Turkish-Style Cauliflower Rice Pilaf Recipe
This cauliflower rice pilaf recipe cooks up in under 15 minutes, and includes aromatic fresh herbs, warming spices, toasted pinenuts, sweet raisins, and riced cauliflower. This pilaf (the grain rice version) is traditionally used as a filling to stuff grape leaves (dolmas in Turkish, or dolmades in Greek), but is also absolutely delicious served as a side dish.
Cauliflower Rice Pilaf
I will be the first to admit that I have been hesitant to the cauliflower rice “thing” for awhile now. Cauliflower rice, or rather cauliflower that has been broken down into small rice-like pieces, first became popular with paleo and other low-carb diet trends. Not a big fan of diet trends, and a huge lover of traditional rice pilafs, I just could not imagine what cauliflower could possibly lend to a traditional Turkish pilaf. It turns out that the cauliflower gives a pleasant sweetness to the dish that plain rice does not, and, truth be told, I do not end up with a heavy feeling in my belly that often comes from a plate of pilaf.
Choose Your Own Herbs
The herb combination in this recipe is totally versatile. I chose a blend of mint, parsley, and dill, which is very traditional, but if you do not have all three on hand, or do not like one of those, leave it out. The spice blend of cinnamon and allspice is a very common flavor profile found in the middle east, and sweet raisins are added, just enough, for a pleasant sweet bite every now and again. Pine nuts added are for crunch, although walnuts or almonds may certainly be substituted.
My favorite pairing with this dish is Mom’s Meatballs with Parsley-Onion Salad, which is a classic flavor combination. If you DO want to stuff something with this Turkish-style Cauliflower Rice Pilaf Recipe, try bell peppers or eggplant. Or serve up a delicious Turkish mezze spread, with zucchini fritters, Turkish-style braised green beans, and muhummara (roasted red pepper and walnut dip).
If there are cauliflower rice pilaf leftovers, they may be reheated, or just pulled out of the fridge ahead of time and allowed to come to room temperature.
Using a traditional Turkish rice pilaf recipe, but substituting riced cauliflower for the traditional grain, this aromatic dish is sure to become a new favorite.
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1/3 cup pinenuts
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- fresh ground black pepper 4-5 grinds
- 3 cups riced cauliflower (12 oz.) or 1 medium head cauliflower*
- 1/4 cup raisins or sultanas (golden raisins)
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, dill, mint)
Cut onion into a medium dice. Toast pinenuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Watch closely so that they do not burn.
Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a medium-sized sauce pan. Sweat onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, but not browning. If they start to brown, turn down the heat.
Add cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add riced cauliflower, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until liquid has evaporated. If riced cauliflower is frozen, turn up the heat for a minute, so that cooking does not stop from the cold temperature.
Turn off heat and add herbs and pinenuts to the pan, reserving a small amount for garnish. Stir in raisins.
Serve in a bowl or platter and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs and pinenuts.
*I buy frozen riced cauliflower from Trader Joe's. You may also make your own by cutting a whole medium cauliflower into chunks, and processing in a food processor until there are small rice-sized pieces. Continue with the recipe as normal, it might take a little longer for the fresh cauliflower rice to cook and become soft. It may also be necessary to add a few tablespoons of water, and cover the pan, to cook the cauliflower rice made this way.