Chili Mango MacNut Crusted Cauliflower

Looking for a unique, plant-based centerpiece that's sure to impress? Then feast on this Chili Mango MacNut Crusted Cauliflower that's juicy, crunchy, nutty, and packed with tropical flavor.

I'm seriously in love with cauliflower, and this dish takes cauliflower from side dish to star. While I'm a huge fan of roasted florets, they don't really feel like the center of a meal. And while cauliflower "steaks" have been very trendy lately, they don't make use of the whole veggie. This gorgeous whole-roasted head is both delicious and show-stopping, and will convert even the biggest cauliflower skeptics.

Although this dish looks fancy, the approach isn't all that complicated (and I want to thank Sarah of Snixy Kitchen, whose Pistachio-Crusted Whole Roasted Cauliflower was the inspiration for the method I've developed here; her blog is gorgeous, check it out!).

First, you'll boil the whole head of cauliflower in a super-flavorful broth in order to infuse it with spices and moisture. Second, you'll cover the head with a macadamia nut paste that will brown to the most perfect golden crust in the oven. Third, you'll roast the whole thing at high temperature. So although there are a few separate steps, most of the time is hands-off, giving you plenty of time to prep all the garnishes and sides you want to serve your masterpiece with!

The flavors here are a mixture of tropical and Mexican influence, combining zesty chiles, complex cumin, sweet mango, and tangy lime. Macadamia nuts and coconut oil add some much-needed decadence to the cauliflower and create beautifully nutty notes. The combination makes me think of eating tacos barefoot on a Hawaiian beach.

Macadamia nuts are the real star here, and I'm very happy to be partnering with Mauna Loa to bring you this unique way of using them. Mauna Loa MacNuts have a special place in my heart because they're grown on the big island of Hawai'i. Dave and I spend time on Kaua'i every year and have completely fallen in love with MacNuts. You can frequently find us doing happy hour on a remote beach with a bag of salty MacNuts and a waterbottle full of rum.

I used Mauna Loa's Mango Chipotle Macadamias in this recipe to provide even more flavor to the cauliflower. They're seriously addicting; complexly flavored, sweet, and very subtly spicy, with that lovely clean chipotle heat. They make an absolutely perfect crust for the cauliflower, although you could certainly use their Dry Roasted Macadamias instead.

For serving, I highly suggest mango salsa in order to enhance the mango flavor of the MacNuts. Some grilled or pickled onions, fresh cilantro, additional whole or chopped MacNuts, and/or guacamole would also be lovely. If you're a hot sauce lover, break it out, especially one with fruity notes. You can really have fun dressing this up.

One quick tip. If you want to double the recipe, you don't need to double the broth. Just boil one head after the other in the same broth (easy!). And I highly suggest doubling the recipe, because I can eat almost a whole head myself!

This really is a magical approach to cauliflower. It's absolutely packed with flavor, and has such wonderful color and crunch. It will change your cauliflower world forever!

Please share your creation so I can see how you've interpreted the concept! Tag "The Rogue Brussel Sprout" on Facebook or hashtag #theroguebrusselsprout on Instagram. 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Mauna Loa. However, all opinions and thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep The Rogue Brussel Sprout running.

Want to serve this alongside a big, fresh, on-theme salad? I think you'll also love this Blistered Shishito Pepper Salad, which has mango alongside a bit of spice!

Thoughts About Ingredients
(These are all just suggestions, since rogue is more fun than recipe)

For the Cauliflower and Broth
  • Head of cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp honey. Or use agave to keep things plant-based.
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder. Or use a bit more chili powder if you don't have chipotle specifically. Ancho chile powder could also work.
  • Zest and juice of a lime
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper and/or dash of hot sauce. Optional, if you want things spicy.
For the Crust
  • 0.5 c Mauna Loa Mango Chipotle Macadamias. If you can't find these, regular roasted and salted macadamias will work fine in their place. In that case, add to the crust 1 tsp chipotle powder and a tiny dash of coconut sugar or brown sugar.
  • 1.5-2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • Zest of a lime. Save the juice for making guac to top your cauliflower!
For Serving 
  • Handful of chopped fresh cilantro
  • Handful of chopped or whole MacNuts
  • Mango salsa. Read all about fruit salsas in my Fruit Salsa Guide!
  • Guacamole or avocado slices
  • Lime wedges
Thoughts About Method
(These are all just suggestions, be creative and make it yours)
  1. In a large pot, add enough water to fully submerge the head of cauliflower (you can always put it in and take it back out to check). To the water, add all of the broth ingredients: honey/agave, sea salt, chili powder, cumin powder, chipotle powder, zest and juice of a lime, and optional cayenne or hot sauce.
  2. Bring this flavorful broth to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the leaves off the cauliflower head. If needed, trim the stem slightly so that the cauliflower will sit squarely without tipping.
  4. Once the broth is boiling, carefully (no splashing!) lower the cauliflower head into the pot until it is completely submerged. Boil it for 10-12 minutes until tender. Don't overcook- otherwise you won't be able to make the crust stick.
  5. Remove the cauliflower head; tongs are useful here. Set aside in a colander so that it cools and dries. Make sure to handle the cauliflower gently so that it stays in one piece.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400.
  7. In a small food processor, combine all the crust ingredients: MacNuts, coconut oil (start with 1.5 tbsp), cumin, salt, and lime zest. Pulse the food processor until you have a slightly crumbly paste, scraping down the sides as necessary. If you have a hard time making a paste, add a bit more coconut oil.
  8. Use a paper towel to dry the surface of the cauliflower head. Then, using your hands, cover the whole top half of the head with your MacNut paste. Press it gently against the florets to get it to stick.
  9. Bake the crusted cauliflower head for about 20 minutes uncovered. Keep a close eye on it though, since the fat in the MacNuts and coconut oil will brown quickly. If you're worried about the crust browning too quickly, you can always tent the top part of the cauliflower head with some foil.
  10. Meanwhile, make your garnishes and sides. I like sprinkling the cauliflower with some cilantro after baking for freshness, and serving it alongside mango salsa and/or guacamole. Some mango hot sauce would be lovely if you like things spicy, and additional MacNuts on top or on the side add nice crunch.
  11. When your cauliflower is done, remove it from the baking dish very carefully since it's quite delicate. Plate it up how you see fit. To serve, treat it like a pie and cut wedges using a very sharp serrated knife.


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