This Mexican Roasted Cauliflower Salad is hearty, yet healthy and bursting with flavor! Loaded with caramelized cauliflower, cumin-kissed chickpeas, crispy quinoa, funky feta and a creamy avocado dressing, this is proof that satisfying salads do exist!
Continue to read on for easy ways to customize this roasted vegetable salad! Plus, comprehensive tips on selecting, storing and trimming fresh cauliflower! Looking for more salad recipes? Try these family favorites next: Italian Chop Salad, Mexican Avocado Corn Salad, Broccoli Grape Salad and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad!
Update: This post was originally published in March 2017. I made updates to the post below to include more information about roasted cauliflower. Plus, I took new photos and added step-by-step photos to show you exactly how easy this cauliflower salad is to make!
Hello, friends! Since I totally blew our diet on Monday with the most delicious the sky high, streusel topped muffins, today we are going to feast on salad. Because, while muffins are marvelous, life is all about balance.
But, wait!!! Before you give me that stinky side-eye glare, just know we aren’t eating any run of the mill, sad salad! No ma’am! Limp lettuce and boring, bland salads are for the birds! Today we are eating a salad bursting with flavor and loaded with all the things delicious!
Roasted Cauliflower Salad
To be honest those words up there masquerading as a recipe title really don’t do this salad justice. I almost named this dish a ‘super stellar superfood salad’. However, while that title does have a nice ring to it, I didn’t think it was quite descriptive enough. Anyways, suitable recipe title dilemma aside, this salad is everything a salad should be! It’s hearty and fully loaded with flavor, texture and all the things delicious!!
This beauty features smoky, cumin kissed and Mexican spiced roasted cauliflower, crunchy chickpeas, crispy quinoa, delicate greens, funky feta, fresh herbs, salty pumpkin seeds and rich avocado. Generously drizzled with an ultra-creamy, yet healthy avocado-yogurt dressing, this is a salad you will actually want to eat! It’s hearty, yet healthy and bursting with a depth of delicious flavors! Essentially, this is proof that satisfying salads do exist!
Why you will love this recipe
- Easy to prepare! This cauliflower salad recipe requires very little hands-on-prep work! And, you can purchase a bag of cauliflower florets if you are looking to save even more time.
- Packed with fresh, good-for-you ingredients! Along with cauliflower, this salad is filled with nutritious ingredients, such as fiber-rich chickpeas, heart-healthy avocados and protein-packed quinoa!
- Bursting with tons of flavor and hearty textures! This salad has layer upon layer of texture and flavor! There’s caramelized, nutty, tender-crisp cauliflower, crispy chickpeas and salty seeds – just to name a few!
- Versatile! You can easily customize this salad by adding or substituting your family’s favorite ingredients!
- Healthy, delicious salad dressing! As much as I love this salad, I may love the dressing even more! It’s ultra-creamy and made with a blend of Greek yogurt and avocado so it’s good for you, too!
- Make ahead! This salad keeps well, so it’s perfect for grab-and-go lunches or easy dinners!
What’s in roasted cauliflower salad?
This satisfying salad is packed with fresh, good-for-you ingredients and superfoods! This recipe relies on just 10 simple ingredients, plus a few pantry staples, to create a salad that has tons of texture and a delicious depth of flavor! (Scroll down for the detailed measurements in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.)
Ingredients in cauliflower salad
- Cauliflower: You need one large head of cauliflower. Make sure you select the best-looking cauliflower at the store or market! (See below for tips on selecting, storing and trimming cauliflower!)
- Chickpeas: One can of chickpeas add the perfect touch of crispy texture and nutty flavor! I recommend you use a low or reduced-sodium brand of chickpeas.
- Oil: You need ¼ cup of olive oil for roasting the cauliflower and chickpeas. You can use any brand you love, just make sure it is good quality.
- Spices and Seasonings: A combination of cumin, chipotle chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, ground cumin, kosher salt and ground black pepper all provide a depth of flavor.
- Greens: You need 5-6 cups of greens for this salad. You can use your favorite variety or combination of greens! (See below for the best greens to use in this salad.)
- Quinoa: Fluffy quinoa is a gluten-free, grain-like seed that adds a boost of protein, as well as nutty flavor. You can use the quinoa plain or crisp it on the stovetop for even more flavor!
- Herbs: Fresh herbs add a pop of bright flavor! I tend to use a combination of scallions and cilantro, but you can use what you love or have on hand!
- Seeds or Nuts: I love using roasted pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, because they add a super crispy and crunchy texture. (See below for substitute ideas.)
