Although devoid of color, cauliflower makes up for its lack of personality with powerful nutrition – it’s really one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. In fact, it’s been one of my top healing foods for decades, and for good reason. In addition to being an excellent source of fiber, cauliflower boasts a number of important nutrients, including vitamins B, C, and K, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
But what really makes cauliflower shine is its rich supply of phytochemicals—antioxidant compounds that not only promote excellent health but also help fight some of our most serious diseases like neurodegenerative conditions, heart disease, and cancer.
Three of cauliflower’s most impressive cancer-fighting compounds are indole-3-carbinol (I3C), diindolylmethane (DIM), and sulforaphane. These have been shown to inhibit the occurrence, growth, and spread of prostate and estrogen-related cancers (breast, ovarian, etc.).
Cauliflower also has the ability to reduce inflammation—a top cause of heart disease—by curtailing the body’s output of inflammatory prostaglandins. And if that isn’t enough, cauliflower also contains omega-3 fats, which are able to penetrate layers of cholesterol-laden plaque, reducing inflammation in blood vessels and helping prevent plaque from clogging arteries.
Cauliflower is a member of the Brassica family of vegetables (also called cruciferous vegetables). The most well-known Brassica veggie is broccoli, and along with cauliflower, others include kale, cabbage, collard greens, arugula, watercress, and Brussels sprouts. While all of these cruciferous vegetables should make their way to your plate as often as possible, none are as versatile as cauliflower.
Because cauliflower doesn’t contain a huge amount of water, it lends itself to a variety of different cooking methods and preparations. You can bake it, broil it, roast it, grill it, and puree/mash it (to make healthy, low-carb “mashed potatoes”).
But one of the biggest trends we’re seeing lately is “riced cauliflower”…also called cauliflower rice. Simply put, this is cauliflower that is shredded to look and feel like traditional rice.
Cauliflower rice gives dishes all the texture and consistency of white or brown rice, with a mere fraction of the calories and carbohydrates. The proof is in the numbers: One cup of cooked cauliflower rice contains a scant 25-30 calories and 5-6 grams of carbs. By comparison, the same amount of white rice packs a whopping 240 calories and 53 grams of carbs. You can eat nearly 10 cups of cauliflower rice for the same caloric haul as one cup of white rice!
Cauliflower rice is especially popular among those who follow grain-free or Paleo diets, but really, anyone can make this simple substitution and save themselves a ton of calories and carbs—while at the same time adding invaluable nutrients to their diet. There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to do this…
How to Make Cauliflower Rice
To make cauliflower rice, start with a head of cauliflower, pull off the leaves, and break it down into smaller florets. Rinse the florets under cool water, then either dry them with a towel or allow them to air dry. Once dry, you can either grate the florets by hand or use a food processor to break them down into smaller rice-like pieces. It’s really as easy as that!
If you want to go even simpler, most grocery stores sell already-riced cauliflower in either the refrigerated produce or freezer sections.
To prepare cauliflower rice, you can either steam it or lightly sauté it in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil or butter/ghee, on medium heat for three to five minutes. Don’t simmer or boil directly in water, as this will leave the “rice” mushy and compromise its nutritional value.
Cauliflower is rather bland on its own, which is why some people don’t like it. But honestly, I think this is a positive attribute. Much like chicken, tofu, and other bland foods, cauliflower rice can be spiced up however you want, and it easily takes on whatever delicious flavor that gets added to it.
Don’t expect cauliflower rice to replace regular rice in foods and dishes that require the sticky, starchy texture of the real grain. For instance, you’ll never see sushi rolls made with cauliflower rice. And in soups that call for wild-grain rice, you’d be sorely disappointed if you replaced it with cauliflower rice. But for meals where you would normally use a bed of rice to layer meats and/or veggies, or as an interesting side dish, cauliflower rice works wonderfully. Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
One final note: Cauliflower consistently falls on the Environmental Working Group’s list of fruits and vegetables least contaminated by pesticides and chemical fertilizers. So if you’re on a budget and can’t afford to buy organic cauliflower, you should be fine buying conventional. But if you can buy organic, it’s always a good idea—even if the risk of exposure is small.
Cauliflower Rice Recipes
The easiest and healthiest way, in my opinion, is to enjoy cauliflower rice with a delicious, cold-pressed olive oil – one that is authentically flavored by crushing together fruits or herbs with the olives during the milling process (this is how my flavored olive oils are made). I like to lightly saute or steam the cauliflower rice, then finish it with a generous drizzle of lemon, basil, garlic, or jalapeno garlic olive oil and a few grinds of sea salt – simply delicious!
Here are a couple easy riced cauliflower recipes…
Cauliflower Rice Spicy Veggie Stir Fry
- One head of cauliflower (or 4-5 cups of pre-riced cauliflower)
- 1 to 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 to 3 cups of broccoli florets
- 2 to 6 Tbsp EVOO or Jalapeño Garlic Olive Oil
- Optional: 1 clove garlic, peeled (if using EVOO)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons Italian Seasoning & Dipping Blend
- Savory Salt and Pepper Blends, to taste
1. Rice the cauliflower and garlic clove using a food processor or grater (as directed above).
2. Steam the broccoli and carrots for 3 or 4 minutes until al dente (not mushy); run under cool water and set aside.
3. Heat a pan over medium-low heat, and add 2 Tbsp olive oil of your choice. For more spicy hot flavor, use Jalapeño Garlic Olive Oil; for milder flavor use EVOO.
4. Add the cauliflower and garlic, and heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Add the broccoli and carrots and stir for another minute
6. Stir in Italian Seasoning & Dipping Blend, salt and pepper, to taste.
7. Serve immediately, finished with a drizzle of olive oil
Serves 3 to 4. For more protein, add beans, tofu, or grilled or baked chicken or shrimp at the same time as the broccoli and carrots.
Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice
This recipe is great with Mexican dishes!
- One head of cauliflower (or 4-5 cups of pre-riced cauliflower)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (EVOO or Garlic or Jalapeño Garlic Flavored Olive Oil)
- Zest of two limes
- Juice of one lime
- ¼ cup cilantro (or more if you love it)
- Salt/pepper to taste
- Mexican Spice Blend, to taste