Learn everything you need to know about how to make smoked cauliflower! Whether you've got a gas grill, a Traeger or Pit Boss pellet grill, or even a Masterbuilt electric smoker, we've got you covered!
It can even be made Keto friendly! We like to season and smoke our head of cauliflower whole, then dice it up into florets and toss in garlic butter or buffalo sauce.
Why Smoked Cauliflower?
Let's face it cauliflower doesn't usually get a whole lotta love at your typical backyard BBQ.
However, cauliflower is a fantastic blank canvas of a vegetable to throw on the smoker.
It's easy to work with on the grill, and when seasoned properly and smoke roasted, can deliver some fantastic flavors and textures to accompany the rest of your meal.
Smoked cauliflower is a great option for vegetarians and folks following the popular Ketogenic Diet as well since you can make it really tasty without using any sugar and either basting with a garlic butter or even tossing it in buffalo sauce after taking it off the smoker.
Alternatively, you can season the cauliflower traditionally with your favorite BBQ rub and baste some BBQ sauce just like a rack of ribs, or take an Asian or Latin route with your flavors.
Your imagination is the limit when it comes to smoking this versatile vegetable!
Best Wood for Smoking Cauliflower
Hickory, Cherry, Oak, and Apple are great wood choices that pair wonderfully with cauliflower.
You can choose one or the other or mix them together! These woods also work great on chicken, turkey, pork butt, and ribs. So no need to use different woods if you are smoking your cauliflower alongside your main protein.
You can impart A LOT of distinctive smoke flavor in a relatively short period of time.
How to Prepare Cauliflower for Smoking
Cleaning and Prepping
First cut off and remove the leaves from the head of cauliflower and then cut the stem down so that it can sit upright on the smoker without tipping over.
Then give the cauliflower a good rinse and shake and pat it dry.
After all, these things grow on the ground and there's a lot of little nooks and crannies where dirt can hang out.
Seasoning and Basting
Like we said, you've basically got a blank canvas in front of you. You can season with just salt and pepper, or use one of your favorite BBQ rubs.
If you are trying to avoid sugar or following the Keto diet, we recommend Bad Byron's Butt Rub. We love using it on brisket and steak as well.
Make sure to spread a little olive oil, or better yet, a higher smoke point oil like avocado oil on the surface of the cauliflower first so that rub adheres well.
Another option we like is to mix up some melted butter with minced garlic and parmesan cheese.
Spread some on before putting the cauliflower on the smoker and then continue basting every 15-20 minutes or so while it cooks.
This works best, and is easiest to clean up afterwards, if you use a good silicone basting brush like these ones.
Best Times and Temperatures for Smoking Cauliflower
Best Temperature to Smoke Cauliflower
When choosing what temperature to smoke the cauliflower take into consideration what kind of seasoning you used.
If your seasoning has no sugar, you are good to go to smoke your cauliflower at higher temperatures .
But because sugar begins to burn and develop a bitter flavor when cooked above 350°F, you will want to keep your smoker temperature below 350°F, probably below 325°F to be safe, if you used a sugar based BBQ rub.
(And by the way, this is true for ALL BBQ temperature selection when using sugary rubs.)
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Cauliflower?
If you are using a grill, make sure to set it up for INDIRECT cooking with all the charcoal or burners lit on the opposite side of the cauliflower.
Now, your smoked cauliflower will still come out delicious if cooked at a lower temperature, especially if the meat you are cooking it alongside requires a lower smoking temperature, it just takes longer.
Safety Tip: Make to sure to never position your smoked vegetables and sides UNDER any meat you are cooking in order to avoid dripping and possible salmonella contamination.
And since there is no fat or connective tissue to breakdown like say a brisket or rack of ribs, there is no reason to cook it "low and slow" unless you have a lot of sugar in your rub.
So if you set up your smoker at 375° F like we are, it will take about 45-60 minutes to smoke the whole head of cauliflower.
If your smoker is in the 225-275°F range due to the meat you're cooking, expect the smoked cauliflower to take closer to 2 hours.
How Can You Tell When Smoked Cauliflower is Finished Cooking?
Unlike many of the meats we smoke around here, where you have to watch the internal temperature like a hawk, you have some pretty good leeway with smoking cauliflower.
You don't; want to go TOO far and have it start to burn on the outside or get mushy on the inside, but you DO have a fair amount of leeway in how long it smokes.
After about 45-60 minutes on the smoker or grill, use a long fork or knife to poke through towards the center.
If you feel a lot of resistance, it still needs some more time.
If it slides in and out effortlessly, then your smoked cauliflower is likely done cooking.
Setting up your Smoker for Cauliflower
New to smoking?
Like we said, you are most likely setting up your smoker to cook a main dish for the smoked cauliflower to accompany, and if so, make sure to follow THOSE instructions for setting up your smoker.
If, however, you are just in the mood for smoking some cauliflower by itself, here are the best instructions for setting up different types of grills and smokers to do just that.
Smoked Cauliflower in a Vertical or Offset Charcoal Smoker
Fill your firebox or lower charcoal basin with about a chimney's worth of unlit charcoal and create a small hollowed out depression in the center where you can add your lit briquets.
If your smoker comes with a water pan, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, don't bother with filling it.
