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Out of rice? Try cauliflower

May 4, 2017 (Updated: August 3, 2021)
Lily Moran

White rice is a low quality starch. When you remove the husk, bran, and germ and then polish the rice, you’ve removed most of the fiber and most of the nutrients from what was originally a very healthy food. But, sometimes for aesthetic reasons, you really want to use white.

My usual solution for recipes that call for white rice is to use brown or wild rice instead, which—though better for you—are still relatively high in calories (216 calories per serving.)

But, these are unusual times.

If you’re running low on this kitchen staple and grocery store shelves have been emptied of it, don’t panic. A much lower calorie alternative with excellent cancer-fighting benefits is riced cauliflower.

Whenever you would use rice to bulk up a dish, such as with beans or to make a soup more hearty, riced cauliflower is a great alternative. Just keep in mind that, instead of soaking up moisture, riced cauliflower brings moisture to a dish.

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As a matter of fact, I usually prefer roasting my riced cauliflower to get as much moisture out as possible. Here’s how you can do it at home:

Yields: 2 to 4 cups
Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and spice to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. After removing the central stalk and any leaves or greenery, you have choices about how to turn the cauliflower into rice. You can cut the crown into 3 or 4 medium-sized hunks and run it through your food processor or blender until you get pieces that are just a little bit larger than rice grains. (If you’re going to spice your cauliflower, go ahead and throw the spices in the blender.) Alternately, using the medium side of a hand grater (the same size you would use for shredding a firm cheese like cheddar), you can grate by hand. You can shave the florets with a knife, if you don’t have a blender and you don’t want to deal with cleaning out bits from your grater. Whichever method you use, pat down on it with a paper towel or absorbent cloth towel to try to remove some moisture.
  3. If I’m making a large amount of rice to throw in recipes later, on an as needed basis, instead of cooking it now, I will omit spices and freeze for up to 3 months. If it’s a lot of rice, I’ll probably put parchment paper between layers of about ½ cup, so I can easily portion the cauliflower rice when I remove it. Just put as many layers as you need in the refrigerator the night before you plan to move onto step 4 and roast it.
  4. On a parchment lined baking sheet, toss the riced cauliflower with the olive oil and any spices you like. If I’m planning to eat riced cauliflower by itself, I’ll often reach for herbes de provence – basil, majoram, thyme. If I’m planning to use it instead of rice in something like couscous, I might use ginger, nutmeg, coriander, or cloves. (In this day and age, whatever spice you have on hand could enhance the flavor of your rice.)
  5. Roast in the oven 15-25 minutes, stirring approximately every five minutes. Remove when the cauliflower is to your desired softness and there’s some golden to golden-brown color, but don’t let it burn.

Please note: If you want your cauliflower rice to make a dish thicker or stickier, you’ll need to add arrowroot, cornstarch, or file instead.

We look forward to a time when once again there will be ample availability of rice when we go shopping for food. In the meantime, it’s good to have this as a backup plan—or a healthy replacement—for your next meal.

Bon apetit!

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