Roasted Cauliflower & Cumin Dip

Crushing spices in a mortar and pestle is a great way to get out your frustrations.  There is something so satisfying about pounding away, especially when the effort is productive and the result so delicious.  If you doubt me, take a few cumin seeds and crush them.  The bonus is the wonderful smell that you’ll release when you do it.  Compare the result to the standard cumin powder you can purchase at the grocery store.  

If you’re delighted with the freshly ground spice, want to take it up a notch?  Try roasting the seeds first, then crushing them.  The aroma and taste are amazing.  It’s easy – put the seeds in a small dry pan under a medium-low heat and stir for about 10 minutes.  They darken from a light-medium brown color (almost like brown rice) to a richer, dark brown.  As they roast, the seeds pop, like little jumping beans. Kind of cute, no?  

This recipe for roasted cauliflower and cumin dip is a variation on the easy roasted cauliflower I posted a few months ago. Although it has a few more steps, it is almost as easy as Michael Ruhlman's wonderful recipe.  It would be an excellent appetizer for an Indian-style meal, perhaps with dal, curry, rice and assorted condiments.  The dip tastes best chilled, so it’s a great advance preparation dish.  Serve it with pappadums (delicate Indian crackers made with lentil or chickpea flour), plain wheat flour crackers such as water biscuits, or cut-up vegetables. The recipe is vegetarian, and if you substitute oil for butter, it is also vegan and pareve.  

roasted cauliflower & cumin dip with vegetables

I left the amount of cumin variable in the recipe.  A full teaspoon provides a strong taste that lingers (nicely in my opinion) at the finish.  If you go for a more subtle flavor, roast and crush the whole teaspoon of cumin seed, but when it comes to adding it to the cauliflower, start with a ¼ teaspoon and taste after it is incorporated.  Keep in mind that the flavor will seem more intense once the dip cools, so you might want to add ¼ - ½ teaspoon while it is warm, then wait until it cools before deciding whether to add more. 

Roasted Cauliflower and Cumin Dip 

Servings - 1½ cups/serves 6   Total Cost - Approximately $3.00/$.50 per serving


ingredients for roasted cauliflower and cumin dip
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 small onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 ½ tablespoons canola or other oil with high smoke point + more if you omit butter
  • 3-6 tablespoons butter (optional – can substitute oil)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, roasted and crushed
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1-2 pinches or more of red (cayenne) pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 tablespoon)


equipment for roasted cauliflower and cumin dip
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Measuring spoons 
  • Small bowl
  • Large oven-proof pan, preferably a heavy one such as a cast iron pan. 
  • Small pan
  • Spoon
  • Mortar and pestle or spice grinder
  • Food processor
  • Spatula
  • Covered container 


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Peel onions and cut them into quarters.  Cut the cauliflower stem as close to its base as possible, and remove any outer leaves.
  • Put the cauliflower and onion in the large pan (not one with a plastic or wood handle!)
cauliflower-cumin dip - before roasting.jpg

Rub 1 tablespoon of oil on the cauliflower and drizzle another ½ tablespoon on the onions. 

  • Slide the pan into the oven and roast for 45 minutes.  
cauliflower-cumin dip - roasted.jpg
  • Remove the onions from the pan (put them in a small bowl and set aside),
cauliflower-cumin dip - roasted onions.jpg

baste the cauliflower with a few tablespoons more oil or butter and sprinkle with 1-2 good-sized pinches of kosher salt.  The original roasted cauliflower recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of butter, but I tried using ½ that amount and found it was plenty for my taste. 

  • Roast the cauliflower for another 30-45 minutes, until it breaks easily.  Break into pieces with a knife or large spoon.  Set aside to cool. 
  • While the cauliflower is roasting (or while cooling), roast 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds for about 10 minutes in a small, dry pan (no oil or butter)
cumin seeds- before roasting.jpg

until they darken and some pop.  Stir the seeds frequently as they roast.  

cumin seeds - after roasting.jpg
  • Grind the cumin seeds to a powder in a mortar and pestle or with a coffee bean grinder.
cumin seeds - grinding in mortar  pestle.jpg
  • Put the cauliflower, onion, lemon juice, cayenne, 1-2 pinches of freshly ground pepper, and roasted/crushed cumin seed (see note above regarding amount) into the food processor.
cauliflower-cumin dip - in processor.jpg

Process the mixture in several pulses until it is a thick, smooth consistency.  Use the spatula to pull any stray bits off the sides of the processor in between pulses.  

  • Chill the covered mixture for at least several hours - overnight is fine.  Before serving, taste and if necessary add salt, pepper, cayenne, and/or roasted and crushed cumin to taste.
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