Cauliflower “Risotto” (Grain-Free AND Dairy-Free)

Posted by on October 20, 2009 | 44 Comments

Recently, I stumbled across the idea of Cauliflower “Rice” on a Paleo / Primal Diet blog. Smitten by this idea for incorporating even more veggies into my dinner (and sneaking cauliflower in on my husband, hehe), I went with it. My first attempt was this Cauliflower “Risotto,” which amazingly turned out awesome right out of the shoot!

Dairy-Free and Grain-Free, Cheesy Cauliflower Risotto with Basil

I have since made it a few times with the nod of approval from my usually cauliflower-hating husband. I have also made some basic cauliflower “rice” to serve as the base under stir-fries. It has worked out well, but my husband agreed that the risotto is just better.

Another Bonus: Surprisingly, a large head of cauliflower only makes about 3 to 4 healthy servings. When grated, the cauliflower seemed much less overwhelming than eating large florets.


Cauliflower “Risotto” with Fresh Basil (Grain-Free AND Dairy-Free)

This recipe is Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Soy-Free, and Sugar-Free.

I like to use just a bit of nutritional yeast, but keep the amounts moderate so that it enhances the meal without creating an overpowering fake cheesy taste. Nutritional yeast can easily be found online and in the bulk bins of some natural food stores. Make sure it is specifically called “nutritional yeast;” brewer’s (which the grocery attendants will try to hand to you) is not the same thing. If you don’t have any on hand, try this recipe without it, I am sure it will still be quite yummy!

  • 3 Tablespoons Pine Nuts (about 1 ounce)
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt, or to taste
  • 1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons Grapeseed, Olive, or Coconut Oil
  • ½ Cup Minced or Diced Onion
  • 3 Cups Grated Cauliflower (about ½ medium to large head – if you have a food processor, you are golden; I grated by hand)
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  • ¼ Cup Broth (chicken or vegetarian)
  • Chiffonade 6 to 10 Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste (optional)

Combine the nuts, nutritional yeast, and salt in your spice grinder, and give it a few pulses. The nuts should grind up, and begin to clump. It is best if it stays a bit powdery and doesn’t turn into a paste, but if it does, no loss. Set aside while you cook the cauliflower.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the grated cauliflower and continue to sauté / stir-fry for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and suate for 1 minute more. Add the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, stir, cover and allow it to sit for 2 to 3 minutes. This cooks it to the perfect “al dente” consistency for us, but feel free to cook it to your desired tenderness.

Remove the lid, turn off the heat, and stir in the reserved nut mixture. It may clump a bit, but continuing to stir it in the hot pan will help it to distribute and become creamy. Stir in the basil and fresh ground pepper to taste, if using. Serve.

Yields about 2 side servings


No Onion? I ran out of onion the second time I made this dish, so I skipped the onion sauté, but added ¼ teaspoon of onion powder to the nut mixture. The fresh onion was better, but this was still tasty in a pinch!

To Serve: This versatile dish can be served with a salad or steamed veggies (broccoli or asparagus would be nice) to keep it light and vegetarian. For an omnivorous meal, we found it went quite well with baked chicken, and also made a quick lunch with leftover chopped chicken added.

Lower Fat Option: I haven’t tried this as of yet, but I think this would work with just 2 teaspoons of oil if you were trying to go lower in fat. I would just sauté the onions in the oil, add the cauliflower and sauté for just 1 minute, and then add the broth and cover. Cook until it reaches your desired tenderness. You may need to use a touch more broth. Don’t skip the pine nuts though; they add richness and nutrition!

Dairy-Free and Grain-Free, Cheesy Cauliflower Risotto with Basil

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Comments (44)


  1. Christina says:

    Ohhhhhh man this is right up my alley! I just bought a cauliflower b/c I was in the mood! I’m going to definitely give this a go!

