cauliflower with brown butter crumbs

This site is 7 years, 4 months and 5 days old, which is exactly how long I’ve been meaning to tell you about one of my favorite ways to make cauliflower. You think I would have gotten around to it already, as it’s the very cauliflower dish I ever knew, but instead I’ve been distracting us with quiches* and soups, and pasta and fritters. It’s a shame, as this is so much easier to make.

everything but the butter
cauliflower in giant florets

My mother used to steam a whole head of cauliflower, and when it was about done, melt a pat or two of butter in a cast-iron frying pan (back when all of our skillets were cast-iron, and I found them heavy and annoying and embarrassingly old-fashioned; oh, Deb), then toss in enough seasoned breadcrumbs (always seasoned “Italian-style” which makes me chuckle because what would Italian seasoning be in Italy, salt and pepper?**) to absorb the butter and cook them until they were a browned together. This would be sprinkled on and pressed against the cauliflower and it’s really no surprise that I become a cauliflower person, is it? Salty butter, brown butter-crisped crumbs will do that to a person.

getting ready to brown the butter

shallots and crumbs, ready to be cooked
breadcrumbs, shallots, brown butter

I make it almost the same way, but of course, I’ve fiddled a bit over the years. I prefer browning the butter a little bit before adding the crumbs because, obviously: brown butter. I use plain breadcrumbs (panko, Japanese-style breadcrumbs are my favorite) but I add a little bit of minced shallot, garlic, finely grated lemon zest, salt and pepper for seasoning, plus some parsley or chives, and I dress the cauliflower with a little bit of lemon juice before putting the crumbs on, just to perk it up a little.

steamy cauliflower
dressed with a little lemon

This is an ideal dish for a weekday night, or even that little holiday you may have heard of that’s coming up next week? It’s kind of minor, so don’t sweat it. The dish doesn’t care whether you steam or roast you cauliflower, whole or in chunks, or if you make it in advance. The cauliflower and crumbs can be made separately, then re-warmed together before serving. You can very likely make this with ingredients you already have around. And nobody, or nobody I want to be friends with, finds the flavor of deeply toasted, brown butter-drenched breadcrumbs with minced shallots, garlic and lemon less than spoon-worthy. The best stuff falls to the bottom of the serving dish, and that’s exactly where you’ll find me, swatting your spoon away with mine exhibiting the warmth and generosity of the season by giving you dibs. Yup.

cauliflower with brown butter crumbs
cauliflower with brown butter crumbs

* Oh, phew. I think I just figured out what to make for dinner tonight.
** Or perhaps 34 primary and 20 additional sub-ingredients? Mm, yummy HFCS, cottonseed oil and Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate…

Thanksgiving recipes: My favorites are listed here, but if you think I’ve missed something, head to the search box (top left, under the logo) and type in the ingredient — I bet we have something. Unless you’re looking for a whole turkey recipe… um, next year, I promise. [Thanksgiving Recipes]

More Thanksgiving this week: I realized near the end of last week that I had five Thanksgiving dishes left to share with you, and wouldn’t it be fun to post each day this week about one? So, Monday was Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions, Tuesday was my favorite Apple-Herb Stuffing for All Seasons and today is cauliflower. If all goes well (so many tiny inconvenient things — meetings and tests and tours and a waning case of laryngitis — are plotting against us this week, but I’m going to persevere), there might be some sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, squash or a campy dessert before the end of the week. I love these dishes too much to keep them from you any longer.

Cauliflower with Brown Butter Crumbs
Inspired by Mama/Grandma Smitten

Serves 6, or more if there are many dishes on the table

1 medium head cauliflower (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
Oil for pan, if roasting
4 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
1 medium or 2 tiny shallots, finely minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
Approximately 3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Few gratings of lemon zest
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley or chives

To steam cauliflower: Set a steamer basket (see Notes) inside a large pot. Bring about one inch of water to a boil in the pot, lower cauliflower, whole or in large florets, into basket, and cover pot with lid. Reduce heat to medium. Let cauliflower steam for 10 to 20 minutes (less time if using a proper steamer basket, longer if using the modified basket below), or until it is easily pierced with a knife.

To roast cauliflower: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with oil. Scatter cauliflower florets evenly over pan and roast until cauliflower is brown at edges and easily pierced with a knife, about 20 to 30 minutes. Toss and flip pieces once, halfway through roasting time, to ensure that they brown easily.

Make brown butter crumbs: When cauliflower is almost done, melt butter in a heavy frying pan over medium heat, and continue to cook it after it is melted until it is a little brown, and smells toasty. Working quickly, stir in the shallots, and let them hiss in the butter for about 30 seconds. Add the breadcrumbs, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon table salt (if using unsalted butter, skip if using salted) and a few grinds of black pepper and cook together, stirring frequently, until crumbs are a shade darker, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Add a scrape or two of lemon zest and adjust seasonings to taste.

