Cocoa-Toasted Cauliflower (Paleo, Whole30)

It’s not at all like eating chocolate, but Cocoa-Toasted Cauliflower is savory, roasted goodness.

We’re deep into cauliflower season in the northern hemisphere (I got a volleyball-sized cauliflower in my CSA last week), and it’s cold outside – even here in Austin – so now is a great time to crank up the oven. The cocoa in the recipe enhances the natural nuttiness of the cauliflower, the paprika adds depth and a nice spicy bite… and all of the work is done in the oven. You know how much I love that!

If you’re concerned about cocoa compliance, don’t be. The Whole30 gives it a thumbs-up, even during a Whole30. So go ahead, it’s OK to go cuckoo for cocoa. (sorry.)


Cocoa-Toasted Cauliflower

  • 1 head fresh cauliflower

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil


Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. With a sharp knife, remove the core of the cauliflower and break it into florets. Place the florets in a large mixing bowl.


In a small microwave-safe bowl, mix the paprika, cocoa, salt, pepper, and garlic with a fork. Add the coconut oil and microwave for 15-20 seconds until the coconut oil is melted and the spices are fragrant.


Drizzle the spiced coconut oil over the cauliflower in the bowl, then toss with two wooden spoons until well coated. This should take at least 2 minutes. Name a food for every letter of the alphabet to amuse yourself while you toss. Do a taste test and adjust the seasonings.


Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, until it’s tender and starting to get nice brown spots.

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  • Pensguys says:

    It is ON my grocery list. 🙂 I've been wanting to MAKE myself like cauliflower and there is no other way than to just keep trying it. That's how I came to love broccoli…raw is my fav. 😉

  • kim says:

    well, you did it again! cocoa & cauliflower? genius!! made this recipe the instant I saw it…came out beautifully….deeeeeeeeeee-lish!!! keep 'em comin' please ;o)

  • Michele says:

    I'm adding cauliflower to next weeks list…my son is not a fan of the cauliflower, but if I tell him it has chocolate (OK, I'm going to stretch it a bit) in it he may learn to love it. Your recipes are all delicious and all the ones that I've tried have turned out perfectly. Thanks Ms. Joulwan!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hooray! I'm glad you guys are excited about this recipe. It was inspired by a book I'm reading called "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table"… she mentions in passing (but doesn't provide a recipe!) that a friend roasted cauliflower with cocoa… so I got curious and decided to give it a shot. The garlic gives it a nice almost-mole flavor.

  • Vaughan says:

    I had 12 oz of tiny bay scallops in the freezer. Added them to the cauliflower at the 20 minute point, stirred everything around pretty well, and gave it 10 more minutes in the oven. Fabulous! But the cauliflower itself is awfully darn good, and I will definitely make this again as a side dish. Thank you, thank you!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Vaughan –> That sounds DELISH! Love that idea! I'm thinking it will be really good with some ground beef mixed in, too.

    Thanks for giving it a test run today — so glad you like it!

  • A Girl and her Puppy on a Paleo Mission says:

    Simply love roasted cauliflower, made some tonight, next time I'll try this. BTW – Kale chips are awesome!

  • Mimi says:

    I tried this recipe last night! So delicious! Thank you!

  • Valerie says:

    Sounds delicious! I will try it next.
    Thanks Melissa!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Girl+Puppy Paleo –> Aren't kale chips crazy-good?!

    Mimi –> Awesome! Glad you like it.

    Hi, Valerie! Hope you like it!

  • Melanie says:

    BAH! I was all set to make this tonight but every single cocoa I found, in several stores, including organic cocoa, said "may contain traces of gluten, dairy and soy".. wahhh so I will make some fauxtatoes tonight with our steak and wait til I get a Whole30 compliant cocoa, somehow.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Melanie –> BOO! HISS! on your cocoa options. That's a big bummer. I'm sorry to hear that! But mashed cauliflower is really tasty, too. Happy eating!

  • Melissa says:

    Crazy creative! I will definitely need to try this. Tonight I used cauliflower in my paleo cottage pie, another delicious meal! If you haven't tried that yet, you should.

  • Cari says:

    Not a big cauli fan, but I found myself sneaking these off of the cookie sheet before the rest of dinner was ready! Pretty good!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Does this prove that (a) cocoa makes everything better or (b) roasting is magic?

    Or both?!


  • Rock Farm says:

    I found you from a series of links, starting with Marks Daily Apple and going through Whole 30… but I’m so glad I did! This was wonderful! We were sad that I only made one head of cauliflower! Three of us ate it all with no leftovers and I bought more cauliflower today! Thank you!

  • Megan says:

    I made this today with cinnamon and cayanne pepper instead of salt, paprika and garlic, (I was trying to remember the recipe off the top of my head) and the spicy chocolate flavor was awesome!

  • Tina says:

    Love your blog…found out about it a few weeks ago and have been on here daily ever since! This recipe is amazing!! Made it for my family and my kids ate it all! My son’s 10 year old friend tried Cauliflower for the first time and loved it because of recipe!! Thank you!!

  • Dee Amick says:

    Oh what a lifesaver! I just picked up 5 pounds of cauliflower yesterday and had just a few ideas what to do with it. This is on the menu for lunch tomorrow as Hubs will not eat cauliflower.

    • Mel says:

      Did you get hubs to try it?!

