Cauliflower Couscous

Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for Couscous

Okay guys, we had a good run, but the holidays are behind us now and it’s time to get healthy. After countless home-cooked meals, seconds, and desserts (why yes, I’ll have a second piece!), it’s time to reset our bodies and renew for 2014. My plan is to cook at home, eat everything unprocessed, and keep to a flexitarian, Mediterranean diet where I get most of my healthy carbs from vegetables and fruits. It’s not a diet so much as a lifestyle. It’s always worked for me in the past; moderation and clean eating helps me to look and feel my best. I’ll be sharing some recipes with you over the next few weeks to help you recharge and shape up for the new year!

This Cauliflower “Couscous” is a ridiculously simple, low carb, all natural gluten-free substitute for couscous, rice and mashed potatoes. It’s also a great side dish to have on hand during Passover, when grains are off the menu. I’ve been serving this for several years as a side dish whenever we want to slim down. I thought the idea was pretty original, until I saw other cooks coming out with their own versions. Apparently it’s not such a new concept. Still, I wanted to share the basic idea here since it might be new to some of you. This is the simple, pared down version of Cauliflower Couscous without any fancy additions, but you can certainly add ingredients to make it more interesting. Spices, sauteed vegetables, dried fruits, parmesan cheese… there are so many ways you can go with this. Get creative! Or, you can serve it my favorite way– stir in some butter till melted, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy a comforting diet-friendly side dish. Parmesan cheese makes it a special treat. I also love serving vegetarian curry on top, or pasta sauce if I’m in an Italian mood. Oh, the possibilities!

Cauliflower Couscous


  • 1-2 heads cauliflower (one large head or two small), totaling about 3 lbs., or 2 lbs. cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup water

Optional Ingredients

  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, sauteed vegetables, dried fruits, spices or other add-ins

You will also need

  • Food processor or hand grater, medium pot with lid
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 05 - 7 Minutes
Total Time: 15 - 17 Minutes
Servings: 5-6 cups cauliflower couscous
Kosher Key: Pareve (may become dairy depending on optional add-ins)
  • Remove the stem and leaves from the bottom of the cauliflower.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousI prefer to grate the cauliflower in a food processor, but you can also grate it by hand. If you plan to grate by hand, cut it into large but manageable pieces (4 or 6 per head). Rinse the pieces thoroughly to remove any debris.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousHand grate the cauliflower using the large holes of a box or cheese grater.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousIf you are using a food processor, cut the cauliflower into large florets.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousRinse thoroughly to remove any debris.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousPlace half of the clean cauliflower florets into the food processor. Pulse in the processor till the cauliflower resembles small couscous-like pieces. Do not over-process; let it retain some texture. If any larger pieces remain after the cauliflower is cut down to size, remove them from the bowl and process them separately. Set processed cauliflower aside and repeat the process with the second half of the florets.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousPlace a medium pot on the stovetop and bring 1/2 cup water to a boil.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousPour in the processed cauliflower in an even layer on top of the boiling water.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousCover the pot with a lid. Let the cauliflower steam over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring once with a fork during cooking, till the cauliflower reaches desired tenderness. Watch it carefully; if you overcook it will burn due to the small amount of liquid. It shouldn't take longer than 7 minutes to steam. Your house will be filled with a-- umm, interesting cauliflower aroma as it cooks. Not my fave, but it's worth it, because the finished product is so darned tasty.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for CouscousRemove from heat and fluff the cauliflower with a fork; all of the liquid should be absorbed. At this point, the cauliflower can be used plain as-is as a base for sauces, curries, tagines, etc. If you'd like to enjoy it as a side dish, season with salt and pepper to taste. I like to stir in 1-2 tbsp butter or olive oil for flavor. You can also add some Parmesan cheese or any seasonings you like; it provides a good base, feel free to get creative.
  • This recipe makes 5-6 cups of cooked cauliflower couscous.
  • Cauliflower Couscous - Healthy Low Carb Gluten Free Substitute for Couscous

Comments (40)Post a Comment

    1. Penny Schwartz Grossman you can cook it directly in the boiling water. It’s only 1/2 cup of water, just enough to steam the pot of cauliflower. The water will absorb as it cooks, but it won’t make the cauliflower mushy because it’s only a small amount. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn– it will only take 5-7 minutes to cook. Enjoy!

  1. It’s a good idea, I’ve seen Jamie Oliver replacing rice with cauliflower “rice” but i’m not quite sure why you are using the word ” COUSCOUS” in this recipe? which reminds me of someone who uses Hummus for a dip which has anything except Hummus (in Arabic that would be chickpeas)…So while the word “COUSCOUS” has a root in the Berber dialect, not sure why is it used in the title of this recipe

    1. Nada Kiffa it’s as much cauliflower couscous as cauliflower rice, since it is neither rice nor couscous– it is simply cauliflower prepared a different way. I call it couscous because the texture of the processed cauliflower resembles couscous more than it does rice. If you prefer to call it cauliflower rice feel free.

    1. Nice response Daphne! Friendly and accomodating! Not at all like some rude comments I read sometimes when people have differing views. Quite a refreshing response and plus it made me smile. Can I come over too?

  2. Can’t wait to try this (as I have some cauliflower waiting in the fridge for me now). This morning I tried your green smoothie recipe and I was shocked at how I couldn’t really taste the kale. Thank you for the healthy recipes!

  3. Looks yummy. What a great idea. My dog loves to eat the stems (not the leaves) so everyone is happy when we cook cauliflower! I think you could almost do the same thing with broccoli.

  4. I love cauliflower rice but I use frozen florets and put the frozen pieces in the cusinart. Then I stir fry it and omg it is delicious.
    For those who want carbs, this is not for you BUT when you add the yummy spices, unless someone tells you, you would not know………..I Have made kugels with the rice and have also made the kugel with some potatoes. I have also used it for mac and cheese.

  5. Hi. I wonder why my water did not cook out. I rinsed the cauliflower after I had put it through the food processor. Maybe that was wrong? I cooked it for about 8 minutes and it was tender, but still wet. So I strained the water out and it was fine.

    1. Hi Deb, I cleaned the cauliflower before it went into the food processor, not after. That’s probably why you had liquid leftover. If you plan to rinse it after processing, add a little less liquid to the pan. And if you need to drain off a little, no big deal, it doesn’t affect the flavor. :) Enjoy!

  6. This sounds delicious and clever. I’m thinking about making a fresh batch of pesto and slathering it over the “couscous” for a Passover week dinner party (post-Seder).

  7. I steam the florets, mash in food processor and season with whatever I am in the mood for and call the dish “not mashed potatoes”. Delicious!

  8. I googled a grain free substitute for couscous and found this recipe because my absolute favourite lunch is a couscous salad that has couscous, olive oil, little bit of lemon juice and sea salt and crumbled feta, olives and fresh cherry tomatoes, it is the absolute yummiest!! But couscous is soooo bad for my tummy!! So, I will try this and get back to you as to how it goes! can’t wait!! Thank you!

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