Cauliflower Salad

Cauliflower Salad is a hypnotic combination of roasted veggies, pepitas and craisins bathed in a vibrant, spicy Moroccan chermoula dressing!

This Cauliflower Salad recipe is not your average mayo salad! Instead, it’s a restaurant worthy, Thanksgiving worthy salad boasting plentiful, caramelized roasted veggies, juicy, sweet craisins, popping red onions and roasted, salted, crunchy pepitas all bathed in an exotic vibrant, garlicky, herb chermoula dressing.  The end result is hypnotic, satisfying and will keep everyone coming back for more!  Best of all, this Cauliflower Salad is make ahead friendly to eliminate all that last-minute stress and can last days in the refrigerator.  I’ve included everything you need to know about how to make Cauliflower Salad, tips and tricks and ways to customize this Cauliflower Salad recipe with veggie swaps and add-ins to make YOUR favorite Cauliflower Salad!

serving Roasted Cauliflower Salad in a wood bowl with wood tongs

Cauliflower Salad Recipe

With Fall upon us and Thanksgiving around the corner, I’ve enjoyed sharing more company worthy sides that usually take the back seat like Rice Pilaf, Garlic Bread, Green Bean Salad and now this Cauliflower Salad!  This roasted Cauliflower Salad is an everyday easy side that is so tantalizing you’ll want to make it all Fall and winter long and impressive enough to grace your Thanksgiving table.  

This Cauliflower Salad joins my other cold month salad treasures – because salads aren’t just for the summer, but are fantastic in the winter months as well!  In fact, some of my very favorite salad are winter salads such as:  Apple Walnut Salad (video coming this week!) Pear Salad, Cranberry Brussels Sprouts Salad, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Fall Salad with Pomegranate Dressing, and Beet Salad coming next week!

But before you dive into all of those delightful recipes, I urge you to make this Cauliflower Salad recipe because the flavor profile is unlike any other salad. It’s hearty, savory, crunchy, healthy, flavorful and deeply satisfying with its layers of exotic flavor.

top view of easy Cauliflower Salad recipe on a white plate with a gold fork

More reasons to love this Cauliflower Salad Recipe:

  • Easy.  Anyone can make this Cauliflower Salad recipe!  It requires a little upfront chopping OR you can purchase pre-chopped cauliflower.  And if you can push the “pulse” button on your food processor – you’re already an expert at the dressing!
  • Hands off roasting.  I love that you get to toss veggies onto a sheet pan and are rewarded with exponentially delicious results. Just chop your cauliflower and carrots then sit back while they caramelize in the oven. 
  • Make ahead.   Along with Broccoli Salad, Cauliflower is one of the most make ahead friendly salads because it doesn’t have any wimpy lettuce!  You can make the salad 100% ahead of time so it’s all ready for lunch, dinner, potlucks or THANKSGIVING without the last-minute hustle and stress. 
  • Roasted cauliflower.  Raw cauliflower is pretty bland in my book, but roasted cauliflower is an entirely different story.  It’s caramelized, nutty, tender-crisp bursting with flavor from the inside out.  I use my favorite roasted cauliflower recipe that tosses the cauliflower in curry powder – it is addicting!
  • Best Salad Dressing.  In addition to the roasted cauliflower, the other star is the dressing.  It’s a Moroccan inspired chermoula boasting cilantro, parsley, garlic, lemon, smoked paprika, cumin and cayenne.  It’s layers of flavor are interesting, exotic and will make you giddy!
  • Texture heaven.  Every salad needs layers of texture to create palate pleasing bites of bliss.  This Cauliflower Salad is no exception with tender-crisp cauliflower and carrots, to juicy, sweet craisins to roasted, salted, crunchy pepitas.
  • Versatile.  I’ve listed lots of ways to customize this Cauliflower Salad recipe below such as adding baby arugula spinach or kale to make it a green Cauliflower Salad, adding chicken, steak or seafood to make it a meal-in-one or swapping the carrots for butternut squash or sweet potatoes. 
  • It’s healthy.  No mayo Cauliflower Salad here!  Instead you get hearty, roasted veggies and an herb-based dressing that are every bit as addicting.
  • Crowd pleaser.  EVERYONE loves this Cauliflower Salad because it’s unlike any Cauliflower Salad you’ve ever tasted!  The curry roasted cauliflower + the vibrant dressing all balanced by sweet, popping craisins is utterly fantastic and will keep everyone coming back for more.

