Sauteed cauliflower gets the same delicious crispy edges as roasted cauliflower, by searing it in the pan. You can dress up the slightly sweet and nutty flavor of cauliflower with an almost endless line of seasonings and sauces.
While roasting is my favorite method for cooking cauliflower, the oven isn’t always available. This method takes less time than roasting, at the cost of a little more effort tending the pan. If you don’t know how to saute cauliflower, then you’ve come to the right place.
My favorite method to prepare cauliflower (and really, most vegetables) is to roast it. But, you can get the same delicious charring with sauteed cauliflower. These are the things I keep in mind when using this method:
First, because we’re using relatively high heat, you will want to chop the cauliflower into small, uniform florets. The smaller they are, the faster they will cook through.
Second, heat the pan before putting in your oil. It can be helpful to use an oil with a higher smoking point rather than butter.
Third, if you tend them too frequently, they won’t develop a good sear. The best-tasting cauliflower has browned and blackened areas on the edges where the florets have a crispy char.
Let them sit in the pan long enough to brown on one side before tossing them. Those crispy bits really are the best part!
How to Saute Cauliflower
Follow these directions on how to saute cauliflower:
Prep the cauliflower: Clean the head and then trim off the leaves. Cut the head in half through the stem. Lay the halves flat and repeat this cut, so that you have four equal quarters.
Then, angle your knife to cut the stem from each quarter. Now, it is easy to break apart the florets into small florets. Just as with broccoli, the stem is edible–so, you can chop and use it, if desired.
Prep the pan: Get out a large skillet (with sloping sides) or sauté pan (with vertical walls). For me, this Misen pan is the perfect skillet for sauteeing. Put the pan on a burner set to medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes.
Begin Sautéing: Add oil and the cauliflower to the pan. Season well.
Toss Frequently: Sauté comes from the French word for “jump” because of the way this cooking technique moves the food around. Many cooks use the pan itself to toss the vegetables if they know how to saute cauliflower.
If you’re risk averse like me, you can use a utensil to stir the cauliflower or tongs to turn them over. Either way, let them sit long enough to brown (several minutes) before tossing them the first time.
How Long to Saute Cauliflower
Expect to saute cauliflower for between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the size of the florets and how well done you want them.
After six minutes, give them a taste test. If they aren’t finished, check again in another minute. They should be tender when you pull them off the heat.
I can’t overstate the importance of testing with a fork and also tasting the vegetables when trying new cooking methods.
We prefer our vegetables more firm than soft, with a solid bite to them. If you prefer your vegetables to be a bit more cooked, just add a minute or two to the provided cooking times. It’s always better to err on the side of undercooked versus overdone.
Keep in mind that cooking times are estimates and adjust them to be exactly what you like best.
How to Saute Cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cauliflower, medium sized head cut into small pieces
- ½ tablespoon kosher salt adjust to taste
- ¼ tablespoon pepper adjust to taste
- Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes.
- Add oil and cauliflower to the skillet and toss to coat. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Uncover and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking uncovered, while stirring frequently, for an additional 6-8 minutes to the desired doneness.
- Continue sauteing cauliflower until the edges are browned, remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.