“Cauliflower rice” is not rice.
OK, that needed to be said. So, let’s stop confusing unwitting diners and end this charade once and for all.
But, by all means, let’s keep eating cauliflower. Why? Because it’s healthy.
And let’s keep incorporating it into dishes that might otherwise call for rice. Why? Because … it just kind of works.
Contradictory? Probably. But while cauliflower has enjoyed newfound appreciation as a rice imposter, it’s good enough to stand on its own, and it deserves our respect. Well, as much respect as one can give a cruciferous vegetable.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”HEX 0073bb” class=”” size=””]“Cauliflower has more nutritional mileage than rice.”[/perfectpullquote]
To see how this veggie stacks up, we enlisted an expert: Dallas-based registered dietitian Louise Chen. “Cauliflower packs a nutritious punch,” says Chen. “It contains a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants while keeping total calories low.”
She notes that consuming cauliflower is a good way to include more fiber in our daily diets — something most Americans need. Adding cauliflower (and fiber) to your repertoire can also promote good gastrointestinal health, reduce the risk of heart disease and help control blood sugar for those with diabetes — or just watching their waistlines.
Cauliflower is also an excellent source of vitamin C and folate and includes magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and vitamin K. That’s a whole lot of goodness packed into one strange-looking, usually white vegetable.
It’s versatile, too, and can be eaten raw, roasted, pureed, sautéed and, yes, pulverized into “rice.” Cauliflower’s neutral flavor profile lets it easily take on other flavors, so use that to your advantage when cooking at home.
“The key is in the seasoning,” says Chen. “Substituting cauliflower for rice won’t be exactly the same due to mouthfeel and texture, so be generous with garlic, pepper and onions.” She also recommends seasonings like turmeric, cumin, paprika and curry powder to spice things up.
If you’re going the rice route, don’t cook the cauliflower in water like you would actual rice. Just give it a quick sauté over medium heat for 6–8 minutes, season with salt and pepper and you’re good to go. It’s even better if you add garlic and white onion to the pan for more aromatics and flavor.
If you’re keeping those cauliflower florets whole, Chen suggests this quick and simple side dish: “Drizzle one head of cauliflower florets with olive oil, add a clove or two of fresh garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and place in the oven for about 15 minutes. To include some smokiness, add paprika.”
Sounds easy enough.
Chen notes that, while we still need carbohydrates in our diet (allotting 50% of your daily calorie intake to carbs is a reasonable goal) we typically consume too many total carbs. Or even worse, too many of the refined variety. Since cauliflower is a non-starchy vegetable — one cup contains just 5 grams of carbs, compared to 45 grams of carbs in one cup of rice — you can save 160 calories each time you make the swap. “Cauliflower has more nutritional mileage than rice,” says Chen.
So, no, cauliflower is not a direct substitute for the fluffy white stuff that comes in your Chipotle burrito bowl. And there’s no need to pretend it is. Because cauliflower, whether served as rice or kept whole, is good for you. With pretty minimal effort, it tastes good, too.