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In a pickle: How to cook cauliflower without the smell

Mmm cauliflower. Love the veggie but can’t stand the smell of it cooking? We can’t either. Here’s how to reduce it that stench.


Cauliflower and similar veggies, such as broccoli and cabbage, should be eaten on a regular basis. Cauliflower is packed with B vitamins, vitamin K, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and potassium.

It can help prevent cancer, decrease your risk for obesity and diabetes, aid in digestion and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Not only is it healthy, it’s also delicious… if you can get past the stinky smell it releases when being cooked!

Why does cauliflower smell?

First, raw cauliflower does not have an odor to it, only cooked cauliflower does. The reason? Cauliflower contains sulfur compounds that naturally smell unpleasant and are brought out when cooked. Because of this, you’ll never fully be able to eliminate the smell, but you can minimize it.

Cauliflower cooking tips

The best way to cook cauliflower is by steaming or sautéing it. Steam for 5 minutes (for small florets) to 15 minutes (for a whole head). If you choose to sauté, add a little olive oil and some seasoning and sauté until crispy, about 5 minutes.

However you choose to cook your cauliflower, never overcook it. Not only does it remove precious nutrients from your meal, overcooking it is what also helps create the unpleasant odor. No one likes stinky, mushy cauliflower!

What to do with overcooked veggies >>

How to reduce the smell

We already mentioned the main way to reduce the smell, by avoiding overcooking the cauliflower. There are a few other tricks that may help, too:

  • Add a few chunks of bread to the water when boiling cauliflower.
  • Keep it white by adding a few tablespoons of lemon juice to it when cooking.
  • Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water — this also helps keep it white.
  • Add a bay leaf or extract, such as vanilla or hazelnut, to the water to mask the smell.
  • Avoid cooking it in an aluminum or iron pan.

If you do wind up with a smelly dinner, rest assured that it won’t taste the way it smells. Open the windows, light a few candles and spray some air freshener to help mask the smell.

Our best cauliflower recipes

Creamy cauliflower Alfredo sauce

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Photo credit: MIXA/Getty Images

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