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Cauliflower: A Low-Carb Rice Replacement

Grated cauliflower is a surprisingly delicious, healthy, low-carb substitute for rice. It's easy to prepare and has just a fraction of the calories of rice, plus it's loaded with powerful nutrients.

Rice is delicious and is possibly the one food that is enjoyed across every culture. However, oftentimes rice is consumed in oversized portions and is prepared in unhealthy ways. If you are looking for a low-carb alternative to rice, are trying to cut calories, are wanting to increase your vegetable intake, or are just interested in trying something new, let me introduce you to “cauliflower rice”.

Not only does replacing white rice (a nutrient-poor refined grain) or other grains with cauliflower drastically cut the amount of simple carbs you would be taking in, it adds tons of beneficial nutrients as well. Cauliflower is chock-full of fiber (about 3 grams per cup), which aids with digestion, helps fill you up and keep you full for longer, and could help lower your cholesterol. Looking to boost your immunity? A one-cup serving of cauliflower provides 77% of your day’s recommended vitamin C intake. It is also a good source of B vitamins and vitamin K.

Cauliflower is part of the family of cruciferous vegetables, which have cancer-prevention properties, thanks to its numerous phytochemicals, including indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane.

A 1-cup serving of cooked cauliflower rice contains a mere 29 calories (23 calories per every 100 grams) and 7.5 grams of carbs. If you compare that to an equal-sized portion of white rice, you will discover that 1 cup of cooked white rice contains 242 calories and (130 calories per every 100 grams) and 53 grams of carbs. That is a huge difference!

Additionally, cauliflower rice could not be easier to make. You can easily “rice” cauliflower using a box grater or food processor. Always wash the head of cauliflower first, then simply grate it along the side of the box grater using the side that will produce rice-sized pieces, or coarsely pulse it in your food processor until you get the right size.

Steamed

This quick, easy way to cook cauliflower rice is a go-to method when you are strapped for time. Simply place the grated cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave it on high for about 3-4 minutes. Season it and serve or add it to your favorite recipe.

Stir-Fried

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the cauliflower until tender -- about five minutes. There is enough liquid in the cauliflower that you don’t have to add oil, but you could use a little olive or canola oil for additional flavor. This will give it a slightly nutty flavor. Season with your favorite herbs and spices.

Roasted

This preparation is perhaps the most flavorful. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower rice with a little olive oil and a blend of herbs and spices -- my favorite seasonings are cumin, chili powder, or curry powder. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Tips

  • Although grated cauliflower works well as a rice replacement in most recipes, it will not work as a regular rice replacement in recipes that require the rice to absorb any liquid, such as a casserole or paella.
  • Cauliflower rice can be stored in your freezer for about two months. You can then microwave it from frozen or thaw it before you stir-fry or roast it.
  • Always add salt after you cook the cauliflower or else it can get soggy.

What Else Can Cauliflower Do?

Cauliflower is also a great replacement for mashed potatoes. Simply steam the cauliflower until tender, mash with a potato masher or puree in a food processor. Add skim milk or Greek yogurt and your favorite seasonings.

You can also use grated cauliflower to make pizza crust. Simply mix a head of grated cauliflower with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 2 beaten eggs and bake for about 20 minutes on 400 degrees F. Remove it from the oven, add your toppings and bake for another 10 minutes.

Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children.

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