Cauliflower Shawarma Pitas

There are a few vegan friendly recipes that I continue to make almost weekly, despite my new-found carnivorous ways. This is a favorite of my husband’s and he specifically asks for it when I’m making our weekly dinner menu. It’s savory shawarma seasoned, roasted cauliflower with a tahini sauce, caramelized onion, and dill pickles wrapped in a warm pita. I enjoy this on it’s own or pair it with a nice wild-caught salmon fillet.

Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is!

Alright, enough preamble. Here are the recipe’s components:

  • Shawarma seasoning
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Tahini

The tahini can be made ahead, but if you have time to make it in the same pan as the onions it is *chef’s kiss*.


Servings: 3-4 pitas
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: if you can multitask well, 20 minutes, otherwise 45 minutes

Shawarma seasoning

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika (it needs to be smoked)
  • 2 Tbs ground cumin
  • up to 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (I usually omit this…because kids)

Roasted Cauliflower

  • Medium head of cauliflower
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil
  • ~1 Tbs shawarma seasoning, adjust for how much cauliflower you have


  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbs olive oil (i’ve tried avocado and it doesn’t work as well)
  • salt to taste


  • 1/4 cup good quality, unflavored tahini (I like Sprout’s brand)
  • 1 Tbs evoo
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground paprika (smoked or regular depending on what you’re feeling)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 3/4 tsp dried parsley or 2 Tbs fresh minced parsley
  • up to 1/2 cup warm water

For serving

  • Pita bread
  • Good quality, artificial color-free, corn syrup free, dill pickles (I like Nathan’s sandwich slices, but they’re $$$ and I only find them at AJ’s)

What to do with all that:

Make the shawarma seasoning ahead by combining all ingredients in a jar and shaking or whisking to mix. It holds in the pantry for months so you won’t need to make it every time.

If you aren’t good at multitasking, these instructions might make you nervous. Pre-chop and measure everything first, or just make the tahini separately.

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone mat. Pull out a big, heavy bottomed frying pan for the onions. Make sure you have all of your ingredients handy.
  2. Chop your cauliflower into small florets. Put in a big bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle your seasoning. Use less seasoning, mix well, and then add more if needed. You don’t want to eat a mouthful of dry powder in your pita. Spread on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Heat your pan over medium heat and add the oil. Slice the onion in half through the root, lay the halves down and cut the top off. Peel off the skin and throw away. Then slice as thinly as possible from top to root. Add the slices to the heated oil and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and caramelized. (I have a very large frying pan that can do a whole onion at once, but if you don’t just do half of the onions at a time.)
  4. While those are cooking, juice your lemon, mince your garlic, measure your tahini, and pop your water into the microwave for 30 seconds.
  5. When the onions are done, transfer them to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt. They will get nice and crispy as they sit.
  6. When your 10 minute cauliflower timer beeps, turn on your broiler and let your florets roast for 5 minutes, then stir and bake for 3-5 more minutes depending on your preferred doneness. You can wait for the cauliflower to be done or you can start making the tahini.
  7. Using the same pan as the onions, add some oil and heat over medium-low heat. When hot, add garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until garlic is golden brown and fragrant. Switch off heat and move pan to a cold burner. Add paprika and parsley and stir until combined with the oil. Add the lemon juice and stir. Quickly add tahini and stir well. It will seize up and get weird, but we will fix that soon. Transfer to a small bowl (I like to use my 2-cup Pyrex measuring glass). Add your warm water 1-2 Tbs at a time and thoroughly whisk. Your sauce will get thicker before it thins out. Keep adding the water a little at a time and whisking until you reach the desired consistency. I keep it thick, yet easily pourable.
  8. Now let’s put it all together. Warm your pitas by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and microwaving for 30 seconds. Lay the pita flat and add your pickles, roasted cauliflower, crispy onions, then drizzle with tahini. You can wrap it up in some foil or parchment paper.
  9. Dig in!