How to Grill Cauliflower for the Perfect Taste

Looking for new, delicious ways to cook your veggies at home? Grilling cauliflower brings out its natural sweetness and lets you achieve a delightful exterior char while retaining its nutritional value.

Grilled cauliflower can be enjoyed as a main dish, side dish, salad, vegetable platter, or even a sandwich. This article will detail how to grill cauliflower and show you how fun it can be to think outside your culinary box.

Whole grilled cauliflower on a plate with sauce

First Things First: Prepare the Cauliflower for Grilling

Before firing up the grill and immersing yourself in some intense grilling action, you need to follow a few important steps to prepare the cauliflower. Below is a step-by-step guide for preparing cauliflower for grilling:

  1. Select fresh cauliflower. Look for a head that is firm, compact, and vibrant looking. It should not have brown, black, or soft spots. Also, ensure that the florets are firmly packed.
  2. Trim the leaves. Remove the outer leaves from the head. They easily come off by hand.
  3. Trim the stem. Chop off woody and tough parts of the stem. Leave a portion of the stem intact to keep the florets together.
  4. Clean it. You may clean it under running water or soak it in a bowl filled with water for a few minutes. Either way, gently scrub the cauliflower with your hands to remove any stuck dirt or debris. Then, rinse under running water.
  5. Dry it. Place the veggie head down with the stem facing upwards. Let excess water drip off the florets. Then pat the head dry with a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel.
  6. Cut the cauliflower. You may cut the head into steaks or separate the florets.
  7. Oil it. Olive oil enhances its taste, prevents it from sticking onto the grill grate, and provides a base coat for the seasonings.
  8. Marinade or season. Marinades and seasonings enhance the flavor and texture. Different seasoning combinations create different flavor profiles. Therefore, go with your preferred seasonings or try different ones to find your preferred flavor profile.

Use your hands or a basting brush to massage the seasonings into the cauliflower for better absorption. Let the seasoned steaks or florets rest at room temperature for 5-15 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse fully.

Then let the cauliflower sit in the marinade for 30 minutes up to a few hours in the refrigerator.

Here are some marinade options to try for your next recipe:

  • Lemon herb marinade: Mix ⅓ cup olive oil, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, two cloves of crushed garlic, and your favorite dried herbs to make this tangy marinade.
  • Balsamic vinegar marinade: For this sweet and tart marinade, mix ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, two cloves of crushed garlic, a tablespoon of Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Asian-inspired marinade: Add two tablespoons of rice vinegar, sesame oil, and green onions to ¼ cup of soy sauce, then mix in a tablespoon of minced garlic and minced ginger for an Asian-inspired treat.
  • Garlic parmesan marinade: To make a garlic parm marinade, start with ½ cup of vegetable oil. Then, add a tablespoon each of red and white vinegar, a clove of minced garlic, the juice of one fresh lemon, a teaspoon each of poultry seasoning and Italian seasoning, and ¼ cup of parmesan cheese.

The Best Grilling Techniques for Cauliflower: Direct vs Indirect Grilling

Charcoal grill with an open flame

There are two common techniques for grilling cauliflower: direct or indirect. Each technique affects the texture and flavor differently.

Direct Grilling

With direct grilling, you place the cauliflower directly over the heat source. You may use skewers or a grilling basket for easy handling. Direct grilling is a quick cooking method and results in a slightly charred exterior, a crispy texture, and a smoky flavor. It is best suited for small florets and thin steaks. However, keep an eye on the vegetable to prevent burning or excessive charring.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for how to grill cauliflower directly:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium heat, typically at around 400-450°F.
  2. Once preheated, oil the grates lightly to prevent the prepared cauliflower from sticking onto the grill when using direct heat. Use a basting brush to apply oil to the grill grate. Be cautious of the hot grill and keep a safe distance.
  3. Arrange the fresh slices or pieces on the preheated grills. Leave space between the slices, florets, or steaks to allow even cooking or airflow.
  4. Close the grill lid and let the cauliflower cook for 8-12 minutes, occasionally flipping the pieces to ensure even cooking and browning. Monitor closely, as the exact cooking times vary depending on the size of the cauliflower and the grilling temperature.
  5. Check for doneness. To determine if the cauliflower is well-done, insert a fork into the thickest part. The fork should pierce through easily and should be tender. Also, monitor the charring to achieve your preferred level of browning.
  6. Remove from the grill and serve.

Indirect Grilling

There are different techniques of indirect grilling. One method involves creating two different heat zones on the grill: direct and indirect heat zones. Place the cauliflower in the indirect heat zone. Alternatively, wrap it with aluminum foil and place it directly over the heat source.

Indirect grilling provides more gentle cooking resulting in a tender and moist interior. It takes longer and does not impart charring. It is best suited for larger florets and steaks or grilling the entire cauliflower head.

Here are the steps for grilling cauliflower indirectly.

