How do you improve on a classic? By making it keto-friendly. Creamy Cauliflower Risotto has all the creamy, nutty, earthy goodness of the original but with less than a quarter of the carbs! Featuring riced cauliflower, mushrooms, parmesan, and thickened with cream cheese, the taste and texture are almost near perfect replicas. It’s a great way to sneak in more veggies.
There are many culinary hills I will die on, and cauliflower is one of them. Even with some of the tried, true, and tested (and eaten and enjoyed) dishes I have placed before my darling husband, he still remains skeptical about my prowess with this knobby vegetable.
Cauliflower risotto could have been a bridge too far, but lucky for him (and you, reader) I am a bona fide cauliflower rice rockstar. I feel like I’m at the point where I’ve mastered it and can now just have fun. Like at the end of the Winter Olympics when everyone lets loose for the showcase figure skate to fun songs like Copacabana or Baby Got Back. (If that hasn’t been done, I’m disappointed.)
On a good day, risotto is a difficult dish to master. If you’ve ever watched competitive cooking shows like Top Chef or Chopped, you will know that even the toppest and choppiest of chefs bungles risotto on the regular. It is extremely painstaking to perfect, much less just get it edible. I, myself, only bother with it in an instant pot now after years of literal tears and the occasional ruined pan. Take from that what you will.
There’s lots of notes to help you work through the veggified version below – but don’t let that fool you! It is not difficult at all and cooks in a stupidly fast amount of time compared to the original. So much so, that it’s a wonder that my ancestors didn’t just develop this recipe using cauliflower in the first place since it’s native to the Mediterranean. (Assuming, of course, the original Philadelphia in Greece had cream cheese.)
So, take my hard earned wisdom, make it your own, and pretty soon, we’re definitely gonna find a way to use cauliflower risotto in arancini. In an air fryer. Naturally.
Why This Recipe Works
The creamy consistency of traditional risotto is created by the starch in arborio rice. Because cauliflower lacks this starchy quality, you have to create it in the sauce. So how do we do it? Two words: Cream. Cheese.
How to Make Cauliflower Risotto
- Rice the cauliflower. Cauliflower rice for risotto is best made from scratch in a food processor. You want a coarse “rice” consistency for best results.
- Sauté the mushrooms in butter until they’re golden brown with crispy edges (flavor!). Remove the mushrooms and set aside.
- Sauté onions and garlic until soft.
- Add the cauliflower rice to the onions, toss to combine, then sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add a splash of white wine and cook until mostly absorbed – the wine adds flavor and acidity to the finished risotto.
- Add chicken broth and cook until the cauliflower rice is bite tender and cooked through. There should be little to no liquid remaining in the pot.
- Return the mushrooms back to the pot, then add butter and cream cheese. Stir until the butter and cream cheese melt and a thick sauce starts to form.
- Add parmesan cheese in batches, stirring until it melts into the sauce.
- Taste for seasoning! Add salt and pepper to preference, or until the flavor sings. Serve immediately.
Tips for Making Cauliflower Risotto Perfectly
- Coarse, of course. A fine grate is going to result in a much faster cook and potential mush. Using coarsely riced cauliflower will ensure the right rice-like texture.
- Good Taste. As you would with rice, taste it to ensure doneness. Keep cooking if needed. Even the tiniest variation in moisture or placement in the pan can result in under (or over) cooking, and impact the texture.
- ‘Tis the Season(ing). While it’s true that cauliflower is one of the most perfect vehicles for flavor absorption, you want all the flavors to sing in this dish. Seasoning to taste at the end is absolutely paramount, especially if you’ve got people who don’t love the taste of cauliflower at the table.
Does It Really Taste Like Risotto?
As much as any “substitution” food does, cauliflower rice is as close an approximation as you’re going to find to actual rice. Properly seasoned, it’s even been known to fool some rather picky eaters.