HOW TO CHOOSE CAULIFLOWER

I’m going to walk you through some basics of cauliflower to ensure your Cauliflower Salad recipe is an epic success! You can also use the “skip to recipe” button at the top of the page to bypass the info.

It’s a sad day when you’re excited to make Cauliflower Salad and your beautifully creamy white cauliflower is now spotty bad news.  You can delay this process by choosing cauliflower that will stay fresh for longer:

  • Pick a cauliflower head that is free from browning, wet spots or “sun burned spots.” 
  • The cauliflower should be firm, and heavy for its size.
  • The florets should be densely packed.  
  • The leaves should be fresh and vibrant green which is a sign that the cauliflower was recently harvested.
side view of best Cauliflower Salad on a plate garnished by parsley

HOW TO STORE FRESH CAULIFLOWER

Even if you select a fresh cauliflower, it can get moldy very quickly without proper storage:

  • When you get your cauliflower home, unwrap it from the cellophane which can trap moisture and promotes rot. 
  • Transfer the cauliflower to a sealed plastic bag with a paper towel inside to absorb any excess moisture.
  • Puncture several holes near the head of the cauliflower. 
  • tore in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for 4 to 7 days.

HOW TO CHOP CAULIFLOWER

One regular sized head of cauliflower will yield about 8 cups of chopped cauliflower, perfect for our Cauliflower Salad.  If your cauliflower is smaller or larger, that is okay, as the ingredients are very forgiving and you add the dressing to taste.

For this Cauliflower Salad recipe, you will want larger florets that can hold up when tossed in the dressing.  Also, try and cut the florets into a uniform size to ensure even cooking, but don’t stress too much about it.   

To chop the cauliflower:

  1. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice cauliflower in half from the top of the crown through the stem.
  2. Quarter the cauliflower into 4 pieces, slicing vertically.
  3. Slice the core off of each piece, leaving just the florets.
  4. Break the large florets off the core with your fingers.
  5. Use a knife to slice the large pieces into slightly smaller florets if needed.
showing how to make Cauliflower Salad by tossing it in a large wooden bowl

Cauliflower salad dressing

The “dressing” for this Cauliflower Salad is a chermoula.  If you aren’t familiar with chermoula, it is thick, spicy, bright, garlicky herb sauce from North Africa and Morocco.  It is often used as a marinade but it is extremely versatile with endless possibilities because it infuses everything it touches with vibrant FLAVOR. 

Chermoula might seem similar to chimichurri, but it differs in that it is primarily cilantro vs. parsley and it is seasoned with paprika, ground cumin, ground ginger, dried thyme, and cayenne pepper.  Like chimichurri, however, I love that chermoula can be made in advance.

I’ve kept the chermoula for this Cauliflower Salad recipe pretty classic so it’s quick and easy to make with accessible ingredients.  It is also easy to customize by adding as little or as much as you like of any of the ingredients.  You can adjust the cayenne pepper for spiciness, the lemon juice for tanginess, the garlic for garlic goodness, etc. 

This recipe will probably yield more than you need for your Cauliflower Salad, so make sure you don’t throw it away!  It is fantastic as a marinade for fish, chicken, shrimp, or stirred into rice, couscous, other veggies as well as on sweet potatoes.   

Cauliflower Dressing Ingredients:

Like I always say, a salad is only as good as its dressing, which means this Cauliflower Salad is epic. As promised, the chermoula is made with easy-to find ingredients. You will need:

  • cilantro:  you will need one cup packed cilantro.  You can use both the leaves and the stems.
  • parsley: use flat leaf parsley because it has more flavor than curly parsley. 
  • olive oil: extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • lemon juice: 2 tablespoons, about half of a large lemon; you can also use bottled.
  • garlic:  chermoula is supposed to be garlicky but you can use more or less to suite your taste. 
  • seasonings: paprika, ground cumin, ground ginger, dried thyme, salt and cayenne pepper

