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

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3.87 from 46 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 love roasted cauliflower! I could eat the whole head prepared that way, but I usually try to restrain myself.


Gotta love the cauli! I love how you can do it so many delicious ways and the flavor of the cauli still shines bright. Nutmeg sounds gorgeous. Other variations are 1) steam it along with garlic, tomato sauce peperoncino and basil 2) it so good with curry, too!!! i also add anise seeds, black mustard seeds and onions. Thanks for all the ideas!

Morta Di Fame

The nutmeg idea is so simple and obvious -- and yet I've never done it. It's beautiful in spnach of course, and yet I've never thought to add it to other vegetables (I did add it to an egg spinach cake that I posted about recently). I'm looking forward to the purple and orange cauliflower, but that seems to come later in the year.

Becky and the Beanstock

LOVE cauliflower. And what lovely little pieces your honey cuts it up into! Love the idea of parmesan...I tend to throw indian spices in (cumin and ginger are great) or sometimes go the more italian route with capers and tomato sauce.

Laura [What I Like]

This looks declicious and easy. Would you ever blanch the cauliflower first or leave it crunchy?


My family loves cauliflower cooked in small pieces like this with lots of garlic and hot pepper flakes. We then have it on top of our sauce (Italian Sunday gravy) and pasta. If I make the sauce meatless, this adds a great extra zing to what can be just plain sauce and pasta.


Samuel, Those purple buds are chive flowers, I think. Last time I picked up a bunch of chives at the farmer's market, they had big purple flowers on the end. They're intensely flavored and yummy! Heidi, this looks great! I love how easily it can be changed up.


Guillermo loves Cauliflower and we hardly ever prepare it--this one will be on the top of our list! Thanks, and beautiful as always.


Thank you Heidi, I can't wait to try this. I love your simple vegetable dishes (like your garlicky greens--one of my all-time favorites of yours). Please keep them coming! I read your website all the time, but this is my first time posting. Two of my other favorites are your mushroom casserole (so comforting and yummy) and the lentil-almond stir fry (such an incredible combination of flavors). You truly enrich my life, Heidi! Your warm writing makes you feel like a friend, and you've given me so much inspiration in the kitchen (as well as better health). Thank you, thank you for being a wonderful gift to us all!


Would you use broccoli in this recipe instead of cauliflower?


This looks like a simple but delicious recipe. Anything with a golden brown crust like that sounds fabulous to me.

ashley (sweet & natural)

You're right: the egg sandwich idea does sound weird! But, the cauliflower itself - especially the curry version - sounds fantastic. Love the way you add the chives with the bud ends attached!

Dana McCauley

I love califlower! and I cook it very often. I'll try all your recipes. Do you know greek califlower (chou-fleur à la grecque)? you cook it only 5mn with white wine, vinegar, olive oil, coriander and fennel, and cool it in frige all the night. You eat it cold with grilled meat or for "apéritif"

Dominique (de vous à moi)

Looks fabulous! I love that you gave all those variations. Cauliflower is one of those simple, humble ingredients that can become absolutely luxurious when done just right.

Matt (No Meat Athlete)

I do this kind of simple saute often as well- With Cauliflower, I usually add cubes of raw sweet potato-they cook about the same time and go together so well while adding valuable nutrients. A sprinkle of tumeric adds needed minerals and a great color if you are not using curry.


Hello! I've been reading your blog for couple of months, and I love it!! Thank you for sharing your ideas! Greetings from Croatia, Snjezana.


I am a fairly new reader to your blog and I love it! So many good ideas for veggies. I would always just make aloo gobhi (curried cauliflower with potatoes - a great and yummy staple dish!), but this post gives me lots of fresh ideas. :) I like hearing about other people's "food routines." You may have posted something like this earlier on, but can you tell us more about how often you go to the farmer's market, your fave shops in SF, when you cook, etc.? I get a produce bag every week and am often overwhelmed with trying to finish it all before I get the next one, so I am interested in how other avid cooks and committed produce eaters do this! Your recipes often feature using up the odds and ends left in the fridge, so I assume you struggle with this sometimes as well.... Thanks!


I grew up with steamed cauliflower served with melted butter or else raw in the crudite tray - I love your variations that you shared. Thank you!


I generally eat traditional steamed cauliflower with salt & pepper. But I sometimes roast my cauliflower in the oven as Heidi describes with the skillet version, which gives it a similar golden quality. It is a great vegetable and versatile, not to mention, good for you too!


This recipes looks fantastic ! Can wait to try. Thank you !


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