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
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I really enjoyed this simple recipe. I even had the budding chives in my garden . Keep em comming. -Thanks A


This was my delicious dinner tonight! I didn't have chives,but I added tofu, as you suggested, and loved it. I'll make this dish again for sure with variations. The combination of freshly grated lemon zest and freshly grated parmesan with brown bits and olive oil is to die for. Yum! Thanks again Heidi for inspiring me to eat well.


That looks terrific. I love Cauliflower and often roast it in the oven with Artichoke Hearts, Garlic Cloves, Lemon Zest, Olive Oil and S&P. Thanks for another simple variation. Shelly, Nibbles of Tidbits

Shelly Borrell

sometimes simplicity is the best. Love it with parmesan. Looks yum!


Simple weeknight recipe....and my husband has begged my to make it two nights in a row!


Oh my goodness! I made this for my family last night paired with salmon and fresh avocado and green salad! Everyone loved this dish and next time i will remeber to make more!


This sounds like a great way to eat your veggies, and wonderfully versatile.

Arwen from Hoglet K

This is beautiful and simple. I don't eat cauliflower often, but it sounds perfect for me to prepare on nights when I dine alone. I think it would be great over rice.

Haley J.

another nice cauliflower recipe i like is to roast it with olive oil and a bit of salt, then puree it and add about 1/4 cup potato buds, and enough liquid to make a mashed potato consistency... then you can go crazy with your fav potato toppings: cheese, sour cream, chives, chili, etc... its a great sub for mashed potatoes!

danika d.

Wow, made this as written (except that I didn't have a lemon!) with fresh chives and green garlic from the garden, and I ate an entire (large) head of cauli as a SNACK. Absolutely delicious! Going to make this regularly.

Melissa in Chicago

I don't like cauliflower but couldn't get the image of this photo out of my head. After reading the recipe I decided to try it, figuring it might convert me to liking cauliflower. Well, it worked. And I ate the entire recipe in one sitting. Only change was using more garlic. Thanks! HS: Glad you liked it Jackie!


Speaking of cauliflower, my girlfriend and I tried making something I read about last week, "cauliflower rice". It's like rice, only 100% cauliflower! Great for low-carb dieters... I didn't believe it would work, or be like rice. Of course the taste is cauliflower, but when I was eating with a steak and some black beans it felt just like eating rice!

matthew f

This was the first recipe I've made from your blog, even though I've been reading your posts and drooling over your photos for a year. I wasn't disappointed and neither were my fiance and guests - this was DELICIOUS! I added a splash of white wine to the mix as it was simmering - fragrant and tasty. Thank you so much for all you've shared!


We made this for Sunday dinner tonight and it was an awesome addition! THANKS!


This seems a lot like gobi aloo without all the yummy seasonings.


I'm sure you hear this all the time, but I must tell you how much I enjoy your blog. I have experimented with many new ingredients because of it and will continue to follow you as so many do. And I agree, cauliflower is delicious. Often I just parboil it and dump it in a pan with some olive oil to brown it.


The cauliflower looks great! We've made your asparagus broccoli salad twice this week. It's absolutely wonderful. I received your cookbook for Mother's Day and we've been enjoying that too. Thanks so much!


i love cauliflower in absolutely any form, but it's especially delicious pan-fried like this with whole indian seeds (a pinch of cumin, coriander and black pepper) and a few fresh curry leaves. these all burn quickly, though, so i parboil the florets first or remove them from the pan just before they're done, toss in the spices and as soon as they're fragrant (about a minute), add the cauliflower back in and toss. sprinkle little amchoor (dried mango powder) over the top to add a hint of tartness, and you'll have to stop yourself from eating the entire head!


This looks absolutely delicious! And so simple! I can't wait to try it.


I love to cook cauliflower in the pan with some extra veggies then throw in some vegetable stock and couscous and let it steep for 5 minutes, absolutely delicious!!


This looks so tasty! Cauliflower is overlooked as a veggie far too often! Yumm!

Wheeler's Crew

I loved this recipe but I already changed it.. I added a little chopped asparagus and a little mushroom and onions.. The chives really give it a good taste and colours it. I had some of those little purple bulbs on the chives which I don't normally use.. but I did this time.. You are making me stretch my skills. Thank you.


Thank you for these recipes! They sound so tasty! Cauliflower is such an underrated vegetable. I love making thick soups out of pureed cauliflowers (especially mixed with gorgonzola cheese).

Cookin' Canuck

Made this the other night - absolutely love it! I've always found steamed cauliflower to be really bland, but this pan fried version with a few great flavors added was amazing!