How to Make Cauliflower salad

  • Season cauliflower and carrots.  Add cauliflower florets and carrots to a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with curry powder, salt pepper and garlic powder. Spread veggies out in an even layer so the florets aren’t touching.
showing how to make cauliflower salad by spreading them on a baking sheet to roast
  • Roast veggies.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes OR until the cauliflower is tender-crisp. Meanwhile, make chermoula.
showing how to make cauliflower salad by roasting cauliflower until caramelized
  • Make dressing.  Add all chermoula ingredients to your food processor and process until smoothing, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Fora spicier dressing, add additional cayenne pepper to taste.
showing how to make cauliflower salad by adding dressing ingredients to food processor
showing how to make cauliflower salad by blending salad ingredients in food processor until smooth
  • Roast pepitas.  Remove roasted cauliflower and carrots to a serving bowl.  Add pepitas to the same baking sheet and toss in the remaining oil/spices.  Spread in an even layer and toast at 425 for 5 minutes.
  • Combine.  Add pepitas to veggies along with craisins and red onions. Add desired amount of chermoula (you may not use all of it) and gently toss.
showing how to make cauliflower salad tossing cauliflower with dressing in a large bowl
  • Serve.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tips for Cauliflower Salad

  • Cauliflower shortcut.  Cauliflower is easy to chop but you can also purchase a bag of florets, just make sure they aren’t too small. 
  • Don’t use frozen cauliflower.  Seeing as this is Cauliflower Salad, it is important to set yourself up for success in texture in flavor by using fresh and not frozen cauliflower.   
  • Uniform veggies: Try and cut cauliflower a relatively uniform size and carrots a uniform thickness so they roast evenly. Again, don’t chop the cauliflower too small.
  • Dry cauliflower: Dry the florets with a kitchen towel or salad spinner because the dryer the cauliflower the crispier it will become.
  • Easy cleanup:  I recommend lining a baking sheet with foil when roasting the veggies for easy cleanup but you can also add the veggies directly to the baking sheet. Either way, spray surface with nonstick cooking spray.  I do NOT recommend parchment paper because the cauliflower doesn’t caramelize as well.
  • Toss ingredients together: I like to toss all the ingredients together on the baking pan because it saves an extra dish but you can also toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl. 
  • Spread in an even layer: Spread the cauliflower and carrots in an evenly layer on a baking sheet so they are not touching.  This ensures the veggies will cook evenly and so they will roast and not steam.
  • Don’t overcook. Normally, you can’t really overcook cauliflower, but for this Cauliflower Salad, you don’t want the cauliflower so tender that it’s falling apart in the salad. It is better to shoot for cauliflower that still has a little bite.  
  • Test for doneness.  There are several factors that affect the tenderness of the roasted cauliflower such as floret moisture, floret freshness, floret size and actual oven heat so it is important to test your cauliflower at 20 minutes and cook on if needed.
  • Subdue red onion.  I love punchy red onions, but if they tend to be too strong for you then place them in a fine mesh sieve in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. Dry thoroughly before adding to the salad.
  • Dressing to taste.  You can customize the chermoula to taste by adding more or less lemon juice, more or less garlic, more or less cayenne pepper, etc.  You can also use as much or as little dressing on your Cauliflower Salad.
showing how to make cauliflower salad by transferring cauliflower, carrots, pepitas, craisins and dressing to a large bowl

Cauliflower Salad Recipe VARIATIONS

  • Add protein.  This roasted Cauliflower Salad recipe is filling enough it can stand as a healthy vegetarian main dish or you can add protein such as shrimp, salmon, chicken, steak or pork.  Try marinating some of the protein in the chermoula for extra flavor.
  • Add grains. Adding cooked brown rice, quinoa, couscous etc. immediately introduces another delectable texture and is easy to accommodate by stirring in additional chermoula.
  • Make it a green salad.   You can stretch the Cauliflower Salad and add some greens by mixing in baby arugula, spinach or kale. 
  • Add chickpeas. Rinse and drain a 15 oz. can of chickpeas and roast them with the cauliflower and carrots.  You will want to scale up the roasting ingredients to accommodate the extra volume. 
  • Add sweet potatoes or butternut squash.  You can swap the carrots for sweet potatoes or butternut squash or add them in addition to the carrots.  Again, you’ll want to scale up the roasting olive oil and seasonings. 
  • Add zucchini or red bell peppers.   You can add other veggies such as zucchini or red bell peppers.  I don’t think these veggies need to be roasted but if you choose to, take care not to roast them too long so they don’t become too soft.
  • Swap onions.  Swap the red onions for chopped pickled red onions if they’re your thing – yum!
  • Swap nuts.  I think every salad needs a nut or seed so if pepitas aren’t your thing or you already have another nut on hand – use those!  Buttery cashews would be extra fantastic.   You can also use pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, etc.
up close of roasted Cauliflower Salad garnished by parsley

CAN I MAKE CAULIFLOWER SALAD AHEAD OF TIME?

