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Cauliflower 'rice' with Pesto in a bowl
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5 from 10 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 (change as needed): 4
Author: Cheryl


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


  • 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 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp 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)


  • 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.


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.
Serving: 4g | Calories: 244kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 288mg | Potassium: 464mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 643IU | Vitamin C: 72mg | Calcium: 113mg | Iron: 1mg