Never Throw Away Cauliflower Leaves And Stems. Here's What To Do Instead

If you've been tossing your cauliflower leaves and stems in the garbage because you don't know what to do with them, you're missing a trick. It's time to give these overlooked fellas a little attention. 

While the florets of cauliflower are most commonly used in recipes, every part of this brassica is edible, including the leaves and stems. The fibrous texture of the core is perhaps one of the reasons why it doesn't traditionally feature in many cauliflower recipes but this tough part is 100% safe to eat with the right prep. After removing the florets from the central trunk of the cauliflower, simply chop up the chunkier leaves and slice up the stem into discs or matchsticks before washing them.

With a little time adjustment to account for the denser texture of the stems and core, you can add all the parts of a cauliflower to many of your favorite recipes with ease. All you need to do is cook the chunks a little longer when making spiced aloo gobi or cauliflower gratin so they can soften to your liking. You can also boil the stems and leaves with the florets before blending them with cheese and seasonings to make a creamy and delicious cauliflower cheddar soup. However, you might prefer to use their inherently crunchy texture to your advantage by slicing them thinly and tossing them into a stir fry, much like other cruciferous vegetables with fibrous stalks, such as pak choi.

Deep fry your battered cauliflower stems

If you've got some batter left over from making crispy fried onion rings or veggie tempura, try using it as a coating for thicker cauliflower stems to make crispy deep-fried cauli bites. The crunchy exterior, paired with the tender flesh of the stem creates an appetizing texture, and you can sprinkle over seasonings, like black salt, tajin, chaat masala, or smoked paprika to add more savory flavor. 

The stems are also delicious when prepared simply — coat them in a slick of oil and aromatic seasonings before baking them to create tasty little nuggets of sheet pan-style veggies that you can serve as a snack alongside a creamy dip. These moreish bites also make rustic-style garnishes for red Thai curry, chicken masala, and more.

If all these ideas sound like too much work, you can simply pop the leaves and stems into a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. Keep adding more veggie scraps to the bag and you'll soon have enough to make a complex veggie stock with nutty notes of cauliflower. Don't want to cook at all? Dress the tenderest leaves of your cauliflower with a vinaigrette and strew them over a side salad so nothing goes to waste.