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Southwest Salad with Crispy Barbecue Cauliflower and Yogurt Ranch

May 03, 2018
Featured in: Food Rx, Dinner, Lunch, Salads
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You'll love the crispy barbecue cauliflower on this vegetarian Southwest salad with creamy yogurt ranch!

You'll love the crispy barbecue cauliflower on this vegetarian Southwest salad with creamy yogurt ranch! 

If you told me as a child that as an adult, I would love cauliflower, I probably would have pulled a Peter Pan and made every attempt to never grow up. Maybe that's extreme. More likely, I would have rolled my eyes and said "Gag me with a spoon!" Spinach I loved, zucchini I could handle, but cauliflower was that vegetable that would have caused major dinner table drama if it was served. Which it wasn't, because my parents are smart people and cauliflower is gross.

Or, was gross. I, and I don’t think I’m alone here, remember cauliflower in it's microwaved form, usually in a mix of watery broccoli and carrots, often left untouched on a lunch tray. But somewhere along the way, somebody, and I'd love to know who, made cauliflower cool again. One I realized the microwave is not cauliflower's friend, but olive oil and the oven are, it was a game changer. 

What I've learned to appreciate most about cauliflower is it’s versatility. I’ve used it to make pizza crust, rice bowls, creamy mashed ‘potatoes’, dairy free ‘alfredo’ sauce and calzones. Every time I saw a cauliflower swap dish making the rounds on pinterest, I thought to myself, ‘no way.’ Eventually, curiousity would get the hold of me and once I tried it, I always loved it! 

I was similarly skeptical when I saw cauliflower wings. I'm kinda a snob about wings, mainly because I love them so much. While cauliflower wings don’t taste anything like actual chicken wings, they’re pretty darn tasty, and somehow manage to satisfy and greasy, crispy food craving.  

You'll love the crispy barbecue cauliflower on this vegetarian Southwest salad with creamy yogurt ranch!

Inspired by cauliflower wings, I created this crispy barbecue cauliflower salad. To make the barbecue cauliflower bites, you simply give florets of cauliflower a quick dip in egg, a dusting of flour (use gluten free if needed), then bake in the oven to create a tender cauliflower nugget with a crispy exterior. Use any brand barbecue sauce you like, but be mindful of the sugar content. 

Thanks to the whole ‘if it’s white, don’t bite’ food myth, cauliflower is often overlooked when it comes to nutrient dense vegetables. True, in most cases the more vibrantly colored the vegetable, the more nutritious it is, but cauliflower is a notable exception to that rule. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, possibly the most widely studied group of vegetables for cancer protection. Glucosinolates, one of the compounds in cruciferious vegetables that give it a bitter flavor, has been shown to stimulate death and prevent growth of cancer cells, and supports the bodies natural detoxification system. 

Here’s some more fun reasons to love on cauliflower:

  • Move over oranges! One cup of cauliflower contains about 75% the DRI of vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin.
  • Cauliflower is great for digestive health. Not only are the previously mentioned glucosinolates protective against colon cancer, but cauliflower contains 8 grams of fiber for every 100 calories.
  • Surprisingly, cauliflower is one of the richest vegetable sources of omega 3 fats.
  • Caulifower is also a good source of vitamin K, folate, and vitamin B6.

Then there's this yummy salad! 

You'll love the crispy barbecue cauliflower on this vegetarian Southwest salad with creamy yogurt ranch!

You'll love the crispy barbecue cauliflower on this vegetarian Southwest salad with creamy yogurt ranch!

Southwestern Salad with Crispy Barbecue Cauliflower and Yogurt Ranch


Serves 4


  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk, buttermilk or regular milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed, cut into florets
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 hearts of romaine, chopped


  1. Make the dressing by whisking first 6 ingredients together; season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  2. Next, make the cauliflower by preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil. Beat egg together with water. Mix flour with garlic, onion, paprika and cayenne. 
  3. Grab a handful of cauliflower florets and dip into egg. Let the egg wash drip off, then toss in flour mixture using your other clean hand. Shake off extra flour and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cauliflower. Spray cauliflower with olive oil and place in oven. Bake 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway, until tender and crispy. Remove from oven, drizzle with barbecue sauce and toss evenly to coat. Place back in oven and bake 5 minutes, then remove and set aside until ready to eat. 
  4. While cauliflower is baking, make the rest of the salad by placing red onion in a small bowl and tossing with apple cider vinegar and salt. Let pickle for 10 minutes. Heat olive oil in a small skillet on medium-high heat. Add corn and cook until lightly charred. Remove from skillet to bowl and let cool. 
  5. Place lettuce in a large bowl. Toss with pickled red onions, corn, black beans, avocado, radish, and tomato. Top with barbecue cauliflower then drizzle with ranch dressing.
Click for nutritional information
Calories 416
Carbohydrates 66g
Fiber 16.3g
Sugar 20.3g
Fat 12g
Protein 18g
Sodium 640mg
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Rachael Hartley is the author of the FOOD Rx on HealthyAperture - a monthly feature that embraces the saying "Let food be thy medicine." The tasty, whole food recipes shared in Food Rx take advantage of the healing power of food, highlighting ingredients with known health promoting abilities. Rachael is also private practice dietitian and blogger at Avocado A Day Nutrition. She is passionate about helping men and women improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing with nourishing and delicious whole foods, mindfulness and intuitive eating. As lifelong food lover, the kitchen is her playground and she enjoys experimenting with new ingredients, trying new cuisines and sharing those creations on her blog. When not working with clients or blogging, you can find her playing with her two big fluffy dogs, practicing yoga, or traveling with her husband.
More posts by RachaelAnAvocadoADay
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