Recipes

simple cauliflower tacos

Last week I told you about our favorite quarantine cookies. This is our quarantine taco, another simple discovery from our early Inside Days this spring that ticked a miraculous number of boxes at once. Like, “How do we turn this massive head of cauliflower into dinner because it’s too big for our overstuffed fridge?” and “without having to go to the store and buy anything extra?” It used so many ingredients that had become staples — canned beans, cotija (great fridge shelf life), red onions, tortillas, and a small luxury of an avocado delivery service we discovered right when we needed it most. Plus, it managed to work for the whole family, including our pickiest, who we discovered liked roasted cauliflower and also pickled onions, we suspect because they’re pink.


what you'll need
roasted until almost charred

I’m lousy at meal planning because I’m not the kind of cook who ever wants to make the same dish every single week. I want to make something new that I thought of five minutes ago, not what I thought last Saturday I’d be craving on Wednesday night. But there is some magic in this combination of ingredients — scorched, highly seasoned cauliflower in a medium rubble, lime juice, creamy avocado, salty cotija, crunchy pickled onions, and the most delicious hot sauce (current favorite: Valentina) that I have still (still! over six months later!) yet to tire of eating so now we get a head of cauliflower every week and confidently know it will not go to waste.

assembly

I realize this site already has a fair share of tacos (and even a cauliflower quesadilla) but I definitely don’t need to tell you that tacos — small packets, complex ingredients, vibrant finishes, always the right balance of filling but not food coma-inducing — are the perfect food, right? And with that, I’m off to make another batch of these tonight.

simple cauliflower tacos

Tacos, previously: Crisp Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Slaw, Sweet Potato Tacos, Charred Corn Tacos with Zucchini and Radish Slaw, Taco Torte

Previously

6 months ago: Crispy Crumbled Potatoes
1 year ago: Chickpea and Kale Shakshuka
2 year ago: Crispy Spinach Pizza
3 years ago: Pizza Beans and Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns
4 years ago: Homemade Merguez with Herby Yogurt and Magic Apple Plum Cobbler
5 years ago: The Perfect Manhattan, Broccoli Cheddar Soup and S’more Cupcakes
6 years ago: Latke Waffles and The Crispy Egg
7 years ago: Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
8 years ago: Crackly Banana Bread and Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto
9 years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
10 years ago: Single-Crust Apple and Crumb Pie
11 years ago: Date Spice Loaf and Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant
12 years ago: Summer’s Last Hurrah Panzanella, Sweet and Sour Glazed Cippoline, Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, and Best Challah (Egg Bread)
13 years ago: Red Velvet Cake, Noodle Kugel, Spaghetti Fideos with Chorizo and Almonds and Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
14 years ago: Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette

Simple Cauliflower Tacos

  • Servings: 4
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

Don’t throw your cauliflower core away; you can trim and dice it too and it will roast up deliciously here.

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large (3 pounds) head cauliflower, trimmed, chopped small, including core
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 12 small (4 to 5-inch) or 8 medium (7-inch) corn or flour tortillas
  • 1/2 to 1 avocado, thinly sliced (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Hot sauce and/or pickled jalapeños

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pickle onion: Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Add onion and toss to coat. Set aside until needed.

Coat large baking sheet with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add cauliflower to pan, sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, red pepper flakes (to taste), and cumin and toss to coat, adding another tablespoon of oil if needed. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing pieces at the 15 minute mark so they take on a deep brown crisp on as many sides as possible. Remove from oven and immediately squeeze the juice from half a lime over the tray. Add black beans to pan, so they warm a bit before serving.

Meanwhile, heat your tortillas. Wrap them tightly in foil and place the packet in the oven for 5 minutes. For more color and texture, sometimes I char them first on the gas flame on the stove, or blister them in a dry pan. Keep them warm in a covered dish until ready to assemble.

To assemble tacos, scoop cauliflower-bean mixture onto a warmed tortilla. Add avocado, pickled red onion, cotija, cilantro, and hot sauce to taste. Serve with remaining lime half in wedges. Eat right away.

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73 comments on simple cauliflower tacos

  1. MattyB

    Breathing new life into Taco Tuesday! Plus, currently on a big roasted cauliflower kick. Can’t wait to try this next week.

  2. Bentley

    Cauliflower and cotija!! I keep a package in the freezer for just such inspirational applications, credit to your elote-inspired chowder for getting our household to eat a cheese that’s almost as easy to procure as cheddar in our area.

