The beauty of this sheet pan dinner is in its simplicity. A full vegan meal comes together with three main ingredients that you dry rub with spices and slow roast in the oven together. Very little prep work and easy serving options make this a pleasure to serve at the table.


wedge of whole roasted cauliflower.
Wedge of the whole roasted cauliflower with harissa seasonings, sitting atop mashed sweet potatoes and crispy chickpeas.

Why is this sheet pan dinner so easy to make?

  • With only three ingredients you can create a complete meal that includes plant protein, healthy starches, and lots of fiber.
  • 2 of the three ingredients require no chopping.
  • Aside from chopping the sweet potatoes, the only prep required is mixing spices and mixing ingredients with spices and olive oil.
  • After cooking, you can serve straight from the pan, or mash the veggies, then serve!

Above: an untrimmed (core intact and leaves left on) head of cauliflower is seasoned partially before roasting initially. Chickpeas and sweet potatoes are the other key ingredients used.

Ingredient notes:

  • The three main ingredients in this sheet pan dinner are cauliflower, sweet potatoes and chickpeas. They form a great fiber, nutrient and protein powerhouse.
  • Seasonings: Harissa is an intriguing North African spice blend that includes caraway (and often rose petals, though I left them out). I took a cue from Yotam Ottolenghi’s version of Harissa Paste, adapting it to powdered spices. For ease of prep, the 5 spices include powdered garlic versus raw garlic. And while caraway seeds are everpresent in harissa recipes, you can leave them out if you do not have on hand (I think caraway is less common in some home pantries).
  • Seasonings prep: Feel free to start with powdered or whole spices for any or all of the spice ingredients. If you have whole on hand, you can opt to toast them for added flavor, or not, then grind them with a spice/coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, your choice.

Above: The harissa spice blend is then rubbed on the partially cooked cauliflower and the other ingredients before all is returned to oven to finish roasting.

Ingredient substitutions for the sheet pan dinner:

  • Sweet Potatoes: I used purple sweet potatoes and Japanese sweet potatoes (white flesh). But feel free to use any type of yam or sweet potato you prefer or have on hand. The color of the mash will be different, depending on your sweet potato choice, if you make the optional mash.
  • Seasonings: I left ground rose petals out of this mix and mentioned above that you can leave the caraway out because I think it is less common for people to have either of those on hand. Caraway lends a nuttiness to the spice mix but you can’t go wrong even if you only use the garlic, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika. On the other hand, if you have it, and/or happen to have rose petals on hand, and can grind those up as well, feel free to include them to add to the full flavor of the Harissa seasoning.
  • Optional yogurt topping: feel free to use any type of plain yogurt on hand, greek, regular, full, or non-fat. You will thin it with lemon juice if you choose to make this topping, so any type works.
  • Optional fresh herbs: any fresh herb you like the flavor of will work here, and I think cilantro, parsley, and dill work especially well if you need a suggestion.
overhead view of harissa seasonings includes 5 spices.

Above: The dried spices used to create a Harissa spice blend.

Cooking a whole head of cauliflower on a sheet pan:

After much research and testing, I’ve arrived at a low-waste, easy prep method to cook the entire head of cauliflower in the sheet pan dinner that is thoughtfully unique from most other recipes out there:

  • Low waste and easy prep- you do not remove the core or outer leaves unless you decide you want it to cook faster or dislike the outer leaves. If cut into bite-size pieces to eat, they taste very similar to the rest of the cauliflower.
  • Water- Taking a cue from a NYT Roasted Cauliflower Recipe I include a pan of water placed in the oven to help steam the dense cauliflower for the first half hour of cooking. I do not bother to parboil the whole cauliflower first as so many other recipes do. Fewer steps.
  • Cook time- It takes a 2.5 lb cauliflower a full 1.5 hours to cook at 375, for a knife or skewer to easily pierce through the entire head. First, cook it for 30 minutes, minimally seasoned. After that, add the harissa seasonings and the other ingredients to the pan to roast for the next hour.
  • Oil- I decided to use 1/4 cup olive oil for the whole process/whole sheet pan dinner. One-quarter cup equals 4 tbsp. I drizzle 1 tbsp on the cauliflower to start, two on the bowl of chickpeas/sweet potatoes, and a 4th tbsp over the top of the cauliflower after I add the dry spices, which yields a nicely browned and tasty outer cauliflower. You can certainly experiment with using less. The mash might be a bit dry with less.

