Simple Weeknight Cauliflower

A favorite weeknight cauliflower recipe. Tiny florets of pan-fried cauliflower are tossed with garlic, chives, lemon, Parmesan, and flaky sea salt.

Simple Weeknight Cauliflower

Wayne and I share in the prep work for dinner most nights. Two or three times a week this involves chopping cauliflower into "tiny trees". Wayne knows the drill, and does a good job cutting the florets into pieces not much larger than a table grape. We then turn the cauliflower into a hot skillet with a bit of salt, olive oil, and whatever spices and seasoning strike our fancy that night.
Simple Cauliflower RecipeCauliflower is endlessly adaptable, and cooking it this way is quick and delicious. After just a few minutes in the pan the cauliflower starts to brown, and then takes on a deep, nutty flavor. I'll share the version we made the other night - pan-fried cauliflower with garlic, chives, lemon, Parmesan, and flaky sea salt. This handful of ingredients is what hit the pan this time around, but I'll also list off a few other variations that make frequent appearances in case chives and lemon aren't your thing.

Simple Cauliflower Variations

Spicy: This is the easiest - olive oil, a bit of Piment d'Esplette, garlic, and lemon zest at the end. Use your favorite red pepper flakes.

Curry: I sometimes use coconut oil here in place of olive oil. Then I add a favorite Indian curry powder, and go from there. Or I'll take it in an entirely different direction and add a teaspoon (or so) of Thai red curry paste to the coconut oil.

Nutmeg: I use 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 butter, then the cauliflower, and some freshly grated nutmeg toward the end.

Serving Ideas

A couple serving ideas: It might sound a bit weird, but I like to eat this style of cauliflower over an open-faced egg salad sandwich for lunch. Or, I might build a meal off the cauliflower by throwing a bit of tofu or seitan in the pan. It's also great on top of a curry bowl, or bowl of chili.

Anyhow, people who don't typically like cauliflower seem to like it cooked this way. But be sure to seek out good, fresh cauliflower with tight florets, no discoloration. If there are leaves they should be bright and intact, not withered and funky.

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Simple Cauliflower Recipe

3.95 from 51 votes

To make this recipe vegan, just omit the Parmesan cheese finish - still delicious

  • 2 - 3 heads of small cauliflower (or 1/2 head large)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • a couple pinches of sea salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small bunch of chives, chopped
  • zest of one lemon
  • freshly grated Parmesan
  • a bit of flaky sea salt
  1. To prep the cauliflower, remove any leaves at the base and trim the stem. Now cut it into tiny trees - and by tiny, I mean most florets aren't much larger than a table grape. Make sure the pieces are relatively equal in size, so they cook in the same amount of time. Rinse under running water, and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil and fine grain salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cauliflower and stir until the florets are coated. Wait until it gets a bit brown on the bottom, then toss the cauliflower with a spatula. Brown a bit more and continue to saute until the pieces are deeply golden - all told about six minutes. In the last 30 seconds stir in the garlic.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the chives, lemon zest, and dust with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a pinch of flaky sea salt (if you have it on hand). Serve immediately.
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
7 mins
Total Time
12 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Wow, that looks fantastic! What a delicious way to prepare cauliflower. I can't wait to try this!


What a lovely recipe - perhaps some flaked toaste almonds would also go well with this. Probably a lot healthier than my favourite way of cooking cauliflower which is cauliflower cheese!

Gourmet Chick

Heidi, you make everything look delicious, even for a non-veggie lover like myself. It makes me want to go out and fill my fridge with delicous fresh veggies and cook everything on your website! I'll definately have to give these a go sometime soon, for, as you put it yourself, they are endlessly adaptable and throw together easily. Thanks for the inspiration!


I feel like cauliflower gets such a bad rap! I personally love it, and will definitely be trying this. My typical way of cooking it is to toss it with a good amount of olive oil and sea salt, and roast it for about an hour until it is brown and caramelized. My other favorite is cauliflower and green apple soup -- earthy, a little sweet, a little tart -- delicious!