Assemble dish: Place whole cooked cauliflower or cauliflower florets in a low serving bowl. Toss gently with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Spoon crumbs over cauliflower, pressing them onto the florets as you can, and letting the rest fall into the serving dish. Scatter herbs over top and serve with a large spoon.

Do ahead: Steam or roast cauliflower and make crumbs; keep them separate until serving. Just before serving, rewarm cauliflower and add crumbs.

Many notes:

  • Don’t have a steamer basket? Me neither, or not one I’ve been able to find in a couple years, which probably means it’s an Elmo cradle somewhere. Anyway, I suspend a mesh metal strainer with handles over the pot with bubbling water, and set the lid on as best as possible. More water escapes (it’s best to check it halfway through, and make sure you don’t need to add more), but it does the job just fine.
  • Why panko? They’re fluffy and pale, light, crisp and neutrally flavored, thus they are great to keep around for times when you don’t feel like making your own. I keep mine in an airtight jar in the cabinet and they last a long time.
  • Don’t have panko breadcrumbs? Here’s how I fake them when I don’t: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Tear two to three slices of soft, crustless white bread into 1-inch pieces and pulse them in a food processor until coarsely ground. Transfer crumbs to a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool. Use. [This will make 3/4 to 1 full cup.]

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175 comments on cauliflower with brown butter crumbs

  1. Jennifer

    I want to be offended by this, because lets face it- creamy cheese sauce is the way to go on steamed cauliflower and broccoli. But then I realized – I can basically use cauliflower in place of pasta in homemade mac and cheese, and then put browned bread crumbs on top anyway.. for… authenticity! I just found out what I’m making for my very retro dinner tonight.

  2. My favorite trick for making bread crumbs is to start by cubing bread, and then instead of pulsing in a food processor, use the shredding disc instead. Just as easy, and much quicker! I also keep them in the freezer for use in meatballs, lovely recipes like this, topping casseroles, etc.

  3. Deb those browned butter crumbs need to make an appearance on just about everything! Love them. I bet they do wonders for cauliflower and I’m also thinking brussles sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatoes and…everything. Pinned

  4. Kate


    Sorry for the shouting, but that’s what I thought when I saw your picture above. The bag always make me crazy, spilling little white showers all over the place. I have so many extra mason jars, just for this reason!! Thanks for the brilliant, if inadvertent, suggestion.

  5. Susan

    You can hold aside some of your stuffing mixture, grind it in the food processor and brown it in the browned butter and use that on the cauliflower. It’s already seasoned and just needs the browning.

  6. kari

    Hi my friend, I love your recipes! I’ve been making a brined cauliflower lately that is unreal but this sounds awesome. Now I know what I’m making for dinner! Anyhoo…you have a minor typo and I know you’d like to change it, so instead of placing pan over medium head, I’m going with medium heat. No worries! thanks for everything–keep up the Gluten Free substitutions, too, please!

  7. Hannelore

    Wow, seriously? This is such a coincidence. Only a few hours ago I searched your website (which I know only for a few days and yet you’ve managed to reach my fav websites and my birthday wishlist – your book, I mean) for a recipe with cauliflower and now, this appears. So excited to make this dish! It looks simply wonderfull.

  8. If you add in a few chopped hard-boiled eggs, you’ve got the impressive-sounding Cauliflower Polonaise. The eggs makes it seem almost decadent, and something I could totally eat on its own for a meal.

  9. Ann

    Wow! This is my son’s favorite. Never thought of adding the shallots-great idea. I use Italian breadcrumbs. Thanks for all your great receipes and hard work. I have made many of your receipes-they are always a hit in our house. Happy Holidays

  10. Lauren

    What will we all do when the little blue star indicating a NEW Smitten recipe doesn’t appear every single day? You have us spoiled now, Deb. (Just a “heads up” for the sake of your own sanity.)This will be a staple of mine, as cauliflower is a huge family favorite- sounds yummy w/ brown butter.

    1. deb

      Lauren — Well, then I should warn: I don’t think tomorrow is going to happen, I might have overdone it with the being sick and then still going swimming, because I’m nuts. But Friday will! :)

      kari — Yes, thanks, now fixed.

      OMG, is this Jersey Cauliflower? — I hope so. That would be awesome. I didn’t think my mother’s cooking was particularly influenced by where I grew up (she’s from Queens) but you never know. I’m going to ask her where she got the idea and report back.