  3. Ann

    Tacos have been the salvation of my quarantine cooking as in my house, any food item + tortillas + guac = hooray, it’s taco night! Roasted cauliflower tacos are a staple, and I also throw chickpeas on the sheetpan and let them crisp up along with the cauliflower and it is so good.

  4. Caitlin McGuire

    I make something similar based on a recipe from the cookbook Chloe Flavor: toss cauliflower florets and drained canned pineapple chunks in oil and taco seasoning, roast until edges are getting crispy… She calls it a vegan take on tacos al pastor. It’s super tasty!!

      1. Virginia

        We had this tonight and was delicious! The only different item was I always make homemade pico de Gallo and so had that as an additional topping. 4/4 family members gave it a 10/10.

  5. Matt

    These look great! Your cauliflower quesadillas are one of our staples, but I think these will be making an appearance very soon…

  6. Hannah

    Yum! Can’t wait to make this. I have one suggestion, though: simplify the pickled onions and just use seasoned rice vinegar instead of the vinegar, sugar, and salt. When I was a chef (pre kids) it was my go-to for basically any and all quick pickles!

    1. Tina Davis

      Deb: you say Cotija cheese has a long shelf life, but mine seems to go downhill very quickly once I open it. Any suggestions on how to keep it from going bad? Freeze half?

  7. Jennifer

    Oh, ho — cauliflower tacos are already on OUR menu for this week. We’ll be trying yours: I bet they’ll be better then the current recipe!
    Because I shop weekly (or even less frequently, pandemic-wise) I generally write out 7 – 10 dinner ideas, some of which are fast and easy and some of which will take longer. That way we don’t get to, say, taco night, and find we’re out of cilantro. (This time of year it’s also some warm salads, and some hearty stews, so I can vary according to the weather.)

  8. Anna

    This looks perfect! Also, if you can find it, get a purple cauliflower, it turns hot pink on the edges when you roast. Your pink-loving kid will be thrilled :)

  9. emilyadi

    This is one of my favorite fast weeknight meals! I started making a very similar version a few years back, inspired by your sheet pan meatballs. I basically use this recipe, but add chickpeas in with the cauliflower when roasting (or occasionally I’ll do them separately on the stove so they don’t sog too much). My husband has said he likes these cauliflower tacos even more than meat tacos! Thanks for all of your inspiration :)

  10. JP

    Cauliflower is a vegetable I buy rarely because it’s either use it quickly or be prepared to trim off black bits. Ick! But this looks so tasty. I wish my husband was more flexible about meatless dinners. This looks too good to miss…thank you!

    1. Anne

      I hear you on the perish-ability, so I
      a) steam it and freeze it, or roast it and freeze it and
      b) my hubby is such a carnivore, BUT he does love roasted cauliflower (any cauliflower, really) and this was a hit (he subbed chicken for beans, but I didn’t have to cook more, so yay). I keep leftover meat just for times when I don’t want to cook more than what I want for dinner, heh.

      1. Esvee

        I found a brand called Omena Organics that makes incredible canned beans. They’re out of Michigan though, so I’m not sure how widely they’re distributed.

    1. Jo

      I like Bush beans they had a line of speciality beans that were tasty recently. I take their plain pinto beans drain them warm in sauce pan with a little chicken broth ( that small amount you always have left over) with a bit of cumin Mexican oregano (buy a package in Latin food section grocery store use a light hand it can be over powering but adds a little something) & simmer for a few minutes. Someone on this blog wrote that if you cook canned beans a bit more they will be better tasting.

  11. What would you recommend if you can’t get Cotija? No one sells it in the Netherlands, and the shop I used to order from in the UK has shut down. Quelle horreur! I’ve subbed feta before, but it just doesn’t hold a candle.

    1. Lara

      I was going to ask the same. Never saw Cotija anywhere in Germany, I think we are just too far away from Mexico. I had the idea of subbing it with a salty Portuguese or Spanish cheese, might that work? Feta I also thought would be an idea, but Hayley said it doesn’t hold a candle. I never even tried Cotija in my life, so I am open for any suggestions and can’t compare…

    2. Anna

      We always use feta, crumbled direct from a block (don’t get the precrumbled stuff). It’s not the same but we think it’s pretty tasty!

  12. Anna

    I love your cauliflower and poblano quesadilla recipe, though my preschooler has preferred the filling in tacos. It’s been a new staple of taco Tuesday at our house as well, as we try to decrease our meat consumption. Adding roasted chickpeas is popular with my kids as well.

