Margarita-Inspired Mexican Cauliflower


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(Note: this post was originally published on September 8, 2019. It has since been updated with new photos and a few tweaks.)

A Healthy Mexican Appetizer

Do you love Mexican-inspired flavors but prefer appetizers that are on the lighter side? If so, this Mexican cauliflower is going to be your new favorite finger food. Inspired by the flavors in a margarita (lime, tequila, and salt), this cauliflower is easy to make, delicious, and light. It's a great appetizer option since it's vegan, grain-free, and friendly for almost any diet (and yes, it can be alcohol-free if you prefer; see the notes below).

This recipe is part of my "Cauliflower is Bar Food" series, in which I create indulgent finger foods with cauliflower. My goal in this series is to provide some veggie-filled, nourishing recipes designed to go alongside cocktails for happy hour. If you're as excited about this as I am, you'll definitely want to check out my Cauliflower Poutine with Vegan Squash Gravy (perfect alongside a whiskey cocktail) and my Furikake Cauliflower (perfect alongside a Mai Tai).

Whether you enjoy this cauliflower appetizer before a meal, for a margarita happy hour, or as a gameday snack, it's one I hope you'll fall in love with. We make it almost every time we make margaritas and it's fabulous!

Healthy, vegan Mexican cauliflower dish

Mexican Cauliflower, Margarita Flavors

This cauliflower appetizer is bursting with the three key flavors of a margarita: lime, tequila, and salt. To make it, you'll roast the cauliflower to perfection (see the section below for details). Then, you'll give it a flavorful bath in tequila, lime zest, salt, and pepper, and let that cook off for a few minutes. Finally, you'll give it a big kiss of lime juice after cooking.

Because the cauliflower itself is relatively simple, this is definitely a dish that is enhanced with some fun garnishes. I like to scatter citrus slices throughout the cauliflower for celebrating the margarita vibe and squeezing onto individual portions as desired. I also like to add some freshness with finely chopped cilantro and/or mint as well as some crunch (and that classic margarita saltiness!) with roasted salted pepitas. Top it off with some avocado slices and a sprinkling of chili salt for the perfect healthy Mexican appetizer.

A healthy cauliflower appetizer with Mexican flavors

How to Roast Cauliflower

Cauliflower is easy to roast and the resulting flavor is a delight. Something magical happens when you roast this hearty veggie at high temperature; it becomes tender, packed with flavor, and crispy on the edges. It's my preferred way of cooking this cauliflower appetizer so that it feels succulent and indulgent.

To roast cauliflower, you'll start by cutting off the florets. Make sure they're all about the same size so that they cook evenly. Lay them on a well-oiled sheet tray (or conversely, toss them in a dash of oil), ensuring that the florets are in a flat layer with ample breathing room in between. The cauliflower won't brown if it doesn't have contact with the metal, so split it between two sheet trays if needed. Roast at high temperature (450 degrees) for 20-30 minutes until the cauliflower is browned on the edges and tender. After cooking, I suggest tossing the cauliflower in some sort of sauce, dressing, or marinade to keep it moist; for this Mexican cauliflower recipe in particular, you'll use a mixture of tequila and lime juice.

Air-Fryer Option

If you have an air-fryer, it's a good option for this recipe if you want to prepare it more quickly. Follow the same steps as in the recipe card, but air-fry it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Toss it in the tequila and lime zest, then return it to the air fryer for several more minutes to cook off the tequila. Note that you won't be able to fit as much cauliflower into the air-fryer as you will onto a sheet tray, so it might be a better option if you're only making this healthy Mexican appetizer for just a few people.

Alcohol-Free Option

Not into tequila? No worries, this recipe works fine without it. Instead of drizzling the cauliflower with tequila, just add a splash of water or veggie stock to moisten it and to help the lime zest release its flavor.

Close-up of Mexican cauliflower with lime

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here's what you'll need for this healthy Mexican appetizer 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. You can use white, yellow, purple, or a combination. I'd suggest half a head per person for robust appetizers, less than that for nibbling.
  • Oil. I like to use coconut oil for this Mexican cauliflower recipe because coconut and lime are wonderful together, but anything that can go to high temperature is fine.
  • Tequila. You'll use this to moisten the cauliflower at the end of the roasting time, then cook it off. If you'd rather not use tequila, use a splash of water or veggie stock instead, since the added moisture is important.
  • Lime. You'll use both the zest and juice.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Citrus slices
  • Cilantro and/or mint. It's great with either, so use what you enjoy.
  • Avocado
  • Roasted salted pepitas
  • Chili salt. Optional, but it's a fun way to finish this dish.

Healthy Mexican appetizer dish made from cauliflower

Closing Thoughts

I'm so excited to be sharing this healthy Mexican appetizer with you. It's one we make again and again at home because it can become so many things. Of course it's great as a happy hour snack but it's also a wonderful side dish. If you have leftovers, I love adding extras to a burrito bowl or a taco the next day.

My advice? Make this cauliflower appetizer on a Saturday evening when you want to stay in but are craving a going-out vibe. Pair it with some margaritas and guac or salsa for an instant tequila bar vibe. However you serve it, it's an excellent happy hour snack!

Roasted cauliflower appetizer with Mexican flavors

Share It!

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.

Suggested Pairings

Blackberry Coconut Margarita

Healthy Mexican Street Corn Stuffed Peppers

Vegan Watermelon Nachos with Avocado Sauce

Rainbow Mexican Black Bean Salad

Spicy Skillet Orange Jalapeno Brussels Sprouts

Margarita-Inspired Mexican Cauliflower

Inspired by the flavors in a margarita, this cauliflower appetizer is fresh, light, and perfect alongside Mexican fare. Bonus points for enjoying it alongside some margaritas!



For the Cauliflower

  • Large head of cauliflower
  • Oil of choice for roasting
  • 2 oz tequila
  • Zest of a lime
  • Generous salt and pepper
  • Juice of a lime

For Garnishing

  • Orange and lime slices
  • Fresh cilantro and/or mint
  • Avocado
  • 0.25 c roasted salted pepitas
  • Sprinkle of chili salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 and oil a large sheet tray.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into florets. For the bigger florets, cut them in halves or thirds for even cooking.
  3. Lay the cauliflower florets on the sheet tray in a single layer.
  4. Roast at 450 for about 20-30 minutes until tender and browned but not soft.
  5. Remove the sheet tray from the oven and drizzle the cauliflower with tequila. Add lime zest and generous salt and pepper.
  6. Return the cauliflower to the oven for another 5 minutes to cook off the tequila.
  7. Remove the sheet tray from the oven and drizzle the cauliflower with lime juice.
  8. Transfer the cauliflower to a serving platter. Garnish with orange and lime slices, fresh finely-chopped cilantro and/or mint, avocado slices, pepitas, and a sprinkle of chili salt.

Leave a Comment

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you make this recipe? Did you make substitutions? How did you serve it? Any helpful tips? Please share your thoughts, since these insights are really useful to both me and to other readers.

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April 24, 2022
I served as part of a veggie board. The citrus gave a nice tart and tasty flavor to liven up an otherwise rather bland vegetable.
Mariela Marrero
February 18, 2022
I love this recipe!! The flavors are amazing. I’ve been using my air fryer for almost everything. I’ll try this soon!
February 15, 2022
Thanks for another wonderful cauliflower idea! This one is especially fun as bar food, because of the tequila touch! It would pair so well with a fresh orange juice margarita and they’d look so pretty together too! We’re going to have to give this one a try!