BBQ Cauliflower Outshines Everything Else On Your Grill Grates

When I'm not testing a new recipe, I really don't eat all that much meat. It's not solely for ethical, health, or environmental reasons (though I have plenty to say about those things). Mostly, it's just because vegetables are pretty damn great, particularly during a blistering summer when the heat makes the act of digesting anything feel like too much work. This BBQ cauliflower, though? Nothing about it feels like too much work, and it's ready to eat in far less time than a big ol' hunk of meat would be.

My favorite barbecue is Carolina-style, which works exceptionally well with vegetables and particularly cauliflower, since its many nooks and crannies are perfect for holding on to smoke, spices, and lots of vinegary, mustardy mop sauce. I've served this as a main course with cole slaw and warm bread on the side, but it also makes for a unique side dish if you're not yet ready to embrace a meat-free cookout. Though once you taste this cauliflower, you might very well change your mind about what a backyard barbecue menu can be.

Carolina-Style BBQ Cauliflower

  • 1 large cauliflower (about the side of a toddler's head)
  • For the rub:

    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
    • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. hot paprika
    • 1 Tbsp. honey
    • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
    • 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
    • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp. pepper
    • For the mop sauce:

      • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
      • 1/4 cup ketchup
      • 1 1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
      • 1 Tbsp. honey
      • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
      • 2 tsp. kosher salt
      • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
      • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
      • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
      • Preheat your grill for indirect heat cooking. If you'd like to add a bit of smoke, you can soak a few wood chips to throw on the fire, too.

        Remove the leaves and any green bits from the cauliflower, and cut off the very bottom of the stalk. You need to leave the core intact to hold the cauliflower together on the grill, so don't go too crazy with the trimming.


        In a large bowl, whisk together all the rub ingredients. Dunk the cauliflower in, then use your bare hands to smear the rub over every single inch of it, getting into all the nooks and crannies. (I have tried finding cleaner ways to do this but bare hands are truly the only way to go.)

        Put the cauliflower, core-side down, on the indirect heat side of the grill. Close the lid and walk away for 10 minutes. Then, rotate the cauliflower 180 degrees, put the lid back on the grill, and again leave it for 10 minutes.

        While the cauliflower is on the grill, make the mop sauce: stir all the ingredients together in a spouted measuring cup, then microwave for 2 minutes and give it another good stir.

        Once 10 minutes have passed, flip the cauliflower and place it floret-side down directly over the fire, leaving the lid of the grill open. Carefully pour about one-third of the mop sauce into the center of the cauliflower and let it cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. Check the browning on the bottom of the cauliflower, moving it around the grill as needed to brown evenly, then another third of the mop sauce into its center. Give the cauliflower another 5-10 minutes, moving it to a plate once a knife can be slid cleanly into the core without resistance.


        Serve the cauliflower immediately with the remaining mop sauce on the side.