Tasty and texture rich barbecue cauliflower bowls are easy to make! Barbecue cauliflower bites contrast with creamy ranch, avocado and sweet mango atop a bed of your favorite greens sprinkled with sunflower seeds. This recipe is vegetarian or vegan and easily gluten free.
Cravings for BBQ didn’t stop when I adopted a vegetarian diet. Not for this Texas native. However, I’ve since found new ways to enjoy it in surprising and delicious ways.
Inspired by summer, an humble head of cauliflower, a jar of BBQ sauce, with plenty of kale growing in the garden, and a fresh bottle of homemade ranch, I pulled this grilled barbecue cauliflower bowl together in about 30 minutes.
It’s versatile enough for vegetarian and vegan diets and has tasty ways to switch it up. If you’ve not barbecued cauliflower, you gotta give this recipe a go! Read on to learn more about this mouthwatering cauliflower bowl of BBQ goodness.
Quick Guide: How to Make Barbecue Cauliflower Bowls
For this bowl, the centerpiece is grilled cauliflower florets. Before grilling, the cauliflower florets need to be blanched just to give them the perfect finished texture. But don’t worry, blanching only takes a few minutes. In summary, here’s how to make this vegetarian and vegan bbq cauliflower bowl (see recipe card for full details):
- First, blanch the cauliflower bites while you oil and preheat the grill.
- Second, chop the kale and slice the mango and avocado.
- Third, toss the cauliflower florets with BBQ sauce in a large bowl, then grill the BBQ cauliflower florets.
- Next, massage the kale with ranch dressing.
- Last, assemble the bowls and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.
While grilling the barbecue cauliflower bites, I threw some lemons on to grill. They’re super tasty squeezed over the top of the bowl.
For a mouthwatering and easy homemade sauce try my Smoky Bourbon BBQ Sauce
How to Grill Cauliflower Bites
To grill cauliflower florets, you’ll need to consider the size of your grill’s grates. Are they wide and flat or skinny and round? This will help you determine the size to cut the cauliflower pieces. You’ll want them small enough for bite size pieces, but not so small they fall through the grill grates. This is where a grill pan comes in handy.
- First, clean and oil the grill and grill pan prior to starting. I use canola or olive oil to oil the grill. Preheat your grill on the highest setting.
- Next, blanch the cauliflower florets then toss them in BBQ sauce. Transfer the florets to the grill pan, then transfer the larger bites to the grill grates if desired. This aids in caramelization of sugars from the sauce.
- Last, baste the bites several times with BBQ sauce, turning the cauliflower bites once or twice as they grill. Look for a bit of caramelization prior to flipping the cauliflower bites.
How long to grill cauliflower bites? It depends on the heat of your particular grill, but I find about 15 minutes to be about perfect on my grill.
Grilled BBQ cauliflower bites can be served right off the grill or at room temperature.
Variations and Substitutes for the Bowl
The Greens: While this recipe is sooo good with kale, you can use just about any green you prefer. While the kale needs to be massaged to tenderize it, other greens won’t need this treatment, saving a bit of time. Instead of kale try baby spinach, chopped Swiss chard or tender leafy lettuce. If using lettuce, allow the grilled cauliflower to cool to room temp. before adding it to the bowl.
The Mango: I include juicy mangos in this grilled cauliflower recipe but fresh pineapple chunks or peaches, when in season, are a fabulous sub! If the fuzzy texture of peaches are off-putting, give nectarines a go. They have smooth skin, but taste like juicy, sweet peaches.
The Seeds: Sunflower seeds add crunch, texture and nourishment to this tasty bowl. However, toasted and chopped pecans are a delight as well.
A Few Recipe Notes
- BBQ Sauce: for totally mouthwatering bbq cauliflower bites, use my vegetarian and vegan Bourbon BBQ Sauce to slather on these grilled barbecue cauliflower bites. It can be made weeks ahead.
