Learn how to make a delicious Baked Whole Cauliflower with cheese (parmesan), fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon zest. This whole roasted cauliflower recipe is baked in a Dutch oven and can be served as a savory vegetarian side dish. It’s easy to prepare and perfectly tender.
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If you love cauliflower, you absolutely need to try roasting a whole head! Not only does this cooking method produce the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth cauliflower, but it also skips the step of cutting a cauliflower into florets. Say goodbye to those crumbly white pieces that get all over your kitchen!
I first made this baked whole cauliflower with cheese recipe a couple years ago, but I wanted to give it a makeover and share it again during the holiday season. Cauliflower “roast” is a great addition to a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.
It looks gorgeous on a holiday table, front and center just like a turkey. You can even dress it up with the mushroom sauce from my Roasted Kohlrabi Steak or with another type of gravy. Actually, the mushroom and lentil gravy from my cookbook would be the perfect addition, since it’s packed with plant-based protein to make the dish more filling.
Whether you serve it as a side or bulk it up as a main dish, it’s sure to be a huge hit! I’d love to hear what you do with your roasted cauliflower head in the comments.
How to Make a Baked Whole Cauliflower with Cheese
I made this recipe using a Dutch oven with a lid, but it will also work with an oven-safe skillet (like a cast iron) and aluminum foil. I’ve included directions for both methods here.
In a Dutch Oven
- Prepare the cauliflower by removing the leaves and cutting off the stalk without cutting off the entire core. You want the head of cauliflower to still be firmly intact.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, fresh garlic, thyme, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Flip the cauliflower over and pour half of this mixture through the crevices so that it can permeate the head from the bottom. Flip it back over and place it, stalk side down, in a Dutch oven.
- Brush the top of the cauliflower with the rest of the oil mixture. Use your hands as needed to make sure the whole head is coated. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover the Dutch oven and place on the center rack of the oven. Roast for 35 minutes, remove the lid, sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!
In a Skillet
- Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3. Instead of placing the cauliflower in a Dutch oven, place it in an oven-safe skillet, such as a cast iron.
- Cover the skillet with aluminum foil. Roast for 35 minutes, remove the foil, add the cheese, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.
- You can play around with the seasonings. I used olive oil, garlic, fresh lemon zest, thyme, and parmesan, but I’ve seen it done with countless spice combinations (curry, dijon mustard, parsley, etc.)
- Recommended equipment: I love this Dutch oven and this cast iron skillet. I also recommend a microplane grater for zesting the lemon.
- The size of the cauliflower will determine the cooking time. This is not a fast recipe by any means, but it’s worth it to get the cauliflower so tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. Smaller heads take less time to cook; larger ones take longer. You can amend cooking time depending on how crispy/tender you want the final product to be.
- Baked whole cauliflower with cheese is best served right away. However, leftovers will last for 2 to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Serve whole roasted cauliflower as a side dish. It’s very easy to slice and break apart into florets. Or, bulk it up with a mushroom and lentil gravy if you want to make it a filling entree (such as the one in my cookbook).
- Once you go whole roasted, you never go back. Warning: you may not want to prepare cauliflower in any other way after this. It’s tender, flavorful and oh so delicious.
More Roasted Cauliflower Recipes
Love this baked whole cauliflower with cheese?! You may also enjoy the Easy Cheesy Cauliflower and Potato Bake, Vegan Cauliflower Steak with Lemon Parsley Tahini, Greek Cauliflower Rice, Baked Sticky Orange Cauliflower, and Weeknight Cauliflower Curry Recipe.
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear how you like it! Please rate/review using the stars on the recipe card or in the comments section. For more vegetable recipes, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.
Baked Whole Cauliflower with Cheese
- Dutch oven
- 1 head cauliflower
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic - pressed or minced
- 3 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the cauliflower by carefully cutting off the bottom stalk and leaves without removing the core. You want the head to be firmly intact while roasting
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and sea salt.
- Flip the head of cauliflower upside down and pour half of the oil mixture into its nooks and crannies so that the sauce can evenly permeate the head. Turn it right-side up and place in a Dutch oven. Brush the remaining oil mixture on top of the cauliflower so that it is fully coated. Sprinkle with a little extra salt and black pepper to taste.
- Cover the Dutch oven with its lid, and place on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, remove from the oven, take off the lid, and sprinkle the top of the cauliflower with the cheese. Return the Dutch oven (with the lid off) to the oven. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is golden brown and at your desired level of crispiness and tenderness. Remove, let cool for 5 minutes, then slice into florets, and enjoy!
- If you don't have a Dutch oven, place the cauliflower in an oven-safe skillet (like a cast iron) and cover it with aluminum foil for the first 35 minutes of roasting.
- This dish is best served right away, but leftovers will last in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
- Baked whole cauliflower makes a good side dish, but you can bulk it up with a lentil gravy or another protein-rich addition to make it an entree.
Enjoy! – Lizzie
This cauliflower is amazing! Easy and my husband even loved it. I served it with salmon, baked sweet potato and a salad with a lite honey mustard dressing. Delish! Thank you for a new way to take a boring veggie to exciting and tasty!
Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN
That’s wonderful to hear, Marcia! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. The whole meal sounds delicious!