Recipe Spotlight

Braise a Whole Cauliflower in Your Instant Pot in 10 Minutes

The quickest and easiest way to cook a whole cauliflower, bar none.

Published Jan. 19, 2022.

Whether it was Buffalo cauliflower or cauliflower crust pizza that did it, this often-overlooked brassica is getting its due—and it’s about time. Cauliflower is a texturally intriguing and versatile vegetable that I’d certainly cook more often, if only it didn’t take so long to cook. But once I learned I could cook an entire head of cauliflower in an Instant Pot, cauliflower swiftly moved into the weeknight dinner rotation.

When cooking an entire head of cauliflower, the Instant Pot really does act like a magic box: Insert whole cauliflower. Cook for three minutes on high pressure. Done. From start to finish, the cooking of the cauliflower takes about 10 minutes.

(To be fair: The recipe we feature below takes about 45 minutes, but that includes preparing the sauce. But the actual cooking of the cauliflower does indeed takes 10 minutes in the pressure cooker environment, much shorter than, say, roasting in an oven.)

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The only real “technique” to know here is what to do with the cauliflower stem: Trim the outer leaves of the cauliflower off, then cut the stem flush with the bottom of the head. Using a paring knife, score the stem with a 4-inch-deep cross. Then, place the cauliflower on top of whatever aromatic liquid you desire, and cook.

Scoring the cauliflower stem ensures that steam can cook the fibrous core of the cauliflower while the more delicate outer florets tenderize. After three minutes of pressure cooking on high and a quick manual pressure release, you’re left with tender florets and a perfectly cooked, sliceable core. Flavors in the liquid you’ve cooked the vegetable in meld together quickly under pressure, and the liquid absorbs into the outer florets themselves, delivering flavor in every bite. The process is so easy that removing the whole cauliflower head from the Instant Pot is honestly the trickiest part. (I used barbecue tongs.)

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What you gain in major time-saving, though, you do lose in the browning that oven-roasted cauliflower gives you. In ATK’s Pressure-Cooker Braised Whole Cauliflower with Olives, Raisins, and Pine Nuts recipe (see below) from our book The Complete Autumn and Winter Cookbook, the toasted pine nuts more than make up for the nutty crunch that roasted cauliflower would have added to the dish. Brown butter would also add a similar Maillard effect, or you could sprinkle on a spice blend with an earthy-nutty component, like ras el hanout or za’atar.

Saving time is the name of this game, but there’s also a neat aesthetic aspect to braising cauliflower in the Instant Pot: You can “carve” the cauliflower whole at the table by dividing it into quarters, or slicing it into steaks. If you’re trying to cook a plant-based showstopper, it certainly fits the bill.

Pressure-Cooker Braised Whole Cauliflower with Olives, Raisins, and Pine Nuts

Why This Recipe Works
Whole braised cauliflower is a showstopper and, when done in the pressure cooker, a snap to make. We started by making an intensely savory cooking liquid of garlic, anchovies, spices, and tomatoes. Making deep cuts in the cauliflower's stem helped the fibrous core cook through so the whole head became tender. After releasing the pressure, we removed the cauliflower and thickened the sauce before spooning it on top. We prefer to use our homemade Ras el Hanout, but you can substitute store-bought ras el hanout if you wish. Serve with couscous, grains, or crusty bread.

Serves: 4
Total Time: 45 minutes

This recipe only works with an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced (optional)
  •  teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved, chopped coarse
  • 1 large head cauliflower (3 pounds)
  • ½ cup pitted brine-cured green olives, chopped coarse
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

1. Using highest sauté or browning function, cook oil; garlic; ras el hanout; anchovies, if using; and pepper flakes in pressure cooker until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Turn off pressure cooker, then stir in tomatoes and reserved juice.

2. Trim outer leaves of cauliflower and cut stem flush with bottom florets. Using paring knife, cut 4-inch-deep cross in stem. Nestle cauliflower stem side down into pot and spoon some of sauce over top. Lock lid in place and close pressure release valve. Select high pressure cook function and cook for 3 minutes.

3. Turn off pressure cooker and quick-release pressure. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you. Using tongs and slotted spoon, transfer cauliflower to serving dish and tent with aluminum foil. Stir olives and raisins into sauce and cook, using highest sauté function, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut cauliflower into wedges and spoon some of sauce over top. Sprinkle with cilantro and pine nuts. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

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