The craving for BBQ hits hard when it’s time to get out the grill under the hot summer sun, when the beverage cans are popped open, and friends are gathered around. And when the craving for a sticky, savory, maybe even slightly sweet BBQ sauce hits, it’s gotta happen.
And what’s a vegetarian to do when it comes to vegetarian dinner recipes at a BBQ? Make the best-grilled cauliflower steak that’s slathered with BBQ sauce, that’s what! This recipe isn’t just about putting BBQ sauce on a cauliflower steak after it’s cooked, either. It’s grilled with the sauce, before, during, and after, for THE MOST flavor around.
The sauce gets slightly caramelized and thick during the grilling process, soaking into the steak and resulting in the most flavorful dinner around. Vegetarian or not, this is bound to become a favorite!
While Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri and Roasted Cauliflower Steaks are delicious options too, sometimes BBQ sauce just hits different.
How to Cut Cauliflower for Grilling
If you haven’t sliced cauliflower to turn it into cauliflower steaks before, I’m here to show you how! It’s easy to do, you just need to know a few tricks along the way. They will be sliced the same whether using them on the grill or in the oven.
The first thing to note: you will not use the whole cauliflower for steaks.
When cutting the cauliflower steaks, the sides of the head of the cauliflower will not be used. They break off into florets when you cut them, and don’t lend themselves to staying intact for a steak. Save the florets to make cauliflower bites or add them to broccoli and cauliflower cheese soup (or whatever your cauliflower heart desires!).
Prepare the cauliflower by first gently tearing off any large leaves from the stem (photo 2). Then, trim the stem and core, but do not cut it out. The core is what will keep our steaks intact. I like to cut the very end to make it more even and uniform. It also creates a flat base for slicing the cauliflower (photo 3).
With the whole cauliflower prepared, it’s time to cut off the sides of the cauliflower. This will result in leaving a somewhat evenly sized middle chunk of cauliflower that will be sliced into the cauliflower steaks. As you see here, I stand the cauliflower on its stem and cut off the edges of the cauliflower head by a couple of inches (photos 4-5).
With the sides of the cauliflower off, it’s time to cut the steaks. Keep the cauliflower standing on its stem, and cut the steak pieces. Use your best judgment for how many steaks you’ll be able to cut out of the remaining cauliflower head. I generally can get 2-3 cauliflower steaks; it just depends on the size of the cauliflower you started with (photo 6). There are times I’ve gotten 4 steaks from a very large cauliflower.
Try to slice the steaks as evenly as possible so they will cook for relatively the same amount of time. It can be a little tricky, so just take your time and be patient!
On that same note, don’t cut the steaks too thin, or you run the risk of the florets breaking off. Slice down in an even motion with confidence, making them thick enough the hold together. I like them about an inch and a half thick or so. Thicker steaks will be easier to flip on the grill.
If you are planning to feed a crowd (or need more than 2-3 steaks) do the same with another head of cauliflower. Then, it’s time to grill!
Making BBQ Cauliflower Steaks
First things first: the sauce. I’m a huge fan of homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce (it’s quick, easy, and so dang delicious!). But with this recipe, you can use whatever sauce you have or love – even storebought to make it even easier.
The sauce is going to go on the steaks multiple times throughout the cooking process to layer on that flavor — just as you would grilling anything else BBQ style!
Before cooking, clean and lightly oil the grates of your grill, then preheat the grill over medium-high heat. I like to get it up to 500°F or so because quite a bit of heat will escape when you place the cauliflower on the grates and add the sauce.
To prepare the steaks, brush BBQ sauce evenly on all sides of the cauliflower steaks – don’t forget the top of the steak slices, too! Place the cauliflower steaks on the grill over medium direct heat, keeping the grill around 425°F.
Let the cauliflower cook on the first side for about 7-8 minutes until grill marks appear, then flip. When you flip the steak, brush it with more sauce on the flipped side, and continue to grill for 7-8 additional minutes until charred and tender.
Remove from the grill, brush with more sauce as desired, and serve!
What to serve with BBQ Cauliflower Steaks
What are your favorite sides to enjoy at a BBQ potluck? That’s what you should serve with these yummy steaks! There’s no right or wrong here, my friends, but here are a few of my favorite sides to serve with grilled cauliflower steaks:
- Roasted Broccolini
- Grilled Onions in a Foil Packet
- Potato and Corn Packets
- Green Bean and Avocado Salad
- Vegetarian Baked Beans
- Herby Potato Salad
- Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
Can I make these in the Oven?
Yes, you can! Check out my roasted cauliflower steak recipe for more details. The gist of it: preheat the oven to 425°F and place the BBQ-coated cauliflower steaks on a large baking sheet, cooking for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time, until tender.
Get the Recipe Grilled BBQ Cauliflower Steaks
- Neutral Oil, for grill grates
- 1 cauliflower head, see notes
- 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
- Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional
- Cut the Cauliflower Steaks: Prepare the cauliflower by first gently tearing off any large leaves from the stem. Then, trim the stem, but do not cut it out, we're simply making the bottom level. Then, stand the cauliflower upright on the even stem and cut off the sides of the cauliflower head by a couple of inches, leaving a large middle piece in tact. Set the side florets aside for another use later.Keep the cauliflower standing on its stem, and cut the steak pieces. Use your best judgement for how many steaks you'll be able to cut out of the remaining cauliflower head. I generally can get 2-3 cauliflower steaks; it just depends on the size of the cauliflower you started with. 2 steaks will result in thicker pieces, and 3 generally results in more moderately sized steaks.
- Grilling: Clean grill grates and lightly oil them with a high-heat neutral oil of choice. Preheat the grill to around 500°F; the steaks will cook on medium-high heat, around 425°F. However, when preheating, I like to start with an extra hot grill because you will lose quite a bit of heat when you put the cauliflower on the grill.
- Brush the cauliflower steaks with BBQ sauce (you will not use all the sauce for the first coating). Get those floret tops, too!
- Place the steaks on the grill over direct heat. If you need to use indirect, that will work too, just be aware that it make take a little more time with less charring.
- Close the grill and let the steaks cook for 7-8 minutes at around 425°F. Then, flip the cauliflower steaks over once they've developed good grill marks. Brush the flipped side with more BBQ sauce. Cook on the second side for another 7-8 minutes. The cook time will vary depending on the thickness of your steaks, and you may need 1-2 extra minutes per side if they are on the thicker side.
- Remove from the grill and brush again with BBQ sauce as desired. Serve with additional sauce on the side and garnish with fresh parsley as desired.