  13. Pam

    I just wanted to say that your ability to have all the perfect elements to your posts and site are a thing of beauty. I believe its the result of a gift you have along with great effort you give and I am a happier person because of your great work.

  14. Colleen

    Yay, roasted cauliflower belongs in everything! Not taco related, but for any fans of the street cart chicken and rice in Deb’s second book, cauliflower roasted with that marinade makes a worthy meatless substitute for the chicken. The aroma isn’t as likely to drive your family members into the kitchen, but it complements all the other components of the meal quite nicely.

  15. Bridgit

    Yes, yes, yes to all of this. We are roasted cauliflower people. I love on a lunch salad with garbanzos and maybe some roasted orange veg. It’s also delicious with curry powder and a couple of the samosas from the shop by my work, most especially if you add garbanzos, yogurt, onion and cilantro. We haven’t gone the taco route in a while: thanks for the reminder.

  16. Amanda S

    These are wonderful and so, so easy! We smashed our avocado with a little garlic powder and lemon pepper along with the extra lime juice, but otherwise didn’t change a thing. These will absolutely go into our regular rotation!

  17. Melanie

    So so so good. And easy enough that making this on top of the plain old ground beef taco filling for the kids was not an inconvenience. Highly recommended.

  18. lee

    This sounds delicious! I just tried cotija cheese for the first time this summer, and am totally hooked. Thanks for providing another dish that I can top with cotija.

    1. deb

      I don’t remember the cups of the cauliflower but 1. It’s a lot (probably 4 to 6 cups), and 2. It shrinks a ton when it roasts. We don’t serve it with anything. This is dinner. If I was going to make anything extra, it might be the “lazy taco slow” buried in this recipe.

      1. Josey

        Thanks! I always have to scale up to account for extra kiddos (and I like leftovers!). Also, I always feel like I have to have sides! Is that abnormal? Ha!
        Thank you for having easy meals that can be adapted in so many ways; vegan, quantity, etc. I’ve loved smitten kitchen since way before we went vegan, glad I’m still able to follow along!

  19. Daphne

    Hi Deb, we had this for dinner tonight and it was wonderful. A few days ago when I was trying to convince my partner we should add “cauliflower tacos” to this week’s menu, he hesitated. But when I mentioned it came from this site, he perked up, “if it’s smitten, I’m in!” Just wanted to share. #ifitssmittenimin

  20. Trina

    Made these last night, and they were amazing! My 2-year-old could not eat enough of the pickled onions. Thanks for giving us an easy weeknight dinner.

  21. Anne

    Can I just tell you how much of hit this was with the husband who always wants meat? He did add leftover chicken, but only because he doesn’t like beans (except re-fried, so…??). I even forgot to add the cayenne pepper because I didn’t have flakes, and it was *still* amazing, hehe.

  22. Cauliflowers are my favorites whenever I want to have something vegetarian.. .and your recipe is so different and delicious… I Made it as an evening snack and my entire family absolutely loved it.. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Dalnapen1

    Deb,

    Thanks for this recipe, my Tuesday email post, and for enduring. Keep up the good work! Also, have you discovered SweeTango apples? Eureka! I’m a Gala girl, but really love this new-to-me apple which has just been introduced down south. Made your mom’s apple cake with SweeTangos to rave reviews. Dreaming up more uses.

  24. Jessica

    Wonderful. I subbed queso fresco because I could not locate the other cheese. Fine, fine, fine. Wish I had doubled up on the pickled onions. I imagine we resembled the fantastic mr. fox and his family while eating this. It was a great meal.

  25. Dawn

    Wow! These were fantastic. I only had feta cheese on hand, but I think it made me like them more. I don’t feel gross and weighed down like I would with a beef taco; a sentiment my husband echoed. My only “issue” was not getting the gorgeous brown coloring on the cauliflower. I think I might need to raise my oven temp. Totally adding this to the rotation. Thank you!

  26. These were delicious! Didn’t have cotija so used goat cheese, and swear I had bought black beans but only had refried (the salsa kind from Trader Joe’s). Even with the substitutions this was such a lovely, balanced, colorful collection of ingredients. The pickled onions were a particular highlight! And super quick and manageable for a weeknight.

  27. Rob H

    Just made these last night. They were fantastic! Very easy and more filling than I would have expected from a veg taco. Will definitely make again.

