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Appetizers/ Recipes/ Sides/ Vegetarian Recipes

Tandoori Cauliflower with Indian-Spiced Quinoa

Tandoori Cauliflower with Indian-Spiced Quinoa

Tandoori Cauliflower with Indian-Spiced QuinoaPhotos by Lindsey Johnson

A few months ago, Kiersten and I were discussing all of the various shapes and forms that cauliflower takes on — usually replacing some sort of meat-stuff. Cauliflower burgers, wings, even steaks! And I remember joking, “I should totally take a whole cauliflower and make a cauliflower ‘Cornish game hen!'” And Kiersten said something like, “Actually, you really SHOULD do that!” And then I seriously toyed with the idea for awhile, but that was it. Whole roasted cauliflower was put on the back burner. So to speak.

Well, today, it has happened. Finally. Today, we have a whole roasted cauliflower. My life is complete.

This Tandoori Cauliflower with Indian-Spiced Quinoa was inspired by the popular Indian dish Tandoori chicken, specifically the version found on the fantastic food blog Simply Recipes.

Tandoori Cauliflower Ingredients
In Tandoori chicken’s traditional form, the meat is marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spices and cooked in a clay oven called a “tandoor.” It’s often served with an aromatic spiced rice and/or a yogurt-based dipping sauce.

Alas, I have no clay oven at my disposal, so rubbing the head of cauliflower with a the spicy yogurt marinade and roasting it in my plain old oven had to do. For the side, I chose quinoa instead of rice. I love the idea of using protein-rich quinoa in this recipe to make it a full, satisfying meal. And while yeah, the cauliflower is fun, healthy, delicious, and even slightly whimsical, the Indian-spiced quinoa is what really makes this one for me. I adore it.

One thing my carnivorous husband and I both loved about the whole-roasted Tandoori cauliflower was that when it’s baked whole and then cut into wedges for serving, it stays firm — yet still tender. No mushy cauliflower here.

The list of ingredients is long, I know — but please don’t be intimidated! Most of the ingredients are spices you probably already have in your cupboard. And if you need to buy any, be sure to check out the bulk section at your local well-stocked grocery store. You’ll no doubt save gobs of money that way.

Tandoori Cauliflower with Indian-Spiced Quinoa

Tandoori Cauliflower with Indian-Spiced Quinoa

This Indian-inspired recipe features a spicy whole-roasted head of cauliflower, cut into wedges, and served over sublime spiced quinoa. Finish with a drizzle of yogurt dip to help tame the heat. Inspired by Simply Recipes' Tandoori Chicken.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 4 -6 servings


For the Tandoori cauliflower:

  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil or any cooking oil with a high smoke point
  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
  • 4 medium garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Indian-spiced quinoa:

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 3-inch stick cinnamon
  • 2 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 medium cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt to taste

For the yogurt sauce:

  • 1/2 cup leftover yogurt marinade
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Optional garnish:

  • Handful of cilantro chopped


  • Preheat oven to 400ºF. Rub the center of a baking sheet with oil (where you will set the cauliflower).
  • Remove the green leaves from the cauliflower and cut off the bottom of the stem so that it has a flat base. Rinse well and dry. Set the cauliflower on the baking sheet.
  • Add yogurt to a small bowl and whisk in the spices, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and salt. Brush 1/2 cup of the yogurt marinade over the head of cauliflower, completely covering all except the flat bottom.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes to cool.
  • Meanwhile, make the Indian-spiced quinoa. Rinse quinoa well under cool water to remove the natural soapy-tasting residue. Add to a medium saucepan along with the water, cinnamon stick, cardamom, and cloves. (Note: For easier retrieval later on, tie the cardamom and cloves into a cheesecloth pouch before adding.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender and fluffy. Remove from heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove the spices.
  • In a large saute pan, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the quinoa and sprinkle the turmeric over the top. Stir until all of the ingredients are combined and quinoa is heated through, then season with salt to taste and remove from heat.
  • To make the yogurt sauce, stir the 1/2 cup yogurt and 1 tablespoon lemon juice into the remaining yogurt marinade. Chill until ready to serve.
  • To serve, cut the cauliflower into four or six wedges. Place a scoop of Indian-spiced quinoa on a plate and top with a wedge of cauliflower. Drizzle with yogurt sauce or serve the sauce alongside. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over the top, if using.
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  • Reply
    Hata Trbonja
    May 14, 2014 at 8:34 am

    This sounds like a winner to me. My husband and I are going towards more veggie based diet and chicken tandoori is a huge temptation for us.
    Thank you so much for the recipe. I will let you know how it work out.

