Grilled Spiced Cauliflower Recipe

Transform grilled cauliflower with high heat and a whole lot of spice.

A head of spiced and grilled cauliflower, cut in half lengthwise and overlapping on a green ceramic plate. At the top left edge of the image is a small ceramic bowl holding chopped herbs, which are also sprinkled across the surface of the cauliflower.

Serious Eats / Eric Kleinberg

Why It Works

  • A spice mixture gives the cauliflower an earthy flavor with just a touch of heat.
  • Grilling the cauliflower over direct heat first creates a lightly charred, crispy crust.
  • Finishing the cauliflower over indirect heat lets it gently cook until tender throughout.

Growing up, I was disgusted by cauliflower. I'd insist on removing it from my plate before even considering the rest of my meal (which, by virtue of being literally anything else, was guaranteed to be at least 1,000 times more delicious). I know I didn't give the vegetable a fair shake, but then again, the only cauliflower I knew was bland, pale, faintly sulfurous, and nearly always either under- or over-cooked.

Later on, I was forced to face cauliflower head-on, as week after week, a different colored variety materialized in my weekly CSA box. I quickly learned that roasting it at a high temperature created an appealingly crisp exterior with a tender—but not mushy—interior. The ingredient I'd actively avoided was transformed into a vegetable I openly loved and, yes, even sought out.

Since browning and crunch are what turned me on to cauliflower, I figured that the high heat of the grill would be the perfect way to amp things up. Unfortunately, those small florets are a pain to keep from falling between the grates. Luckily, it's an obstacle that, with a little ingenuity, is easily overcome.

Instead of butchering the cauliflower into small florets, I cut it vertically, keeping the stem intact, to create 3/4-inch slices that are easy to manage on the grill (and to subsequently plate). Prior to taking it to the flames, I like to brush each slice with olive oil and then season it with an earthy spice mixture that takes its cues from the chicken keema-inspired kebab I put together last year—a mix of salt, turmeric, crushed red pepper, cumin, coriander, ginger powder, garlic powder, and black pepper.

The slices, in their vibrant yellow spice mix, go over the direct heat of a two-zone fire, cooking until they develop some crisp char on both sides. This happens relatively quickly—faster than it takes to cook the interior through—so you'll want to move the cauliflower over to the cool side of the grill and cover it. I continue cooking them until they're softened and tender, but still meaty; just over 10 minutes. Once they're off the grill, just sprinkle on a little cilantro and serve.

The final dish winds up with a great texture and complex flavor that's robustly earthy and pleasantly spicy. Now, if only I could go back in time and reintroduce myself to this version, I'd be able to save myself a whole lot of trouble.

October 2014

Recipe Facts

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Active: 20 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

For the Spice Mixture:

  • 2 teaspoons (6g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt use half as much by volume or the same weight

  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Cauliflower:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed of green leaves and cut into 3/4-inch slices (see note)

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing and drizzling

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

Directions

  1. For the Spice Mixture: In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients.

    A small blue ceramic bowl holding the spice mix which will be spread on the cauliflower.

    Serious Eats / Eric Kleinberg

  2. For the Cauliflower: Generously brush cauliflower all over with olive oil and season evenly with spice mixture.

    A cauliflower, cut in half lengthwise and sprinkled heavily with the spice mix, on a wood cutting board. The cutting board also has the ceramic bowl holding more spice mix and a small bowl holding olive oil and a silicone brush.

    Serious Eats / Eric Kleinberg

  3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Alternatively, set all the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cauliflower on hot side of grill and cook, turning, until it is charred in spots on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Move cauliflower to cool side of the grill, cover, and continue to cook until tender throughout, 10-15 minutes longer.

    A four-image collage showing a charcoal grill prepped for cooking and then the cauliflower being moved to different parts of the grilling surface.

    Serious Eats / Eric Kleinberg

  4. Transfer cauliflower to a plate, sprinkle with cilantro, drizzle with fresh olive oil, and serve.

    Slices of grilled spiced cauliflower on a black ceramic plate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped herbs.

    Serious Eats / Eric Kleinberg

Special Equipment

Grill

Notes

When slicing the cauliflower, be sure to cut through it vertically so that the florets on each slice are held together by a portion of the core and/or stalk—you want large pieces of cauliflower so that they don't slip down through the grill grate.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
133 Calories
11g Fat
8g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 133
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 652mg 28%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 64mg 321%
Calcium 33mg 3%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 265mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)