Humza Yousaf: I’m ‘not not wedded to de facto referendum idea’
He also said he would set out a timetable for the Scottish Government's remaining independence prospectus papers.
Mr Yousaf met supporters at the V&A Waterfront in Dundee on Saturday as the SNP leadership contest continues.
If he becomes leader, he said the party will have a series of regional assemblies so "honest and frank discussions with members" can be held.
These would inform the SNP's annual conference in the autumn.
Mr Yousaf told the PA news agency: "I think all options that are within a legal framework should actually be on the table.
"I've made my views clear: I'm not wedded to the de facto referendum idea.
"I think there's advantages but certainly disadvantages to that option. I'm not going to hinder the regional assemblies. I'm not going to hinder our members. I want them to have an honest, upfront, engaging discussion."
He continued: "The next step is we get off the process and talk about policy, that we get out there, restart the Yes campaign, knock doors, pound the pavements and speak to people and make sure there's a sustained majority for independence.
"That's the next step. We don't want to be stuck in a quagmire of process."
Mr Yousaf said he would be "happy" to set out a timetable for the remaining prospectus papers on independence if he becomes First Minister, saying they have not been delayed by the leadership contest.
They include a fiscal assessment for the economic prospects of an independent Scotland, Mr Yousaf said.
He said: "That's one of the papers that's in the ether; there's another few that are ready to go.
"I'll make sure that if I'm elected as First Minister of Scotland, those papers make their way to the public domain sooner rather than later."
Asked about former minister Alex Neil's comments, Mr Yousaf said he will run a "relentlessly positive" campaign.
Mr Neil questioned if the current Health Secretary has the "backbone" for the top job and said he deliberately avoided a vote on equal marriage in 2014 due to pressure from his mosque.
Mr Yousaf has denied this and said he could not attend the stage-three vote because of an "unavoidable meeting" regarding a Scot who was on death row in Pakistan.
He said: "My views have never changed. I've always been in support of equal marriage."
Nominations in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon closed on Friday, with the vote taking place until March 27.
As well as Mr Yousaf, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former minister Ash Regan are in the running.