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Caramelized Cauliflower with Roasted Tahini Sauce and Crispy Browned Onions

Written By Pam Brandon and Anne-Marie Denicole On December 17, 2012

caramelized cauliflower copyGorgeous is the gooey-glazed ham, the juicy, golden bird—but, for some, the sides have all the glam. Call us crazy, but we love the little tidbits: chutneys, relishes, ooey-cheesy casseroles and veggies dressed in their holiday best. 

Cauliflower, long resigned to boiling water or the steamer, is beyond amazing when roasted at high temperatures, blasted really, so that the edges caramelize and its natural sweetness is intensified. Drizzled with the edgy nuttiness of roasted tahini (think peanut butter comprised of sesame seeds rather than peanuts), balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and golden sautéed garlic, let’s just say there are no words, dear readers, no words at all. 

You could rip off the apron and stop right there, but we top it all off with a golden crown of pan-crisped onions. At once crunchy, sweet, saucy and savory, vegan and veggie pals may flee the buffet, platter in hand, to celebrate this plant-based perfection. 

Caramelized Cauliflower with Roasted Tahini Sauce and Crispy Browned Onions

Serves 8-10


2 heads cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and cracked black pepper, to taste


Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

3/4 cup roasted tahini (substitute regular tahini)

3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or more, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika 

1/2 cup cold water

1/4 cup fresh parsley, more for garnish


Pan-Crisped Onions

4 tablespoons light olive oil

2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced

Coarse salt, to taste 



Preheat oven to 500˚F degrees. Coat 2 large casseroles with olive oil spray. Toss cauliflower florets in olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, tossing after first 15 minutes.


As cauliflower caramelizes, make the sauce. Heat olive oil over medium heat, add garlic and sauté until golden and fragrant. Remove from heat, reserving garlic and flavored oil. Using a blender or food processor, combine tahini, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, water, reserved garlic and flavored oil. Puree until creamy, adding a bit more water if too thick. Add parsley and pulse until incorporated but not pureed. (Sauce can be made ahead, will keep in refrigerated for 3 to 4 days.)

For onions, heat a large skillet over medium-high to high heat. Pour in oil and add onions, seasoning generously with coarse salt. Toss onions to coat, then allow them cook undisturbed. When edges begin to brown, toss again and allow to cook further undisturbed. Repeat until onions are golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Mound cauliflower on a platter and drizzle with tahini sauce. Top with onions. Garnish with extra minced fresh parsley.

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