Cooking Tips

How to Make Better Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower rice doesn’t have to taste like only cauliflower.

Published Feb. 23, 2021.

Cauliflower rice has become popular in recent years, especially for the carb conscious. In fact, it’s become one of my favorite bases for a burrito bowl.

My one issue with cauliflower rice is that it can taste too much . . . like cauliflower. That’s not a bad thing, but if you’ve ever roasted cauliflower in the oven or boiled it in a pan, you know the smell can be quite strong. 

What if I want my cauliflower rice to taste more like rice than cauliflower? I reached out to my America’s Test Kitchen colleague Russell Selander, who’s become something of a cauliflower connoisseur. He’s developed a number of cauliflower and cauliflower rice recipes for our books (start a free trial to access our Paleo Cauliflower Rice recipe). If anyone knows how to bring cauliflower rice dishes up several notches, it’s Russell. These are his suggestions: 

  • Cook your cauliflower rice in broth and aromatics. When you cook your riced cauliflower, cook some aromatics such as minced shallots or garlic in olive oil and then add your cauliflower rice and ½ cup of chicken or vegetable broth. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for 3 more minutes, and you’ll have flavorful and fluffy rice.
  • Season with different spice blends. In addition to seasoning with salt and pepper, using other spice blends in your pantry such as ras el hanout or garam masala can help take plain rice to the next level.
  • Mix in some mix-ins. Mix in dried fruit, nuts, or herbs into the rice. These could be dried cranberries, almonds, mint, or whatever you’re in the mood for. You can also add some heat with chopped jalapeños, which we use in our Mexican Cauliflower Rice from our book, Easy Everyday Keto.
  • Add some acidity. Stirring in fresh lime or lemon juice can add a new dimension to your cauliflower rice. Russell utilizes lime juice and cilantro to make cilantro-lime rice, which works great as a base or a side.
  • Drizzle on sauce. A spoonful of sauce such as chimichurri can mask any cauliflower-iness in the rice.

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There’s another reason why cauliflower rice may have that pungent smell. After asking a few more colleagues, I may have found my culprit: frozen cauliflower rice. There’s nothing wrong with frozen prepackaged cauliflower rice, but after talking to some test cooks, I'm convinced that freshly riced cauliflower is the way to go. All it requires is coring and cutting your head of cauliflower into 1-inch florets and then, working in batches, pulsing it in a food processor until you achieve your desired “grain” size.

  • “Prepackaged cauliflower rice can have a bunch of preservatives, which people may have an aversion to. Creating your own rice also allows you to pick the final size of the kernels.” —Dan Zuccarello, executive food editor, Cookbooks
  • “Frozen rice defrosts as it cooks, which causes it to steam. This defrost stage makes it harder to brown, which often leaves you with mushy rice. Fresh rice has a cleaner cauliflower flavor, and since it doesn't start off wet like frozen it is easier to brown and easier to maintain a bit of its toothsome texture.” —Bryan Roof, executive food editor, Cook's Country
  • “Frozen never gave us the consistency we liked; it always felt mushier than we preferred and lacked any flavor. However, I think frozen is a great addition if you want to incorporate a vegetable, especially hidden, into something else. I sneak it into things all the time and my kids do not notice (e.g., meatloaf).” —Russell Selander, senior editor, Cookbooks
  • “As for store-bought, cauliflower that has been ‘riced’ and then packaged and sitting for a while has a pretty pungent smell and potent flavor. Opening a package of store-bought cauliflower rice is a great way to stink up the kitchen.” —Russell Selander, senior editor, Cookbooks

Photo: Darya Arnautova / Getty Images

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Interested in more ways to up your vegetable game at home? Check out The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook or these articles.

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