Jen (Modern Beet)

this is the only way i can get my family to eat cauliflower. i add a little onion and fennel/fennel seeds to the oil sometimes, but otherwise my recipe is pretty similar. why, oh why, though, did i never think to add cheese? mmm. thanks, heidi!


cauliflower is my new obsession (that's funny). i've been making it like this lately w/o cheese but adding chopped capers, grn olives and chilli flakes. i'll be trying your parmesan recipe on an open face sandwich asap! yummie! heidi, thanks for your wonderful site, recipes and photos. it's been exciting for me to be a part of this community you've created. i'm inspired to use whole, beautiful ingredients in new ways. (LOVED the pea pillows, banana choc cookies, etc etc!). thanks again!!!


i love roasted cauliflower with gruyere and carmelized onions or leeks. great by itself or especially yummy in quiche. quick tip when i roast cauliflower, i keep the head intact but carve out the core, then stick a head of garlic underneath the "cap" of cauliflower. both roast together and the smell and flavor is wonderful.

laila k

I do a similar version to this, but I roast it in the oven, at about 425 degrees, with olive oil, scant sprinkling of salt and lots of cumin. The key yo the flavor is the carmelization, it adds a nuttiness to the flavor that can't be beat! Your version would be great for the hot summer days when I can't face turning on the oven!

Elizabeth H

I'd serve this with some guacamole--great combination with roasted cauliflower!

Susan Carr

I love the suggestions! roasted cauliflower is a favourite of mine. I usually toss it with some olive oil, salt, pepper and garam masala, and often instead of roasting i'll cut it into bigger pieces and grill it on the BBQ.


I have always liked raw cauliflower but never liked it cooked. Maybe because it's always been blanched or steamed to death. I can't wait to try it this way, I think it will change everything. Thanks!


That looks absolutely fantastic! Roasted cauliflower is one of those dishes that always makes me wanna sing! Can't wait to try your version... ...thanks, Heidi!


I love cauliflower. My husband wasn't a huge fan until I started to roast it in the oven (tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper). By the way, we found some amazing fava beans at our local farmer's market and used your method to grill and they were delicious!


I am always, always hoping for recipes to bring my family closer to liking the 'good things for them', and this one makes my list! P.S. Love the new look of the comments section, and the blog overall too! (not sure if I told you that before!)

Trish in MO

I do a Sicilian version that has black olives, chili flakes, lots of garlic, capers and anchovies. If you don't eat fish, you could probably toss some Parmesan on at the end instead. It's a wonderfully versatile vegetable, and surprisingly full of vitamins (well I think it's surprising because I somehow associate high vitamin content with bright color!)


Hmm, I'm not very learned as far as garnishing is concerned -- what are those purple buds? Some kind of herb flower I imagine... This is a great thing to do. I'm pretty hooked on this and broccoli cooked in the same way, then put through wholemeal pasta with lots of parsley. If I'm feeling decadent, it gets a bit of pesto, otherwise I add roasted eggplant and a tomato sauce I make with cherry tomatoes and chilies. Since going vegetarian, cruciferous vegetables have turned into a mega staple! HS: Hi Samuel. Those are little chive buds. Sometimes the chives at my market still have them. I love sprinkling them over salads, soups, and vegetable plates like this one.


Yum, cauli is so under-rated! We love it roasted in the oven - it doesn't even make it to our plates!

Kate (Naki Kate)

Oh, I'm really in love with cauliflower lately. I've been oven roasting it with garlic, olive oil, panko, and cheese. The best are the brown parts!!! Can't wait to try this new easy skillet version and with all the variety ideas you've provided. Seriously yummy stuff!!

Christina (Dinner at Christina's)

how beautifully and neatly the florets are cut! i am always looking for new recipes for cauliflower. these are so easy and they look good too.

priya sebastian

I love recipes like this - they're simple yet wonderful and open to endless variations depending on what one has on hand. Cauliflower in particular is a great vegetable for playing with different spices and flavors. Thanks for your beautiful pictures and delicious recipes, as always!

Sarah (Coffee Beans and Curry Leaves)

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