Roasted BBQ cauliflower, with homemade spicy barbacoa sauce bakes in the oven while you whip up a cool ranch-inspired pepita dressing to plate up with cilantro lime quinoa. If you’re looking for a savory dinner that packs a nutritional punch, this is it.
The case for BBQ cauliflower
The sauce for our BBQ cauliflower is inspired by Mexican barbacoa sauce. Barbacoa is normally associated with slow cooking beef or pork, but we’re all in for plant-based, oil-free eating here, which is where the cauliflower comes in.
Cauliflower is seriously underrated. First, it’s a nutrient-rich cruciferous veggie, full of lots of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that you can feel great about. And almost more importantly, it’s incredibly versatile.
Ok, that’s what I believe today, but to be honest, my current cauliflower position has been somewhat of a journey. Like a lot of us, I grew up knowing I needed to ‘eat my veggies’, but that was never really enough to get me excited about them. Ok, if you count fries or something slathered in cheese sauce, I’d get on board, but let’s admit it – that wasn’t about the veggies.
Initially, when I decided to clean up my act when it came to my diet, I found it difficult going. One reason was my reliance on old ways of preparing veggies only this time without the cover of oil or rich sauces. I’d already had enough raw veggie tray stuff and suffered through the frozen or fresh steamed, bland cauliflower to get excited. And I knew that if I was going to succeed, I’d need food that tasted taste great. Challenge on.
That’s when I discovered the wonders of versatile cauliflower. Seriously, it never occurred to me that cauliflower makes a great bechamel sauce, is wonderful blended with walnuts and spices for the perfect tacos de cauliflower, makes a seriously mean cauliflower curry and that lemon cauliflower rice makes a wonderful, lite change. And of course, baking cauliflower with flavorful sauces is never a wrong move in my book.
Making BBQ (barbacoa) sauce
The blender BBQ (barbacoa) sauce can be made as spicy as you like it. I used 3 dried red chilis, but you can adjust as you like. The other trick is to remove the seeds after toasting by just snapping the chili in half and giving it a shake. You can also use red chili flakes in place of the dried. Depending on how spicy you like it, aim for 1 tablespoon to replace the 3 dried.
I toasted the red chilis along with the cumin seeds for convenience sake and then just used tongs to remove the chilis and place them in water to soak while I prepared the cauliflower and the rest of the BBQ sauce ingredients. I’ve learned that soaking the chilis if just for a few minutes helps to soften them and makes blending a bit easier.
How to roast cauliflower
When is comes to roasting cauliflower, there are only a few variables to keep in mind: the sizes of the pieces; the heat of the oven; placement of the oven rack; and the moisture content of your cauliflower. That latter factor comes down not just to drying, but if you marinate it. Higher moisture content means you may want to consider using a slightly lower heat for a longer period of time and then ramping up the heat at the end, so the edges get a little crispier. All these will impact the cooking time required. If you want your cauliflower to roast, not steam, then leave it uncovered. Finally, what you add the cauliflower be it a sauce or just a light coating of veggie broth and spices can impact the crispiness and of course flavor.
A handy trick
When making roasted BBQ cauliflower, I found it easiest to coat my cauliflower pieces by using a hand to dip into the sauce and individually coast each piece. Be sure to wear gloves if you do this and are concerned about getting chili on your hands. It never fails that the times I forget that glove part is precisely the times when I rub my eye and well, you probably know that result.
Evenly roasted BBQ cauliflower
This roasted BBQ cauliflower recipe is super easy once you just blend up the sauce. To get an even roast for the cauliflower pieces, you want to cut your stalks so that they are relatively the same size. I use the term relatively because with cauliflower there are always those stray smaller stalks and a few larger (which you can cut in half). I don’t mind that the smaller get a bit charred and I’m not a fan of throwing out good food, so I use as much of the cauliflower as I can. I’ve even seen cauliflower leaves roasted before, so don’t be afraid to get creative with this one.
Line the tray, scrub another day
I have become highly dependent on parchment paper and oven mats. It’s true. This is especially true when my subject in the oven has a sauce on it or might be prone to sticking to my oven tray (which is just about everything). If you have good non-stick baking trays then this might now be so important, but for me it’s essential.
Because the roasted BBQ cauliflower has the hit of chili, you can cool it down by making a quick pepita dressing. While the cauliflower roasts, use a spice grinder to pulverize the pepita (pumpkin) seeds into a find powder. Then you just blend in the rest of the ingredients. I’ve got to say that although I still seriously love cashew ranch dressing, pepitas are a wonderful, calorie and fat-saving alternative.