  11. Gretchen

    Oh gee! Do you think this is a New Jersey thing? My mom did the same when i was growing up (a number of decades before you!) And silly me. I transplanted to the Midwest, and as I was raising my family, forgot about this. Woe is me – none are cauliflower people!!! I may resurrect this for Thanksgiving anyway ….

  12. Emily

    This is one of my favorite dishes from my mother as well (also from NJ!), though she would just mix Italian breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese with olive oil until it formed crumbs, and then would pack that over steamed cauliflower. I made my mother’s dish last weekend, so I’ll have to try your version this weekend!

  13. heidi

    There is actually a recipe for this? I just figured my mom made it this way knowing we would eat anything that was covered with browned butter! I grew up in central Texas, so I don’t think it’s just a NJ thing.

  14. JP

    Just the thing for the cauliflower sitting in the fridge my husband brought home (probably not knowing that I never know what to do with a cauliflower!). Typo, I think in first paragraph…is it the very “first” cauliflower dish you knew? Many thanks for putting out these extra recipes when we all know you are not feeling your best…get well so you can enjoy Thanksgivnnukah!

  15. I discovered a similar version of this recently that called for this combo over orrecchiette. My husband was not interested when I said I was going to eat it. He opted for a salad. But when I offered him a bite, he immediately requested I bookmark the recipe. He couldn’t believe it was such a simple recipe. Thanks for the reminder!

  16. Paulina

    No, no, no, you brown the breadcrumbs first and *then you add the butter – it prevents them from soaking up the butter too fast and getting super greasy!

  17. Nicole

    My grandmother made it exactly like this for every holiday (minus the shallots and lemon). What a wonderful memory this brought back to me!

  18. Andrea synnott

    Yum, made something similar last week with brown butter and chopped capers, which I could see adding here. If you are thinking about a turkey for next year, consider dry-brining. Sort of Zuni Cafe chicken meets the Pilgrims!

  19. Alli

    This looks amazing, I think I will add this to my Thanksgiving lineup! Just FYI since you host all of your images on Flickr rather than on your site I can’t pin your recipes on Pinterest. When I do it just takes me to your Flickr site rather than linking back to the recipe which is what I want to do. Might want to think about changing that up, since I know a LOT of people would love to pin your amazing recipes!

  20. Alli

    ^^ p.s. nevermind, somehow it worked itself out now! Maybe I was experiencing a bug before… Thanks again for your amazing dedication to delicious food!

  21. Gayle

    Excellent! This is a near cousin to my mother-in-law’s dish that we affectionately call “Crumby Beans” (whilst enjoying the little pun of the name). Why we never thought of applying the whole crumby concept to other worthy veggies, I don’t know. But as this preparation is a family favorite, I foresee many crumby-atizing attempts ahead. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. Hi Deb, Thanks for all the amazing Thanksgiving recipes! Do you think this would also be a good preparation for roasted brussel sprouts? I want to make some for Thanksgiving, but would like to give them a little pop! Hope you feel better! Thanks again.

  23. Jessica

    Looks awesome and reminds me of a similar cauliflower recipe that posted last year at Thanksgiving from Sam Sifton’s book (noticed your mention of him in the green bean casserole recipe!), main difference is that the bread crumbs had some anchovies in it (at least that is the main difference I remember off the top of my head!). Adding this recipe to my list of ways to make cauliflower delicious! Thanks Deb!

  24. Deb, I have your whole turkey recipe for you. It’s worked for at least 30 years for my mom and me. Take the turkey, wrap it well in heavy-duty foil. Line a roasting pan with more foil. Plop in the turkey. Wrap that whole thing in foil. Seriously. Put it all in the oven the night before on about 300. About 45 mins before turkey time, take it out and remove the tender turkey meat. That’s it!! :)

  25. oh now this, THIS, has a place on our table, not just on turkey-day but any time. i love me a batch of browned butter bread crumbs, but never once did it dawn on me to tumble them over cauliflower.

    what a wise, wise grandma smitten. thanks in advance!


  26. jill

    Add me to the ‘this is the way my mom made it growing up’ crew. Also credit it with my unabashed love of cauliflower. My mom was not from the East Coast, but from Ohio. Czech and German descent. The person who notes it’s very Polish makes me wonder if it’s an Eastern European thing…

  27. Mel

    Deb!! This is just too much! That’s it! Too much deliciousness!! I can’t take it!!! I am SO excited to make all these recipes through the winter! We were invited for Thanksgivukah, but that won’t stop me from making the cauliiflower this week and the others in December. Tastiest.Week. of. Posts. Ever. I love it all! Thank you :)

  28. Marlene

    Hi, I want to make this as part of my Christmas Day Dinner – will it be OK if I prepare a day ahead and assemble on Christmas Day or is it best prepared, cooked and eaten on the same day? Thanks

  29. Jules In Sydney

    Loving this, signed one of your fans in Sydney. I really think you should come out here soon. Your palate/recipes are so simpatico. In the meantime, just wanted to say anything with butter and lemon zest is on the road to happiness. Always look at your site for inspiration. Even if our seasons are upside down.

