Working side-by-side with your loved one can make it difficult to know when the work day ends... and the rest of your evening begins. Anguel & I have spent way to many of our recent dinners talking about work. It’s stuff we get excited about, but yikes, sometimes we need to chill. So, we’re trying something new. In an effort to be more intentional about unplugging from work, we’ve started to schedule weekday “dinner dates”. And for us that means cozying up at home, cooking a yummy dinner for two, and cracking open a bottle of wine.
These Harissa Spiced Cauliflower Steaks were our take on a fancy date-night dinner. The classic steak-and-mashed-potatoes dishes don’t really appeal to us, but you know what does? A tender, juicy slab of cauliflower with a golden brown crust, and a sticky harissa spiced glaze. Topped with a creamy tahini drizzle. Oh, and it doesn’t take much longer than 30 minutes to make. That’s what we call sexy plant food. Are you into it?!
For the longest time my “beef" (ha) with most cauliflower steak recipes has been that it’s pretty hard to get four perfect pieces from a single head of cauliflower. What holds cauliflower steaks together is the stalk, and I don’t know where you buy your cauliflower, but most of the ones I buy don’t have stalks the size of a tree trunk. So rather than instructing you to magically produce four steaks, we’re going to cut our losses and go with two. The remaining bits of cauliflower get turned into a creamy mash. That way we can reliably use up the whole cauliflower AND nobody gets an ugly piece. It’s a win-win on all fronts. And while this two-serving recipe works perfectly for date night, if you want to serve a bigger group, simply scale it up to your liking.
Since cauliflower alone is pretty plain tasting, we like to use harissa to add a punch of flavor. Pre-made harissa paste varies significantly by brand - and because it’s so spicy, it often has to be used quite sparingly. Otherwise you just might blow your head off. To make these easier, we skip the store-bought version and opt for common pantry spices that are often used in harissa. This method provides ample flavor, while holding off on the kind of heat that makes your eyes water. To mix things up, we added a hint of sweetness and kept the spice relatively mild, which turned out to be a delicious combination. You can of course adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes, especially if you’re a spice fiend. But either way, since a good harissa paste can be hard to track down, this method is a whole lot easier.
There are three components to this dish, but we promise you can pull this off without any trouble. The first step is preparing your cauliflower: cutting the head into steaks and then chopping up all the leftover bits for the mash. You’ll quickly steam the cauliflower bits in a skillet pan before they get whizzed up into a luscious and creamy mash. You can then use that same pan to sear the cauliflower steaks, before glazing them and popping them in the oven to stay warm. And for the grand finale, you’ll crack open a can of chickpeas, warm them on the stove, add some seasonings - and then you’re ready to eat. The chickpea salad is so yummy (and easy) on its own that we considered holding it back for its own post - but we figured it wouldn’t be fair, since the combination here is near perfect.
Harissa Spiced Cauliflower Steaks
Cauliflower Steaks and Mash
- 1½ lb head of cauliflower
- ¾ cup + 2 teaspoons water, divided (more to thin, if needed)
- 1 clove garlic, minced (large clove)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- ¼ + ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¾ teaspoon paprika (see note 1)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (see note 1)
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
- Tahini (for drizzling, optional)
Warm Lemon Chickpeas
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 (15 oz/14 fl oz/398 ml) can chickpeas, rinsed (and patted dry)
- 1 cup finely chopped lacinato kale
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons currants
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Salt and black pepper (to taste)
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Cut cauliflower: Trim away any big green leaves, but keep stem attached. With the cauliflower sitting on it's stem, use a knife to cut it in half. Then, cut one thick slice (1½-inch / 4cm thick) from either side (for a total of 2 cauliflower steaks). Set aside.
- Start mash: Chop all the remaining/loose cauliflower. Add ¾ cup of the water to a small saucepan, cover with lid, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add chopped cauliflower, cover with lid, and steam until tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté uncovered, stirring frequently, until cauliflower is soft and water is evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Finish mash: Transfer cauliflower and garlic to a food processor (see note 2). Add lemon juice, and pulse until cauliflower resembles rice. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Process until the consistency of mashed potatoes. (If needed, add water in small increments to thin).
- Sear steaks: Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat (see note 3). Once oil is shimmering, add cauliflower steaks. Sear undisturbed until brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until brown, about 3 minutes.
- Harissa glaze: Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the remaining 2 teaspoons water, the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt, maple syrup, paprika, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and cayenne.
- Bake steaks: Transfer seared steaks to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush harissa glaze over both sides, getting into all the nooks and crannies. Bake until the stem is tender when poked with a knife, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Lemon Chickpeas: Meanwhile, heat olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add chickpeas, sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until hot. Add kale and lemon juice, cook stirring frequently, until kale starts to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add currants, cook for 1 minute to warm. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Assemble: Divide mash onto two plates. Top with the lemon chickpeas, cauliflower steaks. Drizzle with tahini (if using).
- Paprika: This recipe calls for two types of paprika: 1) "regular" (sweet) paprika and 2) smoked (sweet) paprika. If a smoked package package isn't labelled "hot" or "picante", it's usually smoked sweet paprika.
- Food processor alternative: The cauliflower mash can be made in a blender if you don't have a food processor. But, you may need to double the recipe to get enough volume in the blender container for it to spin effectively. Pause to scrape down the sides of the blender as you go.
