Cauliflower steak recipe with chef Peter Berley #vegan

betty ming liu Food 9 Comments

All hail the star of my Thanksgiving feast: the lowly cauliflower. Rise up, you lumpy, white cruciferous. Dazzle us with your transformation into cauliflower steaks.

That’s right. A meatless steak. Actually, even better than real steak.

Instead of 500 calories for an 8-oz. beef steak, a plate of that much cauliflower weighs in at barely 50 calories. Even if you drown your veggie alternative in a full tablespoon of olive oil (119 calories), you’re still in fine, healthy shape.

I learned to make this simple-yet-satisfying dish in a cooking class. We hacked whole heads of this common kitchen staple into big, firm slabs. After roasting them in the oven to a nice, brown finish, we drizzled and dressed with creative touches. The results had me in shock.

Really? This was cauliflower — the boring, hard, chunk of produce that I usually steamed or stir-fried as little florets? Wow.

cauliflower steak

This is why I love cooking classes. They challenge me to see the ordinary through fresh eyes. I stop taking things for granted and reboot, feeling more in touch with my surroundings and relationships. Yup, all this from slicing the common cauliflower.


My cauliflower moment came as part of a three-day vegan cooking course that I took in 2014. The experience opened me up to eating less meat and more plants without feeling deprived. If anything, the recipes we learned from instructor Peter Berley were filling, innovative and visually beauitful.

Peter is a versatile chef who teaches a variety of classes at the Institute for Culinary Education, which is where I found him. A master of magificent meatless meals, he had us whipping up vegetable and bean patés, vegetable soup stocks and even tarts baked without eggs, butter or cow milk. Of course, I now own one of his cookbooks, “Fresh Food Fast.” 


The book, like Peter’s courses, are all about his passion for sustainable food. He grows his own vegetables and uses every bit of them to avoid waste. After taking his class, I’ve never bought another can or carton of broth.

Instead, I throw vegetable scraps in a pot of hot water instead of the garbage, boiling everything from seeds scooped out of butternut squash to woody turnip peels and too-tough celery stems. Home-made veggie broth is the best!

He even offered a new idea for scallions, which I’ve been using forever as a garnish. I grew up in Chinatown where the restaurants sprinkled chopped scallions everywhere. What’s to know? Well, guess what — slicing them into diamond shapes was another first for me. We had them on hand when we pulled the roasted cauliflower from the oven.

First, we arranged our steaks on a platter, gently laying them down, round and round. The trick is to roast them just right; too long in the oven and they fall apart. (We tucked broken pieces in here and there; they were still worth eating.)


Then, we drizzled on the red, cayenne-paprika vinaigrette. Final touch, the bright green scallion diamonds. Once you set these babies on the table, watch them disappear.


Whole Roasted Cauliflower

(Serves 4)


  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 lbs.)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (preferably fresh)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional; regular paprika is okay too)
  • Note: You can adjust all the spices and seasonings to your personal taste

Cooking directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

1. Slice the cauliflower into steaks about 3/4″ thick.

2. Brush the steaks all over with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil combined with cumin. Season with 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Place the cauliflower on a roasting pan and roast 25 to 30 minutes, until carmelized (it turns brown and tender).

4. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and drizzle with vinaigrette.

5. And now, make the vinaigrette: In a small skillet over medium heat, combine the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/4 cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon paprika. Sizzle the spices for 30 seconds then stir in the lemon juice.

6. Pour vinaigrette over the cauliflower and serve.

So, this dish is my contribution to the Thanksgiving table. My daughter is in charge of the menu for the first time. I’m excited to see what she comes up with! And how are your plans going? Whatever you do, I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with peace, love and some much-needed rest. xo

Comments 9

  1. YUM! I’m a cauliflower convert. Cauliflower steak, cauliflower pizza crust (not vegan), cauliflower with peas and paneer and Indian spices…

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      Ooooh, the pizza crust idea is new for me — thanks for putting it on my radar. I’ll have to look into that. I also do cauliflower “rice,” either as is or mixed in with real rice. And of course, there’s cauliflower mash, which is a great, lo-cal substitute for mashed potatoes.

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      Valinda, this recipe looks INCREDIBLE. The idea of shredded green plantains as a substitute for risotto is new for me. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog. Hope you have a great holiday too. And thank you for taking the time to comment. It always makes me happy to hear from readers.

  2. been wanting to make cauliflower steaks for a while now & i guess it’s time. thank you, betty! meanwhile, wondering if you freeze veggie scraps until you have enough to make stock & do you ever use colorful veggies like beets or tomatoes? sending you & yours happy holiday wishes! xj

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      you’re welcome, jaimie! I think you’ll enjoy the steaks. as for veggie scraps, yes, i do often freeze them until i have enough. sometimes i have too much of one particular thing and freeze a portion for mixing with other scraps later.

      colorful veggies and other related issues actually came up during peter’s class:

      — KALE — he personally avoids using kale stalks because he doesn’t like the flavor, says it’s too strong and throws them into his compost. but the flavor is acceptable to me; i use them (even though I don’t love them). maybe you can try it once and see how you feel.

      — TOMATOES — fine to use. even the little stem tops can go into your broth. tomatoes don’t turn things red.

      — BEETS — they turn EVERYTHING red! this is why peter never uses them in broth. but i tried them. apart from the fact that the color bleeds into everything, the beet peels taste okay to me in broth. i also found that the color can be useful in cooking black-eye peas, which give off a gray-ish, boring broth. when i add a little beet broth to making black-eye peas, the broth turns a meaty shade of brown, which i find appealing. it adds a little flavor too.

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