    1. deb

      Nicoiul — The breadcrumbs can be fried in olive or another oil instead, but it will not have the depth of flavor that comes from brown butter. Still, it would be tasty.

      AG — I didn’t boil it, I steamed it, which I did because that’s the way my mother always made it. Roasting directions are included. Is this really shocking?

      Re, is this recipe a German thing? — Now I really want to know. My mother is 100% German; she says her mother made it, but she thought it was just thrown together, nothing particularly Germanic about it. Anyway, I love hearing that it wasn’t just my mom who made this. It’s such an easy weeknight trick to keep in your back pocket, and it makes something as dully and wholesome as steamed vegetables really fun to eat.

      Ruthie — Thanks for sharing! Love that show.

      Andrea — Definitely. I also have a more elaborate brussels recipe here (loads of pop!) with breadcrumbs on top.

  30. Eva

    This reminds me of my Hungarian mother’s take on most vegetables. Except that as in all Hungarian recipes sour cream had to be involved. With cauliflower it was a whole head, steamed, and then spread with sour cream and topped with the buttered bread crumbs and then sprinkled with paprika. I still make it but minus the sour cream.

  31. This might be good with parsnips instead of cauliflower, no? I share your passion for parsnips, but when I searched I found only recipes which “included” parsnips–not one which “featured” parsnips. I thought of using parsnips instead of acorn squash in your recent Acorn Squash Wedges….and I may. But how about creating a special recipe for parsnips all on their own?

  32. Adrienne K

    I think our mothers went to the same cauliflower school – that is what I grew up with too (and still make, I’m embarrassed to say….). Thanks for the update!

  33. Janice

    Not sure any cauliflower recipe can top your roasted cauliflower salad with olives and capers, but this is yummy, too! I only regret it took me 7 years to find your blog- o the catching up I have to do yet!! Thanks for all of the great ideas!

  34. Oh. My. Goodness! This is exactly how my German mom made cauliflower all the years I was growing up – just plain browned butter and breadcrumbs as a topping for steamed cauliflower. It was so crunchy and yummy. It’s my favourite way to eat cauliflower, too.

  35. Chiara

    You did it again! You managed to make something I don’t like, cauliflower,look so yummy! I just might give cauliflower another try ;) thanks for all the Thanksgiving dinner help.

  36. lee

    Mmmm. This sounds delightful in its simplicity. As others have mentioned, my go-to recipes for cauliflower have usually involved some type of cheese or cream sauce. But this? This might be recipe to end that trend. Can’t wait to try!

  37. Dena

    Oh, Deb, you’ve taken me back to my ’50s childhood with this. Tossing them in brown butter breadcrumbs were the only way my mother could get my sister and me to eat either cauliflower or broccoli. I love to prepare them both that way even now, but rarely do because of the – well, you know – butter. Still, every once in a while, I throw caution to the wind… like, maybe, tonight.

  38. Liz

    I am now seven years old again.

    Except my mom did the cheese sauce PLUS the browned bread crumbs. And I was the little piggy claiming the bottom of the bowl.

  39. Jean Gogolin

    Love, love, love cauliflower – though for some reason I can’t cotton to Brussels sprouts, even though they’re close cousins.

    Re those heavy cast iron skillets, I used to hate them in my youth too; then spent my middle years using them all the time. Now that I’m (ahem) an elder, they’re too damned heavy again.

  40. Terri

    Please pardon my very basic and quite possibly remedial question: Do you think Broccoli would be a reasonable substitution for the Cauliflower? Try as I have, I just am not a fan of the white stuff and much prefer the green stuff, though one substitution I’ve learned does not work is the above mentioned cheese sauce. It’s actually quite gross on broc, but I digress… Any thoughts? I haven’t met anything in browned butter that I haven’t liked, not to mention that most perfect combination of bread + butter. It doesn’t get much better then that!

  41. Stella lee

    This look delicious! You have such great recipes for the fall/winter weather! I would love to see more ethnic recipes! You should definitely try making Korean food. Korean stews/soups (soondubu, kimchee jigae, yukgaejang) are perfect cold weather dishes!

  42. Lizzie

    Looks delish – I’m rediscovering my childhood love for cauliflower … but I’m really just commenting because I think you probably meant to link to yesterday’s drool-worthy recipe in your ‘More Thanksgiving this week’ paragraph. Yep, I’m one of those annoying people!

