This crisp, sweet-hot pickled cauliflower gets its vibrant color and spicy flavors from a blend of turmeric, ginger, garlic, and chile peppers.
It's the easiest pickling recipe ever because there's NO canning required. The magic happens while the cauliflower and spices sit in the brine in the refrigerator.
This pickled cauliflower recipe is a perfect appetizer, accompaniment to your charcuterie board, or a side for your sandwich plate. It's every bit as delicious as my refrigerator pickled zucchini and pickled Hatch chiles with sweet onions.
Why This Recipe Works
This pickled cauliflower recipe was inspired by an appetizer I enjoyed a few years ago at a restaurant in Kauai. I loved their version so much that I had to ask about the ingredients so I could recreate it when I got home.
It's perfect to have on hand for an easy summer appetizer. I also often make it for the holidays or when I have family visiting, and it's always a hit!
And by the way, this recipe is super healthy. Cauliflower is packed with cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates. They're the same beneficial compounds found in Brussels sprouts, and radishes.
And turmeric and ginger are full of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. They're each great on their own, but research shows they're even more powerful together.
You only need a handful of ingredients for this recipe — another reason I love it so much. I recently updated the recipe to scale back the amount it makes. I also reduced the sugar a bit.
It doubles or triples easily, so make a little for yourself or a lot if you're serving guests. It keeps for a good 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
See my recipe card for the complete list of ingredients with measurements.
Cauliflower: I usually buy regular, white cauliflower, but sometimes I'll find yellow cauliflower at the store. It's fun to add because it turns a slightly more orangy color from the turmeric. I haven't tried purple cauliflower because I worry it would turn greenish. If you try it, let me know!
Ginger and turmeric: Buy whole-root ginger and turmeric for the best flavor. You can eat them along with the cauliflower. If you can't find turmeric at the grocery store, try an Asian market.
Thai chiles: I like these for their bright color (they're hard to miss, so you won't accidentally bite into one). They have a nice combination of heat and sweetness. Again, another ingredient that you can always find in an Asian market.
Vinegar: I use plain white vinegar in this recipe because it has a clean flavor.
Salt: For pickling, you should always use pickling, Kosher, or sea salt. Iodized salt tends to have an off-flavor.
Recipe Variations and Substitutions
If you can't find Thai chile peppers, you can substitute serrano peppers or ½ teaspoon (or more to taste) of red pepper flakes.
Sugar alternatives. I use plain sugar, but if you want a no-sugar sweetener, a few people have told me that Swerve or Lakanto (monkfruit/erythritol) works for refrigerator pickling. Just be aware that real sugar helps to maintain the cauliflower's crunch. It might not be as crisp with a non-nutritive sweetener.
Other vinegars. Try apple cider vinegar if you want a fruitier flavor.
Other vegetables: Feel free to add other firm vegetables like carrot sticks, parsnips, green beans, or jicama to your brine, along with the cauliflower.
How to Make Pickled Cauliflower
First, prepare your vegetables. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets (all about the same size so they pickle evenly). Peel and slice your ginger and turmeric into thin match stick pieces. Cut the tops off the chiles, or remove the seeds and membrane from the chiles and cut them into thin strips.
Next, prepare your brine. Combine the vinegar, water, garlic cloves, salt, and sugar in a large saucepan or Dutch oven (if you're doubling or tripling this recipe). Bring it to a boil, and then turn off the heat.
Finally, add your vegetables to the hot brine and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large glass bowl with a lid, or a gallon mason jar. Top with the brine and make sure everything is submerged.
Refrigerate the bowl or jar. You can eat these after about 24 hours, but they taste even better the longer they sit in the brine.
I recommend cutting the cauliflower into about 1 ½ to 2-inch florets. If the florets are too large, they might be too hard and raw tasting. But if they're very small, they'll cook in the brine and be mushy. You don't want to cook your cauliflower. The hot brine will slightly soften the florets, making them easy to eat but still nice and crisp.
Be careful when peeling and cutting the whole turmeric because it stains! It looks quite innocent, but it can stain your sink, counters, and cutting board. To minimize staining, use a sheet of parchment paper on your cutting board, and if you don't want to scrub your hands, use gloves. The yellow stains will come off with a little scrubbing.
I like to cut my turmeric and ginger into thin, matchstick pieces, making them easier to serve and eat. But you can also mince them if you prefer. The Thai chiles are a bit spicy, so I keep them whole (just cut the stems off). You can easily identify and avoid them if you don't want to bite into one. If you like the heat, though, mince them up.
What to With Eat Pickled Cauliflower
This pickled cauliflower is also yummy with sandwiches. Make a bunch of antipasto picnic sandwiches for your tailgate party or a summer picnic, and serve a bowl of this cauliflower as a side dish. Or chop it and add it to the sandwich mix.
You don't have to boil your cauliflower unless your florets are very large. If you have small pieces of cauliflower, they will soften in the hot brine.
This recipe lasts for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Natural compounds in the turmeric and ginger will turn the brine yellowish and the cauliflower will absorb them. One of those compounds is curcumin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant in turmeric. It's healthy for you!
Other Refrigerator-Pickled Recipes
If you like this recipe, try these other easy and popular refrigerator-pickled recipes.
Pickled Cauliflower with Turmeric & Ginger
- 4 cups of cauliflower florets from 1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower
- 3 2-inch pieces of ginger root
- 4 2-inch pieces of turmeric root
- 4 thai chilis (or more if you like more heat) or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 cups water
- 3 large garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- 1 tablespoon pickling or Kosher salt
- ⅔ cup sugar
- Trim the cauliflower into bite-sized florets (about 1 ½ inches), and discard the tough stems.
- Peel the ginger and turmeric with a vegetable peeler, and slice them into thin, matchstick pieces.
- Trim the stems off the chiles and slice them in half lengthwise. Leave the seeds and membranes in if you like more heat. Alternatively, cut the chiles into thin strips.
- Place the vinegar, water, garlic, salt, and sugar in a large saucepan. Stir well so the salt and sugar are combined, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the brine cool for about 10 minutes.
- Place the ginger, turmeric, chilis, and cauliflower into the hot brine. Stir it and let it sit for 10 minutes or until you can insert a sharp knife into the cauliflower, but it's still firm.
- Using a ladle or slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a glass bowl with a lid, or a gallon jar with a lid. Pour enough hot brine over the vegetables to submerge everything. Discard any extra brine.
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. The vegetables should be ready to eat within 24-48 hours, but they taste better the longer they sit in the brine.
How do you like to eat cauliflower?