Light a charcoal chimney all the way with charcoal and wait about 20 minutes for it to fully ignite.
Once lit, add the briquets to the center depression you created.
Keep the dampers about ½ way to ¾ open until the temperature is in the 375°F range.
Add 1 chunk of smoking wood once the smoker is up to temperature and put your seasoned cauliflower on.
Then slowly close down the top and bottom dampers to about ⅓- ¼ open until you are maintaining a temperature of 375° F.
Smoked Cauliflower in an Electric Smoker
Place your cauliflower in the smoker.
You can cook it completely in the electric smoker if the temperature goes high enough, or finish in the oven on a foil lined baking tray after the cauliflower absorbs some smokey flavor if you are crunched for time.
Smoked Cauliflower on a Pellet Grill
Fill the pellet hopper with your choice of smoking wood pellets, preferably apple or hickory.
Plug in the pellet grill and turn the temperature to 375°F. Make sure you have the pellet grill set up for INDIRECT cooking.
Never used a pellet grill before? Read our Ultimate Guide to Pellet Grills to learn why they are so easy and how to set one up for success every time.
Smoked Cauliflower on a Gas or Charcoal Grill
On a gas or charcoal grill you will likely need to use a smoker box filled with wood chips, or a pellet tube smoker filled with wood pellets.
Think you need a fancy smoker to smoke food at home?
Great smoked food can be made right on your current gas or charcoal grill.
If you are unfamiliar with these gas grill smoking devices mentioned above, no worries, we have you covered!
Or check out this handy comparison between smoker boxes and pellet tube smokers if you can;t decide which is right for you.
In the case of cauliflower, we would opt for the smoker tube with wood pellets since the smoker box usually only lasts about 30 minutes, especially at hotter temperatures. This will save you the hassle of having the refill.
Set up your gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking with the burners or a small amount of lit briquets on one side and plan for your cauliflower to be on the other side.
Remember, we are cooking the cauliflower INDIRECTLY, like an oven, not DIRECTLY over the burners or coals.
Once the temperature of your grill is around 325°F, place your smoker box or pellet tube smoker over the lit burners and once smoke begins coming out, place your cauliflower on the opposite side.
Continue bringing the temperature up to 375°F.
Best Ways to Serve Smoked Cauliflower
Like we said, you can have fun with this recipe and use garlic butter, BBQ rubs, Mexican or Asian spices, or even toss the smoked cauliflower in Buffalo sauce for a popular Keto friendly appetizer or side dish.
Once it is finished smoking and pierces easily with a long fork or knife, remove the cauliflower form the grill carefully with good heat resistant gloves.
Carefully remove the florets using a pairing knife. After cooking they should come off fairly easily.
Put them in a bowl and toss with buffalo sauce or drizzle with garlic butter or a little of your favorite finishing sauce and serve hot.
What Other Foods Can I Smoke?
Looking for some more inspiration for things to smoke?
Check out some of our favorite SIDE DISH recipes below that can easily be modified to be done on any grill or smoker.
- Smoked Cornbread
- Smoked Green Beans
- Sticky Sweet Potatoes on a Pellet Grill
- Smoked Asparagus
- Smoked Carrots
- Baked Potatoes on Pellet Grill
- Smoked Mashed Potatoes
- Smoked Corn on the Cob
- Baked Beans on a Pellet Grill
- Smoked Hard Boiled Eggs
Smoked Cauliflower with Parmesan Garlic Butter
- A Smoker or Pellet grill -OR-
- A Gas or Charcoal Grill setup for indirect heat
- A Knife
- A Basting Brush
- Hickory or Fruitwood pellets, woodchips, or chunks
- 1 Whole Head of Cauliflower leaves removed and stem cut down, washed
- 4 tablespoon Salted Butter melted
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- ¼ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- ¼ lemon squeeze of Lemon Juice (optional)
Prepare the Grill or Smoker
- Preheat the smoker, or grill setup for indirect cooking, to 375°F. If using a pellet grill, load the hopper with your shosen pellets, turn on the grill, and set the temperature for 375°F.
- Once the grill or smoker is near its temperature, add your wood chips, wood chunks, or pellets into a pellet tube smoker and place over the direct heat and close the lid.
Prepare the Cauliflower and Garlic Butter
- Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and cut the stem down even with the rest of the head. Rinse and dry well.
- Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl and mix with the garlic and parmesan cheese. Baste the outside and underside of the cauliflower completely. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Smoke and Serve the Cauliflower
- Once the grill or smoker is up to 375°F and producing smoke, place the entire whole cauliflower into the smoker, or on the cool side of the grill.
- Every 15 minutes, baste with more of the garlic butter mixture. Then close the lid again.
- After 45 minutes total, open the lid and baste the cauliflowers one last time in the same manner. Check for doneness by piercing the cauliflower with a knife or fork. Continue to smoke for 15-20 minutes more if needed. It should pass through effortlessly when it is finished.
- Remove the smoked cauliflower from the grill or smoker using oven safe BBQ gloves and place somewhere to cool for 5-10 minutes before carving.
- Cut the florets from the outside of the cauliflower and put into a serving bowl.
- Add additional fresh grated parmesan and a squeeze of lemon juice if you wish. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.