Vegetable Biryani Cauliflower “Rice”

Encouraged by my most recent attempt at using cauliflower for a rice substitute, I continued my efforts this weekend with yet another rice recipe. While I suspect a similar cooking method to what I used with the Mexican “Rice” would work here, too, I wanted to try keeping the cauliflower raw this time. Due to my recent increase in vegetable consumption, I have discovered that I enjoy more and more vegetables raw or simply warmed to eating temperature, rather than cooked through. I wanted to see if cauliflower “rice” might below to the same category.

It had been quite some time since I’d made Indian-style curries for myself at home, so I resolved to make two favorites from my recipe box this weekend: Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag (Indian Creamed Spinach). What better opportunity to try out another Cauliflower “Rice” recipe than as a curry companion? And so, I struck out into the Internet to research Biryani recipes.

Some elements of this recipe are cooked and some are not. For this reason, the ingredients are divided up in sections.

Vegetable Biryani Cauliflower "Rice"

Vegetable Biryani Cauliflower “Rice”


2 lbs. cauliflower, riced

1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
pinch cloves
pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tomato, finely diced
8 oz. frozen small mixed vegetables or soup vegetables (i.e. corn, chopped carrots, green beans, lima beans, peas, etc.)

1 tablespoon oil
1 green onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup peanuts or mixed nuts
fresh coriander

Rice your cauliflower in batches, doing the stems first and then florets, by pulsing in the food processor. Fold in a clean towel and set aside.

Combine the spices and salt in a small bowl or ramekin. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Saute the garlic briefly. Add 1 tablespoon of the spice mix. Stir fry until the spices are coated with oil. Add diced tomatoes and mixed vegetables. Saute until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine raw cauliflower “rice” with 1 tablespoon oil and the remainder of the spice mix. Add green onions and nuts. Stir until evenly distributed.

When the mixed vegetables have reached their desired tenderness, combine the contents of the skillet with with spiced cauliflower “rice” in the large bowl.

Serve with your favorite curries. If desired, warm on an oven-safe dish prior to serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

This dish was a smashing success! The spices, the texture, the mix of vegetables and nuts and raw “rice” struck a perfect balance and was an excellent accompaniment to the curries. The first helping I warmed up on an oven-safe plate, but subsequent helpings, I actually just ate at room temperature (the curries I ate with it were hot, after all). Both ways, it was quite delicious, and I think I’m a convert to raw “rice,” as I found the texture much more crisp and rice-like. Also, no worries about over-cooking and the cauliflower shedding too much liquid. Perhaps the most obvious advantage is that keeping the rice raw makes prep incredibly easy! Not having to cook an ingredient simplifies any recipe immensely, especially one where other ingredients (i.e. the vegetables) are cooked separately. After this recipe, I’m excited to try even more cauliflower “rice”!

Loaded Cauliflower Casserole

One discovery I have made again and again when exploring the dietary substitutions inherent in pursuing a new way of eating (e.g. low carb, vegetarian or vegan, etc.) is that sometimes the best meal items and recipes are the ones where the main ingredient isn’t masquerading as a forbidden food. Discovering new ways to enjoy allowed-foods in their own right is often more successful than forcing them into the role of a food that is sorely missed.

This recipe falls into that category. While it is based on recipes for “Loaded Baked Potato Casserole,” the cauliflower in this dish is not made to resemble potatoes, but enjoyed in its full-out floret form!


1 lb. cauliflower florets, steamed
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheese, divided
6 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
3 green onions, chopped or snipped fine
salt and pepper
1 tomato, seeded and diced

Preheat oven to 350. Chop cauliflower into pieces and steam to desired tenderness. In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream, half the cheese, half the bacon, half the green onions, salt and pepper.

Combine cauliflower pieces with sour cream mixture and spread in a baking dish. Sprinkle remaining bacon and cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle diced tomatoes on top. Return to the oven. Bake and additional five minutes.

Garnish with remaining green onions on top and serve.

Adventures in Cauliflower: Mexican Red “Rice”

I came out of my summer’s week-long vacation with a renewed dedication to low-carb eating. Calorie-counting has become unbearable, and ineffective, since my patiently-awaited weekend splurges turn into overkill, effectively cancelling out the weekday deprivation and counteracting any ground gained. Also, in the effort to avoid unnecessary calories, I found myself avoiding protein-rich foods like meat and fish because of how heavily they weighed on the calorie scale.

Turning again to low-carb living seems the only solution, as it is a diet I can stick to, even over the weekends, where I can “splurge” on richer low-carb foods (or low-carb recipes I don’t have time to make during the week) without actually violating the diet. Weekdays are dedicated to eating comparatively lean meals and many, many vegetables. I’ve discovered, to my surprise, that there are even many vegetables I prefer raw, or almost raw, like diced tomatoes or shredded cabbage, either fresh or slightly warmed.

