Chicken wings have been my favorite part of the bird since childhood. Because we had a fairly large family (4 kids & 2 parents) and my mom needed to stretch her budget as far as she could, being the littlest I was given the wings for dinner. Just my size, it was the perfect amount for my tiny tummy and they were always so succulent.
Whenever I see them on the menu, I immediately try to justify getting them. And somehow usually succeed, LOL. But buffalo wings are often too atomic for me. If they can dial it back a little I’m happy, but often have to go with a different flavor. Then I discovered how to make them at home where I can control the heat. Bingo!
While everyone loves spicy hot wings, many people these days are looking for less fattening and healthier options. Buffalo Cauliflower florets are a natural substitute, giving you a pleasant texture and the perfect foil for any sauce you like. Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables – and it just got tastier! If you have vegetarians or gluten-free folks coming to your house, these are always a winner.
This appetizer is the perfect way to kick off any meal, adding a punch of spice and waking up everyone’s taste buds without being too filling or packed with calories. They are especially fun to serve when you have a gang over on game day. All the flavors people crave without the fat and fuss – and no bones to deal with!
My version of the buffalo sauce has a little brown sugar in it, helping cut back on the heat and making it more child-friendly. If you have a crowd that really loves spicy foods, increase the amount of hot sauce and pass extra at the table. You can dial the heat up or down to suit your family and guests. And if you have kids who are reluctant to eat their vegetables, they will inhale this version!
You could double the buffalo sauce and use it to make both wings and cauliflower, making this a full dinner too. I love wings enough, especially with this slightly sweet and spicy sauce, that I would probably do just that. OK, now I’ve done it … now I’m craving the wings. I’m going to have to make another batch, LOL.
I was able to cook these on the grill by using a baking sheet and cooking them over the cooler side, but they would be just as easy to make on the stove, or even in the oven. Just be sure to keep an eye on the extra sauce in the pan – because of the sugar, it can burn if you don’t keep it moving. The grill does add a touch of smoke that enhances the spicy sauce, but they are delicious no matter how you cook them.
The trick with these is to cook the cauliflower just long enough to get a little tender, leaving enough crunch to make them easy to pick up and eat with your fingers. Or you can stick a toothpick into each piece to make them easier for your guests to keep their fingers clean. Either way they are delicious!
Of course they wouldn’t be “true” Buffalo-style without some blue cheese to temper the heat. I have included a simple sauce where you melt the cheese before adding it to sour cream. It adds just the right amount of indulgence for this otherwise reasonably healthy appetizer.
The next time you have friends coming over, put this on your menu. Your friends will have fun discovering a healthier version of one of this country’s cherished snack foods. And since they have saved calories on the appetizer, you can have something totally decadent for their sweet tooth! 😉
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you don’t want the sweet heat of this sauce, you can use a regular buffalo sauce in its place or just leave out the brown sugar. I like the counterpoint of sweet and spicy, so these are great for my palate, but make whatever is best for your family and friends.
This dish is naturally gluten-free … the only part you have to watch the labels for is the hot sauce. Most varieties are naturally gluten-free, but it is always better safe than sorry.
- Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce
- 2 tablespoons crumbled bleu cheese
- 2 teaspoons, milk, optional as needed
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Extra bleu cheese crumbles, for garnishing, optional
- Grilled Cauliflower Florets
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut into cubes
- 1/3 cup hot sauce such as Frank's or Sriracha (gluten-free if needed)
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 large head cauliflower, rinsed and patted dry
- Chopped parsley, for garnishing
- Make the Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce: Place the cheese and milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 10-second bursts, stirring between each, until the cheese is melted. Whisk until smooth. Add the sour cream and black pepper, whisking until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour into a serving bowl and sprinkle a few pieces of the cheese on the top if desired. If making this ahead, cove and refrigerate. Return to room temperature before serving.
- Prepare Buffalo Sauce: In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the hot sauce, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Cook, whisking, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Taste and add more hot sauce or sugar if desired. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly while you prepare the cauliflower.
- Prep the Cauliflower Florets: Trim the leaves from the head of cauliflower and separate the florets, cutting them off the center stem. Cut any very large florets in half. Place the florets in a large mixing bowl. Pour about half the buffalo sauce over the top and toss to evenly coat.
- To Grill the Cauliflower: Preheat the grill over High heat to about 400°F. Turn the heat off the burner on one end of the grill, turn the burner next to it to low and the other burners to about medium-low. This helps the vegetables cook more gently.
- Brush a baking sheet (with sides) with vegetable oil. Pour the coated cauliflower florets onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading them out into a single layer, and place over the burner that was turned off. Close the lid and cook about 5 minutes. Use a spatula to turn the florets, scraping them if they are tending to stick a little. Cook until they are fork tender with a little resistance in the center, about 3 to 5 minutes longer.
- To Pan Sear the Cauliflower: If you don't want to cook outside, you can also cook these on the stove. In a 10-inch skillet, preferably non-stick or well seasoned, heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When it is shimmering, add the cauliflower and saute, stirring regularly, until fork tender with a little resistance in the center. They will continue to cook after you've taken them off the heat.
- To Serve: Remove from the heat, toss with the remaining hot sauce mixture and transfer to the serving platter with the bowl of bleu cheese dipping sauce. Sprinkle some parsley over the top for color and a few crumbles of bleu cheese if desired. Serve warm.
- Yield: about 6 to 8 appetizer servings
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