(Note: this post was originally published on January 3, 2021. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
Cauliflower Finger Food
Coming at you today with another cauliflower appetizer. This healthy cauliflower recipe is easy to make, delightfully tangy, addictingly salty, and a bit sweet to keep you coming back for more. Remember when salt and vinegar chips were really trendy? This is my (much better for the body) version- salt and vinegar cauliflower, with some maple syrup to round it out.
Followers of this blog will be familiar with my obsession with cauliflower. In fact, I've done a whole series that I call "Cauliflower Is Bar Food". All of these vegan-friendly or fully vegan cauliflower recipes are designed to be satisfying yet still nourishing finger food dishes, ideally served alongside a couple cocktails.
Of course you'll also want to check out this zippy Margarita Cauliflower, this super-comforting Cauliflower Poutine, and this unique Furikake Cauliflower. When I open my own cocktail bar (???), I'll definitely have a "Cauliflower Bar Food" section; it's really the best veggie for reinvented comfort food.
Easy and Flavorful
The beauty of this dish is its simplicity, which makes it a snap to prepare and also wonderfully humble and nostalgic. You'll roast cauliflower florets until they're tender and caramelized, then toss them with a maple-kissed salt and vinegar sauce. Serve it with a creamy (yogurt based) maple mustard sauce and you have yourself just about the most satisfying finger food out there. It's a healthy cauliflower recipe everyone can love regardless of their diet.
Everything about this dish straddles the fine line between tangy and sweet. In the cauliflower itself, a dash of maple syrup balances the tangy vinegar. In the dipping sauce, maple syrup balances the pungent whole grain mustard. It's this balance that makes this dish so addicting. This vegan cauliflower recipe is sure to please even the biggest veggie skeptics!
This is definitely a dish that will work year-round. However, I think it excels most in the fall and winter thanks to its comforting nature and subtle wintry flavors (maple syrup, mustard, apple cider vinegar). I'd pair this cozy cauliflower appetizer with a whiskey cocktail (this Cherry Chai Manhattan would be perfect, or maybe this Apple Thyme Old Fashioned). It would be a blast alongside some other fall/winter comfort foods like sweet potato fries, this Pumpkin Hummus, or some Sweet and Salty Stuffed Figs.
Can I Air Fry Cauliflower?
Yes! Cauliflower is actually one of my favorite veggies to cook in the air fryer. The recipe card below uses the oven roasting method, but it's actually easier and faster to air fry it. Using the air fryer makes this healthy cauliflower recipe a breeze!
If you want to use the air fryer, you'll follow the same preparation steps outlined below. Air-fry at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, checking the cauliflower frequently toward the end of the cooking time. If you have a basket-style air fryer, make sure to toss it frequently. When the cauliflower is tender and lightly browned, toss it in the vinegar marinade and then enjoy! You can have this cauliflower appetizer on the table in about 25 minutes flat.
Curious about which method to choose? The air fryer is definitely faster, more energy-efficient, and creates cauliflower that has crisp brown edges. The oven is slower but cozier, and creates cauliflower that has browned surfaces but is still moist and succulent inside. Generally speaking, I opt for the oven when I'm feeling more leisurely, when I want to make a big batch of this vegan cauliflower recipe, or when I want to heat up the house on a cold winter evening. I like the air-fryer for when I have less time or when we're craving something crispy. If you want to go completely oil-free, I suggest using the air fryer rather than the oven to make this healthy cauliflower recipe even lighter.
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Cauliflower. The recipe below is for two medium-sized heads, which should serve 3-4 people as hearty appetizers or 6 people as nibbles. Feel free to scale up or down as needed.
Apple cider vinegar. You'll use this powerhouse ingredient to make a light, vinegary marinade to bathe the cauliflower in after roasting. Red wine vinegar would also work well. I don't suggest using balsamic since it will turn the cauliflower brown.
Maple syrup. You'll use a dash of maple syrup to add a kiss of sweetness both in the vinegar marinade and in the dipping sauce. Honey would work fine too, although the flavor will be different.
Flaky sea salt
Roasted/salted pistachios. I like to garnish this dish with some crunchy pistachios! They're optional though, or you could use another nut instead.
Unsweetened, unflavored yogurt. Choose a plant-based yogurt to make this a fully vegan cauliflower recipe.
Coarse-grained mustard. The mustard plays a starring role in the dipping sauce for this cauliflower appetizer, so use a flavorful, high-quality one. Of course homemade mustard is the best!
Have I convinced you yet? Are you ready to make my concept of "Cauliflower Bar Food" a trend?? I think we have such a cultural misconception that comfort food (or bar food, or football food, or however you think of it) needs to be bad for you. But that's not the case! Dishes like this vegan cauliflower recipe are loaded with good-for-the-body veggies and are still deeply satisfying.
The best part about this flavorful, sweet, salty, and tangy, decadent yet still healthy cauliflower recipe? You can eat a bunch of it and not feel weighed down! So make a cocktail, cook up a big batch of this cauliflower (rather than digging into a bag of salt and vinegar chips), and enjoy a chill evening at home. This is exactly what your winter Friday and Saturday (and Sunday??) evenings need.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
It's much more than just food. Together we'll explore seasonal ingredients and healthy recipes. But we'll also delve into health and wellness topics, self care tips, books, podcasts, and the natural world. This newsletter is all about leading a more colorful, plant-filled, holistic, and intentional life.
Bursting with a delightful balance of sweet, salty, and tangy flavors, this cauliflower appetizer is a nourishing remake of salt and vinegar chips. It's a favorite in our house for happy hour snacking!
Preheat the oven to 425 and lightly oil a large sheet tray.
Cut the cauliflower into florets. For the bigger florets, cut them in halves or thirds for even cooking.
Put the florets into a large mixing bowl and toss them with a generous splash of your preferred cooking oil.
Lay the cauliflower florets on the sheet tray in a single layer; if needed, use two sheet trays to give them space to brown.
Roast for about 30-45 minutes until tender and browned.
While the cauliflower is roasting, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, and fleur de sel in a large mixing bowl.
Also while the cauliflower is roasting, mix together the ingredients for the dipping sauce.
When the cauliflower is finished cooking, dump the florets into the vinegar marinade and give everything a good toss. Let it sit for a few minutes, tossing every minute or so, to allow the cauliflower to absorb the flavorful marinade.
Serve your cauliflower alongside the dipping sauce while it's still hot. Garnish the cauliflower with a big handful of pistachios.
AIR FRYER METHOD: The air fryer makes cauliflower magic! If you have one, do steps 2 and 3, then dump it all into your air fryer basket. Fry for ~15-20 minutes at 400, tossing it every five minutes or so. Then resume the above recipe at step 6.