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Cauliflower Rice Recipe with Pesto

Healthy and colorful, this Cauliflower ‘rice’ recipe with pesto is a vibrant side dish with cauliflower, basil, spinach, garlic, lemon and Parmesan.

Cauliflower on its own is bland. Processing it into rice form and adding a fresh bold pesto turns it into a flavorful and pretty side dish that goes perfectly with fish or any other protein for that matter. If you like pesto, you will like this dish.

Cauliflower 'rice' with Pesto. Basil, spinach, lemon zest, Parmesan and garlic add some serious flavour to this healthy vegetable side dish.

I use a processor to rice the cauliflower, but you can also grate it with a large box grater. Or buy it pre-riced in the store. Many stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walmart and other mainstream groceries sell fresh riced cauliflower now. It’s more expensive but very convenient.

Without the pesto, I love to serve riced cauliflower with Thai curried shrimp and vegetables or Instant Pot cabbage rolls unstuffed. With the pesto, it’s great with salmon stuffed with lemon ricotta and baked apricot chicken.

Is Cauliflower ‘Rice’ better for you than regular rice? 

If you’re trying to cut carbs and calories in your diet, cauliflower rice is an excellent substitute for classic rice. The look and texture is quite similar and I find it just as satisfying if served dressed up or with a saucy meal.

  • One cup of white rice contains over 50 carbohydrates. This cauliflower rice recipe with the pesto has only 8 carbs (plain cauliflower rice has 5 carbs per cup).
  • Cauliflower has less than a quarter of the calories and 7 times the fiber as white rice.

Tailor To Your Taste

  • I used a spinach-basil pesto for this recipe, but any kind of pesto you like will work. Variations of this pesto can be found on many sites including NYT Cooking, AllRecipes and Epicurious. Feel free to add pine nuts or walnuts if you like (optional in the recipe below).
  • You can, of course, make this recipe with leftover rice instead of cauliflower.

Shortcuts

  • Buy a fresh prepared pesto at your local market or store instead of making it from scratch (although it’s pretty easy!).
  • Buy fresh riced cauliflower. It’s sold frozen too, but I find it gets mushier when cooked.
  • With these two shortcuts together, the recipe takes less than 10 minutes to make. 

Make Ahead Cauliflower Rice Recipe with Pesto

  • The pesto can be made a day or two ahead. And you can ‘rice’ the cauliflower ahead of time as well and store it in a sealed bag or container for a few days or even in the freezer (I just learned) for up to 6 months.
  • If you make the recipe an hour or two ahead, I suggest under cooking the cauliflower rice a bit, then rewarming the completed dish on the stove or in the microwave.

Other simple cauliflower recipes you might like

How to make this Cauliflower Rice Recipe with Pesto

Cauliflower, basil, spinach, parmesan, salt, pepper, lemon, garlic, oil
Ingredients: cauliflower, basil, spinach, parmesan, salt, pepper, lemon, garlic, oil
spinach-basil pesto
Combine pesto ingredients in food processor.
spinach-basil pesto
Set pesto aside.
cauliflower 'rice'
Process cauliflower in food processor until fine and rice-like
riced Cauliflower in pan
Cook cauliflower until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Add pesto and combine.

Cauliflower 'rice' with Pesto in bowl

Cauliflower Rice with Pesto in a bowl pp

Cauliflower 'rice' with Pesto in bowl 3
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5 from 11 votes

Cauliflower 'Rice' Recipe with Pesto

Healthy and low in calories, this Cauliflower 'Rice' recipe with Pesto is a vibrant side dish bursting with basil, spinach, garlic, lemon and Parmesan flavors.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower (this will make about 4 cups or 14 ounces riced cauliflower)
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil

Pesto

  • 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 3/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or up to 1/3 if preferred)
  • 1 clove garlic (1 tsp)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (or more)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or up to 1/2 cup if you're using more Parmesan)
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts (optional)

Instructions

  • PREPARE AND 'RICE' CAULIFLOWER: Rinse cauliflower and shake off excess water. Cut into quarters and then into florets. Remove all stems. Place half of florets into a food processor and pulse until cauliflower resembles rice. Empty into a skillet. You may still have a couple of florets that didn't chop. Just add them to the next batch. Pulse next batch until all cauliflower is rice-size. Add to skillet. You will have about 4 cups 'rice'.
  • MAKE PESTO: In the same processor bowl, add spinach, basil, Parmesan cheese, nuts (if using), garlic, salt, pepper, lemon zest and a bit of the oil (about 2-3 tablespoons). Process until blended. While processor is still on, slowly add remaining oil through feeder tube until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  • COOK CAULIFLOWER RICE: Add 1 tablespoon oil to cauliflower in skillet and heat to medium. Stir to combine. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes. This will depend on the size and depth of the pan. Cauliflower should be tender (not mushy) and still have a slight bite to it.
  • ADD PESTO AND SERVE: Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup pesto until you're happy with the taste (reserve any leftovers for pesto ricotta crostini appetizers or other uses). Stir until well combined and heated through - one to two minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with or pass extra Parmesan, chopped nuts and/or shredded basil leaves.
4

Notes

Make Ahead:
  • The pesto can be made a day or two ahead. And you can 'rice' the cauliflower ahead of time as well and store it in a sealed bag or container for a few days or even in the freezer (I just learned) for up to 6 months. 
  • If you make the recipe an hour or two ahead, I suggest under cooking the cauliflower rice a bit, then rewarming the completed dish on the stove or in the microwave. 
Nutrition Value estimates include more pesto that you will need for this recipe and therefore will be a bit lower. They also do not include the optional pine nuts.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Cauliflower 'Rice' Recipe with Pesto
Amount Per Serving (4 g)
Calories 244 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Cholesterol 6mg2%
Sodium 288mg13%
Potassium 464mg13%
Carbohydrates 8g3%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 643IU13%
Vitamin C 72mg87%
Calcium 113mg11%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?We'd love you to rate it above under 'rate this recipe' or in the comment section below. Thanks!
4g

 

This recipe, initially published May 2017, has been updated with new information and picture edits. 

 

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