Have you tried cauliflower rice? It’s a perfectly versatile, light side dish. I was skeptical of the concept at first, but now I’ll admit that it can be awesome. I’ll share all my tricks with you today.
If you, like me, are craving lighter meals as the weather warms up, try serving cauliflower rice instead of white or brown rice. It’s similar in texture, with a nice savory flavor, and it’s pure vegetables! I’ve been trying to fill half of my plate with veggies lately, so cauliflower rice is just the ticket.
There is an art to cauliflower rice. If you haven’t enjoyed it in the past, it probably wasn’t prepared optimally. In fact, I just ordered the new cauliflower rice option at my favorite chain burrito place (you probably know it), and I was disappointed. It was far too salty and way too watery. It can be so much better.
Here is a basic primer on how to prepare cauliflower rice. This recipe is simple and yields perfectly fluffy, lightly seared cauliflower rice. You’ll also learn how to adjust the recipe to suit many different meals. Off we go!
Cauliflower Rice Notes & Tips
The key to making great cauliflower rice is to wring excess moisture from the cauliflower rice before cooking.
That way, the “rice” can caramelize in places and yield major flavor bonus points. Otherwise, the rice just steams in the pan, and we all know how compelling plain steamed vegetables are (heh). Cauliflower can vary tremendously in moisture levels, so this step may or may not seem necessary in the moment. Trust me, sometimes you really need it.
The best way to make cauliflower rice is in a food processor with the S-blade.
I tried making the cauliflower rice a few different ways—grated by hand, then in the food processor with the grating attachment, and again in the food processor with the S-blade. I was able to squeeze out the most moisture from the cauliflower rice that I made with the S-blade.
Buy store-bought cauliflower rice to make this recipe more quickly, with less mess.
Fair warning: No matter how I grated the cauliflower, I made a mess. Freshly-made cauliflower rice tastes fresher, however. Properly stored frozen cauliflower rice seems more reliably fresh than refrigerated cauliflower rice. You’ll find details on how to thaw frozen cauliflower rice in the recipe notes.
Stovetop-cooked cauliflower rice tastes better than roasted cauliflower rice.
I tried roasting the cauliflower rice in the oven, and I didn’t love the results. By the time the rice was golden, it had lost a ton of volume and offered a strangely spongey texture. The stovetop rice was tastier, fluffier, and ready sooner!
Cauliflower Rice Flavor Variations
I like to tailor this rice to my meal by adding some fresh herbs and maybe a squeeze of citrus. Here are some suggestions:
Parsley and a squeeze of lemon
Parsley and lemon lend this dish a Mediterranean or Italian vibe. This variation would be lovely with:
- Grilled main dishes, generally speaking
- Crispy Falafel
- Jessica’s Marinated Chickpeas or Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Dill
Check out my full recipe for Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice with Toasted Almonds here.
Cilantro and a squeeze of lime
Cilantro and lime suit Mexican and Indian dishes, as well as Thai curries. Serve this variation with:
- Tacos, tostadas and enchiladas
- Fresh Black Bean Burrito Bowls
- Quick Chana Masala and Dal Makhani
- Thai curries: Green Thai Curry, Red Thai Curry, and Panang Curry
Please let me know how your cauliflower rice turns out in the comments! I really love hearing from you and look forward to your serving suggestions.
How to Make Cauliflower Rice
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Side dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Varies
- Diet: Gluten Free
Make perfect cauliflower rice with this recipe! This light side dish is low carb, vegan and gluten free, too. Recipe yields 4 side servings.
- 1 medium-to-large head cauliflower or 16 ounces store-bought cauliflower rice*
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Optional: 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
- Optional: Squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- If you’re working with a head of cauliflower (if using store-bought, skip to the next step), cut it into medium chunks (see photo) and discard the core. Working in batches, pulse the chunks in a food processor with the S-blade until they’re broken into tiny pieces, just bigger than couscous. (See recipe notes if you don’t have a food processor.)
- Wrap the cauliflower rice in a clean tea towel or paper towels, twist, and squeeze as much water as possible from the rice—you might be surprised by how much water you can wring out, or you might not be. Cauliflower varies quite a bit in its moisture level, and this step ensures that it cooks well.
- Warm the skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, followed by the garlic. Cook while stirring just until the garlic is fragrant, about 10 to 20 seconds. Add the cauliflower rice and salt, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring just every minute or so, until the cauliflower rice is hot and turning golden in places, about 6 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the chopped fresh herbs and citrus, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm. Leftover cauliflower rice will keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Gently reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop before serving.
Recipe adapted from my Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice.
*Store-bought cauliflower rice: Fresh or frozen cauliflower rice will work well for this recipe. If frozen, let the rice defrost in the refrigerator for several hours in advance. Or, you may be able to defrost the frozen rice more quickly in a fine-mesh sieve under cool running water. Be sure to squeeze out excess water as indicated in step two.
If you don’t have a food processor: Slice the cauliflower into even quarters. Grate one quarter at a time on the medium holes of a cheese grater.