In the past, cauliflower has paled in comparison to more vibrant, assertive vegetables, especially kale. But cauliflower is about to rule your kitchen. This cruciferous cousin to bolder broccoli is nabbing the spotlight in meals featuring tacos, buffalo-drenched gameday grub, steak substitutes, and comforting accompaniments like mashed potatoes and rice.  Let us impart to you why we adore the almighty cauliflower and how to use this misunderstood vegetable.

For one, cauliflower is like the LBD (little black dress). It’s so versatile. You can dress it up or down and take it anywhere. Cauliflower’s mild flavor and sturdy texture hold up well to many preparations. You can roast it, sauté it, steam it, rice it, and purée it. Some restaurants are starting to serve the whole head like a steak, front and center.

If you’re keeping your cauliflower intact, roasting is the best way to cook it. The florets lose their excess water after spending time in the oven, creating in a more concentrated, sweeter flavor. The outer layer browns and caramelizes into a crisp coating, giving way to a soft interior.

Cauliflower is a close friend to vegetarians, Paleo followers, low-carb eaters, and gluten-free people. The gregarious vegetable makes a great substitute for meat as well as bready, carby items.

Fall is a great time to pluck cauliflower, which is blossoming with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins B6, C, and K. And it comes in more colors than the common white cloud variety: orange, purple, and a spiraled, pointed lime green (called cheddar, graffiti, and Romanesco, respectively). While roasting and adding a few spices is wonderful way to give cauliflower its deserved respect, you can give cauliflower the lead in these interesting ways too:

1. Buffalo Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Dressing

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Consider these babies meat-free buffalo wings for game day. They’re battered in chickpea flour for a slightly crunchy texture, plus coated in buttery, spicy wing sauce and roasted in the oven. With a classic blue cheese dressing as dip, no one will miss the meat. Get our Buffalo Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Dressing recipe.

2. Cauliflower Rice

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The Whole30 creators give us this base that you can change so many ways, from Asian fried rice with sesame oil and green onions to Moroccan rice with pine nuts and raisins. Whip out your food processor to pulse the halved florets into a rice-like consistency and steam that with some aromatics. Get our Cauliflower Rice recipe.

3. Cauliflower Gruyère Soup

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Cauliflower transforms into a smooth, creamy soup that’s enriched with bouquet garni (French bundle of herbs), chicken stock, cream, and nutty-tasting Gruyère cheese. Get our Cauliflower Gruyère Soup recipe.

4. Deviled Cauliflower Casserole

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You can still get a great casserole with a creamy, spicy sauce and crunchy topping without cheese. What? Really. That’s the beauty of butter, flour, and milk, plus Dijon and cayenne. Get our Deviled Cauliflower Casserole recipe.

5. Cauliflower Tacos

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These little trees are coated in a savory concoction of cumin, paprika, chile powder, coriander, and salt, then roasted for maximum sweetness. Add in the lemon crema and cilantro slaw, and these tacos give you all the tart, savory, sweet, salty flavors and crunchy, soft, creamy textures you crave. Get our Cauliflower Tacos recipe.

6. Cauliflower Pizza Crust

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No need to buy expensive wheat flour substitutes for making your own gluten-free pizza crust. When you process cauliflower, blanch it, and squeeze out the water, you can make a pizza dough substitute with creamy goat cheese, an egg, and some spices. Get our Cauliflower Pizza Crust recipe.

7. Curried Cauliflower, Chickpeas, and Tofu

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This dish is packed with Indian flavor and provides the nutrition you need with meat-free protein and vegetables. You can either blend your own garam masala or buy the spice mix. Make brown rice instead of white if you want to avoid simple carbs. Get our Curried Cauliflower, Chickpeas, and Tofu recipe.

8. Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

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Longtime low-carb lovers know this trick to satisfy your mashed potato needs. This version doesn’t taste like diet food. Steamed cauliflower is pureéd with a rich mix of cream cheese, butter, Parmesan cheese, a vegetable bouillon cube, garlic, salt, and pepper. Get our Creamy Mashed Cauliflower recipe.

— Head image: Pure Wow.

Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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