Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma
Sep 21, 2019, Updated May 06, 2023
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Shawarma is traditionally spit-grilled chicken or meat with succulent spices. Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma marries the same flavors that make classic chicken shawarma so delicious, in a gluten-free, vegan recipe.
The other day at a football tailgater at Michigan State, I met a kid of Dan’s cousin who found out not long ago that he has celiac, and can’t eat gluten. Not uncommon, I know—I was just touched when he saw the huge box of donuts open up before him, and his big beautiful eyes grew even bigger. His mom got right in there and redirected him to the back of their vehicle where he found special cookies he could eat.
The boy’s dad asked about my gluten-free recipes; are there many? There are many, of course, in the Mediterranean diet. Then another cousin asked about vegetarian and vegan options? What she misses most, she says, are the flavors that are often reserved only for the meat dishes. Like shawarma.
We have gotten so attached to chicken shawarma that it’s one of those weekly gotta-have-shawarma things. A fix. Similar to the way I feel about sushi (Dan, not so much on the sushi fix, but the shawarma big time).
I got to thinking about the truly complex flavors involved in shawarma spice, a mix of so many different spices, and how that spice blend ought to work well with certain vegetables.
The other important flavor in shawarma is the flavor of flame, not char necessarily, but certainly caramelized meat that is marinated in and then doused with rich (yet ever so healthy) olive oil.
Seemed to me that cauliflower, being such a hearty vegetable, could stand up to the caramelization. I wanted this to happen in the oven, on a very hot sheet pan. This way a shawarma’d veg would be possible throughout the holiday season. And the vortex months in places like here where the grill is a no-go.
Guess what? I was right!
The cauliflower loves the shawarma spice, and all of the olive oil, roasted on high heat (no problem with the oil). Such an unexpected yet natural melding of texture and umami flavor.
Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma. Fabulously at home as a vegan main, or aside turkey, roast beef, ham, you name it.
Why you’ll love Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma
The primary reason to make, eat and love cauliflower shawarma is that it is SO delicious. Caramelized cauliflower and onion, fully dressed in all of the shawarma spices, makes for a flavor and texture combination that is simply addictive.
Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma works for meals in a bunch of ways: as a vegetable side dish, the shawarma treatment will pair really well with meats of most any preparation and a salad.
As a main dish, cauliflower shawarma is a STAR! Go traditional and wrap the shawarma in pita with all of the trimmings: pink turnip pickles, cucumbers, fresh mint, tahini sauce. On a plate, cauliflower shawarma is lovely with a high-protein side such as bulgur pilaf, lentils, that kind of thing. And a good Lebanese salata. Dinner!
Cauliflower shawarma also makes a fabulous small plate as part of a mezze preparation. You’ve got your hummus, your baba gannouj, your labneh and kibbeh and grapeleaves, say. Cauliflower is happy here too!
Ingredients for Cauliflower Shawarma
They’re simple! But many, when it comes to the spices. I’m listing them all here. This loooong list inspired me to create a special shawarma blend of my own for all of us to enjoy. My shawarma spice makes shawarma that much faster and easier (and oh my gosh is it delicious…. It’s a bestseller because of that!). Find it here.
Cauliflower. A big head. A bag of florets, also fine and good.
Red Onion. Cut in thick wedges, so pretty.
Spices. I use a blend of turmeric, cumin, sumac, coriander, allspice, garlic, onion, mint, sea salt and black pepper. It’s a lot, but that’s the way of shawarma goodness.
Lemon Juice. A tenderizer and flavor maker.
Olive Oil. Of course!
How to make Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma
Step 1. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil. Place the pan in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
Step 2. Mix the shawarma spices with lemon juice and olive oil. Cut florets from a head of cauliflower. Toss with cauliflower florets to coat.
Step 3. Scatter the coated cauliflower on the heated pan, turning so the cut-side faces down on the hot pan. Lay the onion on the pan and drizzle the wedges with a bit of olive oil.
Step 4. Roast at a slightly lowered heat until golden brown and just softened, about 25 minutes.
Step 5. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and drizzle with more olive oil. Finish with a pinch of sea salt, and serve immediately.
More Shawarma Recipes to Enjoy
And, here’s how to make great Tahini Sauce, a shawarma must-have!
Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma
Shawarma spice recipe (makes more than needed here):
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons mint salt or crushed dried mint
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil. Place the pan in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
- In a small bowl, whisk the Shawarma spice with the olive oil and lemon juice. Pour over the cauliflower in a large bowl and toss to coat.
- Take the hot pan from the oven and scatter the coated cauliflower on the pan, turning so the cut-side faces down on the hot pan. Lay the onion on the pan and drizzle the wedges with a bit of olive oil.
- Return the pan to the oven and reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Roast until the cauliflower is golden brown and just soft enough to cut through, about 25 minutes.
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven and drizzle with more olive oil. Finish with a pinch of sea salt, and serve immediately.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.