  2. laurel says:

    mmm… i love cauliflower and i bought some nutritional yeast but haven’t had the guts to try it yet. this might be a winner…

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alisa Fleming, Alisa Fleming. Alisa Fleming said: Cauliflower “Risotto” (Grain-Free AND Dairy-Free) […]

  4. Ricki says:

    This looks absolutely delicious and I’m sure it could easily be adapted to be ACD-friendly! I love that you heated it up. I’ve made cauliflower “rice” salad (raw) before, and it was good, but I bet I’d LOVE this!

  5. Nice! I love cauli. I mean I eat about 1/3rd of a head per day. Yes, nuts I know but I love it. I steam it, raw it, sprinkle it with nooch, I just dont get sick of it. That, brock, and brussles. I love your recipe and can always modify, thanks for sharing. Hope Tahoe and life is settling in and going great for you!!!!!!!!

  6. Matt says:

    what a delicious idea. I’ve added it to my list of things to make. Thanks

  7. This looks so good. I am definitely going to try it next time I have cauliflower that I need to use up. What a healthy alternative to risotto!

  8. Marie says:

    I’ve nominated you for a lemonade award. See my blog post at where I said that I nominated “One Frugal Foodie for all those delicious recipes that can suit many individual dietary needs.”

  9. DebinHawaii says:

    What a great idea–I am going to have to try this. It looks delicious!

  10. Karine says:

    Hard to see that cauliflowers are a substitute for rice! Wowow, your dish sounds amazing. Great way to make your hubby eats cauliflower.

  11. Nowheymama says:

    This looks great! We love the Hellman’s mayo/cauliflower recipe that’s a mashed potato substitute.

  12. Yum! My wife is a little picky with some vegetables, but she loves cauliflower, so I am always trying to find great new recipes to tempt her. Thanks.

  13. This is truly why I started Slightly Indulgent Mondays – I love seeing the creativity that comes when people think about fabulous food made healthier. Thanks so much for linking this. My husband will love it – it’s getting bookmarked.

    I think your lower fat option would work too. My take on it, though, is that 2 tablespoons of fat isn’t a lot when you’re making an entire dish. Especially when you’re using such healthy fats.

  14. That looks awesome! I love mashed cauliflower, but I’ve never made risotto from it!

  15. Biz says:

    Maybe I could sneak this by my hubby too! I tried making mock mashed potatoes using cauliflower – it didn’t fly! 😀 And I would always leave out the onions!

  16. Linda says:

    That looks wonderful! I’ve made cauliflower “mashed potatoes” but never used it in place of rice. I’ll have to try this. Thanks for linking up to “What can I eat that’s gluten free?”

  17. Joanne says:

    I have made cauli-rice before but never would have thought it could be turned into a risotto! Definitely giving this a try. Looks heavenly.

    Thanks so much for all of your kind words on my blog!

  18. ooohh what a neat idea!! I wish I would have had this a few weeks ago when I had too much left!

  19. Brian says:

    I’ve never even heard of preparing cauliflower this was before. What a great idea, I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks.

  20. Okay, so this risotto looks very delicious. I have a funny story about risotto….

    I was at a restaurant and decided to order the risotto and the server brought me this processed, fried cheese! Then I got to thinking maybe I was all wrong about what risotto really is…..then someone mentioned that perhaps I am mixing up ricotta and risotto. Anyway, I’ve established that the restaurant I ordered it at doesn’t know what risotto is!

    Anyway, your’s looks fabulous and I LOVE sneaking in extra veggies!

    • Erin says:

      Maybe you ordered cheese rissoles instead?

      • kelly says:

        that happened to me once as well, I tried to eat it but it was just fried parmesan and way too salty. Sent it back and asked for a RICE risotto… duh! But apparently at some italian restaurants thats the basic risotto recipe….but certainly not the majority!!