- After tossing the cauliflower florets with the BBQ sauce, discard the leftover sauce as it tends to get runny. Use fresh BBQ sauce for basting the cauliflower florets while grilling.
- Ranch Dressing: enjoy this recipe with my Greek Yogurt Ranch or Dairy Free Ranch Dressing. Ranch can be made up to a week ahead.
- Grill Pan: I use this Kitchen Aid grill pan. The handle is removable making it so convenient and easy to use.
More Vegetarian BBQ Recipes to Love
- Grilled BBQ Tofu Veggie Kebabs
- Pulled Portobello BBQ Sandwiches
- BBQ Chickpea Veggie Burgers
- Smoky Vegetarian BBQ Baked Beans
- Grilled BBQ Tofu Veggie Kebabs
- BBQ Black Eyed Pea Collard Rolls
Grilled BBQ Cauliflower Ranch Bowls
- Canola or Olive Oil to prep the grill
- 1 1/2 lb (715g) Cauliflower about one head
- 1/2 C (150g) Smoky Bourbon Homemade BBQ Sauce plus more for basting
- 1 - 2 Lemons optional, sliced in 1/2 crosswise (1/2 a lemon per bowl)
- 7 oz (200g) Curly Kale about 5 stems, one bunch (size and weight varies), destemed and torn into bite size pieces.
- 1/4 C (60g) Ranch Dressing I like homemade, plus more to taste. *See note for dairy free/vegan version.
- 1 Mango large, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 - 2 Avocados sliced into bite size pieces, (1/2 avocado per bowl)
- 2 Tbs Sunflower Seeds hulled, unsalted for sprinkling
- Prepare the grill by oiling the grates and grill pan. Turn the grill on to preheat on highest setting.
Prepare the Cauliflower
- In a large stock pot, fill 1/2 way with water. Bring to a boil.Meanwhile, cut cauliflower into 1"(2.5cm) - 2"(5) bite size pieces.
- Once the water is boiling, plunge the cauliflower florets into the water. Set a timer for two minutes and cook for two minutes. The water does not need to return to a boil. Drain the cauliflower and run cold water over the florets until they stop steaming. Transfer the florets to a tea towel and pat dry.
Grill the Cauliflower
- In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with BBQ sauce. Take your time here, you want to get sauce into every nook and cranny!Transfer the florets to the grill pan with a slotted spoon or tongs. Discard the remaining BBQ sauce (it tends to get watery).
- If your grill grates will support larger florets, transfer the larger pieces to the grill grates (outside of the grill pan). This will aid in charring (caramelization!). Grill for about 14-16 minutes on high heat, flipping the florets 1/2 way through grilling. Use a BBQ or pastry brush to baste florets with BBQ sauce (fresh) before and after flipping.Time on the grill depends on the heat intensity of your grill. Start checking the florets for flipping at about 6 minutes. There should be some charring before you flip them. Adjust the heat down as needed. If grilling the lemon, brush flesh sides with a bit of oil, then grill without moving for 3-6 minutes. They're done when charred.
- The florets are ready when there is some charring and the florets are tender yet still have a bit of tooth when bitten into. Transfer the bites and lemon to a parchment lined sheet pan until ready to assemble the bowls. If keeping warm, place in a warm 200F (93C) oven. The cauliflower bites can be shared warm or at room temperature.
Prepare the Bowl
- In a large bowl, add the kale and sprinkle about 3 Tbs of ranch over the kale. Using your hands, massage the kale for about 2 minutes or until it's softened and broken down a bit. Add another Tbs or so of ranch if desired.
- Transfer the kale to serving bowls. Top with sliced mango, avocado, and BBQ cauliflower bites. Sprinkle sunflower seeds over the top and share with a lemon wedge.
- Just before enjoying squeeze the lemon over the top of the bowls, and give the avocado a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper if desired. Share with more ranch, and warm BBQ sauce.
- This recipe is best enjoyed the day made but will keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours. After that, the kale and cauliflower tends to get soggy. I do not recommend freezing this recipe.