- Cheese: 4 ounces of feta adds a ton of tangy personality and rich flavor to this salad!
- Avocado: Ripe avocado serves double duty in this salad. It’s a delicious creamy component of the salad, plus it’s the secret ingredient to silky, creamy dressing!
- Dressing: A quick, throw-together combination of Greek yogurt, avocado, cilantro, fresh lime juice and honey creates an addictively delicious and nutritious dressing!
Want to make some changes or additions to this roasted cauliflower salad? Wonderful! I encourage you to make this salad recipe your own! Get creative – add any ingredients you love and eliminate the ones you don’t! Below are a few ideas to get you started!
- Greens: Any leafy greens you love will work well in this salad! Peppery arugula, mild baby spinach, watercress or spring mix are all great options!
- Quinoa: Don’t have any quinoa on hand? You can substitute brown rice, barley, farro or even couscous!
- Herbs: Fresh herbs add color and tons of fresh flavor. I love using a combination of herbs, but you can use just one. Parsley, chives, Mexican thyme and mint are all delicious!
- Seeds or Nuts: Not a fan of pumpkin seeds? Try sunflower seeds, pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or cashews! Just make sure you roast or toast nuts for the most flavor!
- Cheese: Cotija is excellent in this cauliflower salad! It offers a salty umami flavor that just can’t be beat! Parmesan is another great option if you like playing it safer with your salad!
- Carrots: Carrots are a great way to add a pop of beautiful color along with a nutritional boost of vitamin A and antioxidants. Quickly grate them on a box grater or purchase pre-grated carrots.
- Red Onion: Add pickled red onions for a bright pop of briny flavor!
- Bell peppers: Add a touch of fresh sweet flavor and crunchy texture by adding red or yellow bell peppers.
- Jalapenos: Do you like a little heat? Try slicing a few jalapenos and adding them to your salad!
- Cucumber: Add more crunchy, fresh flavor by tossing in some diced cucumber!
Tips for selecting, storing and trimming cauliflower
How do you pick out good cauliflower?
When choosing cauliflower at the store or market, you want to make sure you’re picking a head that is as fresh as possible. Luckily, selecting the perfect head of cauliflower is easy once you know what to look for and what to avoid!
- Appearance: Select a head of cauliflower with tight, white florets and a firm stalk. The cut ends of the stalk should look fresh and slightly moist. Look at the leaves – they should appear fresh and vibrant in color.
- Blemishes: Cauliflower should have a creamy white uniform color. Avoid any cauliflower with florets that look dry or have any dark spots or blemishes. If you are purchasing purple, green or orange cauliflower, make sure it is uniform in color!
- Feel: The cauliflower should feel heavy for its size. Be sure to reject any heads that have soft spots as that is a sign the cauliflower is starting to spoil.
- Odor: Choose a head of cauliflower that smells fresh or is odorless! If your cauliflower has a bitter odor, it is a sign that it’s gone bad!
How to store cauliflower?
Once you have picked out the perfect head of cauliflower, it’s time to store it! Make sure you do not rinse the cauliflower until you are ready to use it!
- Remove Cellophane: If you purchased cauliflower wrapped in cellophane, you will need to unwrap it immediately. The cellophane wrapping can trap in moisture which promotes rot.
- Bag it: To keep cauliflower as fresh as possible, store it in a plastic bag with a sheet of paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. Loosely seal the bag partially, but do not seal it completely!
- Store it: Store cauliflower in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to 7 days. If you are storing pre-cut florets, they will keep for up to 4 days.
How to prepare cauliflower?
For this roasted cauliflower salad, you will need to remove the florets from the stalk. Cauliflower florets are the individual flowery parts growing off of the stalk.
Follow the simple steps below for easily cutting a head of cauliflower into florets! Tip: Don’t toss the stalk in the trash – save them and make vegetable stock, cut them and add them to soups and stir fries, or roast them for snacking!
How to trim cauliflower into florets?
- Rinse: Rinse the head of cauliflower in cold water just before using. (See below for properly washing cauliflower.)
- Remove Leaves: Use a sharp paring knife to remove and discard any leaves down toward the base – this will make it easier to see the florets.
- Cut Around the Stem: Using the same paring knife, cut below the florets and around the stem of the cauliflower. The head should bread into several large florets.
- Cut into florets: Use your knife to cut away any large stems and cut the cauliflower into small, bite-size florets. Tips: Make sure you cut the cauliflower into florets that are roughly the same size to ensure even roasting.
How to make roasted cauliflower salad?
