Cauliflower Parmesan is my new favorite low-carb dish! It's hearty, filling, delicious, AND quick & easy to make. Sounds perfect, right? I bet you won't be disappointed if you try it!
It's a great twist on the classics chicken and eggplant parmesan, perfect for a low-carb eating plan and easily made vegetarian.
You start off with cauliflower steaks, top them with your favorite marinara sauce or spaghetti sauce, and of course cheese! I made this recipe using steam & crisp on the Ninja Foodi OL with SmartLid, but there are several different ways to make it, so no worries if you don't have that appliance; I'll give suggestions for using an oven, or two-lid Ninja Foodi in the article below.
Ingredients & Substitutions
For this recipe, you will need a whole head of cauliflower and not just the cauliflower florets that you can find in a bag in the grocery store. Heads of cauliflower vary in size, but you should be able to get 3 cauliflower steaks out of a medium size head of cauliflower.
The cooking method and timing for this recipe is based on it being a cauliflower recipe, so if you wanted to switch out the cauliflower for a different vegetable the timing, and possibly the cooking method, would change.
For example, if you wanted to use long slices of zucchini instead of cauliflower, I would skip the steaming and only air fry, because zucchini cooks so much faster. To make a zucchini parmesan, you would cut long planks of zucchini and top it with the marinara sauce and cheese and air fry until the cheese is brown and bubbly and the zucchini is cooked to your liking.
Another option for this recipe would be to use cabbage steaks, which is thick sliced cabbage. The timing may be different so make sure the cabbage is cooked to your liking before adding the sauce and cheese.
If you want to make a low-carb version of chicken parmesan, I recommend using this recipe for parmesan crusted chicken. Once the chicken is cooked per the recipe top it with marinara sauce and cheese and air fry until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
You can use your favorite marinara sauce, pizza sauce, or spaghetti sauce. For a meatless sauce, this recipe for marinara sauce is easy to make and tastes amazing. If you want to use ground turkey, try this easy recipe for Healthy Spaghetti Sauce. When I made cauliflower steaks for a LIVE cooking show called Tasty Tuesday, I made a quick sausage spaghetti sauce and that added a ton of flavor.
You want to make sure that the tomato sauce you are using is full of flavor and well-balanced. Taste it before hand and if it tastes good enough to put over pasta or dip bread sticks into, it will work great!
You can use any type of cheese that you like, but for the best results use at least part mozzarella cheese because it melts so well. I like to use an Italian blend cheese that has mozzarella, provolone, asiago, and romano cheese and then top it with freshly shredded parmesan cheese.
There are three components to this recipe and it's important that each one is seasoned well. For the cauliflower steak, I drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. If you want to add a little spice, use a few red pepper flakes. Whatever marinara or spaghetti sauce you use make sure it is seasoned well and tastes good on its own. The choice of cheese also brings flavor to the dish, so I recommend using a combination of various Italian cheeses for the best flavor.
Garnish with fresh basil or fresh parsley before serving for another layer of flavor.
How to Cut Cauliflower Steaks
No matter which cooking method you use, the most important part of the recipe is cutting the cauliflower steaks. If you cut them too thin, they will fall apart into small florets and although the end dish will still be delicious, it won't be quite the same.
Cutting the cauliflower planks isn't hard, but it will be very helpful if you have a long sharp knife that can cut straight through the middle of the cauliflower.
To make things easier, cut the stem at the bottom of the cauliflower head so it sits flat on the cutting board.
I also like to trim away the outer leaves from around the steam. This can be done now or after you cut the cauliflower steaks.
Place the cauliflower head steam down on the cutting board and cut through the center so you have 2 cauliflower halves.
Cut the cauliflower into 1-1½" thick pieces or planks. As you cut each cauliflower steak, try to keep them as even as possible so they cook evenly. You will be able to get about 4 cauliflower steaks per average head of cauliflower.
Once your cauliflower steaks are cut, you are ready to cook them up! You can make 2 of them in the Ninja Foodi on the rack and as many as you want in the oven on a sheet tray. The timing and temperature will stay the same regardless of how many you make.
Cooking Instructions for Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper
Ninja Foodi One-Lid Models
Using the Steam Crisp function on the OL Series Ninja Foodi starts the cooking process with steam and finishes with air frying. This works perfectly for cauliflower parmesan because the steam cooks the cauliflower just enough to be for tender without falling apart and the air frying warms the sauce and melts the cheese.
This is my preferred method for cooking this recipe, but if you don't have this model of Ninja Foodi or the Ninja Speedi with steam crisp, you can still make it using the instructions below.
You can either cook the cauliflower directly on the rack or on a pizza pan with holes in it. Either one works fine. The reason I didn't use a pan is because I thought it would collect liquid and make things soupy, but you can certainly give it a try if you want to.
Preparing the Cauliflower Steak
Pour 1 cup of water into the inner pot. Place the cauliflower steak on the crisping plate or rack. Drizzle with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil or whatever oil you like.
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning or with whatever seasonings you like.
Steam & Crisping
Place the rack with the cauliflower into the inner pot of the Ninja Foodi. You can use the crisping plate (pizza pan) on the rack, only the rack, or if your model came with a crisping plate instead of the air fryer basket, you can also use that.
