This marinated cauliflower salad is the perfect side dish for a bbq, pot luck or meal prep. Crunchy raw cauliflower, briny olives, roasted red bell peppers, red onion and fresh herbs tossed in a simple Italian dressing. It tastes best when made ahead and left to marinate overnight to enjoy the next day.
Healthy, refrigerator salads are great recipes to make ahead because they that taste even better the longer they sit. For another favorite make-ahead refrigerator salad, be sure to try this Fiesta Salad too!
This marinated cauliflower overnight salad is easy to throw together with simple ingredients and a perfect alternative to pasta salad. Crunchy raw cauliflower, roasted peppers, salty olives and a bit of red onion all tossed in a zesty Italian dressing – it’s the perfect year-round side dish.
This is one of my favorite things for summer meals when you want something light, healthy and super refreshing. It’s perfect for family gatherings or pot lucks when you are tasked with bringing a side or salad and don’t want to fuss with keeping a lettuce salad fresh.
Why you will love this recipe
- It’s kind of like a low carb pasta salad with cauliflower instead of noodles. If you love zesty pasta salads, you will love this recipe!
- It’s a no lettuce salad, so you don’t have to worry about the greens getting wilted or soggy or dealing with dressing. It’s a perfect recipe for a get together as it’s make ahead, totally stress free and always a huge hit.
- The crisp, raw cauliflower holds up to the tangy vinaigrette and it just gets more flavorful and delicious as it marinates in the salad dressing!
- It’s naturally vegan and gluten free so you don’t have to worry about anyone’s dietary restrictions. Definitely one of the best salads you can bring when invited to a summer bbq!
Can you eat raw cauliflower?
Absolutely! In fact, this is by far the most enjoyable way to consume raw cauliflower. It often makes an appearance on a crudités platter but it can be pretty dry, tough and unappealing on its own. Marinating the cauliflower overnight in a delicious, zesty dressing makes it a bit more tender and full of flavor.
I’m always thinking of ways to incorporate more veggies into my diet and cauliflower is really good for you. If you’re anything like me, you’re more likely to make healthier choices when it’s already prepped and ready to go in the fridge. It’s a wonderful salad for meal prep.
How to choose and store fresh cauliflower
Cauliflower heads should be creamy white and firm with tightly closed florets. Fresh cauliflower should not have and soft or dark spots. To store, keep it tightly wrapped in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Once you buy it from the store, it will last about 3-5 days so plan accordingly when making this cauliflower salad recipe.
Ingredients and substitutions
All you need are a few fresh veggies and some pantry staples to make this simple salad.
- Raw cauliflower: A whole head of cauliflower takes just a few minutes to break down. It must be fresh, not frozen. You can save a step and buy a bag of pre-cut fresh cauliflower florets. They will probably be on the larger side so just break them into small florets. Bigger pieces will make it harder to eat and the dressing will not soak in as well. To make it even more colorful, use a mix of white, orange and purple cauliflower.
- Roasted red bell pepper: I always have a jar of these roasted red peppers in my pantry. You can even find them in the grocery store already sliced into thin strips which will save you another step! You an also use jarred banana pepper rings.
- Kalamata olives: I LOVE olives and I always have a jar of Kalamata olives on hand. They are my favorite in this recipe. You can also use black olives if you prefer.
- Red Onion: I recommend using red onion and not yellow, white or sweet onion. You can also use thinly sliced green onions.
- Fresh Parsley: Adds some freshness and a pop of green color.
- Italian Dressing: This Simple Homemade Italian Dressing recipe is super simple to throw together with just olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and Italian seasoning. If you’re in a time crunch or have some on hand, just use your favorite Italian dressing or vinaigrette to make it even easier.
- Additions: This recipe is vegan as written but feel free to add some shredded parmesan cheese or fresh mozzarella.
If making your own dressing, whisk together the dressing ingredients first and set aside so that the flavors have time to meld
Next, break down a whole head of cauliflower florets into small pieces. They should be bite size pieces about the size of a grape. Place the chopped cauliflower florets in a large bowl.
If your jarred roasted peppers are whole, slice into thin strips. Slice Kalamata olives in half. Finely dice the red onion and mince fresh parsley. Add the chopped veggies to the bowl with the cauliflower.
Pour dressing over ingredients and gently toss together with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to marinate for a least an hour but preferably overnight.
To serve, let the salad sit out at room temperature for 10-15 minutes then toss the entire salad again to redistribute the flavors.
No. It’s best when left in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours or overnight but can be served once chilled for at least an hour.
No. Frozen cauliflower is softer when thawed has a lot of excess water. The crunchy vegetables are key to this recipe and frozen cauliflower will produce soggy, watery results.
It will be at it’s best after about 24 hours for 2-3 days. It can last about 4-5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container, depending on the freshness of the cauliflower and herbs.
More cauliflower recipes you will love
Marinated Cauliflower Salad
- 1 head cauliflower broken down into small, grape-sized florets
- ½ 12oz jar of roasted red peppers, sliced
- ½ cup halved kalamata olives
- ½ small red onion diced
- 2 tbsp fresh minced parsley
- ¾ cup (or more) Simple Homemade Italian Dressing or your favorite vinaigrette see note
- If you're using Homemade Italian Dressing, make the dressing first so the flavors have time to meld.
- Break down a whole head of cauliflower into grape-sized florets
- Dice red onion, mince parsley and if needed, slice roasted peppers and Kalamata olives.
- In a large bowl, gently toss together cauliflower florets, mined onion, parsley and sliced roasted peppers and Kalamata olives.
- Pour over dressing and gently combine with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.