Hi, Thank you so much for posting this recipe. This is helpful for me when I need to prepare a quick dish for dinner. Thanks again. see you next post. -Green


Cauliflower is great in place of mashed potatoes. It's delicious and most people don't even notice the switcheroo. I add lots of freshly roasted garlic! I also love cauliflower florets in a nice curry. My kids love it plain with just a touch of butter! Deana

Deana Gunn

Ahhh the one veggie I never seem to a veggie freak, I will be trying this! Thanks for the great ideas!


Just found this site. Beautiful. Something to aspire to. And after viewing the cauliflower I definitely feel a veggie night coming on.


Cauliflower often seems boring and bland but this recipe makes it golden brown and delicious! Thank you Heidi!


Looks fabulous! I can't wait to try it! :D


I have just recently started enjoying cooked cauliflower by itself (without the ever popular broccoli). I have tried it as "mashed potatoes" and roasted. Both were delicious, however the roasted was my favorite --almost a popcorn flavor. This recipe looks like it would be a good alternative to roasting. I am excited to give it a try.


I made this recipe last night. It was great! Thanks for sharing this and all your recipes. I just LOVE your site and your unusual recipes. I was so excited to stumble across your site. I could tell almost instantly that it contained the type of interesting recipes that I can never find anywhere else and wouldn't have dared try to make up on my own. (LOVE the idea of the black bean brownies.)


Thanks for the great recipe ideas!! Here's a hint for families with picky eaters... I do mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes...just throw steamed cauliflower in a food processer with your choice of butter, oil, milk, or broth with seasonings. It is so much healthier than mashed potatoes!!


you inspired me to making something similar last night. i sauteed some garlic in evoo and butter and then added the cauliflower, s&p, and curry powder. cooked it until brown and tender and then finished it with some lemon juice. DELICIOUS! thank you so much for this idea!


I've been into cauliflower lately, too. I love those charred bits that your photo so beautifully displays. I've been blasting mine in the oven, maybe because I don't have the luscious skillet that you do :)

The Leftoverist

Made this last night - ,y first foray into cauliflower cooking/eating ever. DELICIOUS! Cooking the cauliflower definitely took longer than 6 minutes to get brown, but other than that, it was perfect!


This recipe sounds fab in its simplicity. In India, we heat a tsp of oil, fry a tsp of cumin seeds and/or black mustard seeds , add a dash of turmeric and salt and then put in the cauliflower florets to roast. If you're feeling really decadent, bung in some freshly grated coconut and chopped fresh coriander at the end. Takes a bit more time than your recipe, Heidi but it's to die for! :)

Sheena in France

Nice recipe and indeed quicker than my current favorite which is to drizzle olive oil and a little veggie oil to allow a hotter roast temp. Some kosher salt, pepper and roast at 425 and turn florets the size of ping pong balls every ten minutes or so until golden brown -- um um good.

tom | tall clover farm

This looks wonderful. I love how cauliflower is so easy to dress up. I usually make curried cauliflower with peas, which add another texture to the dish. I'd love to try the dry harissa version!


This looks wonderful. I usually roast my cauliflower, which is how I got myself to actually like it. I can't wait to try this - especially the curry version. Your recipes are always so wonderful!


We adore roasted cauliflower, this seems like similar results in less time. I foresee this on our menu a lot this summer! Thanks for always inspiring me!

Laurie Schroeder

I've had a LOT of cauliflower in my life, but I've just never had it browned in oil (usually it's steamed, boiled, or raw in salads).. This looks like it'd taste just great the way you did it and this is a definite do!


This reminds me of your Garlicy Greens recipe, which I use constantly. It's so helpful to have easy ways to prepare vegetables in new ways!


I love cauliflower stir-fired or roasted with a little bit of sun-dried tomato. The lemons and chive seem to be another wonderful way bring flavor to cauliflower. I noticed chives right away, really make the dish visually appealing.

I love cauliflower! This should be a fun new way to try it! Thanks for yet another great idea!


Looks fantastic! First time to your blog,you have a lovely one out here.I love cauliflower...simple and an easy recipe.Thanks!


We definitely do not cook with cauliflower as much as we should. It is a really good veggie.

The Duo Dishes

I think it's perfect just like this! I love cauliflower!


the picture exudes all the flavors here.........perfect.........i make indian versions of the stirfry n like to chop them similarly............sometimes cut them into the pan itself after they are half done.........i have a roasted version with green curry paste with my home grown organic cauliflowers posted on my blog.......i am going to try all your versions.

sangeeta khanna

mmmm...this looks great. i recently started to roast my cauliflower and moved it from my "dreaded childhood veggies" to my "favorite quick veggies". This might further redeem it! Thanks for the inspiration.


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