  43. Mary King

    I stumbled on this site and I like the sounds of all the recipes discussed. Please tell me the site where these recipes are dos[;ayed so that I may read them.

  44. Linda S

    This is actually based on a traditional Polish style of serving cauliflower that my mom got from her mom and so on. In French cooking, this is referred to as Polonaise, just like Florentine would be with spinach.

  45. Allison

    Sounds delicious. My mom used to make a main-dish cauliflower recipe that was a steamed whole head of cauliflower, then one or two beaten eggs and parmesan cheese poured over it, then cooked just until the egg was set. I think the recipe was from the Frugal Gourmet. I actually do it in the microwave for a quick dish with both vegetable and protein content!

  46. Karen

    Definitely not just eastern European: my father-in-law in Piedmont, Italy, used to make a similar dish, but added chopped anchovies into the bread crumbs he was toasting. Delicious!

  47. WifeToAnAmazingCook

    This looks so good! Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables and I can’t wait to try this ASAP. My sister-in-law use to make this for her kids when they were young but it never appealed to me… that is until now, since you’ve gone and added lemon, garlic and panko in brown butter. YUM!

    Also, I just wanted to say thank you for all of the posts this week. Your blog (and book) are brilliant – I enjoy both very much. And it’s so generous of you to share all of these fabulous recipes in advance of next week’s BIG meal. Thanks Deb (and I hope you’re taking the week off next week!).

  48. just_b

    Hello Deb – you made me smile once again! Different to the other recipies the smile was there already reading the title and being reminded of my lovely grandma making this very dish for me! She uses to cook the whole cauliflower and never thought of using a steamer (I guess). Even if she did she was all right not do use one because from what is left of the water in the pot you can make a soup very similar to this one:

    You’re replacing the chicken broth by your cauliflower broth and maybe add some of the overly cooked c.flower bits from the bottom. Greetings from Berlin, Germany

  49. Sabrina

    My mom used to make cauliflower with browned butter and breadcrumbs and I haven’t had that in years. Thanks for reminder! She cooked the whole thing in salt water though. No steaming :) The next cauliflower will be served like this!

  50. Oh yum… I’m on a real cauliflower kick these days. I can’t wait to try this recipe over the weekend! My favorite recipe so far is the one you posted with almonds, raisins and capers from the Gramercy Tavern (love the story too!)

  51. Judy

    I have to add to the chorus of “My mother made it this way!” and I have always loved it and made it for my family too! We also use the crumbs on broccoli and green beans. I always thought it was Eastern European in origin. Thanks, Deb, for reminding me to make it again!

  52. TanyaT

    I haven’t had this for years but my Mum (whose parents were German) used to make it this way and I loved it. It was considered quite strange in New Zealand where most people eat cauliflower with cheese sauce (disgusting!!). you have inspired me to make it again.

  53. Melissa

    This is the first time ever that I have had a plan to make something (cauliflower) and the perfect recipe showed up in my inbox the same. I always read about this sort of serendipity in comments, but it never happens to me. Anyway, made it and it was delicious. My husband always has to add to anything I make (usually more spices, more butter, etc), and he didn’t change a thing. Thank you for sharing with us. I love your writing and your recipes. Happy Thanksgiving!

  54. AG

    Shocking indeed! Really. I was so alarmed, I misspoke and said boiling instead of steaming.., Just seems like you are missing out on so much potential flavor. I always roast (unless it’s in a gratin, pasta, etc). Besides, since when is roaring harder than steaming?

  55. Masha

    My babushka and mom made this often, living on the border of Poland and Belarus. And I’m going to be honest: just butter and bread crumbs for me, no fiddling. Try fried breadcrumbs over green beans or gnocchi… To die for!

  56. I’ve been loving any kind of veggies this way for a while now. Just topping any soft veggies with some crispy something makes it so much better! I think I’ll roast the cauliflower before rather than steaming. More browned bits!!

  57. Claudia

    This is the only way I ate cauliflower as a child! My grandmother always served it with brown butter, my mom still does. I’m from Germany, so to me this is a German thing, I guess. Then again, it came from my grandma, whose mother was from Poland, so it might just as well come from Eastern Europe.
    YUM! Now I know, what I’ll have for dinner tonight. Thanks Deb!

  58. Ronit

    I just finished making this, but I think something went wrong…
    The breadcrumbs don’t stick to the cauliflower.
    When I pick up a piece of cauliflower, there is a shower of crumbs all around. It tastes great, but I thought that the crumbs would coat the cauliflower, not just sit on it. Was i wrong?

