Perfectly roasted purple cauliflower with crispy chickpeas seasoned with za’atar spice and drizzled with a creamy lemon herb tahini sauce makes a colorful and delicious vegan main course or healthy side dish.
Cauliflower may not sound terribly exciting, but I’m guessing it’s because you have never had it quite like this. Roasting it brings out its natural sweetness and makes the edges slightly caramelized and crisp. Then we’re adding crispy chickpeas and a creamy, herby, lemony sauce to pull it all together. This easy recipe comes together quickly and will have you eating a whole head of cauliflower and loving your life.
This is my favorite way to enjoy roasted cauliflower and a great option for a vibrant and filling meatless main dish.
You will absolutely love it!
What is purple cauliflower?
Nothing stops me dead in my tracks at the farmer’s market like a beautiful purple cauliflower. Similar in taste to its white counterpart, purple cauliflower is slightly sweeter and a little nutty. The gorgeous color is completely natural and comes from the same antioxidant found in red cabbage and red wine – anthocyanin. Lots of sun exposure exaggerates this effect on cauliflower and gives it that stunning purple hue. It really is a true gift from mother nature.
When grocery shopping for a head of cauliflower, either white or purple, look for tightly closed florets and even coloring without any dark spots. It should feel firm and heavy with a fresh, grassy smell. If it smells funky or the attached leaves are wilted, it’s probably past its prime.
I most often find purple or orange cauliflower at the farmer’s markets, but more recently I have seen them at Whole Foods or my local specialty grocery store.
Ingredients and substitutions
This tasty recipe is fairly flexible and packed full of healthy ingredients.
- Purple cauliflower – If you can’t find a purple one, just use a regular white cauliflower.
- Chickpeas – for this roasted cauliflower recipe, we’ll be amping up the flavor and texture by roasting chickpeas alongside the cauliflower. Chickpeas also add a healthy amount of protein to make this a complete, rounded main course. You can definitely make this recipe without the chickpeas if you prefer. Follow the same instructions and then garnish the roasted cauliflower with some toasted pine nuts or almonds to add a bit of crunchy texture!
- Za’atar spice – a Middle Eastern spice blend that can be used in a multitude of ways. It’s made from a blend of savory dried herbs like oregano, marjoram or thyme, sumac and toasted earthy spices like cumin, coriander, with sesame seeds. It’s the perfect seasoning to complement the simple ingredients in this dish.
- Garlic – fresh garlic cloves will give the best flavor
- Lemon – fresh lemon juice only!
- Fresh Herbs – we’re using loads of fresh herbs in the tahini sauce. This is the perfect recipe if your garden is overflowing or you have a bunch that need to get used up fast. You will need about one cup of fresh herbs. My favorite combination is parsley, chives, dill and a little basil and mint, but you can also add scallions, cilantro or whatever combination of soft, fresh herbs you like.
- Olive oil
Step one: Rinse and drain a can of chickpeas and allow them to dry thoroughly.
Step two: Remove the leaves around the bottom of the cauliflower and trim the stalk down with a sharp knife. Place the whole cauliflower on a sturdy cutting board stem side down and use a large chef’s knife to slice it into ¾ inch “steaks”. Then, separate the florets into evenly sized pieces. This method gives you flat slices of cauliflower that will have more contact with the roasting pan, resulting in more yummy golden brown caramelization and even cooking. Using this method, you may only get about ⅔-3/4 of the head of cauliflower in usable condition for this recipe. Save the scraps and pulse in the food processor to make cauliflower rice for later!
Step three: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place cauliflower florets on it, leaving ample space in between the pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on half of the za-atar spice and some salt. Use your hands to gently coat the florets in oil and seasoning and arrange them on the baking tray. In a small bowl, toss the chickpeas with a little olive oil, salt and the rest of the za’atar spice. Place the chickpeas on the sheet pan in between the slices of cauliflower.
Step four: Roast the cauliflower and chickpeas at 425 degrees for 25-20 minutes, flipping the cauliflower florets halfway through with a spatula.
Step five: While the cauliflower is roasting, make the lemon herb tahini by adding tahini, garlic, lemon juice, herbs, salt and a bit of water to a food processor and blending until smooth.
Step six: Arrange roasted cauliflower and chickpeas on a platter and drizzle with lemon herb tahini sauce. Serve immediately.
Tips for success
- The best way to slice a whole cauliflower head for roasting is to make it so that you have flat florets on each side. This method ensures that the cauliflower cooks evenly and creates maximum contact with the pan for the best caramelization. You could also change up the look of the dish and make some stunning purple cauliflower steaks. I find that the cauliflower falls apart on me when I try to do steaks but if it works for you, just follow the same recipe instructions!
- Use room temperature cauliflower. Let it warm up a bit if your cauliflower has been in the refrigerator. This helps it cook more evenly.
- Don’t overcook the cauliflower! It should be slightly golden brown and tender but still have some bite to it. No one wants mushy vegetables.
- Taste the lemon herb tahini and season with lemon and salt as you make it. The flavor profile will vary depending on the brand of tahini and combination of herbs you use. Add water gradually to thin out the sauce to your liking.
- This dish is best enjoyed immediately. The chickpeas lose their crispiness the longer they sit. Leftovers will keep for a few days but the textures will be quite different.
- You will have leftover lemon herb tahini sauce. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for about five days and use it as a dip for pita chips, crudités or drizzle on grain bowls or salads.
More farmer’s market inspired recipes you’ll love
- Farmer’s Market Green Pasta
- Golden Beet and Arugula Salad
- Japanese Eggplant and Oyster Mushroom Stir Fry
Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Crispy Chickpeas and Lemon Herb Tahini
- 1 head purple cauliflower or substitute regular cauliflower
- 1 15oz can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons za'atar spice divided
- ½ cup tahini
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lemon juiced
- ⅓ cup fresh parsley leaves
- ¼ cup chives
- ¼ cup fresh dill
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
- ¼ cup olive oil divided
- ¼-1/2 cup water
- salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Drain and rinse chickpeas and spread out on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to dry.
- Remove leaves from the base of the cauliflower and trim the stem. Using a large chef's knife, slice vertically through the whole head of cauliflower making ¾ inch slices. Leave as steaks or cut the florets off into even pieces. See post notes on how to cut.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange cauliflower slices on it. Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and half of the za'atar spice. Use your hands to gently coat the cauliflower pieces in oil and seasoning and arrange evenly on the baking tray.
- Toss dry chickpeas with remaining olive oil and seasoning and place around cauliflower slices on the roasting pan.
- Roast cauliflower and chickpeas for 25-30 minutes. Chickpeas will be crispy, cauliflower will be tender and caramelized in some areas.
- While the cauliflower and chickpeas are roasting, make the lemon herb tahini sauce. Combine tahini, herbs, fresh lemon juice and garlic cloves in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season the sauce with salt to taste. Thin the sauce with water until your desired consistency.
- Transfer the cauliflower and chickpeas to a serving dish and drizzle with lemon herb tahini sauce. Enjoy immediately.