With one pan and 25 minutes, low carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice can be on your table. This healthy flavorful side dish is the perfect addition to a festive Taco Tuesday spread and an easy way to squeeze just a little more nutrition onto your plate without sacrificing one bit of flavor! Naturally Whole30, paleo, grain free, and keto friendly.
- Why Cauliflower Rice?
- Key Ingredients
- How to Make Mexican Cauliflower Rice
- Chef’s Tips!
- Can I Use Frozen Cauliflower Rice?
- Can I use Store-Bought Cauliflower Rice?
- Is Mexican Cauliflower Rice Spicy?
- Is Cauliflower Rice Healthy?
- What to Serve with Mexican Cauliflower Rice
- More Ways to Enjoy Cauliflower Rice
It’s no secret that Cameron and I love Mexican food. And it’s no secret that I love to sneak extra veggies onto our plates whenever possible.
Enter Mexican Cauliflower Rice.
To be honest, I received major side eye when I told Cameron I was making a cauliflower rice version of his beloved side dish. He was not amused.
That is, until I presented him with a bowl of this low carb flavor bomb, first smothered with my slow cooker cilantro lime chicken, and later served with a runny egg and avocado as a light lunch.
He was an instant convert, and you will be too.
Why Cauliflower Rice?
If you subscribe to a keto or low carb diet or are eliminating grains for health reasons or dietary considerations, cauliflower rice is a terrific substitute for traditional rice.
This low carb and keto friendly side dish will become a staple in your kitchen. It’s packed with all of the flavor of traditional Mexican rice, but with extra nutrients (and less guilt if that’s your thing).
- Flavor. Cauliflower is a sponge and easily soaks up the seasonings in any given recipe. It won’t taste like a tiny pile of vegetables once you’ve stirred in cumin, garlic, tomato paste, and fresh cilantro. It’s so good that I didn’t stop with mexican rice – try this recipe for cilantro lime cauliflower rice next!
- Texture. Properly cooked, cauliflower rice is light and fluffy with a bit of a bite – just like traditional rice! Be sure to follow the instructions closely, and cook the cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen) until all of the liquid is released and has evaporated.
- Nutrition. Cauliflower rice really is healthier, whether you eat grains or not, and it’s great way to sneak in a few extra veggies without trying too hard. With fewer calories, fewer carbs, more fiber, plenty of antioxidants, and all the Vitamin C you need in a day, swapping Mexican cauliflower rice for traditional rice from time to time will do your body good!
- Riced Cauliflower: we love using fresh cauliflower rice, but you can definitely use frozen too!
- White Onion and Garlic: onions and garlic are the base flavors in Mexican rice.
- Jalapeno: minced, with or without seeds. Without seeds, the jalapeno will add flavor without heat.
- Tomato paste: adds depth and flavor, and gives the cooked cauliflower rice beautiful color!
- Cumin and Paprika: to season the rice and add smoky notes.
- Fresh Cilantro: finely chopped, and folded in just before serving.
- Lime Juice: we prefer fresh lime juice whenever possible – you can’t beat the flavor!
How to Make Mexican Cauliflower Rice
Properly prepared, cauliflower rice is chewy, nutty, and deliciously addictive. For best flavor and texture, make the rice from scratch using a fresh head of cauliflower. Cauliflower happily absorbs seasonings, so be generous – jalapeno, garlic, tomato paste, lime juice, and cilantro are each prominent but balanced in our Mexican cauliflower rice. This dish is both easy and flexible, make in one skillet, and ready in under 30 minutes.
Before you start! This recipe moves pretty quickly, so get your mis en place (aka “prep”) in order before you start – chop the onions and cilantro, mince the garlic and jalapeños, prep the spices, and have your fresh limes ready.
- Rice the cauliflower. Divide a head of cauliflower into bite sized florets (smaller pieces will process more evenly) then transfer to a food processor fitted with a standard s-blade; for best results, don’t fill the bowl more than halfway full or the cauliflower won’t evenly process. You may need to process the florets in batches, depending on the size of the cauliflower. Press the “pulse” feature 20-30 times, or until the florets have been processed into a fine, rice-like texture. It’s okay if there are some slightly larger pieces. Just be sure to pulse, not blend, so that you don’t end up with mush. Click the link for everything you need to know about ricing your own cauliflower.