CauliflowerIn my low-carb experiments, I’ve discovered a number of pretty reasonable substitutes for the usual carb suspects. Cauliflower makes an excellent mashed “potato,” zucchini and other squash and even cabbage put through the spiralizer make great bed of spaghetti, leafy greens are a surprisingly good stand-in for tortillas. Of course, many of these substitutes aren’t meant to taste the same (actually, I find I like the mashed cauliflower better), but to be functional substitutions that taste good in their own right while mimicking the properties of the erstwhile carb.

One carb substitution that has thus far eluded me, however, is finding a good twin for rice. The high glycemic properties of rice can be pretty effectively mitigated by my diabetic friends by cooking it in high fat recipes, such as coconut milk rice or risotto with plenty of butter and cream and cheese. But my motives are fueled by vanity rather than health, and so I’m aiming to give my metabolism some tough love by avoiding anything more carb-rich than your average vegetable in the hopes that it will target the 7-10 pounds causing my vain self to nit-pick.

The most common low-carb suggestion for rice substitution is, once again, cauliflower. While I am extremely happy with its ability to stand in for mashed potatoes, I found my first attempt at cauliflower “rice” a mite disappointing. I endeavored to make a coconut rice on the stovetop. It was tasty enough, but I had texture qualms with the end product. For one, the consistency of the “grain” of the cauliflower rice is… well, inconsistent. I put my cauliflower through the shredder blade of my food processor, and the florets broke up into small pieces, while the stalks were transformed into long shreds, like thickly shredded cheese that never melts. This may just be the perils of using the whole cauliflower, though I will attempt a correction below. Also, the cauliflower, when cooked stovetop in the coconut milk became somewhat limp and somewhat slimy, like cooked cabbage, mushrooms or spinach. I realize, of course, that cauliflower does not have the same liquid-absorbing properties as rice (on the contrary, it has much inherent liquid to shed), but I generally feel that the appeal of many rice dishes (soup and risotto notwithstanding) is the certain dry-ness it provides in contrast to other foods on the plate. Delicate basmati or jasmine rice balances a gravy-like curry, Mexican rice balances creamy re-fried beans and drenched enchiladas, sticky white or fried rice balances a saucy General Tso’s.

Likewise, I would ideally like my cauliflower rice to have the versatility to assume these functions, and so this time, I will attempt a few fixes.


1 medium-large head of cauliflower, stems divided from florets
2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 or 2 tablespoons chili powder (the Mexican spice mix)
salt to taste
1 (15oz) can of diced tomatoes with juice
1 (6oz) can of tomato paste
1 bouillon cube, chicken or beef, crushed
frozen small mixed vegetables (i.e. corn, peas, diced carrots, etc.), optional

Preheat oven to 400. Rice your cauliflower.

Cauliflower "riced"

Cauliflower “riced”

Okay, at this stage, I’m going to try a different approach than last time. I separated the florets from the stems and I’m going to process the stems first using the regular food processor blade until they are a bit more “riced” than the “cheese shred” cauliflower I got last time. Before putting them in the processor, I additionally cut them into smaller chunks so there wouldn’t be pieces of dramatically different size. I don’t want smaller pieces getting pulverized into cauliflower dust while I wait for the larger pieces to break up. This process worked well to get the cauliflower divided up more evenly. To be honest, the end result really is more like couscous than rice, but at this stage, I say same difference if it turns out well. I also put the cauliflower in a large kitchen towel to absorb extra moisture right after I riced it.

Process the cauliflower stems first in a large food processor, then the florets. Depending on the size of the cauliflower you may need to process in batches. Spread the cauliflower “rice” across a large, shallow backing dish. Toss with oil, garlic, onions and spices. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, stir, and then return for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

I did not use the small mixed vegetables this time around. I also decided to puree the tomato mixture with my immersion blender because the diced tomato pieces were so large.

DSC01983Stir the tomato mixture into the roasted cauliflower rice until well-combined. Return to the oven. Bake uncovered at 400, stirring every 10 minutes, until much of the liquid has evaporated and cauliflower is lightly browned on top. Serve with your favorite Mexican main dish.

This time around, the rice turned out pretty well. My efforts to reduce the liquid in this recipe, and the strategy to bake uncovered eliminated the sliminess of my last attempt. The cauliflower still is not overall as “dry” as rice, but it was a worthy substitute. This recipe gives me hope for future cauliflower “rice” recipes.

Some online recipes for cauliflower rice suggest that it also works well raw, which I imagine is another good strategy for eliminating the sliminess of too much liquid. Perhaps my next attempt will be a raw recipe.