This easy Air Fryer Whole Cauliflower is a healthy, flavorful way to put plants at the center of your table. It's vegan and very versatile, with set it & forget it prep and a pull-apart texture that will rival your favorite fancy restaurant.
✔️ Why this recipe is great
Delicious Vegan Main: This pull-apart cauliflower is both flavorful and super easy to prep. You'll be amazed how delicious a head of air fried whole cauliflower is after being browned & basted with garlic and sumac, and then finished with a sprinkle of chopped mint and toasted sunflower seeds.
Cancer-Fighting Properties: Cauliflower and histamine intolerance actually go very well together (unless you have a sulfite sensitivity), as cauliflower is very low histamine and it's overall a very healthy food.
Not only is it high in fiber and antioxidants, but it's also a rich source of nutrients like choline, folate, and sulforaphane, all of which play a role in the body's methylation pathways (essential for proper detox).
Low Histamine Veggies: All year round, cauliflower is one of the only low histamine vegetables I can find in the organic section of my local supermarket, making this a reliable dinner for any time of year.
See recipe card for quantities.
Cauliflower: this cruciferous vegetable combines with the healing powers of garlic and oil to crisp up and form a delicious main dish for your next meal. The basic flavor of cauliflower isn't very strong, so it takes to the spices beautifully - you can't miss air fryer whole cauliflower!
Coconut Oil: this is a reliable high-heat oil, but you could also use butter-flavored oil, if tolerated, or even butter or ghee for a more savory flavor combination.
Sunflower Seeds: these toast up to add a ceamy crunch to each bite, though you could skip them or swap them out for pine nuts.
Fresh & Powdered Garlic: with both forms of garlic, the powdered version flavors the top of the whole cauliflower in the air fryer, while the fresh stuff is sliced thin to brown beautifully in the second half of cooking, once you've flipped the head.
Sumac: this red-hued spice is actually a dried berry, rich in antioxidant power and sour tang, taking away the need for a squeeze of lemon juice to balance out the flavor.
Sea Salt: just a heavy pinch.
Mint Leaves: these are optional, but I think the chopped mint leaves really bring the flavors all together, and make each bite a little different.
📖 How to cook whole cauliflower in the air fryer (instructions)
Step 1. Clean the head of cauliflower and mint leaves well, and then cut off the bottom of the cauliflower so that it's flat, pulling off any leaves on the outside (image 1).
Step 2. Then put the head of cauliflower in the air fryer basket and set it to preheat to 325°F (160ºC) for 5 minutes; this gives it time to get completely dry (image 2).
Step 3. While it dries off, melt the oil, slice the garlic, measure out the spices, and chop the mint leaves, then set them aside (image 5).
Step 4. Once the air fryer is preheated & prompts you to add food, open it and baste or pour half the oil onto the top of the cauliflower head, then sprinkle on the garlic powder, sumac, and salt (image 7) and bake it for 30 minutes (image 8). Set a timer so that you catch the air fryer before it goes off and you have to reset it.
Step 5. While the cauliflower is cooking, dry toast your sunflower seeds in a nonstick pan (image 9) until they start to brown and smell roasted (image 10). Set aside.
💡 Pro-Tip: it will take 3-5 minutes to fully toast the sunflower seeds or pine nuts, if using.
Step 6. After the timer goes off (image 11), flip over the cauliflower and baste the bottom with the rest of the oil. Then place the slices of garlic into any openings in the cauliflower (image 12), and bake it for 10-15 more minutes, until golden brown and fork-tender.
Step 7. Once the whole cauliflower is done (image 13), sprinkle on the chopped mint (image 14) and toasted sunflower seed, and serve immediately. If tolerated, this would be delicious topped with pomegranate seeds, yogurt, and/or a drizzle of honey.
📝 Substitutions and variations
With Broccoli?: I've never tried it, but I'm sure you could do this with a similar-sized head of broccoli, cooked for 5-10 minutes less than the cauliflower.
