Matzah meal-crusted cauliflower schnitzel is the perfect meatless main dish for Passover. (Photo/Micah Silva)
Matzah meal-crusted cauliflower schnitzel is the perfect meatless main dish for Passover. (Photo/Micah Silva)

This crispy cauliflower schnitzel will take your seder beyond the brisket

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Preparing for a Passover seder can be stressful, especially if you are hosting guests with different dietary preferences.

For a holiday that has animal products in almost every course,  from chicken soup to the shank bone, you may be wondering how to adapt your traditional menu to account for a plant-based diet — or simply a taste of something new.

Don’t worry. I’m not suggesting you completely change your family’s traditional menu. Instead, serve dishes that will be crowd-pleasers, no matter the dietary preferences. I strive to find a balance between tradition and today’s food landscape.

Often, our side dishes are already vegetarian (such as tsimmes or farfel kugel), but when it comes to mains, brisket typically takes center stage.

No, a meat-free main course wasn’t on the menu Bubbe served, but it is perfectly suited for a modern-day seder.

So I dare you: Leave the brisket for Elijah, and fry up a decadent, crispy, meatless schnitzel made with cauliflower. Skeptical? Don’t be! If cauliflower can become anything from pizza crust to buffalo wings, it can become a new holiday favorite — one that will satisfy carnivores and plant-eaters alike.

This recipe is satisfying, hearty and tradition-inspired, and it runs roughshod over the preconceived notion that a meat-free seder must also be taste-free.

Schnitzel, while not a seder staple, is a comforting dish that was passed on from my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my mother. For me, it carries memories of family dinners and holiday meals.

But let’s forget about the chicken and the veal cutlets breaded in corn flakes (my grandmother’s specialty) and instead take the ever-versatile cauliflower and bread it with matzah meal (plus a blend of herbs and spices). Then we’ll fry it in a decadent mixture of oil and butter (or margarine).

In this instance, the secret to juicy schnitzel is to prebake the cauliflower, which helps it cook all the way through without burning your matzah meal coating. The result is a tender, textured cauliflower with a crispy and crunchy crust. (While I love using matzah meal, this recipe can be enjoyed with breadcrumbs or even panko the rest of the year.)

If you are looking for something different, try adding 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds to the matzah meal mixture. Picky eaters at the table? Try cutting your cauliflower into florets and serve them as nuggets.

If you’re following in my grandmother’s tradition, serve with potatoes (baked, fried, mashed or boiled) — or team it up with farfel kugel or tsimmes for an Old Country meal with a 21st-century twist. Double or triple the recipe for your seder meal if you expect a big group. If florets break off your cauliflower slabs, bread and fry them for an equally delicious treat.

Cauliflower Schnitzel

Serves 4

  • 2 small heads cauliflower
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 2 cups matzah meal
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt, plus extra
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter or margarine
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a tray with baking paper. Line a cooling rack with a paper towel, set aside. Cut cauliflower into 1-inch “steaks,” keeping the core intact. Place on baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until just tender.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a shallow bowl, and in a separate bowl combine matzah meal, garlic powder, paprika, sea salt and pepper.

Dip the cauliflower in the eggs, and coat with the matzah meal mixture. Repeat with all the cauliflower pieces.

Heat olive oil and butter/margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add cauliflower, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until golden and a fork can pierce the cauliflower easily. Transfer to the lined cooling rack, and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

Micah Siva is a new J. recipe columnist. You can also find her recipes in bite-size videos on our Instagram:

Micah Siva
Micah Siva

Micah Siva is a registered dietitian and trained chef in San Francisco. She develops modern Jewish recipes inspired by her grandmother, with a plant-forward twist. See her recipes and photography at Nosh with Micah.