  • Reply
    Jennie @themessybakerblog
    May 14, 2014 at 10:51 am

    This is a genius idea! I could eat cauliflower every day. Lovely photos.

    • Reply
      May 15, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      Thanks, Jennie! 🙂

  • Reply
    Alexis @ Hummusapien
    May 14, 2014 at 11:36 am

    This is amaaaaazing! These have to be some of the best pictures yet 🙂 Indian food all the way, baby!

    • Reply
      Kare Raye
      May 15, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Lindsey takes stunning photos, doesn’t she?! I think I squealed when I saw them! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    What a gorgeous meal! So healthful and full of flavor with all those warm, tasty spices! I must make this ASAP.

    P.S. Rikki hit a home run with these photos, as always!

    • Reply
      Kare Raye
      May 15, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      Thanks, Julia! Lindsey actually took the photos … but definitely a home run. 😀

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    May 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I love roared cauliflower, this is my dream dinner!

  • Reply
    May 14, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Yum, yum, yum! I made My New Roots’ Tandoori Roasted Cauliflower
    for a dinner party as part of an Indian feast and it was a real show stopper!
    Good shout on serving it with the cooling yogurt dip too.

    • Reply
      May 15, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      Boo – I thought my idea was so original, too! 😉 I *love* the idea of serving this with mint chutney – that sounds divine.

  • Reply
    Polly @ Tasty Food Project
    May 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Yum! I love the flavors of Indian spices! This looks really amazing! I like how you used cauliflower. That has become one of my favorite veggies!

    • Reply
      May 15, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      I’m totally on a cauli kick, too. Can’t get enough of it! So versatile.

  • Reply
    Courtney @ The Fig Tree
    May 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Roasted cauliflower is my current obsession. Cannot wait to try this recipe. I adore Indian food and cannot wait to try the tandoori spice mixture. Great recipe! 🙂

    • Reply
      May 15, 2014 at 10:10 pm

      I l*so* ove Indian food too. Gosh, I am realizing it’s been forever since I’ve been out for Indian. Need to remedy that soon!

      • Reply
        May 15, 2014 at 10:10 pm

        (Um, that’s I *so* love. Not sure how I butchered that quite so badly!)

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    May 15, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Adding cardamom, cloves and mustard seeds to the grocery list right now. This looks delicious. I love how many different ways there are to cook/eat cauliflower! 🙂

    • Reply
      May 15, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      It’s so worth it! 🙂 Cauliflower is just amazing stuff.

  • Reply
    Linda @ Veganosity
    May 15, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Yum! I love Indian food, and cauliflower, and quinoa. This looks so good. Saffron is another great spice to use with cauliflower, roasted or cooked in coconut milk, you can’t go wrong.

    • Reply
      May 15, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      You just made my mouth water!

  • Reply
    May 15, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    On the money! I’ve been saving a roasted cauliflower recipe baked with the yogurt–but you took it all the way–in such a great direction. Love the idea. Nice!

    • Reply
      May 15, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      There are so many ways to take the concept – I just love that. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 16, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Tried this last night, baked the cauliflower for 45 min at 200°C, but it was still raw. Is it how it’s meant to be? Love your recipes! Ciao from Italy!

    • Reply
      May 20, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      It should be tender – not mushy – but definitely not raw! You may need to up the temperature slightly and cook it for a bit longer. It can really depend on the size of the cauliflower.

  • Reply
    May 17, 2014 at 4:23 am

    I’m all about infusing Indian flavors into my dinner and thankfully my pantry is fully stocked with these ingredients and ready for action! Love how this requires so little prep work…just rub on the spices and GO.

  • Reply
    January 26, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    The quinoa was simply amazing. However I baked the cauliflower for 40 minutes, but it wasn’t well cooked 🙁 So I had to put it in the microwave for 10 more minutes for it to get cooked throughout ( but it did end up becoming a little soggy, couldn’t help it 🙁 )
    But the taste was awesome!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for the shout out Kare! I love the tandoori cauliflower idea, especially with the quinoa!

  • Reply
    April 1, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    This looks amazing! Will be trying this tonight 🙂

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