Grilled Korean Cauliflower
Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite wings are, it's a quick and simple answer—these crispy Korean wings. Those wings have a great heat and light sweetness with so much more depth than the standard buffalo thanks to the fermented pepper paste, gochujang. Having almost an equal amount of vegetarian and meat-eating friends now, I was feeling insufficient as a host by not being able to share one of my all-time favorite recipes with everyone. Then I had the idea to use that excellent sauce on grilled cauliflower, which can get some nice crisp to it along with hearty, almost meaty innards that aren't a one-to-one with wings, but check some similar boxes.
I kept the sauce pretty similar to the wings that inspired this cauliflower. It's a recipe I originally got from Serious Eats, but modified it here by backing off the super sweet dark brown sugar a bit and adding the more mildly sugary mirin. I also left out the tad of sesame oil I usually put in the sauce since I was planning on garnishing the final product with sesame seeds, which would deliver the appropriate flavor in the end.
To prep the cauliflower, I chunked up the head into large florets—making sure they were all big enough that they wouldn't fall through the grates, while keeping as consistent of a size as possible for even cooking. Once in the proper format, I placed all the florets in a large bowl and coated them lightly with oil and seasoned with salt to taste.
Then I fired up the grill and cooked the cauliflower over high direct heat at first until the exteriors developing some light charring and crisping all over. Once they had those desired crunchy bits, I moved the florets over to indirect heat and covered the grill to let them finish cooking through.
Next I transferred them back into the large bowl, poured on the sauce, and tossed—just like as I would have if these were wings. After moving them to a serving bowl, I finished this dish with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds and slice scallions.
This had just about everything that make the wings I love so much awesome. First and foremost was the sauce, which delivered the majority of the flavor with its strong, distinct heat that was balanced by a mellow sweetness. Garlic and ginger added a bite that enhanced the complexity of it all. The cauliflower proved to be an excellent medium—retaining bits of crunch paired with crisp-tender innards that, while not quite like the juicy meat of a chicken wing, had their own charm. I felt like I couldn't have done much better than this in delivering the best parts of my favorite wings in a grilled vegetarian form.
Grilled Korean Cauliflower
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 35 Minutes
- For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoons gochujang
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly minced ginger
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Toasted sesame seeds
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- To make the sauce: Whisk together gochujang, brown sugar, mirin, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Place cauliflower in a large bowl, drizzle on oil, and toss to coat. Season with salt to taste.
- 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. 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.
- Place cauliflower in a large bowl, pour in sauce, and toss to coat. Transfer cauliflower to a plate or bowl and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions; serve immediately.