Gluten-free, Special Diets, Vegan/Vegetarian

Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts

Loreto December 5, 2016

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Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts, packed with spices and aromatics that will have you craving and savoring each bite.

Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts

Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomagranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts. If you are one of those who love middle eastern cuisine, with its exotic spices and oh so luring aromas, then this dish is for you. Its combinations of spices such as cinnamon, cumin, sumac, etc, and the tender smooth texture of the cauliflower nice and slightly charred, will have you feeling transported to a different world of flavors and textures.



I was a stranger to the shawarma world. The closest I had been as a teenager was a donair. Low and behold a few years later, okay many years later, I happened to be in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Working away at my full time job, when one of my co-workers asked me if I had ever tried the shawarma at this place called Desert Pita. I replied Shawarm-who and in what desert. Excited, as one of my passions was culture and the other food, he proceeded to describe a middle eastern pita roll with spiced grilled chicken pieces rolled into a long rotund spit that was roasted for hours and hours up right on a rotisserie oven. Then this chicken, succulent and spiced would be placed in a pita with some tahini sweet sauce and veggies such as tomato, lettuce, olives, onions and this roasted eggplant and pickled cabbage. The pita is then placed in a panino grill to get all crispy and warm. I was drooling and at that moment had to get into my truck and spend my lunch savoring this monstrosity of a pita roll (chicken shawarma) in all its heavenliness at Desert Pita. I was hooked, loved the flavors, strong in those eastern spices, and all the diverse textures.

Well time has passed and it has been a while since I have been to Calgary. Nicoletta and I were sitting at the dining room table, her working away on our blog, and me looking for inspiration in some magazines we had received. Finding many that inspired me and marking off pages, getting hungry at the thought and flavors of many recipes that I wanted to try. While looking through Saveur magazine I was taken back to the shawarma train with a recipe for cauliflower shawarma, yes that’s right cauliflower shawarma. Page book marked and just a cauliflower to get, as our spice racks had every thing needed to create the lovely Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts.

Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts

All spiced up!  Ready for the grill, Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts.

This is a quick easy dish to dazzle up your hum drum weekday suppers. The prep is easy, first starting with the spice rub. A mix of lemon juice, butter, cumin, parsley, sumac, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamon, and sea salt. I just wanted to say here that I love going to middle eastern or even east Indian markets. All those spices and unique items that can be found is like a playground for any foodie or chef. Sorry for the interlude just wanted to share that, lol, now back to this delicious cauliflower shawarma. The cauliflower is  then washed and cleaned whole, and placed in a nice salted boiling water bath to get all nice and tender, and not mushy and soft. I check the stalk of the cauliflower with a knife and if it just pierces the stalk then it is done.  I have to confess, Nicoletta prepped the cauliflower . She is such a jewel to me and makes my recipe composition a lot easier, she’s a keeper!

The sauce that will add such a flavor is a mix of tahini, lemon juice, sea salt, and ice cold water. Blend it till it is velvety smooth and set aside.

Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts

Once the cauliflower is taken out and drained and dry, the massage begins. You take that spice rub and rub it all  over the whole of this wonderful vegetable, cauliflower. Pre heat that BBQ of yours to a nice hot heat and on the spiced rub jewel goes to get nicely charred and smoky flavored. The smell coming off the barbecue is amazing, the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, etc, caramelizing and melting into the flesh of the cauliflower and creating such beautiful char. This process is a 10 minute deal.

Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts

Garnishing is one of my favorite parts when cooking, as I believe in art and creativity, and to me if a dish looks stunning and inviting, then the eating will be a most pleasurable experience. So here it it goes, the charred cauliflower gets cut up into nice bite size pieces and placed on a dish. That wonderful tahini sauce is drizzled over top, and then joyfully the pomegranate seeds and roasted pine nuts are dropped on top, with a dusting of minced fresh parsley, after all a middle eastern inspired dish like this would not be whole with out that spark of fresh green goodness. For those of you who like cilantro it can be substituted for the parsley.

Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts

This cauliflower shawarma is amazing. You smell its smokiness and all those wonderful spices. The first bite takes your taste buds to places it has never gone to before. The cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, allspice, sumac and cumin all melded together with that golden butter, accompanied by the acidity from the lemon peaking through in welcoming fashion. The texture of the cauliflower tender moist and that earthiness of this vegetable is a perfect partner to the spices. The tahini sauce keeping the interest alive in its rich middle eastern flare, with welcoming surprises of freshness and sweetness coming from the juice packed pomegranate seeds. Adding even more texture the roasted pine nuts. I have to say after having chicken shawarma, this cauliflower tasted so close to the real deal. This dish is complex in flavor and texture, and rich in culture and artistry. If middle eastern cuisine,vegan or vegetarian is what you are craving tonight, get that spice cupboard open and grove the Arabic vibrations of this Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegraanate, Tahini, Pin Nuts.


Song of the day: “Halili” by  Cheb Mami feat, Zaho.


Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 1 Whole head cauliflower

Spice rub:

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1/8 tsp sumac
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp sea salt plus


  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbsp pomegranite seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 and 1/2 Tbsp pine nuts roasted


Spice rub:

  1. In a bowl mix 1 and 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice, butter, parsley, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, nutmeg, cardamon, sumac, and half the garlic.


  1. Place head of cauliflower in a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook until stem can be just pierced with a knife.
  2. Take out of water and drain, and place on a plate.
  3. Take spice rub and rub it all over the cauliflower making sure to coat it well.

Tahini Sauce:

  1. In a bowl mix 1/4 cup lemon juice, rest of the garlic, 1 and 1/2 tsp sea salt, tahini and 4 Tbsp of ice cold water. Blend till smooth.


  1. Pre heat grill to about 400° F.
  2. Place spice rubbed cauliflower on grill turning to get a slight char on all sides, about 10 minutes.
  3. Take off grill and place on cutting board.
  4. Cut into nice bite size pieces and place on a serving plate.


  1. Drizzle the tahini sauce over the cauliflower.
  2. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and roasted pine nuts.
  3. Ready to serve, enjoy!


Of course to keep it vegan, use vegan butter.


  • Serving Size: 2-4 servings
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Cauliflower Shawarma with Pomegranate, Tahini, Pine Nuts

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  • Avatar
    Reply Matt @ RoughEats December 5, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Right, so when I first read the title I thought that it was going to be a recipe for a chicken shawarma and I got excited. Love that type of food. Then I realised it was for cauliflower and it threw me. What a good idea, I cannot wait to try it!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 5, 2016 at 10:38 am

      Hi Matt, you won’t believe how good it tastes so close to the chicken shawarma. Charring that cauliflower after it has been par boiled and spice rubbed gives it such a unique and delicious flavor, accompanied with the tahini sauce and pomegranate, pine nuts, and I believe it is a winner as I love this type of food.
      Thanks a bunch for the comment, and I am curious to see what you decide on this one after you have tried it.
      Have a great cooking week.

  • Avatar
    Reply Dawn - Girl Heart Food December 5, 2016 at 10:38 am

    I really enjoy trying different food too and whenever hubby and I travel, trying new food is one of our favourite things to do.

    Lots of great spices going on here and cauliflower is at the top of my fave veggie list. That spice rub sounds amazing and the pomegranate and tahini is just a lovely touch. I didn’t enjoy cilantro years ago, but love it now so I would definitely use the cilantro instead of parsley. What a delicious recipe for MeatlessMonday 😉 Pinned! Have a great week!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 6, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      Thank you Dawn, you are too kind. It is so nice being inspired by all these great food magazines and the wonderful ideas that emanate from them. Thanks to Saveur magazine, our kitchen gave birth to this wonderful Cauliflower Shawarma.
      Take care

  • Avatar
    Reply Stephanie@ApplesforCJ December 5, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Yum..When I saw cauliflower was involved I knew it would be good. Always looking for creative ways to prepare it and this definitely is. I have a cauliflower and pomegranate seeds in my fridge just waiting to make this. And I agree food needs to be inviting. Pinning 🙂

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 6, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      Thank you Stephanie, The flavors of the spice and the freshness of pomegranate create such a surprising flavor profile. The cauliflower is the perfect pallet to receive the spice rub and elevate its taste immensely. We thoroughly enjoyed it I hope you do too.
      Have a wonderful day

  • Avatar
    Reply Margaret @ Kitchen Frau December 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Mmm, I have a cauliflower in the fridge just waiting to be ‘shawarmad’! You’ve piqued my interest and I can’t wait to try it. I love that combination of Indian spices!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 6, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      Hi Margaret, love that word shawarmad, lol. I with you on the Indian spices. You are going to love this recipe it has middle Eastern written all over it and the cauliflower steps up to the plate to give chicken a run for its money. Can’t wait for you to try it.
      Have a great week.

  • Avatar
    Reply Amanda Mason December 30, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    This looks and sounds so fantastic!! Thanks for posting it and great pictures!!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto December 30, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Thank you Amanda, It was fantastic. I could not believe the resemblance in flavor to the chicken shawarma. I will have to give credit to Nicoletta my beautiful wife for the photography. Her passion sure comes through in each picture. I hope you have a chance to try this cauliflower recipe. Would love to hear how you made out.
      Happy New Year to you!

  • Avatar
    Reply Michelle Ferrand January 1, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    This is something that I could eat every single day!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto January 2, 2017 at 3:43 am

      Thank you Michele, I was quite pleased with this recipe. It was my first time making it, and both Nicoletta and I enjoyed it tremendously.
      Happy New Year!
      Cheers Loreto.

  • Avatar
    Reply Rea February 19, 2020 at 7:16 am

    In the description of the spice rub, you mention sumac; however, it is not included in the list of ingredients in the actual recipe.

    How much would you suggest to add?

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto February 19, 2020 at 9:51 am

      Hi Rea
      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I have updated the recipe and there is 1/8 tsp of Sumac that goes into the spice rub. Thanks again and enjoy this recipe!

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