Other Oils: you could use any other high-heat oil for roasted whole cauliflower, but some other recommendations include refined sesame oil, lard, butter, or even avocado oil for a more neutral flavor.
No Sumac: if you can't find or don't like sumac, amchur or zata'ar would be the best swaps, though you could also squeeze on a tablespoon of fresh lemon or lime juice once the cauliflower is cooked.
- Garlic Butter- leave out the sumac and add an extra half teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Curried Cauliflower - use curry powder in place of the sumac and garlic powder, then squeeze on a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice once the cauliflower is cooked.
- Honey Garlic - drizzle a half tablespoon of honey onto the cauliflower head when you're adding the garlic slices.
🥘 Freezing and reheating
Honestly, I don't prefer to freeze this, though it can keep in the fridge for up to 4 days, if tolerated. It doesn't reheat well from frozen, so I purposefully try to only make as much as we expect to eat in one sitting.
But if you absolutely must freeze a whole head of cauliflower, make sure you use a very fresh head, then make sure to reheat it in the air fryer for 5-7 minutes at the cooking temperature (or 9-12 minutes if reheating from frozen).
👨🏻🍳 Expert notes & tips
For Larger or Smaller Heads: For a head of cauliflower larger than 700g, add 5-10 more minutes to the cook time (up to 1000g), or take away 5 minutes for smaller cauliflowers (as small as 450g).
Reheating: to reheat a whole head of cauliflower, you can either pull it into chunks and stir-fry it with a bit of oil until warm again, or stick it in the preheated oven or air fryer for 5-7 minutes at 300°F (150ºC), tweaking cook time depending on how much is left.
⭐ What to serve with whole roasted cauliflower
🙋🏻♂️ Frequently asked questions
You can soak whole cauliflower before cooking, if you're worried about bugs or dirt, but it's not always necessary.
Nope! It's not necessary to boil cauliflower before roasting, as long as you keep it at a lower temperature when cooking, to make sure it bakes all the way through.
Cooked cauliflower that's still tough is either undercooked or unevenly cooked, or may be just made from relatively tough cauliflower, meaning that much more of the bottom or outsides should have been peeled off before cooking.
As always, if you like the recipe, I really appreciate a 5 star review or comment!
Crispy Whole Cauliflower in Air Fryer
- air fryer
- large head of cauliflower 700g
- 2 ½ Tablespoons coconut oil alt. butter-flavored oil or ghee
- 1 ½ Tablespoons sunflower seeds alt. pine nuts
- 2-3 15g cloves garlic, sliced thin
- ½ teaspoon sumac
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon chopped mint leaves
- Clean the head of cauliflower and mint leaves well, and then cut off the bottom of the cauliflower so that it's flat, pulling off any leaves on the outside.
- Then put the head of cauliflower in the air fryer basket and set it to preheat to 325°F (160ºC) for 5 minutes; this gives it time to get completely dry.
- While it dries off, melt the oil, slice the garlic, measure out the spices, and chop the mint leaves, then set them aside.
- Once the air fryer is preheated & prompts you to add food, open it and baste or pour half the oil onto the top of the cauliflower head, then sprinkle on the garlic powder, sumac, and salt and bake it for 30 minutes. Set a timer so that you catch the air fryer before it goes off and you have to reset it.
- Once the timer goes off, flip over the cauliflower and baste the bottom with the rest of the oil. Then place the slices of garlic into any openings in the cauliflower, and bake it for 10-15 more minutes, until golden brown and fork-tender.
- While the cauliflower finishes cooking, dry toast your sunflower seeds in a nonstick pan until they start to brown and smell roasted.
- Once the whole cauliflower is done, sprinkle on the chopped mint and toasted sunflower seed, and serve immediately. If tolerated, this would be delicious topped with pomegranate seeds, yogurt, and/or a drizzle of honey.