- Heat olive oil in a large, 12″ skillet then add the onions; saute, stirring occassionally, until the onions are soft and starting to brown around the edges.
- Add the garlic and jalapeno and saute until fragrant.
- Add the tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and salt. Work the tomato paste and spices into the vegetables until evenly distributed.
- Add the riced cauliflower to the skillet. Stir, stir, stir until the rice is worked into the skillet ingredients. Continue sautéing, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower releases its moisture and is cooked through, but not completely soft. Be sure to stir frequently so the cauliflower cooks evenly.
- Once cooked through, remove from heat and stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as needed with salt, lime juice, or cilantro.
A note about texture – depending on the size of the cauliflower rice and how much moistures it contains, the cooking time will vary. The best way to know the rice is cooked is to taste it. Fully cooked cauliflower rice will be chewy, but still a bit firm with a light bite. Overcooked cauliflower rice can be soggy, so pay attention to the pan and start tasting for texture around the 5-minute mark.
- Use a large 12″ skillet. This allows the cauliflower rice to both sauté and steam at the same time for best flavor and texture.
- Always taste for doneness. Depending on the size of your “rice”, cooking times can vary. First, look for visual cues – fresh cauliflower will look visibly more transparent when finished cooking, and frozen rice will be visibly defrosted. There should be little to moisture in the pan. Taste around the 5-minute mark if using fresh rice, or the 4-minute mark if using frozen rice. Remember, you can always cook a bit longer!
- Use fresh cut cauliflower rice sooner than later to avoid any unpleasant odors.
Can I Use Frozen Cauliflower Rice?
Yes! Replace fresh rice with cauliflower rice in the same order. Cauliflower rice will cook just a bit more quickly – start tasting for texture around the 4-minute mark, and be careful not to overcook. Frozen cauliflower rice will not have the same “al dente” bite of fresh rice, but it definitely wins in terms of time and convenience!
Can I use Store-Bought Cauliflower Rice?
Yes! But check your produce. Most grocery stores carry bagged, pre-rice cauliflower in the produce section, and it sure is convenient. Look for bright white cauliflower rice, without a hint of a green tint (the latter is a signal that the cauliflower was under-ripe, or parts of the stem and/or leaves were riced). The packaging can cause the rice to sweat and release moisture, so be sure to wring it out before using.
Is Mexican Cauliflower Rice Spicy?
Not overly so! There is some spice from the jalapeno, but it’s more flavor and less heat. To make it spicier, keep some of the seeds from the jalapeno, and/or add up to a teaspoon of chili powder.
Is Cauliflower Rice Healthy?
Healthy is subjective, so – that’s up to you! I can tell you that this recipe is Whole30, paleo, and keto friendly, and naturally vegan and grain free. In our house, it’s a great way to sneak extra vegetables onto our plates without feel deprived.
What to Serve with Mexican Cauliflower Rice
You can use this Mexican cauliflower rice anywhere you’d use regular cauliflower rice:
- As a side dish for low carb tacos or other low carb Mexican dishes like chicken taco zucchini boats or Mexican stuffed peppers
- Mixed into a fajita salad
- As a base for taco bowls with cilantro lime chicken or shredded salsa chicken
- Stuffed into burritos
- In breakfast bowls with avocado, shredded cabbage, a runny egg, and queso fresco
More Ways to Enjoy Cauliflower Rice
Did you make Mexican Cauliflower Rice? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- Food Processor
- Rice the cauliflower. Slice the florets from the head of the cauliflower. Fit a food processor with a standard s-blade. Place half the florets into the bowl of the food processor and pulse until riced, scraping down the sides once halfway through to catch any larger pieces. Scrape out the riced cauliflower and repeat with the remaining florets.
- Heat a large 12" skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and sautee until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and jalapeno and sautee, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, salt, cumin, and paprika. Work the tomato paste into the rice, stirring until it's fully incorporated. Cook at least 2 minutes to cook off the canned flavor.
- Add the cauliflower rice and stir continuously until all ingredients are very well combined. Continue sautéing, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower releases its liquid and is dry and fluffy, 5-8 minutes. See Note 2.
- Remove the skillet from heat and stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Serve right away.
- Store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Reheat in the microwave in 30-second intervals or in a skillet over a medium high flame for 2-3 minutes.
- If making for meal prep, reserve fresh cilantro and add just after reheating.