This superfood salad is so simple and fool-proof to make at home! This recipe is totally customizable, straightforward and only requires 15 minutes of hands-on preparation!
- Preheat oven to 425°F (or 400°F for convection). Line 2 large baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
- Season Cauliflower & Chickpeas: In a small mixing bowl, combine the seasonings. Place the cauliflower and chickpeas into a large mixing bowl and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle the seasoning over the cauliflower and chickpeas and toss well to coat.
- Roast: Transfer the cauliflower and chickpeas to the baking sheets. Roast, rotating the pans from top to bottom halfway through, for 20-25 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.
- Meanwhile, Make the Dressing: In the bowl of a food processor, add half an avocado along with the remaining dressing ingredients. Process until smooth and creamy.
- Assemble the Salad: In a large salad bowl, toss the greens with the quinoa and herbs. Top with the cauliflower and chickpeas, cheese and seeds. Drizzle with the creamy avocado dressing. Toss gently to lightly combine. Top with slices of avocado and serve the remaining dressing on the side. Enjoy!
How to roast cauliflower for salad step by step photos:
Tips for perfectly roasting cauliflower every time
Roasting cauliflower is an easy and healthy way to add delicious texture and flavor to salads! Follow the below simple tips and easy tricks for preparing perfectly roasted cauliflower!
Do you have to wash cauliflower before roasting?
The natural crevices in cauliflower are the perfect resting spot for traces of grit, dirt and germs! You should always get your cauliflower ready by washing and thoroughly drying it prior to using! I like to wash my cauliflower after cutting it into bite-size florets to ensure I rinse every nook and cranny.
To properly clean cauliflower
- Soak: Fill a large bowl with cold water and soak the cauliflower florets for 5 minutes – this will flush out any dirt or small pests.
- Rinse: Gently transfer the florets to a colander. Rinse the cauliflower under a gentle stream of cold water to remove any trapped dirt or germs.
- Drain: Turn off the water and allow the cauliflower to drain in the colander.
- Dry: Drying the cauliflower is crucial if you plan on roasting it! Use a salad spinner or your hands to gently shake all the excess water from the surface of the cauliflower. Transfer the cauliflower to a clean tea towel or paper towels and thoroughly pat dry.
Roasting tips for cauliflower
There are a few important things to keep in mind when roasting to ensure your cauliflower gets perfectly golden brown and crispy, creamy!
Tips for roasting cauliflower
- Baking pan: Make sure you are using a baking pan that is large enough for the cauliflower to sit in a single layer with plenty of space between each floret. Never overcrowd the pan or stack the cauliflower on top of each other – this will result in mushy cauliflower!
- Uniform size: When cutting your cauliflower into florets, aim for florets that are roughly the same size to ensure even roasting.
- Oil: For the best flavor and healthy cooking fat, use olive oil, ghee or avocado oil when roasting. All of these oils have a higher smoke point which will help the cauliflower roast up to the perfect crispness. Avoid olive oil with the label “virgin” or “light” as they have a lower smoke point and aren’t a good choice for roasting.
- High-heat roasting: 425°F is the roasting ‘sweet spot’ for cauliflower. You need the heat high enough that it crisps the cauliflower, but not so high that the oil burns.
- Turn and rotate halfway through roasting: To ensure even cooking, make sure you flip the cauliflower florets over halfway through roasting, so that each side has an equal opportunity to caramelize. Also, you want to rotate the pan from front to back halfway through roasting. Most ovens have ‘hot spots’ that will cause some florets to caramelize faster than others – rotating the pans helps everything cook more evenly.
- Time: Cauliflower needs time to roast and caramelize! Make sure you roast cauliflower for 25-35 minutes, or until it’s deeply golden brown and delicious! The exact amount of time will depend upon the size of your florets.
Why is my roasted cauliflower mushy?
Perfectly roasted cauliflower should have beautiful golden-brown edges with a slightly crisp, yet tender and creamy texture. However, it should never be mushy! If your cauliflower turned to mush, chances are you made one of the mistakes below!
- You didn’t dry the cauliflower after washing: Of course, you are going to rinse your cauliflower florets before using them, but you need to pat them thoroughly dry before roasting! Wet cauliflower will steam when placed into a hot oven, causing the florets to become mushy.
- Overcrowding pan: Make sure your cauliflower is sitting in a single layer with plenty of space between each floret on the baking pan. Overcrowding the pan causes the cauliflower to steam versus roast, which will result in mushy cauliflower.
