Let's admit it, cauliflower is a vegetable that is a bit on the bland side. It's not one of those foods that will be a party in your mouth. Well, it can't be a party of one. It definitely needs the assistance of a few other ingredients. Before you head off to raid the spice rack, just know you don't need that much. Especially if you are roasting. It is an exceptionally simple method to build a bit more flavor, using just salt and pepper. This is my signature method with vegetables that lack sufficient flavor on their own. With this cauliflower, I roasted and sautéed, but didn't stop there.

I implemented spices and cooking methods common in Southeast Asian cuisine. Adobo is marinating and stewing any cut of meat or fish in a briny mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, and spices. Many would consider chicken adobo as the national dish of the Philippines. Take note, this adobo shouldn't be confused with the Spanish adobo sauce. Although they both share the name, they are vastly different in flavor and ingredients. There are many regional varieties of adobo, but most recipes include vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper.

I’ve stayed true to the Filipino version of adobo and I provided a vegetarian edition. I needed a sturdy vegetable like cauliflower that would stand up to the marinating, sautéing and roasting — and the bold flavors.

cauliflower adobo

serves 2-4, 10 min prep + 15 min cook time


½ cauliflower, cut into chunks

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

½ cup rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoons raw sugar

½ tablespoon lime juice 

freshly crushed black pepper and sea salt, to taste 

1 bay leaf

¼ Thai chili, deseeded

rice, for serving 

1 tablespoon cilantro 

3 scallions, thinly sliced, for serving


If you plan to serve rice, bring 1 ¾ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan before you start the recipe. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and 1 cup long-grain rice, cover, and let simmer on the lowest heat possible for 18 minutes. Proceed with the adobo. Let the rice sit, covered and off the heat, until the adobo is ready. Fluff rice with a fork before serving.

Trim any leaves and woody stalk from the cauliflower, then cut through the root into medium sized wedges. Season both sides of each wedge with salt and pepper. Reserve any loose cauliflower pieces.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Place one layer of the wedges in the skillet cut-side down and cook without moving them until well browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and continue until all the cauliflower is seared, adding more oil as needed. Return all the cauliflower to the pan with uncooked side facing down.

Add ¼ cup water, any loose cauliflower pieces, 2 teaspoons black pepper, rice-wine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, bay leaves and Thai chile. Cover and let simmer over medium heat until the cauliflower is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

Uncover, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook, basting the cauliflower occasionally with the sauce, until the cauliflower is tender and the sauce has thickened and reduced to about ¾ cup, 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve the cauliflower with plenty of sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.