Above: full sheet pan dinner ready for roasting together!

Serving options- create the mash or not:

  1. Serve it as is, out of the oven with the optional toppings (super fast oven-to-table method!). Cut the cauliflower into quarters for four servings.
  2. Mash the sweet potatoes before serving. I then spread the mash on a serving platter, set the whole cauliflower on top, and sprinkle the crispy chickpeas around. Toppings are done after serving. (this option is shown in photo at the top of post)
  3. Mash the sweet potatoes and some or all of the chickpeas as well. I have done this also, for a quick prep, but found I like at least some of the chickpeas held aside to eat on top for that crispy crunch.
whole roasted cauliflower sitting on top of purple sweet potato mash with crispy chickpeas scattered over.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with harissa seasonings, sitting atop mashed sweet potatoes and crispy chickpeas (before adding yogurt topping).
overhead view of plate of roasted cauliflower, mashed sweet potato and chickpeas.

Topping options:

  • Yogurt- use plain Greek or natural yogurt that is full or non-fat, and thin with lemon juice for a delightful drizzle that balances the full, spiced flavor of the veggies.
  • Fresh herbs- chop any you like and sprinkle on top for color and flavor.
  • Green onions- add color and zing. You could also use capers or olives for a zingy tang.
  • Lemon- squeeze to taste and feel free to zest some over the top before serving for pizzazz and flavor.
serving of whole cauliflower sheet pan dinner.
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wedge of whole roasted cauliflower.

Whole Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner (so easy and simple!)

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Additional time if mashing: 10 minutes
Servings4 (2-4)
Calories308
The beauty of this sheet pan dinner is in its simplicity. A full vegan meal comes together with three main ingredients that you dry rub with spices and slow roast in the oven together.
Kitchen Tools
  • 1 sheet pan
  • 1 masher, if desired, or food processor (if mashing sw. pot/chickpeas)

Ingredients
 

  • 1 head of cauliflower (medium (2.5lbs w/leaves))
  • 2 sweet potatoes (medium/any variety)
  • 1 can chick peas (drained/rinsed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground caraway (optional)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tsp sea salt (to taste)
Optional Toppings
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (greek or regular, full or non-fat)
  • 1/2 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 4 green onions
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (chopped (or parsley, dill))

Method:  

  • Preheat the oven to 375 and add small pan of water to lower rack (to help steam cauliflower).
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil)
  • Rinse whole cauliflower and trim center bottom of head as needed so that it lays flat, stem side down. Other than that, no trimming is needed, unless you prefer. Place in center of sheet pan, rub with tbsp of oil, salt and pepper to taste. As soon as oven is preheated, place in oven for 30 min while you continue to prep.
  • Wash sweet potatoes and cut into chunks (suitable for up to 60 min roasting)
  • Open can of chickpeas, drain and rinse. Place on paper towel and cover to rest and dry further for a few minutes.
  • Mix the 5 spices together. This forms your harissa style seasoning.
  • Mix half the spice mix with the sweet potatoes and chickpeas in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp oil. Toss to coat.
  • After 30 min, remove cauliflower and pan of water from oven. Sprinkle/press half of the spice mix on the cauliflower. Lightly drizzle another tbsp or so of olive oil over the top of the cauliflower. Add the spiced sweet potatos and chickpeas to the pan around the cauliflower and return to oven for about 1 hour, until a knive or skewer can pierce through center of cauliflower and veggies are tender. Chickpeas will be slightly crispy.
  • Remove from oven, and decide whether to make the mash or not. scroll up to read about options in post.
  • If desired, add juice of 1/2 lemon to 1/2 cup of yogurt and drizzle on top, with sliced green onions, chopped cilantro and some lemon zest before serving.

Nutrition (an estimate)

Calories: 308kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 709mg | Potassium: 1056mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin C: 83mg | Calcium: 159mg | Iron: 4mg | Magnesium: 77mg
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