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Riced cauliflower isn't rice

I came to the Vegetable Lovers party late. It wasn’t until my college years — and the impact of one very clever Cooking 101 professor who had a way with produce — that I discovered vegetables could actually be wonderful.

And one of the very first veggies embraced by this newly minted recruit to the green cuisine team was actually a white variety, cauliflower.

Through my entire adult life, I’ve been on board with cauliflower in all its forms, from raw to roasted, be it pureed in soups, steamed with potatoes and onions, or in its more trendy guise of late, “riced.”

That’s right. Riced. As in teeny-tiny pieces, basically the shape of rice; cauliflower florets tumbled about in a food processor, producing a fluffy pile of rice-like crumbles.

Of course, that is definitely where the comparison between the two foods should stop. Cauliflower, no matter how altered in form or function, will still be cauliflower. Your eyes may say “rice” when gazing upon a lovely plate of riced cauliflower, laced with melted butter and fresh garlic. But one bite and your brain will quickly clarify the situation: Cauliflower. Not rice.

But the simple fact that riced cauliflower will never be rice has not stopped a whole lot of people from jumping on the riced cauliflower bandwagon. Indeed, such devotion helped boost cauliflower’s popularity so much that it was actually named the 2018 Trendiest Vegetable of the Year. Not based solely on riced cauliflower, of course. Cauliflower consumption in all its forms has risen dramatically over the last few years, thanks in great part to the low-carb diet craze taking place in our country. Nielsen data found that cauliflower has been popping up on ingredients lists in 36 different grocery categories, from dried pasta to frozen pizza crusts, and that sales for those packaged cauliflower products grew 71 percent in 2017.

People are definitely intrigued. Last year, “cauliflower rice” jumped 60 percent in U.S. search queries, according to Google Trends.

If you are only just beginning to consider what kind of relationship you want to have with riced cauliflower, here are a few points to ponder:

Riced cauliflower needs very little cooking time, and definitely none of it needs to be in water, which will just make it soggy, mushy and develop a strong, less desirable flavor and aroma.

Riced cauliflower will benefit from a quick saute in a bit of olive oil or butter. But don’t overdo it. Just a few minutes over medium heat will do the trick. Sauteeing with flavorful seasonings will complement the mild, nutty undertones in the cauliflower. I lean toward curries and cumin flavors, but even simple flavors like green onion or finely chopped sweet red peppers produces a lovely offering.

Don’t be tempted to cook up a big batch of “cauliflower rice” for a week’s worth of cooking. You will be disappointed, because the longer the dish sits in your refrigerator, the stronger smelling and tasting it will become. It’s so easy and fast to use, just plan on preparing it as needed.

And finally, because it can’t be said enough: Don’t let anyone tell you that riced cauliflower is rice. It isn’t! It won’t absorb liquid like rice, and it doesn’t have the neutral flavor profile of rice. Just enjoy it for what it is: a healthful, low-carb option that simply tastes delicious just by being itself.

Riced Cauliflower — make it or buy it

Homemade: Peel away all of the leaves from a head of cauliflower. Trim it into florets, then cut each floret into 1/2-inch pieces. Working in batches, put a handful of florets into the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse/chop several times, until the cauliflower resembles rice. Scrape into a bowl and repeat as necessary. One pound of cauliflower yields about 3-1/2 to 4 cups of riced cauliflower.

Purchased: You will find it either in the frozen vegetable section or in the fresh produce aisle of most large supermarkets. Trader Joe’s carries both versions most of the time (but they often run out of stock).

Simply Sauteed Cauliflower Rice

Chopped yellow onion


Olive oil

Riced cauliflower

Salt and pepper to taste

Additional seasonings (see note)

Over medium heat, saute the onion with the butter and olive oil until the onion is translucent. Stir in the riced cauliflower and continue cooking about 2 more minutes, just until the cauliflower is thoroughly heated, but still retaining a bit of its crispness. Don’t overcook. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with one or more of the “additional seasonings” if desired.

Note on additional seasonings:

Variations on Simply Sauteed Cauliflower Rice to consider include:

Italian seasoning

Ground cumin


A selection of curry seasonings

Shredded cheese

Splash of soy sauce or tempura sauce

Minced garlic or green onion

Drained and chopped marinated artichoke hearts

Sliced olives

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Don’t be limited by the ingredients list. Use whatever other vegetables and/or proteins you have on hand.

2 eggs, whisked

4 tablespoons butter, divided

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced/chopped

1 small yellow or white onion, chopped

1/2 cup frozen peas

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

4 cups cauliflower rice

2 green onions, washed, trimmed, then halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch lengths

3 tablespoons soy sauce, more to taste

1/2 to 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

In a large saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the whisked egg, stirring occasionally until creating a soft scramble. Remove from pan and set aside.

Melt 2 additional tablespoons of butter and increase the heat to medium-high. Add carrots and yellow onion. Saute until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Push the sauteed vegetables to the side and add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan, then add the cauliflower rice. Give it a quick stir to distribute the melted butter, but allow it to brown slightly by not stirring for a couple of minutes. Once the bottom of the cauliflower starts to brown, stir the sauteed vegetables into the cauliflower, along with the peas and green onions. Cook another couple of minutes to heat through, then add the soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds and cooked egg. Remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Riced Cauliflower Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Makes enough for 6 to 8 servings.

Roasting chickpeas (aka, garbanzo beans) is a wonderful trick. It turns them into the most delightful, crunchy, flavorful morsels. You can even tumble them into a small bowl and offer them as an appetizer instead of peanuts.

For the roasted chickpeas:

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas/garbanzos (1-1/2 cups), drained, rinsed and patted completely dry

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

2 to 3 cloves finely minced garlic

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

3-1/2 to 4 cups of riced cauliflower (about 1 pound)

1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 medium red onion, diced

1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

1 English cucumber, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

1/3 cup pine nuts

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl, along with the olive oil, cumin, salt and cayenne. Toss to thoroughly coat the chickpeas. Spread the chickpeas on a rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for about 35 to 40 minutes, until browned and crisp, stirring midway through. Remove from oven and set aside.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic cloves, mustard, soy sauce and salt. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow and steady stream. It will thicken slightly. Adjust taste, adding extra salt and/or mustard to taste; set aside.

To assemble the salad, combine the riced cauliflower with the tomatoes, red onion, olives, cucumber, parsley, pine nuts and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss again. Adjust seasonings, adding additional salt and pepper to taste. Top with the roasted chickpeas and serve.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Reach her at janrd@proaxis.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.

Simply sauteed with a bit of butter and olive oil, chopped onion and seasonings of your choosing, riced cauliflower makes a healthful and delicious “rice bowl” base. Top it with such wholesome offerings as a poached egg, sliced avocado, edemame, pea sprouts and roasted chickpeas, then drizzle on a bit of dressing of choice.Photo by Jan Roberts-Dominguez