Ok, I don't say this very often, but friends, cauliflower "couscous" or "rice" is mind-blowing. Zero exaggeration. It's light and fluffy. It takes five minutes to make. It can replace couscous or rice in any dish, hot or cold, side dish or otherwise. Talk about a food crush.
Don't wait a second more: here's a step-by-step recipe that shows how you can make cauliflower rice, too.
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I admit to a fair amount of skepticism when I first heard about cauliflower rice and couscous from my paleo and grain-free friends. I am already distrustful of healthy food disguised as comfort food, and when I thought about cauliflower as a stand-in for either couscous or rice, I just couldn't make the math work in my head. No way a crunchy cruciferous like cauliflower could convince me to pass up a scoop of rice with my dinner.
Well, I should get a slap on the wrist for this one. Please don't wait as long as I did before you try it for yourself.
Cauliflower couscous is surprisingly grain-like. No, it probably wouldn't win in a side-by-side taste test with either couscous or white rice, but it does a fair job of coming close. It's light and fluffy, like couscous. It's also tender and has just the right amount of chew, like rice.
You make this copycat couscous by pulsing cauliflower florets in a food processor (or grating them on a box grater) until they've broken down into tiny granules. Eaten raw, the grains are tender but crunchy with a mild flavor. Raw cauliflower couscous can be used like cooked grains in salads like tabbouleh or any of these hearty lunch salads.
Quickly cooked in a little butter or olive oil on the stove top, the couscous becomes softer and more tender. It can be served just like rice as a side dish for curry, stir-fry, or beans. I've also used it in a fried "rice" dish and as a filling for burritos. I haven't yet tried it in a casserole, but I feel confident the cauliflower couscous would hold its own there, too.
Bottom line: whether you're trying to sneak more vegetables into your day or are avoiding grains — or heck, even if you just want another idea for the dinner table — cauliflower "couscous" is something you need in your life.
Start with one head of cauliflower, any size.
How To Make Cauliflower Rice or Couscous
Makes 6 servings (about 1 cup each)
What You Need
1 head cauliflower, any size
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter, optional
Food processor or box grater
Skillet with lid, optional
Cut the cauliflower into large pieces: Cut the head of cauliflower into quarters, then trim out the inner core from each quarter. Break apart the cauliflower into large florets with your hands. If the core is tender, you can chip it into pieces and add it with the florets.
Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor: Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Don't fill the food processor more than 3/4 full; if necessary, process in two batches.
Pulse the cauliflower until completely broken down: Process the cauliflower in 1-second pulses until it has completely broken down into couscous-sized granules. (Alternatively, grate the florets on the large holes of a box grater.)
Pull out any unprocessed pieces: Some florets or large pieces of cauliflower might remain intact. Pull these out and set them aside. Transfer the cauliflower couscous to another container and re-process any large pieces.
Serving raw cauliflower couscous: Cauliflower couscous can be used raw, tossed like grains into a salad or in a cold side dish.
Cooking cauliflower couscous: Cooking makes the cauliflower more tender and rice-like. Warm a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the couscous and sprinkle with a little salt. Cover the skillet and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the couscous is as tender as you like. Use or serve immediately, or refrigerate the couscous for up to a week.
Freezing raw cauliflower couscous: The couscous can also be sealed in airtight containers or bags and frozen for up to three months. Thaw on the counter for a few minutes before using or cooking.
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(Image credits: Emma Christensen)