Tips for serving cauliflower salad
Serving and pairing this cauliflower salad has endless possibilities! Below are a few tips for serving this salad, plus some of the best pairing options for cauliflower!
How to serve roasted cauliflower salad?
Roasted cauliflower salad tastes best when you serve it warm or at room temperature. However, it also tastes great cold straight from the refrigerator, which makes it perfect for grab-and-go lunches! If you are serving the salad straight from the refrigerator, let it sit out for 20 minutes or so to remove the harsh chill. Or, if you aren’t a fan of cold, leftover vegetables you can easily reheat cauliflower (see the tips below)!
What does cauliflower salad pair well with?
You can serve this hearty salad as a side dish or top it with chicken, fish or shredded beef to make a complete meal! Below are a few of my family’s favorite dishes that pair perfectly with this roasted vegetable salad!
Eight delicious dishes to serve with cauliflower salad
- Eggs: Try having breakfast for dinner! Your favorite style of eggs or an omelet filled with your favorite ingredients is a delicious pairing option!
- Soup: Soup and salad is a classic pair for a reason! Depending on the season, you can serve this salad with anything from lighter summer soups, such as gazpacho, to heavier soups, such as corn chowder!
- Pizza: Salad and pizza are probably my favorite pairing – because, life is all about balance!
- Salmon: Simple roast salmon is a easy, yet elegant way to elevate this salad!
- Pork Chops: Try serving this salad with hearty pork chops if you are feeding a meat eater!
- Mexican Beef: Since this salad has Tex-Mex vibes it pairs perfectly with Mexican Shredded Beef or tacos or tacos!
- Shrimp Ceviche: Keep things light and healthy by serving up some delicious Mexican-style Ceviche!
- Casseroles: Lighten up your casserole dinner by serving this salad on the side! My favorite pairing choice is this Healthy Mexican Chicken Casserole!
Tips for making ahead, storing and freezing Mexican cauliflower salad
Food safety is important when it comes to food storage and freezing leftovers! Follow the simple tips below for properly storing and reheating this roasted cauliflower salad!
Can I roast cauliflower for salad in advance?
You can absolutely prepare this salad and roast the cauliflower in advance to save time! There are several ways you can go about preparing cauliflower salad in advance. I like to crisp the quinoa, make the dressing and prep the vegetables – including the cauliflower – to save time and energy if I’m meal prepping easy lunches and dinners for the week. Make sure you store each salad component in a separate container in the refrigerator, then when you are ready to eat, simply toss everything together and enjoy!
To make roasted cauliflower in advance
There are two different methods for how to roast cauliflower in advance, depending upon how much time you are looking to save.
- Preferred method: Toss the cauliflower with oil and seasonings and arrange it on the baking sheets. Cover the the entire pan with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator. When ready to roast, remove the the wrapping and oven roast the cauliflower according to recipe instructions.
- Roast completely: The second option is to go ahead and completely roast the cauliflower in advance. When you are ready to eat the cauliflower, you can enjoy it cold or reheat it (see below for storing and reheating oven baked cauliflower).
To make salad in advance
- Fluffy or Crispy Quinoa:
- Fluffy Quinoa: Cook the raw quinoa according to the recipe directions and allow it to cool on the counter to room temperature. Transfer the quinoa to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Cooked quinoa will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
- Crispy Quinoa: Crisp the cooked quinoa in a skillet on the stovetop according to the recipe directions. Allow the crispy quinoa to cool on the counter to room temperature. Transfer the quinoa to an airtight container or zip-closure storage bag and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- Dressing: Blend together the dressing and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Homemade creamy avocado dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days without turning brown.
How to store roasted cauliflower salad?
If you are meal prepping, make sure you allow the roasted cauliflower to cool completely to room temperature before storing.
- Meal prep storage: Store each component of the salad – quinoa, cauliflower, dressing and ‘salad’ in separate airtight storage containers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Leftover salad: Store cauliflower salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Can I reheat roasted cauliflower for salad?
If you aren’t a fan of cold roasted cauliflower, there are a few different ways to reheat cauliflower! However, it’s important to note that the cauliflower will be slightly softer after storage and reheating, but it will still be absolutely delicious!
- Oven (recommended method): The best way to reheat leftover roasted cauliflower is in the oven. This method takes a little bit longer, but the results are the best. Spread the cauliflower out on a baking sheet and reheat in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven until it is warm throughout.
- Stovetop (quick method): Heat a drizzle of oil in a cast iron skillet or frying pan. Add the cauliflower and cook, tossing occasionally, until crisp and warm throughout, about 3-6 minutes.