  59. Dear Deb, are you secretly conspiring with my mother? It seems as if at least half the recipes you post come directly out of her kitchen. Type of food, combination of ingredients, method, you name it. From pizza to cauliflower, I know all that from my mum’s cooking. Cauliflower with brown butter crumbs are my dad’s favorite, so we had that quite often when I was a child. I’m Austrian, btw. Does your family come from here?

  60. Hi Deb, love these recipes that you do with the cauliflowers. I am so impressed that you can do all this fab food from such a small kitchen space. Big respect to you. My wife does a brilliant curried cauliflower, its straight out of a pakistani’s kitchen. I will post this to my new blog soon, probably get Xmas out the way first. Also – congratulations on the Babble awards, you deserve them!

  61. Nancy

    Hi Deb – love the site! Just recently found it, and every time I feel like I learn something new, but today was an old favorite. My Austrian mom makes this every week, and it is one of our family’s favorite dishes. Only difference is we always make our own crumbs. Why? Well – why else….guilt. That’s why. Imagine hearing, “we are peasants, and it is a sin to throw away bread” in the thickest possible accent, every day …your entire life. Catholic, 85 and Austrian – that woman can wield a guilt knife with the best of them :-)

  62. Crumbs and butter is a popular way to serve various cooked vegetables in Poland, and possibly other Eastern European countries. I read somewhere that in France this way of preparing veg is sometimes referred to as a la polonaise, but I don’t know if it is true. In any case, it is a taste of my childhood (I am Polish, but live in England).

  63. Hi, I discovered your blog recently, and honestly can’t believe I’ve missed it all these years. Such great recipes and ideas, and I love your writing.
    Cauliflower is a family favourite in our home. I love it steamed with a herb and butter sauce, my husband likes it with breadcrumbs as in your recipe. My kids prefer it with cheese sauce. So, to keep everyone happy, we serve it steamed, smother white cheesy sauce all over, and sprinkle a generous amount of brown butter crumbs and a handful of parley. Bliss on a plate!

  64. Diana

    This was a Sunday dinner staple on my german family’s table when I was growing up. Love it, love your addition of lemon zest/juice! Can’t wait to try it that way.

  65. AMAZING! Huge hit. Made it for tonight’s dinner of meatloaf and roasted purple potatoes. I am going to make it for Thanksukkah except will use brussle sprouts. Thank you Deb for this wonderful blog; you inspire me in so many ways.

  66. Melba A.

    Thank you for sharing this, it brought me back to my childhood, and makes me wonder if we share a mom since she did it the same, right down to the Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs. Now I know what I have to make for my work potluck this week. :)

  67. I have to say I thought this was my mother’s concoction, but it seems it may be a German feature of making kids eat cauliflower. Just like you I always found my cauliflower irresistable when my mother made this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  68. NeedleAndFork

    Oh my goodness. I started off with cauliflower and chickpeas roasting with some nutmeg and cumin.. while it was roasted I kept browsing and came on your post with the fabulous idea of brown butter crumbs, so I combined the two recipes. Of course I have no panko or even white bread at home, so I buzzed a couple of rye dinner rolls in the foodprocessor to make crumbs. Lemon? Pshaw. Apparently left over dried lemon peel from brining the thanksgiving turkey would have to make do – I toasted that with the breadcrumbs. Tossed a bunch of capers into the butter/shallot/garlic mixture, and then topped the whole plate with some well aged parmesean. You know, I could eat this every day! And to think I’ve always insisted I hate cauliflower! Only problem is that this started out as a fairly light dish – roasted with the slightest bit of olive oil. Then thanks to you I went and added butter!

  69. This recipe seems like about half of a recipe I used to make about 40+ years ago when first out on my own. I hope Smitten Kitchen can come up with what I need to know as I am doing a Hungarian dinner tomorrow for friends of mine because I CAN’T FIND MY RECIPE FOR THIS GREAT DISH!!! HELP!!!

    Here is what I can tell you about what I remember of the recipe. I think the cauliflower was floured and then fried to a crisp state. But, was the cauliflower first par boiled? Also, as I recall the breadcrumb mixture was made with breadcrumbs (duh), dried parsley, some spices?, and chopped hard boiled eggs. all tossed in butter and in turn, tossed with the cauliflower.

    I think I am pretty close to having it right BUT my memory isn’t what it used to be–but what do you expect when you hit 70+ years old.

    Robert Hayes Halfpenny

  70. An afterthought just occurred to me and that is that the frying of the cauliflower is what made this dish really special. I think I remember several years ago I might have used breaded cauliflower from the frozen section of the grocery store. That scenario was a real disaster so I guess that breading the cauliflower isn’t or wasn’t the way to go. Also, another thought has just occurred and that is would frozen plain cauliflower work better for frying than fresh raw cauliflower. I am in such a quandary–what to do? what to do?

