cauliflower ‘couscous’

This recipe transforms cauliflower from a humble cruciferous vegetable into something spicy, slightly exotic, and with the fine grainy texture of couscous.

A chef I follow on Twitter sent out a tweet about making cauliflower ‘couscous’ which immediately piqued my interest. I’m a big fan of this underrated vegetable because its is quite adaptable and fairly neutral in flavour. Pay it some attention in the cooking process, add the right spices and you can make it really interesting.

Aside from when I make a cauliflower cheese, I prefer to cook it dry by either roasting it in the oven or stir frying it. It keeps more of its texture this way and absorbs the flavours you add to it.

I bought a beautiful cauliflower from the Hope Street Market and set about experimenting in my kitchen. This is really easy to make and I cannot wait to make it again.

*my quantities for this recipe are for a smallish head of cauliflower. If you are using a big head, just double up on everything. Like with all cooking, I believe spice is a personal preference thing, so add and subtract according to your taste.

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup (or so) of water
  • 1T butter or olive oil
  • 1t cumin
  • 1/2t garam masala
  • 1/2t ground coriander
  • salt to taste (I used smoked salt)
  • 1T finely chopped parsley
  • black pepper
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional) – I also used smoked chilli

Separate the cauliflower florets from the head and place them in a food processor in batches, ensuring you don’t fill the bowl more than a third. Blitz until the florets are broken up into the desired grain like texture. Empty the bowl and repeat until all of it is ground up.

Bring the water to boil in a wide non stick frying pan and add the cauliflower. Place a lid on the pan, allowing it to steam for about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and continue stirring the cauliflower until all the water evapourates off. At this stage the cauliflower will be cooked through and will just start catching on the pan.

Add the butter or olive oil and stir to coat. Add all the spices and parsley and keep stirring. Adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat and serve.

This can easily be made in advance and microwaved before serving.

The risk of making this recipe is adding too much water to the pan and over cooking the cauliflower which will then turn to mush. If you have any doubt, rather add less water and keep adding a bit more as you go. It cooks fairly quickly. I have seen recipes that do not pre steam the cauliflower and simply stir fry it on olive oil, but I like the fluffy texture of doing it this way.

I plan to play with different flavours in the future. Perhaps cooking it in stock instead of water and adding lemon zest or finely chopped up preserved lemons.

This will make a wonderful accompaniment to meat, chicken or fish. I visualise tangy, sweet chicken kebabs draped on top of this and served with a crunchy salad or roasted vegetables.

This is sure to impress vegetarians, and is the best way to trick your body into thinking its eating a carb.



28 Responses to cauliflower ‘couscous’

  1. Colleen June 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    That is just gorgeous and so very interesting. I will definitely be trying this very soon. Thank you for sharing Sam. I always make my couscous with stock so I can imagine that this would be great made with it and lemon as well! Have a great week xx

  2. The Local Bag June 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    I’m trying this tomorrow night! Beautiful photo.

  3. Sam June 4, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Awesome – let me know how it goes. I am so in love with this now.

  4. Sam June 4, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Thanks Colleen. Have a great week too.

  5. The Local Bag June 4, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Okay, done. Just tasted it and can vouch for the fact that it’s flop-proof and divine!! Thanks Sam.

  6. Sam June 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Glad it worked out Gillian and thanks for reporting back 😉

  7. Mrs. L June 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Great idea to get me to eat my vegetables! I do like cauliflower and I think this will help get me out of the standard roasting it rut!

  8. Sam June 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Thanks Mrs L – i can eat a whole cauliflower this way

  9. All that's Jas March 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    My daughter introduced me to this dish and I love it. She doesn’t add any water, but she sautés a small onion until soft, before adding cauliflower. Within the last minutes of cooking she stirs in a beaten egg, but I omit this step as I have to watch my cholesterol. I love the texture; it is slightly crunchy on the outside and soft inside without getting mushy. Yum. Have you tried cauliflower pizza crust? Really good 🙂
    BTW, your recipes and pictures are mouthwatering!

  10. Sam March 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    Hi All that’s Jas, I have heard about the cauliflower pizza crust and kind of like it. I made a pizza crust with aubergines which worked so well and I totally get the concept.

  11. gaby carstens dunn March 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    great Sam ! only found this now and its totally for Paleo people as well imitating cous cous :):)
    thanks !

  12. Sam March 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    HI Gaby, yes its a total win as it tastes just like, or you feel like you are eating cous cous, but instead eating healthy vegetables. Win!

  13. Katrin May 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Great recipe! Such a fun spin on cauliflower!

  14. Catherine July 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    I have to try this – I don’t do veges so I try hide them from myself whenever I cook… I made a cauliflower puree and used it instead of a white sauce in Lasagne. I couldnt even taste it was a vegetable! 🙂

  15. dao July 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    just tried it and totally loved it! Very fluffy and light.Thanks for the recipe and tip! Now am thinking of various way to season. tried with tahine+ parsley+cumin. Will try Asian way..:)

  16. Sam July 15, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    Hi Dao, glad you enjoyed, it really has become a standard staple in my house. I had never thought of it with Asian flavours, as I tend to associate it so strongly with Moroccan an spices, cumin etc. Could be interesting.

  17. Josefine {The Smoothie Lover} March 2, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    What a wonderful recipe! I just made it for dinner and it was SO delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

  18. Sam March 3, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    Hi Josefine, thanks for the lovely comment and Im glad you enjoyed this. I have to say its become a weekly staple in my house. I do a whole cauliflower head which will stretch to a max of 2 portions. I have been known to eat the whole one in one sitting. Watch out as this week I do a lovely salmon recipe with the ‘couscous’ – using preserved lemon, chilli and coriander (cilantro)

  19. bernadette March 9, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    anxious to try!! thank you!


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