  21. Alyss says:

    Sounds absolutely fantastic! I keep reading cauliflower recipes and keep needing to try some. This might end up at the top of the list 🙂

  22. This looks amazing and might finally push me over the edge to at last try nutritional yeast.

  23. […] Front Porch (Canned Biscuit Apple Tart)25. Lisette @ Fancy Frugalista (Uh-Oh Apple Crisp)26. Alisa (Dairy-Free Cauliflower “Risotto”)27. Lauren of Celiac Teen (Turkey Pot […]

  24. Natalia says:

    great idea for the grain intolerant!

  25. Can’t wait to give this a try. I live gluten, dairy and rice free. This may be the key that is missing from some of my meals. Thank you for sharing this on Friday Foodie Fix.

  26. mardelle says:

    Hi there, thanks for the recipe-making it now in my slow cooker! Planning on adding frozen peas along with the basil at the end. Have made mashed “potatoes” before and though good, prefer the baked version with sour cream. This risotto looks like it will be heavenly.

  27. mardelle says:

    I took this a step further to get the creamy consistency I was looking for.
    I sauteed onion, garlic, celery and grated carrot and added lots of curry. when the curry had cooked a bit, I added lite coconut milk and combined it with the dish in the slow cooker. It turned out fabulous garnished with cilantro. The peas and basil stirred into the hot dish was great-thanks again.

  28. […] really wanted to try this one since I found it on One Frugal Foodie.  I’ve always like cauliflower, so maybe I was partial to the recipe to begin with… […]

  29. Eleanor says:

    I’ve just made this and it was delicious! Thank you so much; definitely one I’ll go back to 🙂


  30. Alicia says:

    This is such a great idea. I Love you for putting it up… only issue is that I have candida and am looking to avoid yeast. Is it possible to do this recipe without the yeast? What is a good substitute?

  31. Erin Butler says:

    This was fabulous!! I added green peas, lemon zest, extra veggie broth and a touch of cornstarch to make it nice and creamy. Oh and I used lightly toasted walnuts instead of the pine nuts. Yum and yum! Thanks 🙂

  32. This looks like a great idea for increasing the “cruciferous” (cabbage-family) vegetables in your diet. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with eating rice. The populations that have based their diets heavily on rice have traditionally been slim and remarkably free of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

  33. Love this…I made it yesterday with a few tweaks of my own. Success! I will be sharing this on my blog later today and linking back. thanks.

  34. jodie says:

    Hi! Boy I was so hankering for risotto and yet I am trying to do the primal diet without grains. I saw a few different “riced” cauliflower recipes made into risotto, but this one got me with the nutritional yeast addition. Since pine nuts are so expensive, I subbed slivered almonds. Also I sauteed up some mushrooms and added them in for more texture and flavor. At the end, I did cheat and throw in a little parmesan. But my final kicker is I take snap peas and slice them very thin vertically and then toss them in truffle oil and throw those on top. Awesome. I even brought it into the fine dining restaurant I work at and everyone was impressed! Thanks for the recipe. oh and a little pink himalayian salt!

  35. Amy says:

    Thank you for the recipe, it was lovely! I used a bit more bullion (without any additional water) and it gave it a really rich flavor. I also added some lemon, grated lemon rind, 1/2 c. peas and 1/2 c. edamame and ate it for several lunches throughout the week. It was wonderful and filling. I still have basil left over from last week, so I’ll be making this again for next week too!

    • alisa says:

      I just saw your comment Amy – I’m so glad you enjoyed the cauli risotto and I love your alterations! I need to pick up some edamame to try that!

  36. […] it sautéed with some steamed potatoes, wilted baby spinach, and a sprinkling of Daiya.  Alisa’s Cauliflower Risotto is fantastic! I love cauliflower “rice”, and the creaminess of this […]

  37. […] it sautéed with some steamed potatoes, wilted baby spinach, and a sprinkling of Daiya.  Alisa’s Cauliflower Risotto is fantastic! I love cauliflower “rice”, and the creaminess of this […]

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