Now, the better news is that when it comes to risotto, you’re in a whole new territory because you’re looking to achieve a different flavor and consistency with this dish than say, a bowl of steamed rice. Between the mushrooms, onions, wine and cheese, this dish is absolutely passable in taste and texture.
Is This Recipe Keto? Healthy?
Cauliflower rice has become a mainstay in keto diets and a lifesaver for folks who count carbs. It’s a great grain-free meal replacement! Plus, it’s chock full of vitamins and minerals – including antioxidants – and fiber. Keto Cauliflower Risotto is a must-have in any keto recipe trove.
Can I Use Frozen Cauliflower Rice?
Yes, but with a few caveats. Something to note right off the bat, is that frozen cauliflower rice has a finer texture than coarse chopping by hand or in a food processor, so this is going to affect the process slightly.
First, you’ll want to cook from frozen. If you attempt to defrost you’re not likely to get enough of the excess moisture out to not have it go straight to mush since you need to cook it longer to achieve the creaminess.
Next, you’re going to have to pay close attention to your cook times and taste test frequently. In the initial sauté, spread evenly around the pan to ensure the moisture is steaming off evenly. It may take an extra minute or so for this first step to “defrost” in the pan but no more than that. Don’t over do it! However, in subsequent steps, you may have to slightly reduce your other cook times because the finer textured “rice” will cook faster. So, prep and measure before starting, and be ready once you’ve tasted and know it’s time to add your next ingredients.
Make It Your Way
- If you’re more into “grain free” and less into “keto”, feel free to add frozen peas.
- To further reduce carbs, substitute an equal amount of chicken bone broth or stock for the white wine. Replace the acidity by adding 1 tsp lemon juice.
More “I Can’t Believe It’s Keto!” Recipes
- Cauliflower Fried Rice
- Keto Creamed Spinach
- Mexican Cauliflower Rice
- Maryland Style Hot Crab Dip
- Mexican Stuffed Peppers
Did you make this Creamy Cauliflower Risotto? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- 1 head cauliflower, riced coarsely, see notes
- 1 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 3 tbsp butter, divided
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 large sweet onion, diced to ½"
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ c dry white wine
- ⅓ c chicken stock
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 2 oz cream cheese
- 2 oz finely grated parmesan cheese, use a microplane for best results
- cracked black pepper, to taste
- sea or kosher salt, to taste
- Rice the cauliflower. Divide the cauliflower into florets, then place ⅓ of the florets into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 15-20 times, or until coarse rice-like grains form. Scrape the rice into a bowl and repeat with the remaining florets.
- Heat a large deep skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat; add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil until the butter melts then foams. Add the mushrooms, toss to coat in the fat, and saute, tossing occasionally. Saute until the mushrooms release their water content and are golden brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the 1 remaining tbsp oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the onions, toss to coat in the fat and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Add the riced cauliflower and toss to coat in the fat with the onions. Saute the cauliflower for 2 minutes.
- Pour in the white white wine and saute, stirring occasionally, until mostly absorbed, about 5 minutes.
- Add the broth along with the dried thyme, then stir to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the broth is completely absorbed and the cauliflower is bite tender, 6-8 minutes.
- Return the mushrooms to the pot and give everything a good stir. Add the remaining 2 tbsp butter and the cream cheese. Stir until the butter and cream cheese melts and a sauce starts to form. Add one third of the parmesan cheese, then stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the remaining cheese in batches, again stirring after each addition until smooth and well-combined.
- Taste for seasoning and add pepper to taste and salt if needed (parmesan is salty, so you may need none). Serve immediately.
- Cook from frozen (do not defrost).
- Add frozen cauliflower rice in step 4 as directed; spread evenly around the pan to ensure the moisture is steaming off evenly. It may take an extra minute or so to “defrost” in the pan but no more than that. Don’t over do it!
- Pay attention to texture in steps 5 and 6, as cook time may be shorter. Taste for texture and add the butter and cream cheese once the rice is cooked through but still chewy.