Spice-Roasted Cauliflower in Coconut Tomato Sauce with Lentils

4.98 from 86 votes

Roasted cauliflower with spices in flavourful coconut tomato sauce with red lentils is a simple vegan dinner recipe. Inspired by both dal and coconut milk curries prevalent in Southeast Asian cuisine, this meal cooks up in about 40 minutes.

An overhead shot of roasted cauliflower in a coconut tomato sauce. The dish is garnished with fresh cilantro, nigella seeds, and ground chillies.
An up close, overhead shot of roasted cauliflower in a coconut tomato sauce. The dish is garnished with fresh cilantro, nigella seeds, and ground chillies.
An overhead shot of a single serving of a saucy cauliflower dish that is garnished with cilantro and nigella seeds in a wide bowl. There is a blue linen napkin nearby.
An overhead shot shows ingredients used in a cauliflower and coconut tomato sauce dish.
A slight 3/4 angle shot shows split red lentils being added to a pot of sautéed shallots and spices.

I’m so excited to share this warming, flavourful, and fairly simple spice-roasted cauliflower in coconut tomato sauce! I roast and caramelize the cauliflower with some spices for an extra boost in flavour. While the florets are roasting, I make the flavourful and slightly rich sauce that’s boosted with split red lentils.

The inspiration for this recipe:

  • I was inspired by coconut milk curries that are popular in Southeast Asian cuisines when working on this recipe. I also try to uphold that traditional flavour balance of spicy, sour, salty, sweet and bitter. 
  • Additionally, using the split red lentils in the sauce is inspired by dal (which refers to the lentils themselves/pulses in general but also dishes that contain them), a lentil-based stew cooked many different ways all over India. The dal tadka in Plant Based India is a go-to in our house! It’s worth noting that coconut milk is used in the cuisine of Southern India as well. A great and delicious-sounding example of this from the Vegan Richa blog can be found here.
  • All of this is to say: as far as I know, this recipe is not an authentic representation of any one cuisine or dish in particular, but it is certainly inspired by the traditions discussed above.

The base of the sauce is shallots, ginger, garlic, ground spices like chillies, cumin, and fenugreek, canned tomatoes, split red lentils, and full fat coconut milk. This is all cooked down until the lentils are breaking up and “melting” into the sauce. Once it’s done, you can leave it as-is for maximum ease or blend it until silky smooth. Then I add the roasted cauliflower! From here, all you have to do is heat it through and garnish with fresh cilantro, lime, and Nigella seeds. 

I recommend serving this vegan dinner recipe simply with some cooked rice (or another grain that you like) or flatbread. You could also make up the sauce ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. From there, all you have to do is warm it through and roast the cauliflower. 

If you like this recipe, I bet you’ll also love my Sweet Potato Coconut Milk Stew with Lentils & Kale as well as my Seven Spice Chickpeas with Tomatoes & Coconut.

An overhead shot of spice-roasted cauliflower on a parchment lined baking sheet.
An overhead shot of a hand using a wooden utensil to stir up a pot of coconut tomato sauce with red split lentils.
An overhead shot shows roasted cauliflower florets that have just been added to a pot of silky and rich coconut tomato sauce.
An overhead shot of roasted cauliflower in a coconut tomato sauce. The dish is garnished with fresh cilantro, nigella seeds, and ground chillies.
An overhead shot of roasted cauliflower in a coconut tomato sauce. The dish is garnished with fresh cilantro, nigella seeds, and ground chillies.

Spice-Roasted Cauliflower in Coconut Tomato Sauce with Lentils

Roasted cauliflower with spices in flavourful coconut tomato sauce with red lentils is a simple vegan dinner recipe. Inspired by both dal and coconut milk curries prevalent in Southeast Asian cuisine, this meal cooks up in about 40 minutes.
4.98 from 86 votes
An up close, overhead shot of roasted cauliflower in a coconut tomato sauce. The dish is garnished with fresh cilantro, nigella seeds, and ground chillies.
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings 4 (WITH SIDES)

Ingredients

Spice Blend

  • ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground chillies
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds

Cauliflower & Coconut Tomato Sauce

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower cut into florets (about 6-7 cups florets)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • spice blend (see above), divided
  • 1 large shallot fine dice (about ½ cup diced shallot)
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup split red lentils
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes (from a can!)
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus extra for serving
  • handful chopped cilantro, for serving
  • Nigella seeds, for serving

Notes

  • This recipe is inspired by coconut milk curries popular in Southeast Asian cuisines. Additionally, the split red lentil addition to the mixture is inspired by dal (which refers to the lentils themselves/pulses in general but also dishes that contain them), a lentil-based stew cooked many different ways all over India.
  • I like to purée the finished coconut, lentil and tomato sauce mixture in the blender so that it’s silky smooth. But if you’re feeling lazy, you don’t have to! Just add the roasted cauliflower to the sauce in the pot.
  • Light coconut milk would also work fine in this recipe. If you don’t like coconut milk or you’re allergic, I recommend a super creamy milk like oat or cashew to replace it.
  • I recommend having all of your ingredients measured and prepped from the start. The timing with the cauliflower roasting and the sauce coming together works out really well this way!

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Set out a large baking sheet.
  • Make the spice blend. In a small bowl, combine the turmeric, cumin, ground chillies, coriander, cinnamon, fenugreek, and fennel seeds. Stir to combine and set aside.
  • Place all of the cauliflower florets on the baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, half of the spice blend, and some salt and pepper. Toss to coat the florets in the oil in spices. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer and slide the baking sheet into the oven. Roast the cauliflower until deeply caramelized, about 40 minutes, flipping and toss the florets at the halfway point.
  • While cauliflower is roasting, make the coconut tomato sauce. Heat the remaining oil in a large, deep skillet or braiser over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the shallots. Sauté shallots until very soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. If the edges start browning, lower the heat.
  • Add the remaining half of the spice blend, ginger, and garlic to the skillet and stir. Continue to sauté until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the split red lentils to the skillet and stir.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, and vegetable stock to the skillet and stir again. Bring this up to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are totally soft and starting to break up, about 25 minutes, stirring often. If the lentils seem to be sucking up too much liquid, just keep adding more splashes of vegetable stock (or coconut milk if you want to go a bit richer).
  • Once it's done, season generously with salt and pepper and add the lime juice. At this point, you can use an upright blender to blend the sauce OR you can leave it as is. I prefer to blend it for 1 full minute until it’s completely smooth.
  • Once the cauliflower is cooked, remove it from the oven. Pour the puréed sauce back into the skillet and add the cauliflower as well. Stir to combine over medium heat, bringing it up to a boil.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro, nigella seeds, lime zest and extra lime juice.
A 3/4 angle shot of a single serving of a saucy cauliflower dish that is garnished with cilantro and nigella seeds in a wide bowl. There is a blue linen napkin nearby.
30/11/2022
Posted in: autumn, coconut milk, creamy, earthy, gluten free, lentils, main course, nut free, refined sugar-free, roasted, sauce, side dish, sour, spicy, spring, summer, sweet, tomatoes, vegan, winter
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