    Robert Hayes Halfpenny

  71. Jules

    I just made this. Its really yummy, and the zesty lemon flavor is perfect. My only comment is that it doesnt actually serve 6-8. it should be doubled for an actual 6-8 portion.

  72. Thank you so much for this amazing looking recipe! I love healthy recipes and I will look forward to trying it out and sharing it with my followers at As Arnold says “I’ll be back” :) Thanks again!

  73. Andrea

    My mother (German) always made noodles and breadcrumbs, the butter fried breadcrumbs tossed with noodles and sprinkled liberally on our own plates with a german seasoning called Maggi, it’s kind of a german soy saucey thing but better!

  74. Tig

    I made this yummy cauliflower for Christmas and turned the leftovers into a delicious frittata! Breadcrumbs and all, I recommend trying that!

  75. We tried this out but added a little twist. We pan-fried paper thin proscuitto till crispy, pounded it up and added it to buttered bread crumbs. Didn’t taste too bad either :D

  76. Siets


    great recipe. I was thinking of making it for dinner but do you have suggestions what to add to it or am I missing something? I was thinking about making it with some spagetti carbonara in the weekend.


  77. This is typical Polish topping for vegetables in the summer time. Bot only for cauliflower, but also it goes well with baby potatoes, young beans, and in autumn with brussel sprouts.

  78. ballardelle

    This was lovely; quick, easy, and best of all, tasty. I prefer roasted cauliflower, so to adapt the recipe for summer cooking (no oven, quick stovetop), I turned the cauliflower into couscous.

    Just chop the florets fine by pulsing in a blender or shredding on a box grater. Put a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the skillet 2-3mm deep and bring to a simmer. Add 1 T olive oil, cauliflower and shallots (instead of cooking the shallots with the panko). Stir well then cover and steam for 2 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until water has evaporated and olive oil has been absorbed, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Assemble as directed by Deb (stir in lemon juice, top with panko etc). Yum!!

  79. Agnieszka

    This is how we eat cauliflower in Poland. You can also use the topping for green and yellow string beans and brussel sprouts. Nom nom

  80. Sara

    I just made this (roasted cauliflower is so much better than steamed, in my opinion), and it was a hit! I found that the parsley made a big impact to the flavors too.Yum, yum.

  81. Ann

    I don’t know why this doesn’t have more comments but it really should because it is absolutely DELICIOUS. I sometimes make an entire head of cauliflower like this and try to eat it all by myself. Rarely successful, always delicious.

  82. Hello, I just discovered this site! This morning, even before I had my coffee I saw a head of cauliflower that had been in my fridge over a week and thought I better use this up before it goes bad. I remembered a recipe my grandmother brought over from Hungary when they came to America in 1914. Yes, the dark ages but then I am 84 now! And I remember my mother making it when we were children. I have always loved the cauliflower and butter and bread crumbs and when I got this site this AM I was so excited I just had it for breakfast. Thank you Smitten Kitchen for this little bit of old country I had forgotten!!

  83. Artsy

    Hi, just had a talk with my mom on phone awhile ago and she’s in Queens and i’m here in Manila. All through out our conversation she gave me all veggie recipes and this brown buttered cauliflower with panko was the first she instructed me. Well, am thinking of making this as one of my dinner dish. Thanks to them for letting me know that it’s a Polish dish. You’re a winner Deb!

  84. Mel

    Deb this is the second time I am commenting on one of your posts today! I think I’m slowly making all the Smitten recipes!
    Made this tonight with scallops – very delicious and a wonderful way to “hide” cauliflower. Decided to roast it and then added the crumbs. Super easy, super delicious. Thank you!

  85. Tina

    This recipe was a childhood favorite. I used to call it cauliflower with sand! I guess that doesn’t sound too ape rising but this recipe is so yummy!

  86. frizz

    Absolutely delicious. The lemon made all the difference. Love the texture (roasted) with the crunchy breadcrumbs. Yummy. Another winner.

  87. elana

    thinking of this for thanksgiving…i know i can make the cauliflower and breadcrumbs separately and then put together and warm on thanksgiving. how do i store the breadcrumbs once cooked? fridge? not fridge?

