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Cauliflower: A Complete Guide

If you’re trying to cut back on carbohydrates, your best ally is a cruciferous vegetable. It's all too often dismissed as something to swipe through dip. But cauliflower can stand in for a variety of starches, including mashed potatoes, rice, and pizza crust. Here's all you need to know about preparing and enjoying cauliflower.

Cauliflower photo by Meredith

Photo by Meredith

Cauliflower Nutrition

This skinny starch comes with a bevy of added nutritional benefits: While low in calories, cauliflower is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. The most common variety in the U.S. has protective green leaves and a white head, consisting of bunched-together immature flower buds. But breeders have developed dozens of varieties, including those with purple florets, green florets, and orange florets, which outscore white florets in the vitamin K category. Regardless of color, cauliflower has about 29 calories, making it the caloric equivalent of kale and bell peppers.

Cauliflowers come in many colors. Photo by Meredith

Photo by Meredith

Picking and Preparing Cauliflower

Cauliflower’s fresh flavor doesn’t hinge on its size, so small and large heads are equally fine to buy. What you want to avoid are particularly small flowers, as well as flowers that aren’t tightly clustered. Look for unblemished, bright white florets, surrounded by plenty of leaves.

To store cauliflower, stash it in a paper or plastic bag, stem side down. It should keep in the refrigerator for a week. When you’re ready to cook, cut away the outer leaves and slice off the florets at their base.

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Steaming Cauliflower

Steaming is the first step to mashed cauliflower. For a steaming shortcut, use the microwave.

Loaded Cauliflower

Loaded Cauliflower. Photo by lutzflcat

Photo by lutzflcat

Frying Cauliflower

Fried cauliflower is a popular snack in Egypt and India. If you’re not keen on deep-frying, you can also stir fry on the stove.

Cauliflower Fritters


So many cauliflower recipes!


Grilling Cauliflower "Steaks"

A recent restaurant rage, a cauliflower “steak” is just a piece sliced off from top to bottom: It looks like a tree silhouette and tastes hearty, especially when cooked on the grill.

Cauliflower - cutting steaks. Photo by Meredith

Photo by Meredith

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks. Photo by Rock_lobster

Photo by Rock_lobster


How to Slice Cauliflower Steaks for Roasting


Roasting Cauliflower

If you don’t want to fuss with lengthwise chopping or separating florets from the stem, you can roast the whole head in the oven. The end result is a striking centerpiece for a vegetarian meal, rivaling a rib roast or roast turkey.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower. Photo by Sacto ThreeSixty

Photo by Sacto ThreeSixty

Baking with Cauliflower

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

See how to turn cauliflower into tasty, gluten-free pizza crust.


Other Ways to Prepare Cauliflower

Like most vegetables, cauliflower is tremendously versatile, suitable for everything from soup to custard. Here are a few recipes that suggest even more ways to use it:


Browse: hundreds of cauliflower recipes.

Related: Cauliflower is one of the "Clean 15."


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About Hanna Raskin

Not just a grits eater, but a one-time grits roller (a sport involving an inflatable tub and 27 cases of instant grits). Devoted to queso, chopped liver, Cuban toast, soft-shell crabs, and the roads that lead to them.