I love Cauliflower Salad for so many reasons but one of them is you can make it 100% ahead of time because it doesn’t get soggy like lettuce. That being said, it is still very best fresh but the good news, you can prep the veggies and dressing ahead of time:  

  • Vegetables:  Chop the cauliflower and carrots and toss them with olive oil and seasonings according to directions.  Spread them out on the baking sheet, cover and refrigerate.  When you are ready to make the Cauliflower Salad, roast them according to directions.
  • Dressing:  You can make the chermoula three days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  

HOW LONG DOES CAULIFLOWER SALAD LAST?

Cauliflower Salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

How to Serve Cauliflower Salad

 Cauliflower Salad can be served warmed or at room temperature.  If staring from the fridge, then let it sit out for 30 minutes or so.  The flavors are much more appealing when they’re not cold.

showing how to serve Cauliflower Salad with two hands holding a plate of salad

IS CAULIFLOWER SALAD HEALTHY?

Yes!  Even though cauliflower may not be the typical green, leafy vegetable we think of as healthy, it is actually considered a superfood by many. In fact, 100g cauliflower contains more vitamin C than 100g of oranges! 

Cauliflower is a non-starchy vegetable that is a good source of fiber so it slows digestion which promotes fullness and therefore reduces overall calorie intake.

Cauliflower is low in calories (only 25 calories per cup), but high in vitamins, high in water (92% of its weight is water), and high in fiber – all properties that may assist in weight loss – which means you can eat a large quantity of cauliflower without any guilt!

Some health benefits of cauliflower include:

  • Cauliflower contains some of almost every vitamin and mineral that you need such as vitamin C which is an anti-inflammatory that can boost immune health and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Cauliflower is high in fiber which reduces inflammation and promotes digestive health.
  • Cauliflower is a rich source of antioxidants including sulforaphane, glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, which are beneficial in protecting against several chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
  • Cauliflower is high in choline, an essential nutrient that many people are deficient in which supports metabolism, brain development and the nervous system. It also helps prevent cholesterol from accumulating in the liver.
  • Cauliflower is rich in allicin which may reduce the occurrence of stroke and heart disease.
side view of a bowl of roasted Cauliflower Salad

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Cauliflower Salad

This Cauliflower Salad recipe is not your average mayo salad! Instead, it’s a restaurant worthy, Thanksgiving worthy salad boasting plentiful, caramelized roasted veggies, juicy, sweet craisins, popping red onions and roasted, salted, crunchy pepitas all bathed in an exotic vibrant, garlicky, herb chermoula dressing. The end result is hypnotic, satisfying and will keep everyone coming back for more! Best of all, this Cauliflower Salad is make ahead friendly to eliminate all that last-minute stress and can last days in the refrigerator. I’ve included everything you need to know about how to make Cauliflower Salad, tips and tricks and ways to customize this Cauliflower Salad recipe with veggie swaps and add-ins to make YOUR favorite Cauliflower Salad!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

Roasted Veggies

  • 1 large head cauliflower cut into large bite-size florets (about 7-8 cups)
  • 3 cups carrots chopped into 1/2-3/4” pieces (about 4-5 carrots)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder *
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, garlic powder

Add later

  • 1/4 cup unsalted pepitas or sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion

Chermoula

  • 1 cup packed cilantro
  • 1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3-4 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1/2 tsp EACH paprika, ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp EACH ground ginger, dried thyme, salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.
  • Add cauliflower florets and carrots. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with curry powder, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Spread veggies out in an even layer so the florets aren’t touching.
  • Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes OR until cauliflower and carrots are tender-crisp. Meanwhile, make Chermoula.
  • Add all Chermoula ingredients to your food processor and process until smoothing, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times.
  • Remove roasted cauliflower and carrots to a serving bowl. Add pepitas to the same baking sheet and toss in the leftover oil/spices from the veggies. Spread in an even layer and toast at 425 for 5 minutes.
  • Add pepitas to veggies along with craisins and red onions. Add desired amount of Chermoula (you may not use all of it) and gently toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Tips for Cauliflower Salad

