Grilled Sunflowers Are Taking Over TikTok – Would You Eat One?
A Food Network recipe developer shares tips on how to properly cook the flowers.
TikTok users are nothing if not creative! The inventive group that has blessed us with creamy lemonade and boat dip is looking beyond the refrigerator or pantry for its next trendy food. This time, it’s all about grilled sunflowers.
Believe it or not, you can place a sunflower head on the grill just as you would a hot dog or a piece of steak, and you can also season it much like you would do with vegetables or a slab of meat. Once the sunflower head is done cooking, simply go ahead and take a bite.
Though it’s not exactly clear which resourceful TikTok user started the grilled sunflower trend, videos with the unusual food first began appearing on the platform about a year ago, and became popular again earlier this summer. One of the most popular grilled sunflower videos was posted by Redleaf Ranch, a garden and homestead located in Tennessee. In the clip, Brian Brigantti, who runs the property, demonstrates how to properly prepare and eat a grilled sunflower.
Brigantti starts off by removing the head from the rest of the flower and taking any petals off. He then washes it thoroughly and rubs it with seasonings of his choice, including salt, pepper, paprika, thyme and onion powder. To cook the sunflower head, Brigantti places it face down on a closed outdoor grill for about five minutes. He then tops it off with green onions and Tajín seasoning.
“Oh my god, that is bussin’,” he exclaimed as he took his first bite. “It reminds me of corn. I see why this is a thing.”
If you’re interested in preparing a grilled sunflower head of your own, Food Network recipe developer Amanda Neal has some tips. When it comes to choosing your sunflower snack, Neal points out that the type of sunflower you use (and when you pick it) is very important. “The sunflower heads seen in the TikTok video are giant sunflowers, and they are picked at an immature stage where the leaves are not fully bloomed,” she explains. “When the sunflowers are at this stage, the seeds are elongated and soft in texture, and they don't have the tough exterior skin that would make them challenging to eat.”
When it comes time to prepare the dish, Neal suggests keeping things simple. “Pull all the outer leaves from the sunflower head, revealing just the immature seeds. Rub generously with oil and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning blend,” she advises. “Place it on a grill face-side-down over medium-high heat, then cover and cook until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes.”
For those of us who may not have a grill at our disposal, Neal has an alternate suggestion. “A majority of the recipes online call for an outdoor grill; this will not only accommodate the large size of the sunflower heads, but also provide a nice smokey flavor. If you don't have an outdoor grill, you can use a large grill pan on the stovetop, then finish cooking in the oven,” she shares.
As for what the finished product tastes like, Neal notes that it’s not unlike some popular summer vegetables. “The flavor is mostly described as slightly sweet and starchy like corn, but also more earthy like an artichoke heart.”
The flavor, Neal points out, is also influenced by the seasonings you use. “Because the base flavor is mild, you can really use a variety of seasoning blends to season the sunflower head. I would suggest leaning into the flavors of summer by including garlic powder, dried oregano, salt and pepper,” she explains. “Then finish with a drizzle of melted butter and a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice.”
Curious to maybe get ahead of a trend and give some other cooked flowers a try? There are actually quite a few to choose from, including some you might already be familiar with. “There are many edible flowers, including zucchini blossoms, nasturtiums and hibiscus. However, these are all more delicate in texture and flavor, so I would avoid grilling them,” Neal shares. “Also, be sure to avoid using flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. And always purchase your edible flowers from the produce section of your grocery store or from safe online sources.”