Close the lid and move the lever to the middle position. Select SteamCrisp and set the temperature to 450℉/230℃ and the time to 20 minutes, which is the default time. It usually only takes about 10-12 minutes to finish the dish, but I like to have some extra on the clock. Press start.
The water will start to heat up and create steam, this happens when the display shows "pre." After about 5-7 minutes, the fan will switch on and the countdown will start. This will circulate the steam, heat the upper heating element and finish cooking the cauliflower steak.
After 5 minutes of the countdown or when the clock says 15 minutes, open the lid and make sure the cauliflower is fork tender. If it isn't, close the lid and keep cooking another few minutes.
Scoop the marinara or spaghetti sauce on top of the cauliflower steak. I use between ½-¾ cup depending on how large the cauliflower is. Close the lid again and let it cook another 2 minutes.
This will warm the sauce, so if your sauce is already warm, you can skip this part and simply top the sauce with cheese.
Sprinkle about ½ cup of shredded cheese over the top of the sauce and close the lid. Continue to cook until the cheese is melted and golden brown. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.
Remove the rack from the Ninja Foodi and put the cauliflower steak onto a plate. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley.
Serve & Enjoy!
Directions for Ninja Foodi 2-lid models
Prepare the cauliflower as stated above. Place 2 cups of water into the inner pot and put the cauliflower on the rack in the low position into the Ninja Foodi.
Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to vent. Select the steam function and set the time for 3 minutes. Press start.
When the steam time is up, remove the pressure lid and make sure the cauliflower is fork tender. If it isn't you can steam again for another minute or two or use the crisping lid on bake/roast at 400℉/200℃ and bake it until it is done to your liking.
Spoon the marinara over the top of the cauliflower and close the crisping lid. Select the broil (grill) function and set the time for 15 minutes. Close the lid and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the sauce is warm.
Top with shredded cheese and close the crisping lid again. Broil for another 5-7 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.
Cooking Instructions for Oven
The preparation is the same, but instead of using steam/crisp, you will roast the cauliflower in the oven before adding the toppings.
I recommend using a rimmed baking sheet so any liquid that might be released doesn't get all over your oven.
Preheat the oven to 400℉/200℃.
Line the baking sheet with parchment or brush with olive oil so the cauliflower steaks don't stick. Place the cauliflower steaks onto the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with your favorite Italian seasonings or use the blend in the recipe below.
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the cauliflower steak is fork tender. If it is getting too brown, but still not tender, lower the heat and cook longer.
Top with the marinara or spaghetti sauce and the shredded cheeses. Switch to the broil function and place the pan back into the oven. Broil 3-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.
Serve & Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
This will vary based on the size of the head of cauliflower, but on average you can get two to three 1" cauliflower steaks from each head of cauliflower.
Yes, absolutely! I would use the crisping plate in the low position and place the seasoned cauliflower steak on the plate. Use the same settings as in the recipe.
What to Serve with Cauliflower Parmesan
Personally, I love serving it with a simple side salad and keto breadsticks, but cauliflower steaks with or without the toppings also make a great side dish.
Here are some recipes that will pair perfectly with your cauliflower steak.
Cauliflower Parmesan (Ninja Foodi or Oven Methods)
- ¼ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
Prepping the Cauliflower
- This recipe is for 1 cauliflower steak; however, you should be able to get 2-3 steaks from a medium head of cauliflower. You can either cut all three or just cut one and use the rest of the cauliflower for something else.
- Cut the cauliflower straight down the middle and trim off the stem so it sits flat on your cutting board. With a very sharp knife, slice 1" plank from the cut side of the cauliflower. Trim off any green leaves, but make sure to leave the stem and core intact because that is what holds the cauliflower steak together.
- Drizzle the cauliflower with 1 teaspoon of oil and season with the spice blend. You probably won't use all of the seasoning blend for 1 cauliflower steak, it's enough for 2-3.
Ninja Foodi SteamCrisp Directions
- Place one cup of water into the inner pot of the Ninja Foodi. Place the seasoned cauliflower steak on the rack (or on a pizza plate on the rack) in the low position into the Foodi.
- Close the lid and move the lever to the middle position. Select SteamCrisp and set the temperature for 450℉/230℃ and the time for 20 minutes. Press Start.
- Once the countdown reads 15 minutes left, open the lid and make sure the cauliflower steak is fork-tender. If it isn't, cook another 3-5 minutes.
- Spoon the marinara sauce over the cauliflower steak and close the lid. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is warm. Top with Cheese and close the lid for another 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
- Garnish with fresh basil or parsley. Serve & Enjoy!
Ninja Foodi 2-Lid Models
- Place 2 cups of water in the inner pot. Place the seasoned cauliflower on the rack in the low position in the Ninja Foodi. Put the pressure lid on and make sure the valve is to the seal position. Select the steam function and set the time to 3 minutes. When the time is up, remove the pressure lid.
- Spoon the marinara sauce over the cauliflower steak and close the crisping lid. Select the broil (grill) function and set the time to 15 minutes. Close the lid and after about 5 minutes open the lid and add the cheese on top. Close the lid and cook another 5-7 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.
- Preheat the oven on 400℉/200℃.
- Drizzle some olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet or line it with parchment paper so the cauliflower doesn't stick. Place the seasoned cauliflower steak on the tray and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cauliflower steak is fork tender.
- Top with marinara or spaghetti sauce and shredded cheese. Select the broil function and broil for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and garnish with freshly chopped basil or parsley.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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