Cauliflower Parmesan

Rule #172: If Oprah likes it, you know you’re golden.

This little gem is really a vegetarian dupe of Chicken Parmesan. It’s got all of the cheesy, delicious goodness minus a ton of calories. Don’t be scared of the “Cauliflower” part of this Cauliflower Parmesan. And to be fair, no, Oprah hasn’t tasted it yet. But we all have goals we’re aiming for, right?

Cauliflower Parmesan

The night I first made this, I had a dream that I made dinner for Oprah and her bestie, Gayle King. I made a simple salad, Broccoli Rice with Pesto, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts, and this little Cauliflower Parmesan delight. Oprah liked the first two things, but when she got to this dish, she did the Oprah throw-the-head-back-and-the-hands-up sign of her major approval. In that moment (in my dreams anyway), this recipe was validated. Sorry, Jon Boy, your opinion counts too, but… it’s Oprah. So, like the rule says… if Oprah likes it, you know you’re golden.

The big SHABANG that makes this dish so delectable even though it’s the “v” word (vegetarian) has to be this rub. I have to admit that I NEVER thought my husband would be EXCITED about a vegetarian meal, but this rub right here y’all… it’s what sends it over the edge. DO NOT SKIP ANY INGREDIENT. I see your brain working: “Meh, I can do without this or substitute that.” No, my friend. Don’t you dare mess with it. Or I’ll find you. Just kidding… you do you. But I’m watching.

Okay – back to the recipe and less with the threats. All you need is some fennel seeds (I roughly chop them with a biggo knife), Kosher salt, black pepper, orange zest, and garlic powder. The orange zest is the money maker, trust me.

Cauliflower Parmesan

Now for the star player in our show: the Mighty Cauliflower. You’re going to cut this bad boy into “steaks” basically. You want big, 1 1/2″ (ish) slices. Just cut the head into slices with the greens still on. You’ll trim those up later.

Cauliflower Parmesan

The two ends of the cauliflower will probably not work as a good “steak” piece, but you can use those for veggie dip another day. You’ll have two heads to work with, so keep that in mind. And definitely just cut more cauliflower if you’re making a bigger batch!

Cauliflower Parmesan

Now, to clean up Sir Cauliflower: just cut an even cut at the base of your “steak” so that you trim off all the green bits. Tear off any leaves that remain.

Cauliflower Parmesan

We ended up with 6 good sizes pieces using two medium heads of cauliflower. This made enough for 4 good sized servings (Jon Boy went back for seconds and even had it for lunch the next day – my meat loving hunky man liked it that much!)

Cauliflower Parmesan

Now, drizzle some olive oil over both sides of the cauliflower pieces. Sprinkle the rub on the cauliflower and rub it on both sides using your hands.

Cauliflower Parmesan

Roast your cauliflower beauties at 450 for 30 minutes, until they’re browned and beautiful like these fellas. You can flip halfway through if you’re wanting to be an over achiever, but it’s not necessary. Turn your oven to broil (at 550).

Cauliflower Parmesan

Now to dress-up the gorgeously roasted cauliflower, we add some marinara sauce. Just drizzle a little (or a bit more than a little) dollop on each pieces of cauliflower.

Cauliflower Parmesan

Our favorite is hands down Rao’s Homemade Marinara. I’ve found it at our local grocery stores for years. Any marinara will do just fine though!

Cauliflower Parmesan

Next, place sliced Fontina (yes, you can substitute another cheese – Swiss, Gruyere, Mozzarella would all be great choices) on the marinara dollops.

Cauliflower Parmesan

Now sprinkle some Parmesan on top. Broil for about 7 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges are slightly browned.

Cauliflower Parmesan

Can’t you hear Oprah saying, “Oh, YAASSSS!” with her head flung back and her hands up? It was in my dream, so I definitely can.

Cauliflower Parmesan

Oh hello, pretty platter of perfection. We have ours with a roasted veggie (like butternut squash) and a simple salad.

Some ideas to change/add to this little number: Add sliced proscuitto to make it a meat-lover’s dream. Change up the cheese (or add more) as listed above. Serve it with some Roasted Pork Tenderloin as a side dish. Toss shredded chicken breast with the marinara and cook as above.

Cauliflower Parmesan

This recipe makes about 4 servings coming in at 200 calories each, 13g protein, and 6g net carbs!


Cauliflower Parmesan

2 medium heads of cauliflower (about 2 lb. each)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed or roughly chopped
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. orange zest
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1½ cups marinara sauce (we love Rao’s)
8 oz. Fontina cheese, sliced (can also sub Swiss, Gruyere, or Mozzarella)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 450.

Slice your cauliflower into 1½” “steaks” by placing the cauliflower on its stem and slicing through the entire thing to make large pieces. Trim each slice of cauliflower at the base so you get rid of most of the stem and the leaves. Tear any remaining leaves off with your hands.

Place the cauliflower “steaks” on a large baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the cauliflower, rubbing it in with your hands.

Combine the fennel seeds, salt, pepper, orange zest, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Sprinkle the rub over each piece of cauliflower and massage into both sides with your hands. Roast at 450 for 30 minutes, until the cauliflower has started to brown.

Remove from the oven and increase the heat to broil (at about 550).

Pour some marinara on each of the cauliflower pieces, top with a slice of Fontina cheese, then a sprinkle of the Parmesan. Broil for 7 minutes, until the cheese melts and the edges have begun to brown.

Garnish with flat-leaf parsley, if desired.

Adapted via Food & Wine

1 Comment

  1. Sharon Staffel
    January 17, 2020 / 6:40 pm

    Made this for dinner tonight. Jake liked and got the “go-ahead” to make again with slight change – ditch the fennel and up the garlic.

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