  • Cauliflower shortcut.  Cauliflower is easy to chop but you can also purchase a bag of florets, just make sure they aren’t too small. 
  • Don’t use frozen cauliflower.  Seeing as this is Cauliflower Salad, it is important to set yourself up for success in texture in flavor by using fresh and not frozen cauliflower.   
  • Uniform veggies: Try and cut cauliflower a relatively uniform size and carrots a uniform thickness so they roast evenly. Again, don't chop the cauliflower too small.
  • Dry cauliflower: Dry the florets with a kitchen towel or salad spinner because the dryer the cauliflower the crispier it will become.
  • Easy cleanup:  I recommend lining a baking sheet with foil when roasting the veggies for easy cleanup but you can also add the veggies directly to the baking sheet. Either way, spray surface with nonstick cooking spray.  I do NOT recommend parchment paper because the cauliflower doesn’t caramelize as well.
  • Spread in an even layer: Spread the cauliflower and carrots in an evenly layer on a baking sheet so they are not touching.  This ensures the veggies will cook evenly and so they will roast and not steam.
  • Don’t overcook. Normally, you can’t really overcook cauliflower, but for this Cauliflower Salad, you don’t want the cauliflower so tender that it’s falling apart in the salad. It is better to shoot for cauliflower that still has a little bite.  
  • Test for doneness.  There are several factors that affect the tenderness of the roasted cauliflower such as floret moisture, floret freshness, floret size and actual oven heat so it is important to test your cauliflower at 20 minutes and cook on if needed.
  • Subdue red onion.  I love punchy red onions, but if they tend to be too strong for you then place them in a fine mesh sieve in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. Dry thoroughly before adding to the salad.
  • Dressing to taste.  You can customize the chermoula to taste by adding more or less lemon juice, more or less garlic, more or less cayenne pepper, etc.  You can also use as much or as little dressing on your Cauliflower Salad.

Cauliflower Salad Recipe VARIATIONS

  • Add protein.  This roasted Cauliflower Salad recipe is filling enough it can stand as a healthy vegetarian main dish or you can add protein such as shrimp, salmon, chicken, steak or pork.  Try marinating some of the protein in the chermoula for extra flavor.
  • Add grains. Adding cooked brown rice, quinoa, couscous etc. immediately introduces another delectable texture and is easy to accommodate by stirring in additional chermoula.
  • Make it a green salad.   You can stretch the Cauliflower Salad and add some greens by mixing in baby arugula, spinach or kale. 
  • Add chickpeas. Rinse and drain a 15 oz. can of chickpeas and roast them with the cauliflower and carrots.  You will want to scale up the roasting ingredients to accommodate the extra volume. 
  • Add sweet potatoes or butternut squash.  You can swap the carrots for sweet potatoes or butternut squash or add them in addition to the carrots.  Again, you’ll want to scale up the roasting olive oil and seasonings. 
  • Add zucchini or red bell peppers.   You can add other veggies such as zucchini or red bell peppers.  I don’t think these veggies need to be roasted but if you choose to, take care not to roast them too long so they don’t become too soft.
  • Swap onions.  Swap the red onions for chopped pickled red onions if they’re your thing – yum!
  • Swap nuts.  I think every salad needs a nut or seed so if pepitas aren’t your thing or you already have another nut on hand – use those!  Buttery cashews would be extra fantastic.   You can also use pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, etc.

Storage

Cauliflower Salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

MAKE Ahead

I love Cauliflower Salad for so many reasons but one of them is you can make it 100% ahead of time because it doesn’t get soggy like lettuce. That being said, it is still very best fresh but the good news, you can prep the veggies and dressing ahead of time:  
  • Vegetables:  Chop the cauliflower and carrots and toss them with olive oil and seasonings according to directions.  Spread them out on the baking sheet, cover and refrigerate.  When you are ready to make the Cauliflower Salad, roast them according to directions.
  • Dressing:  You can make the chermoula three days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  
 

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4 Comments

  1. Norina says

    Moroccans don’t cook with curry. Swap out the curry for turmeric which is used in everything. They have no idea what a craisin is. Perhaps you might use some black olives. If you put in the craisin because you thought you had to add something sweet, some cut up dates would be more authentic.

    • Jen says

      Hi Norina, this Cauliflower Salad is simply Moroccan inspired due to the chermoula and is definitely not authentic. Feel free to adapt it how you wish. Enjoy!

  2. Rachel says

    When I saw this posted, I knew I had to try this! We had it for Thanksgiving dinner. It was wonderful. Loved the mix of flavors and textures but roasted cauliflower makes me weak in the knees.. I will definitely be making this again. Yet another winning Carlsbad Cravings recipe.

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m so pleased you loved this Cauliflower Salad! I especially love hearing that you knew you had to try it when I posted it – I’m so glad it didn’t disappoint! Happy Thanksgiving!