It’s January and we’re all craving salads, vegetable-heavy stews, and green things galore (and pizza and bread over on my end, but maybe that’s just me). I love salad but the thing is… it’s COLD here. Like it was actually raining down ice pellets the other day. I would open the door to let the dogs out and they would just turn right back around in a loop to get back to the fireplace! So then I get the pleasure of picking them both up and wrangling them outside to do their business. Am I seeking out the comfort of a cold romaine salad upon my return indoors? Nope!

I like slaws made up of hearty winter-y greens this time of year. With warm roasted vegetables on top. And creamy dressing. What’s even better? A napa cabbage and kale slaw with pickled jalapeño ranch dressing, battered and crunchy BBQ cauliflower, and chickpeas! This is for all the salad haters. It has texture galore, sticky BBQ sauce goodness, and my favourite dressing ever I think (bold statement!).

You have to batter pieces of cauliflower and do a double bake on them. Oh and also remember to soak cashews for a dressing. If you make your dressing ahead of time, use a store-bought BBQ sauce, and have all of your napa cabbage and kale pre-sliced, this COULD be weeknight dinner appropriate. Going from start to finish might require a bit more time though. Just being honest! I don’t want to lead people astray.

I know we’ve done battered and baked cauliflower recently, but can you ever really get enough? Plus I do this version with chickpea flour for that extra protein hit. I also just love the way it tastes here with the BBQ sauce, and it’s definitely more affordable than cassava flour (my go-to in the previous recipe).

Also, I’m trying really hard not to buy any pantry stuff this month and instead just ripping through all the weird and wonderful flours (and grains, beans etc) that I already have. I watched a few episodes of Marie Kondo’s Netflix show and it basically made me want to tear apart my entire house–even my sacred kitchen! I’m going to use up what I can before going KonMari on my cupboards and pantry stock.

So I’ll leave you to this sincerely epic salad with the most ridiculously good creamy/spicy/sweet/ranch-y dressing. Pickled jalapeños are sweet and hot, and when you combine that with creamy cashews, garlic, a little lemon etc., it’s honestly perfect. I could be persuaded to eat it on almost anything. You could even bypass the salad and just dunk the cauliflower in the ranch as a little appetizer/game day nibble. Still sooooo healthy! ;)

Print the recipe here!
Serves: 6
Notes: My favourite homemade BBQ sauce is this date-based one that can be found here.
-This salad would be just as good over some cold and crisp romaine or iceberg lettuce.
-This looks like a ton of ingredients and steps, but there’s a lot of overlap with the ingredients, and really the hardest thing is doing the double bake on the cauliflower.

½ cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours and drained
¼ cup filtered water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
5-6 rings of pickled jalapeño (or more, to taste)
Splash of pickled jalapeño brine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 green onion, finely chopped

1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
½ teaspoon paprika

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 small-medium head of cauliflower (about 2ish lbs), broken into thumb-sized florets
1 cup barbecue sauce of choice, plus extra
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bunch of lacinato kale, de-stemmed and sliced
1 small head Napa cabbage, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Make the pickled jalapeño ranch: In an upright blender, combine the cashews, water, lemon juice, olive oil, pickled jalapeño rings and brine, Dijon mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend the mixture on high until completely smooth. Transfer ranch to a bowl. Stir in the green onions, set aside.

Crisp the chickpeas: Thoroughly dry the chickpeas with a clean tea towel and place them on one of the baking sheets. Toss them with the olive oil, salt, and paprika to coat. Slide the tray into the oven and roast until chickpeas are slightly brown, slightly shrivelled, and crisp on the outside, about 10 minutes. Remove chickpeas from the oven and let them cool.

Batter the cauliflower: In a large bowl, combine the chickpea flour, water, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Whisk until totally smooth. It should be like slightly thick pancake batter. Drop the cauliflower florets into the batter and stir until all pieces are lightly coated. Using a fork or your fingers, carefully transfer battered cauliflower to the baking sheets, leaving 1 inch of space around each floret.

Bake the battered cauliflower for 20 minutes. While the cauliflower is baking, clean the large bowl and pour the barbecue sauce and tablespoon of oil in there. Whisk to combine and set aside.

