Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma

5 from 8 votes
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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.

Roasted cauliflower on a sheet pan with foil
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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.

Whole cauliflower on the counter with red onion

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 (this toum recipe is a great alternative). 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!

Cauliflower cut in florets on the cutting board with knife
Marinade cup for cauliflower

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!

Roasted cauliflower shawarma on a pan with foil

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.

Roasted cauliflower on a sheet pan with foil

More Shawarma Recipes to Enjoy

Try my favorite homemade Chicken Shawarma recipe with a great marinade.

Beef Shawarma with the trimmings

And, here’s how to make great Tahini Sauce, a shawarma must-have!

Roasted cauliflower on a sheet pan with foil
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5 from 8 votes

Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma

Cauliflower takes to the shawarma marinade perfectly. Be sure to lay the cut-side of the cauliflower down on the hot sheet pan to get the caramelization that makes the cauliflower shawarma so delicious. Make your own shawarma spice blend, or get my special blend at here. Serve the cauliflower hot as a main dish or side dish, in a pita wrap, or at room temperature atop Lebanese Salata.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

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
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Instructions 

  • 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.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
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21 Comments

  1. Cathy says:

    5 stars
    Love this recipe! I am of Syrian ancestry and make all our favorite recipes which have been handed down thru the generations. This is a keepr!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Beautiful Cathy, thank you! SO delicious, all of our ways with cauliflower. We sure love our traditions don’t we!

  2. Kate says:

    My family devoured this cauliflower with the tahini sauce. It’s a divinely delicious dish. Thanks, Maureen

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      LOVE hearing that, must make this again SOON! Thank you!

  3. Erin says:

    My family makes this dish all the time and we are huge fans. Maureen’s Shawarma spice blend is to die for and this makes for a super easy side dish for most meals. We sometimes make this with frozen cauliflower to make it even one step easier and it still turns out delicious.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Erin thank you! I LOVE your idea of the frozen cauliflower.

  4. Jennie Marie says:

    Do you think this recipe would reheat well if made earlier in the day? Do you think the microwave would work or the oven?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Jennie yes, the cauliflower reheats very well. Use the oven, though, to get a better texture overall. Delicious!

  5. "BJ" says:

    Can’t wait to try it! What do you think about subbing sweet onion or Vidalia in season for the red onion?

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      BJ sweet onion will be just delicious here!

  6. Cheena says:

    Hello Maureen —

    Have you ever made this with frozen cauliflower? Normally I use only fresh vegetables. Now I live in the proverbial “middle of nowhere” where fresh veggies can be poor quality and very expensive.

    Thank you!

    Cheena

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Cheena great question. You can absolutely make cauliflower shawarma with frozen cauliflower. Roast straight from frozen and don’t thaw the cauliflower. The recipe is the same otherwise, but you may need to brush the seasonings w/olive oil on the cauliflower rather than stirring it all up in a bowl to get it all to stick evenly to the veg. Let us know how it goes!

  7. Nan says:

    Just made this dish, and my family thinks it is one of the absolute greatest things I have ever made – thanks so much! I made the shawarma spice included in your recipe, and suspect I will be using it in a bunch of other dishes as well. I had some slightly limp Japanese eggplant, and cut it into thin slices and rubbed the leftover marinade all over, then threw it in the oven – also transformative. You are the best!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Nan this is SO great! I’m going to try shawarma eggplant right away! Thank you…

  8. Sandra says:

    During the summer at the farmer’s market I find purple and orange cauliflower. I have been using all colors to make this recipe, The flavors given by your spice is amazing. Since I am vegetarian, this is now my “I will have something to eat” dish. Thank you.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      How great is that! And a beautiful dish with all of the cauliflower colors.

  9. Nick says:

    Hi Maureen,
    I was a little hesitant on how well the combination of spices would work with this recipe. But I am glad I forged ahead. The Sunday afternoon Between conference football championships and the Super Bowl I thought would be a good time to try. I eat roasted vegetables often, and this combination of spices with the hint of lemon was phenomenal! Within 15 minutes of taking it out of oven everyone in my family has sampled and and gave it high praise. Next time I will have to make a bigger batch! Thank you

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      This is so great Nick!! Thank you!

  10. Beth C. says:

    This is absolutely delicious. Added to my favorites, thank you for sharing.

  11. Marie-France says:

    Dear Maureen. In my family we are all “cauliflower freaks” !! So I’ve tried many, many recipes with cauliflower either from the Indian, French, Tex-Mex or Middle-Eastern cuisine….. but this recipe…. I mean YOUR recipe of Cauliflower Shawarma is absolutely insane. The first bite was so delicious that neither of us could believe it. Really, this is BY FAR the best recipe I have come across. The kind of feeling that takes you to the moon and back. Well, I am hooked !
    I strictly followed your instructions beside that I have let the cauliflower marinated for a good 3-4 hours in the spices mix (home made according to your recipe) and I believe it might have made a difference here, cause the longer the marinade the better the taste, right. And guess what ? I baked some uncooked left over the next : it was even better. Not need to say that your recipe is going to be a favorite of mine for at least the next 20 years.. (hopefully, I’ll live that long :). Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us. Wish you and your family a great year 2020.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Wow! This is such a wonderful comment, Marie-France. I can’t wait to give my cauliflower shawarma a full day’s marinade and taste the magic. Thank you!!!!