      • Dee Amick says:

        Nah, this recipe is on the schedule for tomorrow. Today I was experimenting with baked collard green chips. He definitely did not try those.

        Silly man! I have lost 90 pounds since Feb 2011 just by eating healthy and exercising. I do not understand why he is not motivated yet. 🙂

  • Dee Amick says:

    Oh yeah! Lunch today was roasted butternut squash with a teaspoon of homemade coconut butter to top it off.

  • HeatherS says:

    My 2 year old as well as my mom (who doesn’t really care for cauliflower) both had seconds. Kudos Mel. Had it with your ginger lime shrimp and roasted brussel sprouts a la NomNom Paleo. and sweet potato fries. I’m sort of obsessed with my dinner plate tonight

  • Geri Lynn says:

    Made this last night to go with the steaks on the grill, and my hubby- Mr. PickyashellPants when it comes to veggies- could not shut up about how awesome it was!! =) Yay!! So THANK YOU A BILLION TIMES OVER! Next up gonna do the carrot coins 🙂

  • sgschef says:

    Can’t wait to try-but can something be used in place of coconut oil or will the change significant;y affect the taste??

    • Mel says:

      You can use clarified butter or some kind of animal fat, instead of coconut oil. I just don’t recommend olive oil because of the high cooking temperature.

  • VSkribble says:

    What I love about your recipes is that over time of cooking them you learn not just how to cook your recipes by heart, but how to _think_ paleo. I remember being so intimidated by breakfast when I first started going “dino”, and then your spinach muffins came to the rescue. Months later and feeling the need to switch it up, the frozen cauliflower and cubed squash caught my eye, and before I knew it I had a large batch of cocoa toasted squash and cauliflower (to which I’d added shredded coconut and flax seeds) for the next week + of breakfast and snacks. I can’t thank you enough for inspiring my delicious and nutritious life! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      I love comments like this! Thank you…

      I’m so happy that you’re having fun playing in the kitchen. It is the ultimate compliment when someone takes my recipe and plays “You Know How You Could Do That?”

      Thanks for letting me know — and yay for you!

  • Kim T says:

    I was pleasantly surprised. I read the recipe and it did not tickle my fancy but I noted that there were so many comments submitted and based on that, I made it last night. It was quite good and a far cry from boring steamed cauliflower.

  • Maggie Cain says:

    This is fantastic

  • Anne says:

    i LOVED this recipe…admittedly, I was put off by the name, thinking that cocoa and cauliflower would not really work out for me. Wrong! I ate a whole cauli in one sitting (overkill on my part, I know). Made this for thanksgiving this year and everyone loved it. Plus, it takes about two seconds to make!

  • Tara says:

    We LOVE this. It’s on regular rotation in our house. Afraid the kids won’t like it? TRY it…my 11 year old loved it. I don’t recommend telling them what’s in it, and don’t make a big deal about it…just put it on the plate and go about your business…SO GOOD.

  • Yeti and Yak says:

    Echo the accolades of the others. Tried it, loved it, and keep cocoa-cauli in the rotation. And I sneak a piece off the cookie sheet before even serving it. (Testing, of course!) I, too, have experimented with variations on the theme. I wondered if it would work with broccoli — and it just doesn’t! My favorite variation is chopping either walnuts or pecans and mixing them with the cauli before baking. Thanks for the brilliant recipe. When my friends ask me about it (I rave about it at work) I send them to your website, naturally.

  • Linda Halloran-Harris says:

    Well your Cauliflower with cocoa is beyond yummy. My husband has never been a cauliflower lover and agrees that we should definitely have this again! Thanks so much!

  • Brandy says:

    So I was going to post a comment here about how I recently tweaked this recipe, but then I decided to blog it instead! Check it out here:

  • Nancy says:

    I made this cauliflower this evening. Yummo! But even more than that! I am married to the biggest hater (yes I used the word hate) of vegetables. He gobbled these up!

    With recipes like this one I may get more than just meat and corn in his belly!


    Married to a “processed” man

  • Natalie says:

    My ultimate fave cauliflower recipe!!!! You did it again!

  • June says:

    Holy cow! I just made this and can’t believe how awesome it is!

  • Tiffany says:

    I loved Well Fed 2 so much (I read it like a novel and has food stains on it from using it so much in the two weeks since I bought it) that I bought Well Fed the original. I made this recipe and ate the whole thing. Please don’t judge me.

  • Kema says:

    OMG!! So this is in the oven cooking right now. And can I say that I’m sooooo excited. I had 2 big heads of cauliflower, so I did the purple head using your reciped…chocolate and purple seemed to go together. For the yellow cauliflower, I tried a curry recipe. It is cauliflower 2 ways tonight. thank you so much for the inspiration!!

    MUAH <3

  • Carrie says:

    First of your recipes that I’ve made from your book.
    This is the way I like to eat.

    Love your books.

  • Gnger says:

    My kids eat my “cocoa cauliflower” with more enthusiasm than just roasted cauliflower. Love the recipe.

  • Rachel says:

    I just wanted to say that this is my new go-to recipe for potlucks and family dinners. Everyone loves it and is always surprised at the ingredients. I’ve sent more people a link to this page than any other, I think. Thank you!

  • sarah beth says:

    really really a huge fan of straight garlic/onion roasted cauli (like as in I eat it ALL THE TIME)…. but this recipe has me wanting to try it out too! I was wondering though – does the final product taste much like chocolate?
    thanks a bunch!