  88. stephanie

    cauliflower has been on sale for the past two weeks so i bought some. i was firmly decided on making the cauliflower cheese, but then out of curiosity i decided to see what other cauliflower recipes you had. and now i can’t decide between the cheese, the tart, or this. fortunately, i know whichever one i go with it will be awesome because it’s 9:30am and my stomach is growling for…cauliflower?

    go figure. growing up, cauliflower is one of the few cooked veg i would eat – not because i liked it, but because it didn’t taste like anything at all. (99% of veg in our house came out of a box in a freezer and was then microwaved to a watery, soft consistency, made even worse by the fact that it got cold really, really fast.) if only my parents had gotten this recipe instead…ah well, plenty of time left for improvement :)

    re: steamer baskets – what i do is add my water to the pot (i use my big oval rachel ray pot as it has a lot of surface area, so everything fits in one layer and you can get the lid on) and then crimp a sheet of heavy duty foil over the top, sinking it in an inch or so. stab it all over with a knife, bring water to boil, lay the ingredients on the foil, put the lid on, presto, steamer. this is how i do chicken wings, too before i bake them.

  89. Olga

    It’s the best way to make kids eat cauliflower and green beans. My three year old loves it with just the fried bread crumbs and butter, but I am going to try with the other ingredients.

  90. Mimi

    I randomly bought a cauliflower today when I saw them on sale at Publix, and came here looking for inspiration. This recipe looks amazing, and I forgot until just now that my mom used to do exactly the same thing with mushrooms! Haven’t thought about those mushrooms since 1994 when she died, so thanks for the reminder. For what it’s worth, I don’t think my mother ever stepped foot in New Jersey, but she was born somewhere in Russia, so another vote here for the Eastern Europe faction here :)

  91. At last! My Victorian grandmother (she taught me to polish silver and make hospital corners) made a version of this, using saltine crackers crushed into small flakes in a bag. These were then cooked to a heavenly brown crisp in, yes, a cast iron skill. (I still have mine- wouldn’t dream of letting it go.)
    So THANK YOU!!

  92. caitlin

    i made this just last weekend and served it over wild rice to make it its own meal, and it was amazing. i was skeptical that the breadcrumbs would be that flavorful, but i was wrong and they were perfect–especially with the rice, since the excess crumbs got mixed in with it instead of just sitting at the bottom of the bowl. i made it again the next night at my sister’s request, but added some roasted broccoli and carrots to the cauliflower, which was also delicious. we did end up making an enormous amount (2 large heads of cauliflower, one head of broccoli, and somewhere in the vicinity of 6 carrots, and i tripled the breadcrumb recipe), but fortunately it reheats well in the oven (spread on baking sheet, 400 degrees, 10-ish minutes) so leftovers weren’t an issue. i just finished off the last of it for lunch today, and i’m sad to see it go.

  93. Amy

    My whole family loved it. Last night I picked first (and only) beautiful head of cauliflower from the garden, and wanted a recipe to do it justice. So thank you. Even my picky 11 year old son devoured it.

    Full disclosure… I just poured in the panko without checking the measurements, thought, this is pretty dry, and threw in the rest of the stick of butter. Some mistakes just make things better.

  94. rocknrollnancy

    I have never ever liked cauliflower until this dish. Now I make it as often as I can buy local cauliflower. I have turned many people onto the tastiness of this dish
    Thank you!

  95. Dee Dee

    I am so excited to see this recipe! My mother used to make it just the way yours did! Unfortunately she passed away when I was 19 and am sure I haven’t had it since (I won’t say how long ago that was). I can’t wait to try your version with the panko and fresh seasonings! I know it will be fabulous!
    It will bring back happy memories for me as it has so many others.

  96. andryea

    OMG… when I saw this recipe on your site I had to see if it was what I thought it was. To my delight it is and it brought me back to my grandmother’s house! She made brown buttered breadcrumbs for steamed cauliflower too and as far as I’m concerned it’s the only way to eat cauliflower. Nothing fancy for me! Thanks for sharing this simply delicious technique of dressing up boring old cauliflower and reminding me of my granny. 😊

  97. Marie

    What a lovely side dish. I veganized it by using earth balance soy-free buttery spread. It turned out wonderfully!! The crumb topping is amazing !! I will make this again.

  98. Katy

    This is such a great way to serve cauliflower! My husband and 4 year old are lukewarm about it but they loved it like this. I didn’t do it exactly as per the recipe (fine/processed breadcrumbs, lime juice, no zest, no shallots). I basically just roasted the cauliflower, added juice and seasoning, and then added garlic browned butter crumbs followed by a scattering of parmesan. But it was absolutely incredible. I’d choose this over French fries. That’s how much I loved it.

  99. ChrissyS

    This is almost exactly the way my mom made “cauliflower and macaroni.” She would par-boil the cauliflower and then scoop it out of the water and then boil perciatelli pasta in that water. And, of course, she always saved a little of that pasta water to add to the final product should it have become a bit too thick. I need to make some now.

  100. Agnes Csizinszky

    Hello! A question for you- this is something I grew up with! Your mother/grandmother doesn’t happen to be Hungarian? 😀❤️