Why It Works
- Gently cooking the onion and garlic in butter until tender but not browned enhances their sweetness while preserving their clean flavor and color.
- Your choice of liquid means you can go sweet and full-bodied with heavy cream, or more savory and rich with chicken stock (or use a combination of the two).
This article is about how to make the most flavorful, smooth, and creamy cauliflower purée. But I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I could write almost the exact same article and make it about cauliflower soup. That's because there's really no difference between the two. A good cauliflower purée is almost exactly the same as a good smooth and creamy cauliflower soup, except less wet. And, if you're a regular reader of this site, then you know that making puréed vegetable soups is a technique we've described multiple times.
The short version: Prepare your main ingredients (cauliflower, in this case); choose your aromatics; sweat the aromatics; add any secondary aromatics, like spices or pastes; simmer in a liquid; and purée. The particulars of those steps are how you end up with different results.
By following the basic technique, I developed two different recipes for cauliflower purée. The first is this clean-and-simple version that I made by simmering and then puréeing cauliflower and aromatics in a liquid. It delivers a pure cauliflower flavor with a satiny texture, the perfect choice when you want a flavorful purée that's still restrained enough to let the other parts of your dinner do the talking—say, a beautiful roast chicken with a crackling brown skin and savory jus.
For the other, I roasted the cauliflower first, bringing out deep, nutty flavors, then simmered it in liquid with aromatics before puréeing it all together.
Whether you're making a puréed vegetable soup or a vegetable purée, here are the steps you'll need to take, along with explanations of what I chose to do for this cauliflower purée recipe. (Technically, there are a couple more steps, like seasoning and garnishing. But since the former is pretty obvious, and the latter applies more to soup that's served on its own and not alongside other components of a dinner, I'm leaving them out here.)
Step 1: Prepare Your Main Ingredient
For this cleaner, simpler purée, I just cut the cauliflower into florets and left them like that.
Step 2: Choose Your Aromatics
I used yellow onion and garlic, which both help create a depth of flavor without adding any very obvious flavors of their own. I left carrots out, since I didn't want their color and sweetness, and I also refrained from adding celery, which has a very particular flavor that can cut through in simple preparations like this.
Step 3: Sweat Your Aromatics
I sweated the onion and garlic in butter just until they were softened and starting to turn translucent. This yields a cleaner flavor that works well with the plain cauliflower.
Step 4: Add Second-Level Aromatics, Like Spices and Pastes
I kept things simple here, adding one sprig of thyme to the pot, just for some herbal notes. But this is where you could be creative and add other spices or pastes, like curry or harissa.
Step 5: Add Your Liquid
You can really go any of a number of ways here. I tried both cream and chicken stock, and all versions work. My own personal preference was for heavy cream, but a combination of stock and cream, though, was also delicious.
Still, in a pinch (or to make this vegan, in which case you'd need to also ditch the butter and use oil in its place), you could use vegetable stock or even water. You'll still get great results; maybe slightly less rich and complex, but not worse by any measure.
Step 6: Cook and Purée
To make puréeing easy, the cauliflower has to be simmered in the liquid long enough to be extremely tender. You also need to pay attention to the liquid level: Since you're making a purée and not soup, you don't want it to be as wet.
Add extra liquid to cover the cauliflower, but then cook it down enough that it won't be too thin after puréeing. It's hard to be precise about this, but the good news is it can always be adjusted later. I'd generally recommend erring on the side of too dry, since thinning is as easy as adding more liquid afterward, but even if it comes out too wet, you can always simmer it down further. I like to use a wide nonstick skillet for this, since the increased surface area will speed reduction and the nonstick surface is easier to clean of dried-on purée later.
As for puréeing it, you can either use a traditional blender or an immersion blender right in the pot. As long as the cauliflower is cooked to the point of being extremely soft, you'll get an incredibly smooth, silky purée.
And that's all there is to it. Now take this soup-based roadmap and make it yours.
Click Play to Learn How to Make Smooth and Silky Cauliflower Purée
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
1 large (8-ounce; 225g) yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 (2-pound; 925g) head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
2 cups (475ml) heavy cream or homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock (or a combination of the two; see notes)
1 sprig thyme
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes; lower heat as necessary to prevent browning.
Add cauliflower, cream and/or stock, and thyme. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook, adjusting heat to maintain simmer, until cauliflower is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by about three-quarters, about 20 minutes. Discard thyme sprig.
Using a blender or immersion blender, blend cauliflower and liquid to form a very smooth purée. Season with salt. (You can adjust purée consistency as needed: Thicken by cooking down further while stirring often over low heat in a wide nonstick skillet, or thin by whisking in liquid, such as stock, cream, or water.) Serve warm.
Cream makes the most luxurious purée, while chicken stock adds a rich depth of flavor. You can use either or combine the two to get the best of both worlds. To make this vegan, you can also use water or vegetable stock, and use oil instead of butter.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 20g||26%|
|Saturated Fat 12g||62%|
|Total Carbohydrate 8g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 43mg||215%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|