  28. Cheryl S

    Thank you! I made these (sort of) last night and they were a hit, even with a couple of changes. I meant to cook black beans earlier in the day from dry, but forgot (and had no canned beans) – so I roasted a sliced Delicata squash as a substitute, which was great. And since hubby doesn’t like onions, I used the delicious slaw from your “crisp black bean tacos with feta and slaw” recipe instead. But I’ll definitely make them again with the black beans.

  29. Nanci Keatley

    These look delicious! Growing up in the 70’s, my mom made cauliflower burritos. She would steam the cauliflower- nobody really roasted veggies back then. I think she’d love this recipe, and I can’t wait to share it with her as well as try it myself!

  30. Natalie

    Made this for a very picky eater tonight and he LOVED it !! I love your website, newsletter and writing style. You’re so fun to read and always make me smile. Thank you !! Keep up the great work.

  31. Lia Finney

    Made these last night and loved them!! Added more spice/heat (no kids) with cayenne pepper and chipotle powder and used TJ’s hot and sweet pickled jalapeños rather than onions. Did simple red cabbage slaw for side. Have bountiful butternut squash so plan to make something similar with them! Thanks for reminding us how many ways to use vegetables in other ways! Delicious

  32. Mia

    I’ve been cooking all week. This is my favorite meal so far!! I did cooK the beans a bit with onions, cumin, garlic and chili powder, but this is a great recipe!

  33. Amy LC

    These were SO GOOD!!!!! I ate these for lunch and dinner today and would happily eat them again tomorrow if there were any left! My 1 year old loved the cauli mix too (without chile flakes). Even won over my husband who had previously described cauliflower as tasting like old socks!

  34. So we are on vacation (I know!!! First time since the pandemic!) and I made this the other night! We happened to have some left over super thin onion rings from a carry out order from the previous night…I didn’t want to buy extra staples to make quick pickled onions like I usually do since I wasn’t at home so I reheated the onion rings and OMG IT PUT THIS DISH OVER THE TOP! So much so that I needed to tell you about it! Also THANK YOU, Deb, for all you do. You have taught me so much about cooking, and your recipes are always a major hit in my home!

  35. Marie-Christine

    I truly like cauliflower. I especially love it as French comfort food, steamed then baked with nice cheesy béchamel with thin slices of ham. Yumm! But I am grateful for quarantine, for involuntarily preserving me from this fashion of putting poor cauliflower into all kinds of places where it doesn’t belong, in the name of “health”. I am barely recovered from the overdose of kale I suffered 5 years ago. I am in full-blown coconut hatred. It’s interesting how these formerly innocent vegetables that get a time in the limelight of nutritional virtue signaling are all very strong tasting, and cannot be entirely camouflaged. I guess that while it would be much easier to disguise the substitution of say roasted zucchini, irradically bland, for something tastier, what would be the fun in that if nobody could tell?

  36. Liz

    I made this for dinner. Unfortunately for me, I lacked a lot of the ingredients – of course I did not realize that when I started. No black beans, per the suggestion of one reviewer, I roasted chickpeas with the same spices as the cauliflower. No corn tortillas, we used flower. No cojita, we used goat cheese. And after all that, it was still delicious and eating partners devoured it and asked for more!

  37. Erica

    LOVED these! We used Mission’s adorably tiny “street taco” corn tortillas.

    I used a lot more cumin (1 tsp, even heaped, seems like a tiny amount for a whole head of cauliflower!) and ancho chili powder in place of the red pepper flakes. Delish!

    There were only two of us eating these for dinner, so we enjoyed the leftovers the next morning — heated up the remaining filling and ate with salsa, pickled carrots/cabbage we had on hand, and jammy eggs. Fantastic, and what a great recipe to have on hand for vegetarian visitors.

  38. Purnima

    Did anyone else find these dry? Deb, your cauliflower quesadillas are in regular rotation at our house, so was excited for this new spin, but the finished recipe felt like it needed a sauce/cream/crema of some kind to bring everything together. The toppings weren’t lacking in flavor, but the overall result just felt drier than I expected.

  39. Sarah

    You know how I meal plan? I check smitten kitchen and then find gems like this. This looks so amazing I will be making this week.

  40. Kamini Dandapani

    Thank you so much for the link to the avocado delivery service. I would never have known but for you! I tried it, and those avocados are fantastic! Every single one of them is perfection. And you have a choice of ripe, semi-ripe or green, so you won’t be stuck with a big load of mushy avocados!

  41. Marti Johnson

    What a wonderful thing to click on your website at 12:30 a.m. and realize I have everything in your recipe, in my refrigerator, to make this for dinner tomorrow. Including the onions, already pickled. Thanks for a great idea!