Pickled Purple Cauliflower

You’ve seen Portlandia, right? Wait, you haven’t? Okay, take a minute to consume the spot-on hilarity that is this clip and then I’ll get back to you.

Now that we are on the same page, let’s talk about pickles. Somehow pickles recently got cool, and they have been making a trendy appearance on restaurant menus everywhere. Chefs have been utilizing little bits of pickled vegetables as an alternative to citrus or vinegar, a new way of bringing acidic contrast to a dish. And while I’m sure that pickles will one day be as cliché as foams or truffle oil, I am at the moment really excited to experiment with pickling in my own kitchen.

To tell you the truth, I actually never imagined I would pickle my own vegetables until recently. Pickling seemed to fall into the category of Too Much Work For Home – something I think is a great idea, but too weird and time consuming to bother doing myself. As a result of media inundation (thanks Bon Appetit), though, pickling has gone the way of grinding coffee beans and making ice cream: it’s something I now enthusiastically do.

The purple cauliflower recipe you see here is actually a recipe I developed based on my initial foray into pickling, which was an unexpected success. I made those cauliflower pickles on a whim, an attempt to use up this beautiful hunk of purple mass I had brought home from the grocery store that day. The ratios for vinegar, salt, and water were at best an educated guess, and after mixing everything together I stuck the heavy jar of liquid and vegetable in the back of the fridge, expecting that I would pull it out in the morning to find it perhaps halfway palatable.

What I found the following day really caught me off guard. Not only had the cauliflower actually pickled, but it had taken on the spices I had added in a surprisingly effective way. Where I had expected to find muddy taste and crunchy texture, I instead found toasty heat and pungent anise flavor with a tender bite. I was an instant convert.

Pickled Purple Cauliflower

Makes 1 quart

I call for whole spices in this recipe, and I unfortunately can’t recommend that you substitute with ground spices, which would create a muddy flavor and coating on the vegetables. Feel free to make this recipe without spices, it will still create deliciously pungent pickled vegetables.


1 tsp cumin seeds

3/4 tsp coriander seeds

3/4 tsp fennel seeds

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp salt

1 head purple (or white) cauliflower, cut into florets

1 1/2 cup boiling water

Toast the spices: Combine the spices in a pan and toast over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from heat and crush with a mortar and pestle. (Alternatively, grind in a spice grinder or small food processor.) You only need to crack open the spices; do not grind into a powder.

Combine ingredients: In a large bowl or quart-sized jar, mix together the toasted and crushed spices with the vinegar, honey, and salt. Add the cauliflower, then top off with boiling water. Stir or shake to combine.

Pickle overnight: Place this bowl or jar in the refrigerator to pickle overnight. Pickled cauliflower will keep up to 2 weeks.


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