caramelized cauliflower with pan toasted fennel

caramelized cauliflower with pan toasted fennel |

You might want to cover your ears.

I just ate an entire head of roasted cauliflower! Is that gross? Probably. I’d think so if you told me that. And surprisingly, I didn’t get a stomach ache (I know what you’re thinking and no, none of that either). Let’s face it: cauliflower is a homely looking vegetable and has a questionable reputation. The raw crudité platter totally ruined it for me.

But when roasted, all bets are off.

The high heat concentrates the flavor making it sweet and caramelized. I won’t say it’s like candy (that’s just mean) but it tastes mighty fine. I like them borderline burnt marinated in olive oil and lemon right out of the oven. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. So good.

caramelized cauliflower with pan toasted fennel |

You can also achieve similar results in a pan.

Working with a small cauliflower, slice straight across making cuts about 1″ thick. Some slices will stay intact and the rest will break off into florets. Sauté in olive oil turning once (think burger) until golden brown. Cauliflower suffers from carry-over heat so transfer to a plate right away to stop it from cooking. Same rules apply to asparagus by the way…

But wait!

I have something to tell you:

Fennel Seeds.

I once read that every good cook must have fennel seeds in their pantry. Do you? I didn’t until recently. I add a handful to the pan when I cook the cauliflower. Its sweet anise flavor permeates the oil and the tiny little seeds become toasted and crunchy.

To finish, the cauliflower is topped with chopped parsley and a drizzle of lemon. Pomegranate seeds echo the tangy citrus zing while bringing in some much needed color. The combination is delicious.

caramelized cauliflower with pan toasted fennel | theclevercarrot.comcaramelized cauliflower with pan toasted fennel |

Cauliflower is not only good for you it has earned the coveted Superfoods title. It’s loaded with vitamins, minerals, cancer and anti-inflammatory fighting properties etc. It’s legit. Try this as a festive side dish or be weird like me and just eat the whole thing in one sitting. My body craved it.

Raise your hand if you like cauliflower! I know I do…

*PS- Does anyone know if you can vacuum-seal sliced cauliflower into bags? I got this huge, bowling ball sized cauliflower from my CSA today. I’m wondering if I can preserve it somehow? I have a mini vac-pack machine that I’d love to use but I’m unsure. Please let me know your tips! Thanks!


  • The best way to store cauliflower is in a bag in the fridge. It should last for about 1 week.
  • If your cauliflower is giant use half for this recipe and then make this soup!
caramelized cauliflower with pan toasted fennel
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • salt + pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ c. roughly chopped parsley
  • pomegranate seeds
  1. Remove the leaves and thick stem from the cauliflower. Cut crosswise into 1-inch slices. Some pieces will stay intact and the rest will break off into florets.
  2. Warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Sear the cauliflower on both sides until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer immediately to a paper towel lined plate.
  3. Repeat this method using the remaining olive oil and fennel seeds until you have used all of the cauliflower.
  4. To serve, arrange the cauliflower onto a platter. Squeeze half a lemon over the top. Decorate with parsley and pomegranate seeds. Enjoy warm.


  1. says

    This looks SO delicious and the fennel seeds are such a unique touch! I love cauliflower in every form possible, but this looks like it’ll be a favorite. Thanks for sharing!

    • Emilie says

      Minna, the fennel seeds make this dish in my opinion. When combined with the lemon juice, the flavor is out-of-this-world! You can also try this with broccoli as well. Enjoy!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Kelli! I was very curious as to how everyone would react to a cauliflower recipe. I was convinced not many people would like it. Turns out, there are so many cruciferous fans out there! Glad you like the fennel too :)

  2. says

    I love this post and recipe! I ate a cauliflower steak the other day at a restaurant and was quite impressed! I will have to try this one at home. Thanks for the great cooking ideas!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Amy! This is pretty much the same thing. When you slice the cauliflower you will get some ‘steaks’ and the rest will break off into florets. Just pan sear until golden. It’s very easy and very inexpensive too. Enjoy!

    • Emilie says

      Hello Mary! If you prefer to roast the cauliflower in the oven, here’s what I would do:

      Slice the cauliflower into florets and drizzle with olive oil to coat. Place onto a lightly sprayed (rimmed) baking sheet-use 2 sheets if necessary to avoid over crowding. Season with salt and pepper and add the full amount of fennel seeds. Roast @ 425F for about 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with lemon, and garnish with parsley and pomegranate seeds. Serve right away.