- Microwave: The microwave is by far my least favorite method for reheating cauliflower. While the microwave will work, the cauliflower will completely lose its delicious crispy texture and become somewhat mushy.
Now this is how you win at salads!
Looking for more cauliflower recipes?
If you love this roasted cauliflower salad, try one of these delicious recipes next!
The best cauliflower salad recipe👇
Roasted Cauliflower Salad Recipe
- Baking Sheets (2)
- Food Processor
- Skillet (optional)
- 1 large Head Cauliflower – cut into florets (about 19 ounces florets)
- 1 (16 ounce) can Chickpeas – drained, rinsed & patted dry
- ¼ Cup Good-quality Olive Oil (Plus 2 TBS if crisping quinoa - SEE NOTES)
- 2 tsp Cumin
- 1 1/4 tsp EACH: Smoked Paprika, Chipotle Chili Powder, Garlic Powder & Ground Coriander
- Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
- 5-6 Cups Mixed Greens – Shredded (about 4 cups)
- 1 ½ Cups Cooked Quinoa (SEE NOTES)
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Herbs (Scallions, Cilantro, Parsley and/or Chives)
- 1/4 Cup Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
- 4 ounces Crumbled Feta or Cotija Cheese
- 2 Avocados – DIVIDED (half an avocado for dressing; rest for salad)
- ½ Cup Greek Yogurt
- 2-4 TBS WARM Water - to taste
- 1/4 Cup Cilantro Leaves - loosely packed
- 1 TBS EACH: Fresh Lime Juice & Honey - or more to taste
- Optional Toppings: Lime Wedges, Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced Jalapenos
- Preheat oven to 425°F (or 400°F for convection). Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
- Season Cauliflower & Chickpeas: Place the cauliflower and chickpeas on the prepared baking sheets. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, coriander and ½ teaspoon salt. Drizzle the oil evenly over the cauliflower and chickpeas. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Toss well to evenly coat.
- Roast: Transfer the baking sheets to the oven. Roast, rotating the pans from top to bottom halfway through, for 20-25 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender and lightly charred. Set aside to cool slightly. (Time Saving Tip: If you are crisping your quinoa, I recommend doing it now, while the cauliflower and chickpeas are roasting.)
- Meanwhile, Make the Dressing: In the bowl of a food processor, add 1 avocado half, yogurt, 2 tablespoons of water, cilantro, lime juice and honey. Season with a ¾ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Process until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust for seasoning with more salt, pepper, lime juice or honey. If you like a thinner dressing, add more warm water 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Assemble the Salad: In a large salad bowl, toss the greens with the quinoa and herbs. Top with the roasted cauliflower and chickpeas, half the cheese and half seeds. Drizzle with a little bit of the creamy dressing. Toss gently to combine. Thinly slice or quarter the remaining avocado and add it to the salad. Top with remaining cheese and seeds. Serve the remaining dressing on the side and enjoy!!
- Roasting: Make sure you cook the cauliflower and chickpeas on TWO sheet pans. Overcrowding everything on one pan with cause the cauliflower and chickpeas to steam, and prevent them from getting crispy. To ensure even cooking, make sure you toss the florets and the chickpeas, AND rotate the pans (from top to bottom shelf) halfway through cooking.
- Dry Quinoa: Cooked quinoa is a great grain to keep on hand in your refrigerator! If you are cooking quinoa just for this recipe, ½ cup UNCOOKED quinoa = 1 ½ cups COOKED quinoa.
- To perfectly cook quinoa: (method from CookieandKate.com)
- Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a fine mesh strainer with cool water and drain well.
- Transfer quinoa to a saucepan and add 3 cups of water. Season with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook quinoa, stirring occasionally, until all of the water is absorbed, about 15-18 minutes, reducing heat as necessary.
- Remove pan from heat and cover. Let the quinoa steam, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and season generously with salt and pepper. Proceed with recipe.
- To crisp quinoa: (It's best to use at least day-old leftover quinoa for this!)
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat.
- Add the cooked quinoa and spread it out in an even layer, using the back of a large spoon to press the quinoa down into the pan. Cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Toss and flip the quinoa. Press the quinoa down again and continue to cook, undisturbed, for another 2 minutes. Repeat the process 2-4 more times for a total of 8-12, or until the quinoa is toasted, golden and crunchy. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. (NOTE: Total cooking time will depend upon how much moisture is in your cooked quinoa.)
- Use or store: You can make the crispy quinoa up to 5 days in advance. Allow the quinoa to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days.
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