Crispy Smashed Cauliflower is a delectable dish that goes with almost everything, and if you're looking for a new, exciting, healthier side, this is it! It's the perfect low-carb alternative to potatoes and with essentially one ingredient, the flavor is nothing short of spectacular!
We usually expect to see some sort of potato or sweet potato dish at Thanksgiving. Why not make something new while at the same time, keeping with the same Thanksgiving side dish vibe?
Smashed cauliflower is the answer!
This healthier, low-carb and gluten-free dish fits right in with the holiday feast. And you won't believe how incredibly delicious the flavor is!
This is not to be confused with mashed cauliflower, which is completely different. Smashing is not mashing. 😉 To see the clear difference, reference my Garlic-Herb Smashed Potatoes and these mashed potatoes. The difference is exactly the same for cauliflower.
Ingredients for Smashed Cauliflower
- cauliflower - You can purchase a whole head of cauliflower or bags of cauliflower florets. If you buy a head, choose one that's firm all over with tightly closed florets, and no dark spots.
- salt & pepper - I prefer kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- olive oil - Extra virgin or regular is okay for this recipe.
Although there's only one main ingredient listed -- the cauliflower -- there's a second main "ingredient" which is caramelization. The gorgeous, golden-brown "crust" that forms evenly on both sides of the smashed cauliflower is just like adding another flavor, and it's magical!
How to Make it
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Add the cauliflower florets to a large mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Mix to coat all of the pieces with the oil.
- Pour the florets onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread them out evenly.
- Place it in the preheated 375°F oven for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and use a flat-bottomed spatula to flip the pieces over. Roast for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 475°F. At this point the florets should be soft.
- Leaving them on the baking sheet, use a smooth meat mallet or the bottom of a your smallest sauté pan to gently press on the florets. They will become evenly flat on both sides and should be about ½-inch thick.
- Return them to the now 475°F oven and roast until the bottoms are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Then flip them over and continue to roast until golden brown on the other side, about 10 more minutes.
(More detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
- To save some prep time, you can start with bagged cauliflower florets, rather than a head of cauliflower.
- I find the cauliflower gets the best caramelization when it roasts on a baking sheet that's not lined with anything (i.e., foil, parchment) -- whether it's non-stick or not.
- All this recipe needs to be outstanding is salt, pepper, olive oil and the oven -- however, feel free to add finely chopped herbs if you'd like. Thyme or rosemary would be lovely. Add this with the oil as you mix it with the cauliflower.
- Roasting times might vary a little with this recipe because not all ovens are calibrated the same, and everyone's cauliflower florets will be slightly different sizes.
- As a result of the above, if the florets are getting brown before it's time to smash them, check to see if they're soft, and if so, you can smash them earlier, and then proceed with the instructions from there.
- Serve it for a fabulous Thanksgiving side dish -- instead of, or in addition to potatoes for a low-carb choice.
- Serve it alongside meat, poultry, other vegetables -- almost anything.
- Add chicken and spinach to it and serve it as a main course.
- Mix it into your salads.
- Mix it into curry stews.
- Make vegetarian tacos and burritos using the smashed cauliflower as the main ingredient.
Can you make it ahead?
- Crispy smashed cauliflower can be made a day ahead, stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, and reheated briefly in a hot oven just before you serve.
- However, for maximum crispness, it's best to serve this as close as possible to the time it's removed from the oven.
- To get started ahead of time, in the morning you can prep the florets to the point that they're ready to go in the oven. They can be covered with foil at room temperature, and then roast them about an hour before you're serving.
Smashed Cauliflower vs. Mashed and Roasted
- Smashed. After cauliflower florets are softened, they're flattened and then evenly browned in a very hot oven to form a delicious caramelized crust on both sides. When they're smashed like this, you get some of the crust in every bite.
- Mashed. After cauliflower is softened (steamed or roasted), it's then mashed into a smooth or chunky purée.
- Roasted. Cauliflower florets or "steaks" are roasted in a very hot oven. Like the smashed version, these also form a caramelized crust -- only typically on much less surface area. Cauliflower steaks are an exception, but these are usually very large pieces.
I hope you love this easy recipe as much as my family and I do! I'm hoping it becomes one of your favorite cauliflower recipes!
More scrumptious cauliflower recipes:
- Creamy Cauliflower Basil Soup
- Cream of Jalapeño Cauliflower Soup
- Cauliflower Bread with Gruyère
- Fioretto Lemon-Cauliflower Salad
- Whole Roasted Citrus Cauliflower
Smashed Cauliflower Recipe
- 1½ pounds cauliflower florets, washed and dried
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Prepare the cauliflower. If you've purchased a head of cauliflower, wash and dry it, and then cut and break into into small florets. (The weight of 1½-pounds is the weight of just the florets.)Add the florets to a large mixing bowl, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Mix to coat all of the pieces with the oil.
- Begin roasting. Pour the cauliflower florets onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread them out evenly. Place it in the preheated 375°F oven for 20 minutes. Remove the pan and use a flat-bottomed spatula to flip the pieces over. Roast for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 475°F.
- Smash. Use a smooth meat mallet or the bottom of a your smallest sauté pan to gently press down on the florets. They will become evenly flat on both sides and should be about ½-inch thick. Return them to the now 475°F oven and roast until the bottoms are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Then flip them over and continue to roast until golden brown on the other side, about another 10 minutes.
Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!
This cauliflower looks smashing! Hahaha! Really though, it looks incredibly delicious.
Thanks, Jeff, and I love the pun! Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂 ~Valentina
Love the caramelized surface..they must have tasted amazing.
Thanks, Angie! Yes, scrumptious. 🙂 ~Valentina
Look at that gorgeous golden brown! You make cauliflower look GOOD, Valentina. Smashing the florets for an even caramelization is genius!
Thanks so much, Marissa! I hope you have a delicious and delightful Thanksgiving.:-) ~Valentina
Karen (Back Road Journal)
I have to agree with you, the caramelized cauliflower is one of our favorites. We enjoy it tossed with pasta.
Hi Karen. Oooooh delicious with pasta! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 🙂 ~Valentina
Simple and soooo delicious!
Thank you, Davorka. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
David Scott Allen
What could be more perfect that the simplicity of this recipe? We are huge cauliflower fans — I just showed this to Mark, and he said, “That would make a great dinner some night.” I agree! Happy Thanksgiving, my friend!
And a very happy Thanksgiving to you and Mark! I'm sure it'll be a delicious one!:-) ~Valentina
We really enjoy roasted cauliflower in our home, but I've never smashed it before. I can only imagine how good it is with those delicious golden brown crispy bits. And, guess what? I just happen to have a fresh head of cauliflower in my refrigerator so this recipe is happening asap. Can't wait!
Hi Dawn, I hope you try and love it. Happy Thanksgiving (belated, since yours was last month). 🙂 ~Valentina
Ben | Havocinthekitchen
Yeah, smashed vegetables are often so much better, right? Lol
These are some and perfectly cooked cauliflower with a terrific caramelization.
Thanks so much, Ben. Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂 ~Valentina
Raymund | angsarap.net
This looks really good, I love the charred bits, they definitely will give it so much flavour.
Hi Raymund. Thanks so much. Yes, the little charred bits are the best! 🙂 ~Valentina