      If you want to make this for Thanksgiving, I always recommend testing out new recipes before serving to guests. This way you can work out any issues and make adjustments beforehand. You can experiment with broccoli as well if you want to save the cauliflower for the big day.

      Hope this helps! If you have any other questions just let me know! :)

  3. says

    Yum!! I can imagine it would be brilliant with fennel! I did cringe though when I read you’d eaten a whole head – not because it’s gross, but because I get shocking stomach cramps as well from it (even cooked if I eat too much)! :)

  4. says

    Wait a minute…You can caramelize cauliflower? Where has this knowledge been all my life?! I’m a diehard cruciferous vegetable lover. Once, when I was snacking on a plate of raw cauliflower, a friend rolled his eyes and said, “You’re just every parent’s dream, aren’t you?” I don’t know about that, but I’m a sucker for all things veg. This dish is tops. As always :-)

    • Emilie says

      Yes! It’s the best thing ever! You can caramelize in a pan as I’ve done here, or roast the heck out of it in the oven. The lemon compliments the sweetness and if you are a cruciferous lover, I think you will enjoy the flavors. I’ve done it with broccoli too.

      That’s too funny about the raw cauliflower- you go girl! You’re my dream ;)

    • Emilie says

      Thank you Nik! It seems as though cauliflower is more popular than I thought. To think I called it homely… We’re one healthy bunch over here ;)

    • Emilie says

      Welcome Annie! There’s just something about the roasting process that completely changes the taste of the vegetables. It’s such a treat to eat. Glad you’re a cauliflower fan too :)

    • Emilie says

      Hello Ileana! Thank you so much! I love that such a homely looking thing can defy the odds and turn out to be unexpectedly delicious. I have another huge head to go though now- It’s cauliflower chaos in my kitchen ;)

  5. says

    If you ate the whole head of cauliflower, I better get my act together and roast some! No better time than now. My CSA should have a head of it this weekend… and if its a huge head, I’ll make this and ‘this soup!’ Thank you for this beautiful recipe, Emilie!

    • Emilie says

      I got so much cauliflower this season from my CSA! In fact, I had some last night roasted over pasta with lemon. Happiness in a bowl. One of the things I love most about eating seasonally is the love/hate relationship you develop with food- I think I’m officially over this cruciferous vegetable! But it’s darn good.

      Enjoy the recipe, Traci :)

    • Emilie says

      Thank you my dear! I’ve always been into livening up my vegetables. Although I’m not a vegetarian, big platters of veggies with grains is oftentimes my preferred way to eat. ;)

  6. says

    What a stunning dish. I love roasted cauiflower.. you’re so right about the extra flavour it brings out. I also am a lemon on everything kinda gal so I am liking this recipe!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Bec! Me too- I love roasting my vegetables. It really changes the flavor making them caramelized and sweet. And don’t even get me started on lemon… they are a staple in our house! I only wish I lived in a climate where I could have my own tree in the backyard. I would be in heaven.

  7. Jo Ann says

    we LOVED this recipe. We used it for an Early Christmas dinner with fennel seed and parsley from our own garden. Colorful and flavorful accompaniment to a prime rib. I could not stop eating this dish!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jo Ann! Now you see why I ate the whole thing? I’m so glad you and your family enjoyed the recipe. Thank you so much for your feedback! Sounds amazing with prime rib by the way… Merry Christmas! :)

  8. Becki says

    Well darn. I tried roasting in the oven because that’s how I love my broccoli and brussel sprouts. It wasn’t bad, but disappointing. I’m going to try it on the stove top per your original recipe The oven seemed to dry out the cauliflower some and I think take away from the fennel. I see the potential though!!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Becki!

      Thanks so much for your feedback. I completely understand wanting to roast the cauliflower as per your other recipes- I love roasted broccoli! However, this particular recipe is meant for the pan. You’ll get a better caramelization on the steaks and more fennel flavor. Definitely try it this way next time. And don’t forget the lemon at the end ;)

    • Emilie says

      Hi Zinnia!

      You are absolutely right- those are pomegranate seeds.

      However, the pomegranate seeds are used in addition to fennel seeds as indicated in the recipe. They serve as a garnish to brighten the flavor and appearance of the final dish.

      I hope this clears up any confusion!

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