Cauliflower Salad à la Café Pinson Recipe

Café Pinson is one of Paris’ most delicious lunch spots for vegetable lovers. Co-founded by Agathe Audouze and driven by her interest in naturopathy and personal history with food intolerances, it focuses on fresh, seasonal, and healthful foods, with no dairy ingredients and (mostly) no gluten, whole grains and unrefined sweeteners, and low-temperature cooking to preserve nutrients.

It doesn’t hurt that the interior design was created by Dorothée Meilichzon, who excels at putting together inviting and cozy spaces, with mismatched vintage-style furniture and whimsical details that seem right out of a Pinterest board.

So hungry are Parisians for that kind of food that it took about a week for the crowds to descend upon Café Pinson.

So hungry are Parisians for that kind of food in a non-granola environment that it took about a week for the crowds to descend upon the original location in the upper Marais. This success led to the opening of a second Café Pinson, this one in the super hot Faubourg Poissonnière neighborhood, where a new exciting spot sprout up every minute and a half.

I was recently invited to have lunch there with Agathe Audouze herself to sample some of the menu offerings, and among them I was particularly taken with the romanesco salad. I’m sure you’ve seen that fractal cabbage, light-green to yellow in hue, and handled in cooking much like cauliflower. Here, it was served cold, dressed in a vegan mayonnaise that was tahini-based, as Agathe explained, and topped with a happy sprinkle of brown flax seeds.

Mini Cookbook of Vegan Staples

It was tangy and rich, a most appealing way of eating Brassicaceae. I noted the idea in my head and promptly reproduced it, not with romanesco but with cauliflower, which I had on hand. It was just as lovely in a home context as at the café, and I am adding it to my cauliflower repertoire, along with my other love-it-to-death favorite, the Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste.

Join the conversation!

Do you make cauliflower salads? What’s your favorite way of dressing them? And have you ever tried romanesco?

Café Pinson
6 rue du forez, Paris 3ème // +33 (0)9 83 82 53 53 // map
58 rue du faubourg poissonnière, Paris 10ème // +33 (0)1 45 23 59 42 // map

The original romanesco salad at Café Pinson.

The original romanesco salad at Café Pinson.

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Cauliflower Salad à la Café Pinson Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Serves 4.

Cauliflower Salad à la Café Pinson Recipe


  • 680 g (1 1/2 pounds) cauliflower or romanesco florets from one large or two small heads, separated into bite-size florets (about 8 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons brown flax seeds
  • For the vegan sesame mayonnaise:
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil


  1. Steam the cauliflower florets for 10 minutes, until just tender: you don't want them crunchy, but not mushy either. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Grind the flax seeds coarsely: you don't want them reduced to a powder, but you want to break the outer lining so they're digestible.
  3. Brown Flax Seed
  4. Prepare the vegan sesame mayonnaise: in a salad bowl, whisk together the tahini, salt, lemon juice, cumin, and 1 tablespoon water. Pour in the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking all the while, to get a creamy, emulsified "mayonnaise".
  5. Vegan Sesame Mayonnaise
  6. Fold the cauliflower into the dressing. Serve immediately, with a sprinkle of flax seeds, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cauliflower Salad à la Café Pinson

  • Franglais Kitchen

    I love the dressing, what wonderful flavours. I quite like roasting cauliflower too sometimes. Cumin works so nicely with cauliflower too.

    • I am also a die-hard fan of cauliflower roasted to the point of being charred. :) This is a good alternative!

  • Annabel Smyth

    I got terribly put off cauliflower in salads when I was at school, and raw cauliflower was an indispensable part of Sunday night winter supper salads. I have never liked it raw, and cannot digest it when only part-cooked (I know it is much better for one like that, but my digestive system disagrees). So I tend to limit it to a gratin dish (often with sweetcorn in the cheese sauce, a hard-boiled egg hidden among the florets, and a mashed potato topping with sliced tomatoes and grated cheese on the very top – lush!). d

    I do, however, adore tahini dressing and use it in lots of different dishes, both hot and cold. I, personally, would prefer your salad hot, including the dressing… I think it would be gorgeous!

    • I don’t mind raw cauliflower myself, but have a strong dislike for raw broccoli. I just don’t see the point when it tastes so good cooked! And indeed, this would work well served warm, too — do report back if you try it!

  • may i ask what tool you use to grind your flax seeds? i don’t use them as much as i want to because of the grinding…thinking about buying a little coffee grinder… i’m trying the mayonnaise asap!

    • Thanks for asking Jana, that’s a good question! A few years ago I purchased a small electric coffee grinder that I reserve for grinding spices. A good alternative would also be one of those hand-cranked ceramic coffee mills.

  • rachelsloan79

    I am a big fan of cauliflower salads (and you’ve gotten me addicted to the Mary Celeste version!) but I prefer to roast rather than steam my cauliflower – I wonder how this particular salad would taste with roast cauliflower?

    Thanks as well for introducing me to Café Pinson – sounds right up my street and perfect for my upcoming trip to Paris!

    • I’m sure you’ll love Café Pinson !

      I think this would work well with roasted cauliflower, too, though then you would need to use half the dressing (or double the cauliflower) since roasted cauliflower reduces so much in volume when roasted.

  • Stella_L

    this mayonnaise is such a discovery! we had some tahini left from making hummus and I thought to experiment a little and make it as a dressing for tuna and egg salad, with pickled zucchini, radicchio, endive and croutons..we just loved it! thanks for the recipe!

    • I’m so pleased to hear that, Stella, and thank you for the salad suggestion, it sounds excellent.

  • sillygirl

    I tried this last night – roasted the cauliflower with olive oil in my iron skillet – just until tender so it didn’t shrink so much. It was marvelous! Love the sauce and will try it with other things. Think I might toss the rest of the vegetable and sauce with pasta.

    • That’s so good to hear, thanks for reporting back! Let us know how the pasta turns out, too, that sounds like an excellent idea.

  • sillygirl

    Mixed the cauliflower and sauce with pasta plus I chopped up a good amount of fresh cilantro to mix in – my husband raved about it. Very versatile! Let’s see – what else can I do with it?

    • Thanks for letting us know how it turned out! Did you mix as in “toss together,” or did you purée the cauliflower and sauce to blend with the pasta?

      • sillygirl

        I just tossed it all together – I had used pasta shaped like tennis racquets so it was fun to eat. You got different tastes with each bite.

  • Pille Petersoo

    I had wonderful cauliflower with tahini in Jaffa (Tel Aviv) two years ago, and this dish was just as excellent. Thank you, Clotilde! I’ve now made it on countless occasions and modified it a little (sprinkle with sesame seeds and hulled hemp seeds). Definitely a keeper!

    • That is so good to hear, Pille, thank you! I hope to make it to Jaffa some day, and will try their cauliflower for sure.

  • Stacy Mann

    Hi, my Cauliflower is almost ready to pick in the garden. I think I will use the one and only for this salad. Sounds great!

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