Cauliflower Rice...Wait, What?

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With new health recommendations suggesting 8-10 servings of low carbohydrate vegetables daily, it’s been exciting to see how the creative foodie community is using vegetables in place of high carb starches in recipes.

If you haven’t heard, cauliflower rice is the newest kid on the block.  The premise behind the craze is, replace rice in meals and recipes with finely chopped cauliflower, a.k.a. cauliflower rice, for a lower glycemic, lower calorie alternative.

To understand why this is significant, it’s important to know that a 1/3 cup serving of white or brown rice provides about 80 calories, little to no fiber, only a pinch of protein and lots of carbs.  (Plus, who eats just 1/3 of a cup anyway?) In other words, rice is a high glycemic food - not the best choice for your blood glucose or energy level.

Cauliflower, on the other hand, is very low in carbs, loaded with phytonutrients and high in fiber.   A ¾ cup serving of cauliflower rice contains 20 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein and only 4 grams of carbs.  This makes a significant difference for those watching their weight, energy level and blood glucose (Umm, most of us!).

1/3 cup of rice=80 cal and 15gm carbs while 3/4 cup of cauliflower rice=20 cal and 4gm carbs. Click To Tweet

Turns out, cauliflower has proven to be a perfect specimen for the rice trade-out experiment because:

  1. it can easily be shredded into a fine, rice-like consistency,
  2. it looks like rice when riced, and
  3. it can be substituted for rice in recipes with totally delicious results.

Home trials of cauliflower rice have been so successful, foods companies have jumped on the opportunity with lightning speed and supermarkets can hardly keep cauliflower rice on the shelves.   Trader Joe’s sells frozen and fresh cauliflower rice which has been purchased at such high volumes the TJ’s in some states have enforced a 2-bag per customer limit.   Green Giant is now offering a riced vegetable line as well.

So, the good news -  cauliflower rice is delicious, easy to use and quite good for you.  The bad news - you may have trouble finding it!

But, no worries!  In this blog, you will learn how to make cauliflower rice in minutes in your own kitchen.  You’ll also learn how to cook it and several ways it can be used in recipes and as side dishes.

How to Make Cauliflower Rice

 

Recipe for Homemade Cauliflower Rice

You will need:

  • 1-2 heads fresh cauliflower, washed and thoroughly dried
  • Food processor or mini food chopper
  • Sharp knife

Directions:

  • Cut cauliflower head in half and then in quarters.
  • With a sharp knife, slice off the spine/core from each quarter of the cauliflower. The florets will fall apart.
  • Break apart or chop the florets into small, equal pieces so they will “rice” evenly.
  • Place the small pieces into your food processor in a single layer (use the chopping blade).
  • Pulse the food processor in 1 second intervals until the floret pieces are in even rice-sized pieces. Be careful not to over process or you will get cauliflower “dust”.  Set aside in a bowl.
  • Repeat Steps 4 – 5 with the remaining cauliflower pieces.

How to Cook Cauliflower Rice

Recipes using cauliflower rice are popping up everywhere.  There are plenty in Pinterest.  Cauliflower rice can be substituted for white rice in most recipes including Asian-inspired dishes like Fried Rice or simply used as a stand-alone side dish instead of rice.

Here are 3 simple ways to cook cauliflower rice.

Sautéed Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-3 ½ cups cauliflower rice, fresh or frozen

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until it shimmers.
  • Add cauliflower rice. Stir, mixing the cauliflower rice with the olive oil.  Spread it into an even layer in the skillet and let it cook for 3 – 4 minutes.
  • Stir the cauliflower rice with a spatula, make a new layer, and cook 3 – 4 more minutes.
  • Continue cooking 1 – 2 minutes longer stirring constantly until moisture is gone and it is your desired consistency.

Microwaved Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-3 ½ cups cauliflower rice, fresh or frozen

Directions

  • Place cauliflower rice in microwaveable glass dish with glass lid.
  • Add olive oil and stir.
  • Cover with glass lid and microwave on High for 3 minutes.

Roasted Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp seasoning salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 3-3 ½ cups cauliflower rice, fresh or frozen

Directions

  • Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix cauliflower rice with olive oil, seasoned salt and pepper.
  • Layer on parchment paper in thin, single layer.
  • Roast in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 10 - 15 minutes (watch it carefully – frozen cauliflower rice may cook faster than fresh).
  • Remove pan from oven and toss with spatula. Spread into an even layer again.
  • Return pan to oven and roast 5 – 10 minutes longer until golden brown.

For an excellent review on making and cooking Cauliflower Rice, check out this Epicurious article, The Best Ways to Make Cauliflower Rice.

Here’s a quick recipe I tossed together one night after a long workday.  It took about 15 minutes and is amazing! And the best part, a 1 cup serving counts as 2 servings of vegetables instead of 3 servings of rice!  Great for all of you carb counters!

Sautéed Cauliflower Rice with Spinach
Makes 2 – 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-3 ½ cups cauliflower rice, fresh or frozen (12 oz bag)
  • ½ medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt or sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 packed cups raw baby spinach

Directions

1. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat until it shimmers.

2. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.

3. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes.

4. Add cauliflower rice and seasoned salt.

5. Sauté for about 5 minutes (or until desired consistency), stirring frequently until moisture is gone.

6. In the last minute of cooking, add spinach and toss until wilted.

7. Season with pepper, if desired, and serve.

For more recipes using cauliflower rice, check out these links from SkinnyTaste:

What are some of your favorite ways to use cauliflower rice?

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe. 

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this blog post. 


This month, SAS Life is featuring glucose management related posts in observance of Diabetes Alert Day.  For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association's website.  Be sure to check out the entire series.

 

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About Author

Cathy Greer Mazanec, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN

Cathy is the Senior Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs at SAS Institute Inc in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Board Certified Sports Nutritionist, blogger and food photographer. Cathy's specialties include integrative and functional nutrition, gut health, food allergies and intolerances, culinary nutrition and sports nutrition. She is also a Certified Biofeedback instructor. An avid lover of the outdoors, Cathy spends her free time biking, golfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, sitting under the stars and spending time with her new grandson. Follow @CmazanecRD on Twitter.

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