Hot Cauliflower Pizza

Hot Cauliflower Deep Dish Pizza (via abeautifulmess.com)This pizza recipe is very much inspired by Nashville hot chicken. My sister has taken me to all sorts of delicious Nashville spots over the past year, but probably the one I hear about most often from people who are visiting or thinking about visiting, etc. is hot chicken. Is it because the name is catchy? I don't know. It's become so popular that a certain fast food chain, which shall remain nameless, started making their own version too. Hmm. 

As many of you know, I eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I'm not 100% opposed to eating locally or humanely raised meat, but I prefer to focus on eating more vegetables since you can never really get enough of that in your diet anyway. So, I started thinking about trying to make some kind of hot chicken inspired recipe that focused on vegetables (cauliflower) instead of chicken. Maybe you've seen some of the cauliflower "wings" recipes floating around the Internet (this one especially piqued my interest), so I thought I'd use that concept as a jumping off point.

Hot Cauliflower Pizza (via abeautifulmess.com)  The result: a truly decadent and delicious vegetarian-friendly pizza! Plus you can easily use the cauliflower recipe on its own for a baked "wing" option if you like (see recipe notes at the end).

Hot Cauliflower Pizza, serves 3-4 as a meal
Cauliflower coating loosely adapted from Hattie B's Hot Chicken via Food Network

For the pizza dough:
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons cornmeal for dusting

For the cauliflower:
1 small head of cauliflower
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs (Panko is preferred here)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 clove of garlic, minced

For the pizza topping:
1/4 cup pizza sauce (homemade or store-bought)
1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
10 slices of pickle (I used bread and butter chips pickles)

First, make the pizza dough. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, stir the sugar into the warm water until dissolved. Pour the yeast over the top of the water and let it activate for 3-5 minutes. It should foam up a bit, that's how you know the yeast is working. 

Baked caulifower hot wingsIn a bowl, stir together the 2 cups all-purpose flour and salt. Then pour the yeast water in, and stir until a dough ball forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and press together, then knead for about 5 minutes. Be sure to continue to coat your work surface and hands with enough flour so the dough doesn't stick to everything. After about 5 minutes, the dough should feel smooth and elastic like. Add some flour to the mixing bowl, place the dough ball inside, sprinkle with a bit more flour, then cover with a clean kitchen cloth. Allow to rise in a cool or slightly warm, dry spot for about an hour until doubled in size. 

Meanwhile, make the hot cauliflower. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the bottom leaves and stem from the cauliflower head and cut into florets. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, milk, and hot sauce. In another bowl, place the bread crumbs. Dip the cauliflower pieces in the hot sauce mix, then in the bread crumbs. Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once you've dipped all the cauliflower pieces, bake for 20 minutes. 

Towards the end of the baking time, melt the butter and stir in cayenne, chili powder, brown sugar, and minced garlic. Once the cauliflower is done and out of the oven, brush each piece with the butter/spice mix. 

Nashville hot chicken caulifower recipeWith the oven still turned to 450°F, place your pizza stone or large cast-iron skillet inside to heat up. Roll out your pizza dough.

Remove the skillet from the oven (careful, it's hot now!), dust with cornmeal and place the dough inside. Bake for 5-6 minutes. Then remove from the oven, and top with sauce, cheese, and the cauliflower pieces. Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, until the cheese is very bubbly and beginning to brown in spots. 

Remove from the skillet, slice, and top with pickles. Serve warm!

Hot Cauliflower Pizza (via abeautifulmess.com) Notes:

-You can skip the pizza and just eat the cauliflower pieces as "wings" or a main dish. If you'd like to make them vegan friendly, swap out the milk for nondairy milk (soy, almond, etc.) as well as the butter for a vegan-friendly butter such as Earth Balance. 

-I used Tapatio hot sauce, as it's what I happen to have on hand. I also really love Cholula. But any thin consistency hot sauce that you like should do the trick. 

-I really love the pickles here as it's like Nashville hot chicken and just goes well with the spice. But, if pickles on pizza just isn't your thing, you could swap this out for some chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro or parsley. 

Happy pizza making! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with the NEW A Beautiful Mess actions

  • Wish I could pull this pizza out of the screen and eat it right now 🙂 Such a fun (and yummy) idea!!

  • This looks so good! I’m drooling over this and can’t wait to give this a try soon! It looks like the perfect fall movie night dinner!

  • I had to google “Nashville hot chicken” because where I come from (Québec, Canada) “Hot chicken” is a very different recipe. Basically it’s just shredded chicken between two pieces of plain untoasted (straight out of the bag) white bread. You smother that with gravy and add some canned peas, serve it with mashed potatoes and call it a meal……needless to say, I always hated it growing up. Your “hot chicken” recipe sounds much, much better, especially with cauliflower .

  • “Hot chicken” took me by surprise but as this nameless chain (first hit when I googled Nashville hot chicken) actually has an outlet in Carcassonne, France, I am going to be driving through to see whether it’s on the menu here (doubt it. But at least they have real corn on the cob, which, being from the Midwest, is one of the main food groups and I can’t find it anywhere else).
    Although Nashville hot chicken and cauliflower masquerading as it sound very yummy, I feel like they would be too much on pizza, which already is a Carb with a capital C. Bread plus breaded topping? Maybe it tastes good, but my jeans popped just thinking about it. And that pickle?!?!?! I’m kind of in love, but it isn’t a healthy relationship!
    So now that you’ve put me onto Nashville hot chicken cauliflower, I can’t wait to try it out!

  • I am just loving all of the cauliflower recipes lately, and this one looks insanely good! I can’t wait to try it out!

  • Interesting—your version is quite different. I can see how that might have thrown you for a loop there for second. 🙂 Almost sounds like lazy chicken poutine in a way.

    -Emma

  • I hear you! Check the recipe/notes bc you can def just use the cauliflower portion of this recipe as a main or side all on it’s own and skip the pizza part if you want to keep it lighter. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I like to see how you do your crumb cause i never thought it could be different than what i do! haha silly thoughts! In France we line up 3 bowls. 1st one flour, 2nd one egg yolks,last one: breakfast rusk crumbs that you mix with the spices you want.
    I am so going to try your way!!! Probably with almond milk!

  • uuuuummmmmm YUM. I love your usage of the cast iron here. I need to get one!

  • I made the hot cauliflower yesterday and it was great! I made it as a side to some tilapia and sweet potatoes. My husband said “these taste like chicken wings. What is this?!” He loved them! Great recipe that is going in my vault!