After cauliflower has baked for 20 minutes, remove and let cool slightly. Once it’s cool enough to handle, transfer the par-baked cauliflower to the large bowl with the barbecue sauce. Toss to thoroughly coat the cauliflower. Return the cauliflower to the baking sheets with the same amount of space around each floret

Bake the cauliflower for another 20 minutes, or until the edges are starting to darken. Remove the cauliflower and let it sit for a full 5 minutes. Brush the florets with more barbecue sauce if you like.

While the cauliflower cools slightly, get the salad ready. In a large bowl, combine the kale, napa cabbage,  red onion, half of the pickled jalapeño ranch, and some salt and pepper. Toss to combine and thoroughly coat all of the kale and cabbage. Top the salad with the barbecue cauliflower, crisped chickpeas, the grape tomatoes, extra drizzles of the pickled jalapeño ranch, and a few twists of black pepper. Enjoy immediately!

  • Krystal09/01/2019 - 10:56 am

    You had me at pickled jalapeño ranch. ReplyCancel

    • Laura10/01/2019 - 8:23 am

      It’s my favourite thing in the whole world right now! So good on grain bowls, veggie burgers, as a raw veggie dip… so many things :)

  • Emily09/01/2019 - 12:08 pm

    I love that the cauliflower are not fried! They look absolutely delicious and much healthier than versions that require frying. I am definitely trying this at home!ReplyCancel

    • Laura10/01/2019 - 8:24 am

      They still get that nice bit of crunch/crispness on the edge too. Not totally the same as fried, but still so delicious. Hope you try it an enjoy!

  • Karlie09/01/2019 - 5:07 pm

    This salad looks AMAZING! Do you pickle the jalapenõs yourself or do you buy them that way?ReplyCancel

    • Laura10/01/2019 - 8:25 am

      I buy them pickled! Trader Joe’s has these hot and sweet ones that are unreal. SO good! I’m sure it’s really easy to pickle them yourself though.

  • Jeannine Billups09/01/2019 - 7:39 pm

    I’ve only made the Pickled jalapeno ranch so far and it’s AMAZING!!! How long will this last in the fridge?ReplyCancel

    • Laura10/01/2019 - 8:26 am

      So glad you like it! It will keep for 5-6 days.

  • Elizabeth10/01/2019 - 6:48 pm

    I am soooo not a salad person. I’m vegan and I love veggies, but even the most beautiful salads leave me feeling unsatisfied. That being said, this salad looks amazing to me. I can’t wait to try it!ReplyCancel

  • Heather10/01/2019 - 7:02 pm

    I’ve been Marie Kondo-ing my whole house EXCEPT my kitchen for the past week. It feels really good, but my kitchen is my safe space, my sentimental space, my CHURCH. ehhhh, a bit dramatic but you catch my drift.

    I appreciate the attempt to work with what you’re workin with though, and in the case of chickpea flour I’m stoked bc I actually have that (unlike cassava). So thank you! (and thank you sweet sweet Marie for her inspiration to us all) Looking forward to making this.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica11/01/2019 - 1:09 pm

    We had this for dinner last night and it was delicious! Three carrots from all of us! Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah11/01/2019 - 5:34 pm

    This looks great except I’m allergic to cashews, do you have a replacement idea?ReplyCancel

    • Laura11/01/2019 - 8:28 pm

      Macadamia nuts, pine nuts, raw sunflower seeds, or even good quality tahini would all be great! If you’re going with tahini, I’d start with 1/3 cup and add more if you think you need it. You can blend and taste as you go.

  • Allison Iris-Fong13/01/2019 - 3:07 pm

    This looks so good and exactly the kind of meal I need right now! Question – My body doesn’t do so well with chickpeas, is there a substitute for the chickpea flour?ReplyCancel

    • Laura14/01/2019 - 8:57 am

      Hi Allison, I have made this with both Cassava flour and brown rice flour and it the recipe still came out great.

