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Cauliflower rice: what is it? Why do people use it instead of regular rice? And what are the benefits?

You may be tempted to dismiss cauli rice as just a trend or part of some fad diet that will soon be replaced by the next big thing. 

But actually—cauliflower rice has some amazing health benefits. And if you cook it right, it tastes really good. 

Read on to learn about the benefits to cauliflower, how to cook it (the right way), and how to make it part of your healthy dinner rotation.

Cauliflower Rice Benefits

caulflower rice
Source: unsplash
Whether store bought or DIY, cauliflower is a healthy choice.

It isn’t just a lower calorie, lower carb alternative to regular rice (though it is indeed both of those things). Cauliflower also packs a tremendous amount of nutrition in those white stalks and florets.

Cauliflower Rice Nutrition

Did you know? One cup of cauliflower packs in three grams of fiber, which is 10% of your daily fiber need. Fiber is an essential part of anyone’s diet for gut health, digestive health, and reducing inflammation. 

Cauliflower also has a whole host of nutrients, including vitamin K (20% of the recommended daily intake, or RDI), vitamin B6 (11% of the RDI), folate (14% of the RDI), potassium (9% of the RDI), magnesium (4% of the RDI)—and that’s not all.

In terms of vitamin C, you can hold off on the oranges if they’re not your thing. One cup of cauliflower also has a whopping 77% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C! 

Some more health benefits of cauliflower: It’s a good source of antioxidants, it’s high in choline, and it’s rich in sulforaphane, all essential to optimal health. 

Cauliflower can also aid in weight loss due to being such a low-carb, low-calorie, and still filling alternative to other foods.

Cauliflower Rice Carbs Info

Curious about the carbs? A lot of people choose cauliflower when they’re trying to reduce their carb intake. Cauliflower has just three carbs per cup—making it a much lower-carb alternative to traditional rice, which packs in 45 carbs in the same serving size. 

And if you’re curious about the rice calories—those are significantly lower than traditional rice as well. One cup has 25 calories, while regular rice has 206 calories. That’s 1/8 the calories for the same portion of food. 

So if you’re looking to lose weight, cut down on carbs, or be healthier overall—cauliflower rice is an excellent choice.

How to Make Cauliflower Rice

So now that you know how good it is for you, the question is: Does it taste good?

Yes, it does! That is, if you cook it correctly.

So how do you cook cauliflower rice? Just follow these steps.

Step 1: Grate the Cauliflower Into Rice Grain-Sized Pieces

food processor
Source: Nicole via Flickr Creative Commons
A food processor makes chopping your cauliflower a snap.

There’s actually a way to skip this step: These days, you can usually find pre-grated cauliflower rice in your grocery’s freezer section.

But like most things prepared and semi-prepared, pre-grated and frozen cauliflower rice is usually going to cost you a little more than if you do it yourself. Or you may just prefer homemade. If that’s the case, read on.

There are a few ways to get your head of cauliflower into little rice-sized pieces: with a food processor, with a blender, or with a good old-fashioned cheese grater.

  • In the food processor. A food processor obviously involves less manual labor. If you have a grating disc attachment to your food processor, even better. This chops up the cauliflower into rice-shaped little bits, making it as similar as possible to actual rice. But even without the grater attachment, the regular chopper also works, though you’ll find the “grains” won’t be as uniform or rice-like. 
  • In a blender or Vitamix. Another easy option. Simply load the Vitamix or blender with pre-chopped pieces of cauliflower and pulse until the pieces are rice-sized.
  • With a cheese grater. A cheese grater will get you better rice-like “grains”—the main con here is that manual grating can be a little labor intensive (not to mention messy.)

Step 2: Cook Your Rice

There are four ways to do this.

  • Microwave. This is the fastest method. Place your cauliflower in a container with a lid, and microwave on high for four minutes. (No need to add water; there’s enough in the cauliflower itself to steam it.)
  • Oven steam. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place your cauliflower in a baking dish, cover with a lid, and bake for 20 minutes. (Again, no need to add water.)
  • Oven bake. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Toss your cauliflower with a little oil, spread out on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. This will give a bit of a nutty flavor and make it crispier.
  • Stovetop. Sauté your cauliflower with a little oil for about five minutes.

What’s the best way to cook it?

Any of these methods work, though, like we noted, the oven-baked method will get you a slightly nuttier flavor. We suggest trying each one to see how you prefer it.

Step 3: Serve!

cauliflower rice
Source: Marco Verch Professional Photographer via Flickr Creative Commons
If you can make it with rice, you can make it with cauliflower.

Now it’s time for the fun part: eating it!

There are a bunch of options for making cauliflower rice delicious.

  1. Stir fries: Use your favorite stir fry recipe to dress up cauliflower rice. Add veggies, chicken, sauces, spices—any stir fry you would make with regular rice, you can make it with cauliflower rice, too.
  2. Salads: Likewise, any kind of salad you’d make with rice or couscous, you can substitute in cauliflower rice. A tip: Some people actually prefer to eat the cauliflower rice raw in salads; it adds a delightful crunch to your lunch.
  3. Curries: Curry is a great way to add flavor to your cauliflower rice. Make your favorite curry recipe, spoon it on top of your rice, and voilà, a delicious meal.
  4. Fried Rice: You can use cauliflower rice as a base to fried rice dishes easily. Just remember not to pre-cook the rice as you’d do with regular rice.
  5. Anything else you’d serve with rice! Chicken dishes? Salmon? Stuffed peppers? Really anything you’d make with traditional rice, you can make with cauliflower rice.

How to Freeze Cauliflower Rice

Generally, we recommend freezing cauliflower rice alone, not after you’ve already added it to dishes, though you can do that, too. 

Here are the steps in which to do that:

  1. Scoop an even amount of rice into quart-sized freezer bags. A medium-sized head of cauliflower is likely to yield you around two cups grated.
  2. Remove as much air as you can from the bag before sealing.
  3. Label and date your bag.
  4. Pop it in the freezer!

Cauliflower rice will generally keep best in the freezer for around four to six months. 

To use it, simply remove from the freezer and ideally, let thaw completely before cooking with it.

Cooking Cauliflower Rice: Pro Tips

A couple of tips from the pros on making your cauliflower rice the best it can be:

  1. Don’t use water. As we outlined in the steps above, cauliflower rice doesn’t need water to help it steam the way regular rice does. If you add water, your rice will be too mushy. 
  2. Don’t sauté it for too long. If you’re cooking it on a stovetop, over-sautéing can also make the rice mushy.
  3. Don’t leave it in the fridge for too long. Cooked cauliflower tends to get a little stinky the longer it sits in the fridge. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going bad, but the smell can be off-putting. It’s best to eat cooked cauliflower rice soon, or freeze it.
  4. Dress it more sparingly than regular rice. Cauliflower doesn’t absorb sauces as well as regular grain rice. Don’t overdress it, or you’ll end up with too much sauce.
  5. Raw cauliflower rice is also great. As we mentioned, if you’re using cauliflower rice in a salad, there’s actually no need to cook it. Eat it raw if you prefer!

How Will You Make It?

Cauliflower rice can sometimes get a bad rap, but it’s like any food substitute—you can’t go in expecting it to taste exactly like the thing you’re substituting it for. Cauliflower rice has its own taste and texture. 

But when it’s cooked correctly and added to your favorite recipes, chances are that before long, you won’t even be missing the real deal. And you’ll be getting the added bonus of fewer calories and carbs, and all the extra nutrients cauliflower brings.

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