Italian cauliflower salad is an easy-to-prepare side dish that’s great for warm-weather gatherings or anytime you want a simple salad with loads of flavor! It takes only 15 minutes to prepare, can be prepared ahead of time, and tastes even better the next day!

Closeup shot Italian cauliflower salad in white plate.

 

Editor’s Note: Originally published on 3/11/2019.  Updated with expanded info.

During the warmer months we love simple salads that can be made ahead of time.

We’ll often make a big batch of lemon caper cauliflower salad early in the week and enjoy it all week long with various main courses, like grilled chicken thighs or grilled pork chops.

We love this salad because it takes just a few minutes to prepare and has great Mediterranean flavor thanks to the capers, anchovy, garlic, and lemon.

We hope you love this Sicilian-style cauliflower salad as much as we do!

Ingredients shown: lemons, Dijon mustard, hot red pepper flakes, parsley, caulifower, olive oil, capers, anchovies, and garlic.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, chop 1 head of cauliflower into 2-inch pieces, mince a 1/4 cup of flat-leaf Italian parsley, and zest 2 teaspoons of lemon, then squeeze 1/4 cup worth of lemon juice. Finely mince 1 clove of garlic, then use the back of your knife or a garlic press to turn it into a paste. Drain and rinse 3 tablespoons of capers. Once the water’s boiling, add the cauliflower and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes.  Then drain, but do not rinse or cool.

Italian cauliflower salad recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. In a food processor, blender, or wide-mouth mason jar, blend together the garlic paste, lemon juice, 2 small anchovies, 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.  
  2. Toss the warm cauliflower with the dressing, minced parsley, capers, and lemon zest until well combined.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Taste test and adjust salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.  Allow the salad to sit in the refrigerator for an hour to allow the cauliflower to absorb the dressing, but if you can refrigerate overnight it’s even better!  Serve with your favorite main course and enjoy!

Top tips

  • Don’t rinse the cauliflower! After you’ve removed the cauliflower from the boiling water it’s important to not rinse to cool it down.  The vinaigrette will absorb better with the cauliflower when it’s warm.
  • Salt. Anchovies and capers tend to be on the saltier side so we did not add any additional salt to the recipe.  That being said, adjust the salt level to your own taste.  Oh, and be sure to rinse the capers to prevent an overly salty Italian cauliflower salad.
  • Let it chill. Similar to our Italian cold broccoli salad, cauliflower salad is so much better when it’s hung out in the fridge for a few hours.  This also makes it a great make-ahead side dish to serve at or bring with you to gatherings.
  • Additions and substitutions. Anchovies provide great umami flavor and we love using them in many recipes, but if you prefer to omit them you certainly can.  This cauliflower salad would also be great with kalamata or oil-cured olives, oil-packed canned tuna, or toasted pignoli. Red wine vinegar can be used as a replacement for fresh lemon juice if you don’t have lemons on hand.

Cauliflower salad in white platter with lemons and capers on the side.

More easy (and delicious) sides

Here are a few of our favorite side dishes that are particularly great for summer!

If you’ve enjoyed this Italian cauliflower salad recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.

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Italian Cauliflower Salad

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Italian cauliflower salad combines warm cauliflower with fresh parsley, capers, and lemon zest tossed together with a simple vinaigrette. These easy side dish takes only 15 minutes to prepare and since it can be made ahead, is the perfect salad to serve at, or take to barbecues and gatherings.

Ingredients 

  • 1 head cauliflower chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf Italian parsley minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons capers rinsed and drained

For the dressing

  • 1 clove garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small anchovies
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the cauliflower and cook until almost tender (about 7 minutes) then drain but do not rinse to cool.
  • Meanwhile, blend the dressing ingredients with either a blender, food processor, or immersion blender in a wide-mouth mason jar.
  • Toss the warm cauliflower with the dressing, minced parsley, capers, and lemon zest until well combined. Taste test and adjust salt/pepper and crushed red pepper levels if required. Let the salad sit in the fridge for 1 hour to adequately absorb the dressing. If possible, refrigerate overnight since the flavors will be stronger. Enjoy!

Notes

  • No salt was added due to the inherent saltiness of the capers and anchovies. Add any additional salt if required.
  • Wait a minimum of 1 hour before eating to let the flavors absorb into the cauliflower but the salad is best refrigerated and served the next day.
  • Anchovies are optional.

Nutrition

Calories: 259kcal | Carbohydrates: 3.7g | Protein: 3.3g | Fat: 25.6g | Saturated Fat: 3.8g | Sodium: 253mg | Potassium: 478mg | Fiber: 4.1g | Sugar: 4g | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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This recipe was originally published on March 11, 2019.  It was completely updated on June 2, 2023.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Jim, This is a salad made for me, lots of flavor. I have embraced the keto way to nourish so pasta is not a big part of the plan for now. I have made many of your recipes and loved all of them. Thank you also for teaching me new techniques for making sauces. Once I get healthier, pasta will be enjoyed again.
    Eva Stanton

  2. 5 stars
    I did use raw cauliflower when I made this but I chopped it small into cauliflower ‘rice’ instead of the florets. This way I could eat it shortly after, around 15 minutes I let it sit. It was delicious! Big flavor!

    1. Hi Avril. I like the idea of chopping up the cauliflower so that it can absorb the vinaigrette more quickly. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. 5 stars
    I’m not usually a fan of raw cauliflower but I love the tip of letting it soften up in the refrigerator before using it. I’ll have to try that. I like your method in the recipe though, of cooking it first. 🙂 I love all of the delicious, briny/tangy flavors you’ve combined with it. I’m in!