- Skillet: A large (12-inch or bigger) skillet is recommended here, so that you can fit two cauliflower steaks in at a time. If using a smaller skillet, you may need to cook them individually.
I may be going crazy but there's no amount for the harissa. I am making it right now and both my husband and I have read over the recipe several times but it's not there and I did a word search on the page. So I guess we'll just wing it, looks delicious though!
Hi there! This recipe calls for the dried spices often used in harissa paste - but it doesn't call for harissa paste itself. We write a bit more about the rationale for that in the post:) Apologies for the confusion though! If you're really set on adding harissa paste, you can try to add a little for heat. But, the recipe gets good feedback as is (without additional harissa paste), so do feel free to try it that way!
Is there any good substitute for the currants. I love them dearly when I can find them, but that's not an option where I currently live.
Hi Sarah! You could try dried cranberries. They're a bit bigger, but would add a similar subtle sweetness. Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes!
Loved the concept of this recipe! I augmented a few ingredients given my pantry items: I used Tunisian harissa paste, wildflower honey and chopped dates in lieu of the spice blend, maple syrup and currants.
My meat-eating boyfriend even gobbled this down!
Hey Amanda! Woohoo, so happy to hear you and your boyfriend enjoyed this dish! Thank you for sharing the modifications you made. Have a great day and thanks for taking the time to share!
My favorite Pinterest find to date! I followed the recipe exactly, except I used curly kale instead of Dino kale. Everything is so tasty and really healthy. I'll for sure make this again
Hi Sarah! Woohoo, we're thrilled to hear you loved this recipe! Thank you for visiting:)
Sooooo yummy! Love having the chickpeas as a side for other mains as well!
I followed recipe exactly (other than oil) and what a wonderful meal! After a weekend out of town where there are very few options for animal free meals, I ate the vegan junk food we brought. And some overnight oats so I ate one healthy thing. I don't use oil so I cooked everything in water - the cauli, the chickpeas and I added a Tbl of aquafaba to the food processor w/ the cauli. This was a very pretty dinner & don't know if it gets much healthier than this 🙂
This is DELICIOUS - thank you so much. Very, Very good.
Wow what a delicious dinner. I will be making this again for sure. I made a few adjustments only because I didn’t want to run out to the store. I used a harissa paste from Trader Joes and just mixed that with the maple syrup and some cumin. The ratio wasn’t right so it was a bit too spicy. I will follow the exact recipe next time. I also used my air fryer vs oven for my steaks since we are going through a heat wave here in CA. I added a little vegan cream cheese to my mash and left out the parsley because I didn’t have any, but honestly I didn’t miss it because of all the other wonderful flavors in this dish.
Hi Dawn! Thank you so much for leaving a review! So happy to hear you loved the recipe. The air fryer sounds like a cool idea! Store-bought harissa paste can be quite spicy, so we're definitely curious how you find it compares to the spice blend in the recipe. Let us know how the second round goes! Big hugs, Bri
Robin earp says
Just made and was so yummy. I subbed out acorn squash mash and very nice compliment to harissa also had cannelloni beans with spinach as this is what I had
Loved this!! I can't EVER get my cauliflower to stay in "steak" format. So I just did florets - still super delish. I think next time I might make a lemony yogurt sauce + Up the spice level (I love spicy food)! great recipe.
Thank you for your recipes! This was a really nice dish, I paired it with the lentil curry salad << https://evergreenkitchen.ca/home/curry-lentil-salad?rq=curry%20lentil >> and the flavours complemented very well. The cauliflower mash had such a subtle, delicate taste that I thought the chickpea salad might be too plain! But it worked because the harissa was so warm and intense.
Hi Venetia! So great to hear! Love that pairing combination - great choice. We're thrilled you're enjoying the recipes. Hope to see you around these parts again soon:)
Loved this. Though I made some changes. First, the cauliflower mash seemed like too much work. I made light bulgur, which is easy and looks like an off white mash. I cut the whole cauliflower into somewhat thinner steaks. I doubled the amount for the harissa but could have tripled it. I used only a dash of cayenne pepper because we don’t like highly spiced food. The cauliflower redefined more time in the oven, at least another 20 minutes. I forgot to add the tahini sauce, but we decided the dish had enough complex, delicious flavors and didn’t need the tahini. Will make this again!!
Pat Butchers earrings says
Just tried this amazing recipe.
How has it only received 3 comments?!
Hi Pat! So glad you love the recipe! We see/hear lots of people making it on Pinterest, Instagram, email etc. but alas not many make it over to the main page to comment. Thank you for sharing your kind words - we really appreciate you taking the time to write in! Big hugs xx
Paige Wagner says
Ive made this recipe 4 times now and its a new favorite! Everyone who I've made it for has loved it. The crunchy, spicy glaze is paired perfectly with the creamy, mild cauli potatoes. Make sure not to sear yoir steatks in too much oil or the glaze won't carmelize and create that crunchy outside.
That's so great to hear Paige! 4 times - dangggg lady, you're a pro at this by now. Great tip on the searing the glaze. Crunchy is defs what we go for too! Thanks for sharing xx
I loved this recipe! I used a beautiful purple cauliflower and the dish was even prettier. I also appreciate your careful explanations and directions. Thank you!