  • Amanda Maguire16/01/2019 - 11:38 am

    My mouth is literally watering from this recipe. It’s not a “I want to make this” feeling either, it’s “I NEED to make this RIGHT NOW.” I think I will add it to my weekend to-dos. Ha! ;)ReplyCancel

  • Ellen16/01/2019 - 11:16 pm

    Delicious! Used franks/butter combo for the cauliflower instead of BBQ-but other than that followed the recipe. It was very filling.ReplyCancel

  • […] Napa and Kale Slaw with Crunchy BBQ Cauliflower and Pickled Jalapeno Ranch by The First Mess.  This looks SO delicious. […]ReplyCancel

  • Emily20/01/2019 - 11:38 pm

    Made this tonight and the flavors are so good! One question for you though–my chickpeas never crisp up the way they should. I dry them carefully, but they still just turn a tiny bit crisp but mostly chewy. Could I be using too much oil?ReplyCancel

  • Maggie M22/01/2019 - 9:53 am

    This was soooo good that my meat loving husband ate half the toppings before it was all put together so instead of having extra for dinner the next night all we had was extra cabbage. Healthy but satisfying and filling! I rarely repeat recipes but this will definitely be a staple for my family. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa24/01/2019 - 3:59 pm

    This. Was. Delicious. I had it for lunch an hour ago and already can’t wait to make again tomorrow. I think I was honestly hoping that I wouldn’t love it as much as I did, because it IS a lot of steps for a salad – but it was so worth it. I did make a couple substitutions based on what I had – I used regular kale and butter lettuce, whole wheat flour instead of chickpea, crisped up the chickpeas a little more than you did, and added some avocado on top. Everything just worked so well together – seriously, such a good recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Ellen30/01/2019 - 7:50 am

    Looks so good! Wondering if there’s a link to the date bbq sauce?ReplyCancel

    • Laura30/01/2019 - 9:01 am

      Yep! I link to it in the first headnote of the recipe (at the bottom of the post).

  • Haley E Hansen04/02/2019 - 9:04 pm

    Wowza! So many beautiful colors and bright flavors here – my mouth is watering already!ReplyCancel

  • Gina06/02/2019 - 12:14 am

    I pinned this the day you published it and have been longing to try it ever since! Well, I finally did, and it certainly didn’t disappoint!! My favorite part is the bbq cauliflower—soooooo good! My husband loved it as well, so a big win. Thank you so much ReplyCancel

  • Bailie16/03/2019 - 9:38 pm

    I’m so very very in love with this salad. I’ve made it twice in the last week or so! Knocked me right out of a winter rut.ReplyCancel

  • […] Napa & Kale Slaw with Crunchy Barbecue Cauliflower & Pickled Jalapeno Ranch […]ReplyCancel

  • Deborah Dewar24/10/2019 - 7:08 pm

    WOW your food and recipes are inspiring and also look and taste delicious…thanks so much this is an awesome website!!!
    BTW I am sure I am not the only one who wants to know or has asked but what is your beauty routine? your skin absolutely GLOWS!!!!!

  • Lieselotte27/10/2019 - 2:50 am

    Can you eat it de next day?ReplyCancel

    • Laura04/11/2019 - 9:12 am

      I think the cauliflower would be quite soggy the next day unfortunately.

  • Carolyn LeDuc-Krehel03/02/2020 - 6:09 pm

    I made this salad to take to a stupid bowl gathering yesterday & it was a total hit! Thanks for always having the best recipes :) ✌ReplyCancel

  • Justine Khaldi07/04/2020 - 9:18 am

    Pleeeeease change your printable recipes to include a small picture of the food…ReplyCancel

  • Adrienne Michelle05/05/2020 - 5:18 pm

    This was outstanding!!! Full disclosure, dont have a blender right now so I used Drew’s Chipotle Ranch. I used around 1 3/4 cups chickpea flour for a thicker batter for the cauliflower. It seemed a little too thin otherwise. I warmed the barbecued cauliflower for two days straight at 450 for about 4 minutes with no degradation in texture or flavor. Talk about fresh healthy goodness over multiple days–woot woot! I also cubed some tofu and cooked the same as the cauliflower, but it doesn’t come close to the goodness of the cauliflower.ReplyCancel

  • Lucy20/05/2020 - 12:59 pm

    This salad was soooo good! Very filling and versatile. The cauliflower was my favorite part and the pickled jalapeño ranch dressing went really well with it all. Will definitely be making this again!ReplyCancel

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