Membrane-sculpting proteins shape the morphology of cell membranes and facilitate remodeling in response to physiological and environmental cues. Complexes of the monotopic membrane protein caveolin function as essential curvature-generating components of caveolae, flask-shaped invaginations that sense and respond to plasma membrane tension. However, the structural basis for caveolin’s membrane remodeling activity is currently unknown. Here, we show that, using cryo–electron microscopy, the human caveolin-1 complex is composed of 11 protomers organized into a tightly packed disc with a flat membrane-embedded surface. The structural insights suggest a previously unrecognized mechanism for how membrane-sculpting proteins interact with membranes and reveal how key regions of caveolin-1, including its scaffolding, oligomerization, and intramembrane domains, contribute to its function.