  1. Preheat the grill and set up the two grilling zones. The exact procedure for setting up two zones depends on the type of grill. If you are using a charcoal grill, arrange the hot charcoal on one side of the grill. The cooler side will serve as the indirect heat zone. If you use a gas grill, preheat one side to high heat and leave the other off or set it to low heat. Refer to your grill’s manufacturer manual for additional or specific instructions on how to set up two zones.
  2. Oil the grill grate on the low-heat or no-heat zone to prevent the cauliflower from sticking.
  3. Arrange the cauliflower on the cooler side of the grill.
  4. Close the grill lid to create an oven-like environment. Closing the lid traps the heat and ensures even cooking.
  5. Let the cauliflower cook for 15-20 minutes, maintaining the grill temperature at 350-400°F. Occasionally flip the cauliflower throughout the cooking process. Monitor closely, as the exact cooking times vary depending on the size of the cauliflower and the grilling temperature.
  6. Baste the cauliflower with marinade or add wood chips for a smoky flavor. This is an optional step for enhancing the flavor. You can also baste the cauliflower with marinade or your preferred sauce during the grilling process. Or, add soaked wood chips or chunks to the charcoal or smoker box.
  7. Check for doneness. To determine if it is well done, insert a fork into the thickest part. The fork should pierce through easily and the cauliflower should be tender.
  8. Remove from the grill and serve.

Creative Cauliflower Accompaniments

Grilled cauliflower steaks on a white plate

Grilled cauliflower steaks on a white plate

Grilled cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that you can transform into a culinary delight when paired with the right accompaniments. Here are some accompaniment ideas that will bring out the best in this humble vegetable.

Sauce and Dips

Whether you want a tangy flavor, herby flavor, or spicy flavor, there are endless sauce and dip options to suit your palate. Here are some recipe ideas for flavorful sauces and dips to serve alongside grilled cauliflower:

  • Chimichurri sauce
  • Lemon garlic yogurt dip
  • Spicy peanut sauce
  • Tahini sauce
  • Smoky chipotle dip

Toppings and Garnishes

Toppings or garnishes enhance the presentation and taste of grilled cauliflower. For example, toasted nuts like almonds and pine nuts or crispy breadcrumbs add an extra layer of texture.

Crumbled feta cheese adds a savory and salty note, lemon juice or zest adds a bright and citrusy flavor, while toasted sesame seeds impart a nutty and smoky flavor. Parmesan cheese is also a good option if you don’t like feta cheese. 

You may add colorful toppings to make the cauliflower more appetizing and visually appealing or stick to some of the more common seasoning options like garlic powder, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

Making the Most of Leftover Grilled Cauliflower

After savoring the flavorful grilled cauliflower, you might wonder what to do with leftovers. Fear not; you don’t have to throw away the tasty remnants.

You can store them to recreate delicious meals by using them in tacos, pizza crusts, or making creamy mashes. Or, you may simply heat them and eat them on their own as a snack or side dish.

Tips for Storing and Refrigerating Leftover Grilled Cauliflower

  • Allow the grilled cauliflower to cool to room temperature. It prevents moisture buildup and maintains the texture of the florets.
  • Put the cauliflower in an airtight container or sealable plastic bag. Ensure the storage container is clean and free from lingering odors to avoid flavor contamination.
  • Close the container or seal the plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination with other foods.
  • Label the container with the date of grilling. It helps you to stay organized and track the freshness.
  • Refrigerate the cauliflower promptly. Put them in the refrigerator within two hours after grilling to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Consume the refrigerated grilled cauliflower within 3-4 days. If you leave it longer, the quality will start to decline and the food may spoil. Do not consume cauliflower if it has an unpleasant smell, a slimy texture, or mold to prevent contracting foodborne diseases.

Guidelines for Freezing Leftover Grilled Cauliflower for Future Use

  • Let the cauliflower cool down to room temperature. It helps to retain texture and prevents condensation during the freezing process.
  • Portion the cauliflower. If the leftovers cannot be consumed in one sitting, divide it into smaller portions. It makes it possible to thaw only what you require, not the entire batch.
  • Put the cauliflower in freezer-safe containers and bags.
  • Clearly label each container with the freezing date to help you track how long it has been frozen.
  • Use the frozen grilled cauliflower for 2-3 months to ensure the best quality and flavor. Although consuming the frozen grilled cauliflower may be safe after 2-3 months, the texture and flavor may have deteriorated.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you cut cauliflower into steaks for grilling?

Follow the steps below to cut cauliflower into steaks on the grill:

  • Remove the leaves from the head.
  • Trim the stem to get rid of woody parts and create a flat surface.
  • Place the cauliflower head upright on the cutting board and carefully slice it vertically into ½ to 1-inch slices.

Why do you soak cauliflower before cooking?

Soaking helps to remove any dirt or debris from the cauliflower head. It also helps to reduce the bitter, pungent taste. Finally, soaking cauliflower in cold water can help to firm up the florets and enhance their crispness when cooked.


Grilling is a fantastic way to unlock the delicious flavors of cauliflower. This article has explored the essential steps for preparing and grilling cauliflower. Start by selecting fresh cauliflower, removing the leaves, cutting the stem, and cleaning and drying it. Cut the head into florets or steaks, then season or marinade to enhance their flavor.

Choose a grilling method between direct and indirect grilling and follow the steps provided above. Serve as a standalone, side dish, or incorporate in other recipes.

So, fire up the grill and let the magic of grilled cauliflower unfold.

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