Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (218 C) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have a cooling rack that is oven safe, you can place that over the parchment paper to help the cauliflower crisp up even more. However, we tested it with and without and both work. The primary difference is that the cauliflower undersides can get a little more browned when not using a cooling rack. An easy workaround is cooking the cauliflower in the upper third of the oven to prevent the bottoms from burning.
TO CUT "STEAKS," trim the stem and leaves off the cauliflower, being careful not to remove the center of the stem as it’s what holds the “steaks” together.
Flip the cauliflower stem-side down and visually map out how many “steaks” you hope to get. With a large head of cauliflower, I aim for 3 large “steaks,” and know there'll be enough remaining pieces to constitute another “steak.” It can be helpful to look at the underside of the cauliflower to see which way the stalks are running to inform which way you’ll slice (cut with the stalks instead of against them). But it’s very common for the end pieces to crumble, so just do your best to get 3 even “steaks” and slice any remaining bits into flat pieces (see photo). The little pieces are just as (if not more) delicious.
Add 1 inch water and a steamer basket to a large pot and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Once simmering, add cauliflower “steaks,” cover, and steam for 4-5 minutes to partially cook. This will soften the “steaks” to speed baking time and ensure the inside is tender when the exterior is crispy and brown. Once slightly softened, remove and set aside on a separate dish.
In the meantime, prepare your vegan buttermilk by adding cashew or almond milk to a shallow dish (shallow and wide enough to dip the cauliflower in) and add lemon juice. Stir and set aside.
Next, prepare the cashew coating by adding cashews, salt, cayenne pepper (optional), garlic powder, curry powder, paprika, and arrowroot starch or cornstarch to a food processor. Mix until a semi-fine meal is achieved. A little texture is okay, but you want it pretty fine so it can coat the cauliflower. Transfer coating to a shallow dish (again, shallow and wide enough to dip the cauliflower in) and set aside.
Dip the slightly steamed cauliflower “steaks” in the almond buttermilk, ensuring both sides are adequately coated. Then set back on platter (where excess will drip off) and season both sides with a pinch of salt.
Next, dredge the cauliflower in the cashew coating until thoroughly coated, using a spoon or your hands to add more coating to any bare spots. Then transfer cauliflower “steaks” to your prepared baking sheet (with or without a cooling rack). Lastly, drizzle with a little avocado oil to help them crisp up (optional, but recommended).
Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the cauliflower “steak” is easily pierced with a knife and the exterior appears golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven to cool slightly.
Enjoy as is or (our preferred method!) garnish serving plates with a few tablespoons of your favorite hummus (or similar sauce) and top with cauliflower “steak” and date relish (made by simply mixing chopped dates, lemon juice, and diced onion). Garnish with freshly chopped mint for a pop of color and flavor.
Best when fresh. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 3-4 days. Reheat in a 350 degree F (176 C) oven until hot for best results. Not freezer friendly.