Quick cilantro-lime quinoa
If dipping roasted BBQ cauliflower in spicy barbacoa sauce wasn’t enough, have you met my friend cilantro-lime quinoa? Quinoa is a true food friend. It cooks up quickly (15 minutes) and can be seasoned to enhance just about any meal. The high protein and fiber of quinoa also means that you’ll leave the table satisfied. There you have it, the nutritional hit of the cauliflower-quinoa partnership piled on your plate. Inspiration and energy for the happy dance!
The secret life of quinoa
Think quinoa is your favorite grain? Think again – it’s a seed. Yep, it’s harvested from a tall grassy plant, but it is not a cereal plant. It’s actually more closely associated with amaranth and buckwheat than wheat. Perhaps that isn’t all that important, but it does mean that quinoa is gluten free. If that still isn’t important to you, well, now you have an answer stored away for quiz night. Or at least a neutral topic for the dinner table.
If we are looking towards sustainable changes to our relationship with food, then we need to be honest about what’s on our plates and start making changes if that’s warranted. I don’t consider change as an all or nothing proposition. I used to and that’s why I laid waste to most of my good intentions.
Small, forward steps
A step forward might be a simple as turning to an old veggie friend like cauliflower and trying healthier ways to prepare it. That’s part of the rationale behind roasted BBQ cauliflower. Another, healthier idea that tastes good too. Because let’s all agree, change doesn’t mean the we’ll be depriving ourselves of tasty food – even if we start re-calibrating what ‘tasty’ actually means. Peace.Print
roasted BBQ cauliflower, pepita dressing & cilantro-lime quinoa
Roasted BBQ cauliflower with homemade spicy barbacoa sauce bakes in the oven while you whip up cool pepita dressing to plate up with cilantro-lime quinoa.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 generous servings 1x
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: Mexican
Roasted BBQ cauliflower
- 1 medium head of cauliflower, washed and cut into medium florets
- 3 dried red chilis, lightly toasted
- 1 ½ tsp. cumin seeds, toasted
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp. tomato paste (tomato puree)
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro (coriander) chopped
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp. oregano
- 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup`
- 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
- ½ tsp. coriander
- 2 cups vegetable broth (or reconstituted vegetable cube)
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro (coriander) chopped
- ½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp. date paste (optional) or other liquid sweetener
- 1 tsp. dried dill
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
Roasted BBQ cauliflower
- Grab a skillet and over medium heat toast the chilis and cumin seeds for about 2 minutes. Stir them constantly so they don’t burn and when the chilis stat to brown a bit, turn off the heat.
- Use tongs to remove the chilis and place them in a bowl with ¼ cup of water.
- Add the rest of the ingredients – the cumin seeds, 2 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp. tomato paste, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 ½ tsp. oregano, 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon and 1 tbsp. maple syrup to a food processor or blender. Set aside while the chilis soak.
- To prepare the cauliflower by rinsing it and cutting it into florets. Aim for fairly equal sized pieces so cut the larger florets in half if desired.
- Once the cauliflower is ready. Preheat the oven to 4250 F (2200 C) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Add the chilis plus the soaking water to the blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Coat each cauliflower floret with the BBQ sauce by transferring the cauliflower and sauce to a bowl and mixing or using your hands to coat each piece.
- Place the cauliflower on the baking tray with enough space between they are not touching.
- Bake the cauliflower for 30 – 35 minutes until it is dark and a bit charred on the edges. Use a fork to test for doneness by piercing a piece and if the fork comes out clean, it’s ready.
- Rinse 1 cups of quinoa and place it in a medium pot along with 2 cups of vegetable broth and ½ tsp. ground coriander. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Keep the quinoa covered until right before serving.
- Immediately before serving, fluff up the quinoa with a fork than add the lime zest and juice and the chopped cilantro. Mix well.
- Using a spice grinder, grind ½ cup pepitas until they are completely broken down and powdery.
- Depending on your spice grinder, you can use that or a blend and along with the pepitas, add 1 clove minced garlic, 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, ½ tsp. date paste, 1 tsp. dried dill and ½ tsp ground black pepper. Blend until smooth.
- If the dressing is too thick, add water a tablespoon at-a-time until you get the desired consistency.
- Prep time is based on getting the cauliflower in the oven. All other prep can be done while it bakes.
- We added a few roasted peppers to our plates. I just added them to the oven on a small lined baking tray the last 15 minutes of cauliflower baking time.
- You can substitute rice, bulgur or another grain in place of the quinoa.
Keywords: roasted BBQ cauliflower