years. It’s become quite the star of several vegetarian dishes like Crispy Chili Cauliflower, Buffalo Cauliflower Bites, BBQ Grilled Steaks, Spicy Teriyaki Cauliflower Lettuce Wraps, and more, but there’s nothing quite as impressive as a whole roasted cauliflower head.
It seriously roasts to cauliflower perfection and rivals any main dish on the holiday table. It’s extra crispy on the outside, creamy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious on the inside, including the stem!
Now pour yourself a Cranberry Ginger Cocktail, turn on your favorite holiday tunes, and let’s get roasting!
There are two key components to making this delicious main course: a whole head of cauliflower and a homemade herb butter sauce (it’s easier than it sounds – I promise!).
When picking a cauliflower at the grocery store, here are a few tips to ensure you go home with a winner:
- Check for brown spots or wilted greens. These things are indicative of a cauliflower that’s past its prime and won’t be as crisp and fresh tasting.
- Choose a medium-sized cauliflower. Despite what you may think, an extra-large head of cauliflower isn’t always a good thing. Larger cauliflowers tend to be tougher.
- Feel for firmness. Gently press the cauliflower florets with your fingers. If it feels firm and dense, it’s a good choice. Too soft or spongy and it should be skipped over!
Now for the fresh herb butter. As promised, it requires just a few simple ingredients – 7 to be exact (including salt and pepper!).
- Unsalted butter is my go-to for most recipes as it allows for more control over the sodium content and final flavor of the dish. It’s also the most consistent across brands, but salted butter will do if needed (just reduce the added salt to taste!).
- Fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage are my favorite combo here. It adds the perfect earthy, woody, aromatic depth of flavor that’s nostalgic of the holiday season.
- Minced garlic for a garlicky infusion. If you have it, leftover Roasted Garlic would be amazing here.
- Parmesan cheese is freshly grated overtop just before roasting. I recommend measuring this one with your heart! Note that not all parmesan cheese is vegetarian; strict vegetarians look for a variety labeled as such, or made with microbial enzymes.
Please be sure to see the full recipe card below for measurements.
How to Roast a Whole Cauliflower
Prep the Cauliflower
If you’ve only experienced roasting a whole turkey, you’re in for a real treat this holiday season! Roasting cauliflower is not only about 100x easier, but you won’t have to worry about the center still being raw and inedible after hours and hours of baking.
Start by prepping the cauliflower. Remove the tough outer leaves and cut out the stem enough so the cauliflower is able to sit up without tipping over. If you’ve made my Oven Roasted Cauliflower Steaks before, this is the same initial step. Simply grab a sharp kitchen knife and gently cut a triangle shape around the stem, then wiggle it out.
Next, prepare the fresh herb butter. In a small mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, finely chopped rosemary, thyme, sage, sea salt, and black pepper.
Brush the butter mixture all over the top of the whole cauliflower head, then turn it over and coat the bottom.
Roast and Serve
Using tongs, transfer the cauliflower onto a roasting rack inside of a baking dish. Brush any remaining butter on the cauliflower and top with parmesan cheese.
Finally, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then, after 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the roasted cauliflower is fork-tender and the exterior is golden brown.
Serve immediately on your favorite serving platter with additional herbs and freshly grated parmesan cheese, as desired. Enjoy!
Tip! It may seem odd to use a roasting rack for a vegetarian main, but it allows the air circulate.
A whole roasted cauliflower makes a stunning centerpiece on holiday tables. Position it beside the classic meats for vegetarian guests or serve it as the sole main for a vegetarian dinner party to remember.
It pairs perfectly with all of the classic side dishes you know and love. Here are just a few of my personal favorites:
- All the carb-y potato sides like Rustic Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Garlicky Smashed Fingerling Potatoes or Gruyere and Thyme Stacked Potatoes.
- Cozy casseroles like Vegetarian Stuffing, Green Bean Wild Rice Casserole, Broccoli Au Gratin, or White Wine Mac and Cheese.
- Hearty breads like Garlic Herb Dinner Rolls, Thyme Parmesan Drop Biscuits, or Honey Skillet Cornbread.
And if you’re in search of appetizers and desserts for a complete holiday menu, I highly recommend my Crostini recipes, everyone’s favorite homemade dips, and you can never go wrong with finishing things up with Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse!
Can I make a roasted whole cauliflower in advance?
If you’re planning on serving this whole roasted cauliflower on your Thanksgiving table, I wouldn’t recommend roasting it in advance. It’ll have the best “sear” on it when hot and fresh from the oven and is really best served fresh.
With that being said, if you’re planning on preparing a whole roasted cauliflower to enjoy all week long for meal prep or a quick weeknight dinner, it can be roasted in advance and stored for up to 4 days in an airtight container. To store easily, slice after roasting and transfer to Tupperware (similar to cauliflower steak slabs!).
Nope! Blanching is not necessary – the entire head of cauliflower will roast up with a perfectly creamy center and a lovely golden brown, textured exterior straight from the fridge.
Don’t skimp on the butter sauce! I mean it. The fresh herb butter is key for both flavor and moisture. Without it, you’ll have a bland main in desperate need of a creamy sauce. If you’re roasting a head of cauliflower on the larger side and it begins to brown too deeply on the exterior before it is fork tender, lightly tent it with a piece of foil to prevent over-browning and keep it as moist as possible.
The key is to cut the stem short enough that the head of cauliflower can stand up on its own, but not so short that it breaks into smaller cauliflower florets. If you’re making this recipe for the first time for your Thanksgiving or holiday meal, I might suggest purchasing 2 cauliflowers so you have a backup in case things go awry! You can always use the second to make Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower Bites to spice up the appetizer table.
I’d recommend a creamy sauce that would compliment the fresh herbs like this Fresh Lemon Herb Tahini Sauce or a similar dairy-based sauce.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Fresh Herb Butter
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Prep the cauliflower by removing the leaves and cutting the stem to the base of the cauliflower, so that it can stand up easily. Set aside.1 medium cauliflower head
- In a small bowl (or large if you want to brush the cauliflower in the same bowl), combine the melted butter, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Brush the butter mixture onto the top of the cauliflower, turn it over and coat the bottom, and let sit in the bowl to marinade while the oven comes to temperature.6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, ½ Tablespoon fresh rosemary, ½ Tablespoon fresh thyme, 1 Tablespoon fresh sage, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Once the oven has preheated, transfer the head of cauliflower onto a roasting rack or oven-safe cooling rack, inside of a baking dish or rimmed sheet pan. The roasting pan helps the air circulate around the cauliflower. Brush any butter that remains in the bowl on top of the cauliflower. Then, top with parmesan cheese.½ cup parmesan cheese
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the interior is fork-tender and the exterior is golden brown.
- Cut the cauliflower into wedges for serving. Garnish with additional herbs and parmesan cheese as desired. Enjoy!
- Serving size will vary from about 4-6 depending on the size of your cauliflower and how large of wedges you serve.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave or oven until warm.
- Parmesan: Note that not all parmesan cheese is vegetarian; strict vegetarians should look for a variety labeled as such, or made with microbial enzymes.
This post was originally sponsored by OXO in November 2019.