Cauliflower “Couscous” with Basil-Lemon Sauce

For the longest time, I fought cauliflower. I usually prepared it Indian style, heavily spiced and cooked whole, but shied away from the floret stir-fry or other recipes with whole florets. Here, the cauliflower is finely chopped so it resembles couscous and will absorb other flavors. Try this excellent version, but also try replacing the sauce with different combos, like tamarind or pomegranate dressing for a sweet-tart rendition, or add some chipotle for a hot and smoky version. Great with a glass of unoaked Chardonnay.–Eric Gower

Cauliflower Couscous Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 35 M
  • 35 M
  • Serves 8

Ingredients

  • For the basil-lemon sauce
  • 10 large (about 1 cup loosely packed) fresh basil leaves
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons, preferably Meyer
  • 1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • For the couscous
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, stalks and stems discarded, florets finely diced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Basil-Lemon Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil chiffonade

Directions

  • Make the sauce
  • 1. Combine the basil, lemon zest and juice, oil, and maple syrup in a blender. Purée and transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 7 to 10 days.
  • Make the couscous
  • 2. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a chef’s pan or wok large enough to hold all the cauliflower over high heat. Add the onion and saute until the onion softens, about 2 minutes.
  • 3. Add the cauliflower, stir thoroughly, salt and pepper liberally, and cook until the cauliflower softens, about 10 minutes.
  • 4. Add 2 tablespoons of the sauce and cook until tender and fragrant, another 10 minutes. Adjust the salt, add the remaining 2 tablespoons sauce, mix thoroughly, and transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the basil chiffonade.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Elsa M. Jacobson

Mar 16, 2010

This was simple, clean, tasty, and freshly-flavored, a bright light in the gray of February. As a vegetable-loving vegetarian, I try to share dishes with friends who have other palates to solicit their opinions as well; my friend today, when asked to taste it, took a small careful forkful at first, then proceeded to eat substantially more. It has plenty of room for adaptation, too. While the Basil-Lemon Sauce was delicious, the suggested addition of some chipotle added depth and weight to the original lightness of the dish. Happily it is now Meyer Lemon season, but I am sure this would work as well with regular lemons.

Testers Choice
Susan Hillery

Mar 16, 2010

Absolutely fabulous! This recipe really challenged my idea of cauliflower—the chopped cauliflower was such a departure from the typical use of the floret. I admit that I was also a little skeptical using the maple syrup in the sauce; it just tempers the lemon juice, making everything pop. A delicious, delicious way to serve cauliflower.

Testers Choice
Rhonda Lerner

Mar 16, 2010

Absolutely delicious! As I started out, I thought the Basil-Lemon Sauce would be too lemony and tart. Then I thought, how could this possibly come together? Surprise, surprise—in the end, my husband and I ate the entire dish. The combination of flavors was just great. The sauce blended and balanced so well to perk up the cauliflower, and the red onion was just perfect in bringing everything together. I served this with a simple sautéed perch filet and used some of the sauce over the fish as well, which was great.

Testers Choice
Jeremy Schweitzer

Mar 16, 2010

I had never considered cooking cauliflower this way before and was very impressed by the result. I liked the simplicity, texture, and flavor of this dish and the leftover dressing is delicious with romaine and grilled chicken.

Testers Choice
Christine Anderson

Mar 16, 2010

I really enjoyed this recipe. The texture is nice and it’s a wonderful way to serve cauliflower. I made it for my eldest daughter, who is a vegetarian; she also thought it was very good. She liked the hint of maple flavor in the sauce, which paired beautifully with the maple-glazed salmon I prepared.

Testers Choice
Liz Tarpy

Mar 16, 2010

A fast, easy dish that tastes really bright and flavorful. I used it as a topping for whole wheat pasta, grated some fresh Parmesan on top, and it was a lovely meal.

Testers Choice
Leanne Abe

Mar 16, 2010

I was pleasantly surprised by this dish. It takes some time to chop up all the cauliflower florets, but it really makes a great-tasting dish! It’s a preparation I never would have thought of for this vegetable, but I’m going to keep it in mind now that I see how it really does absorb all the other flavors in the dish. The lemon is a little subtle in the dressing and you need to taste often to get the salt level right, but it’s a great dish and the leftovers make a perfect lunch.

Testers Choice
Debbie Markos

Mar 16, 2010

I loved this dish, as well as the concept of the recipe, and am anxious to try it with other variations. At first, I was a little bit disappointed, as I didn’t think it packed a fabulous flavor punch, but it was sublime the following day. I think this is one dish that benefits from standing awhile before serving and then being reheated, or even served at room temperature. All in all, a lovely, healthful recipe.


Comments
Comments
  1. Melissa says:

    This sounds wonderful, Renee. And it’s gluten-free “couscous.” Thank you! Am going to share this with friends and send them your way. It’s amazing how many recipes you have that are GF by default. Love you guys!
    Melissa

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Many thanks, Melissa. I, too, never fail to be inspired by how many recipes are gluten-free by default, recipes that don’t require ingredients that are unpronounceable or unfathomable or unavailable at local stores. Just good old plain food that draws on the innate goodness of everyday ingredients. Have you noticed our “gluten-free” option under the “recipes” tab at the top of the page? May make finding these things a tad easier…

  2. Christine says:

    Wow. This is good stuff: My husband, who “does not eat cauliflower,” ate a large serving last night with our chicken, and polished off the leftovers tonight! I’m very impressed. It’s the first recipe I tried from this site. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy or gluten free, but it looked yummy and it was. May seem heavy on the onions while you are preparing, keep the faith—it just makes it meltingly good.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Wow! That’s terrific, Christine. Thanks for letting us know, and thanks, too, for the stay-on-course onion advice…

  3. Going to try this tonight.
    Tweeted it.

  4. Sally says:

    I brought home a head of cauliflower this evening with no idea on how I would prepare it. I looked at this site and recipe and took a chance. Three people demolished the entire thing in one sitting.

    This then got me thinking: what a great surprise vegetable to serve at a holiday gathering. A lot of the labor can be done in advance; once the sauce and vegetable cutting are done, it goes together quickly. Taste for salt as you cook: it really needs to be seasoned well.

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      Sally, that’s wonderful! Sounds like it will be making a reappearance on your table come the holidays. I was never a great fan of cauliflower until recently, but dishes like this remind me that it’s actually quite a nice neutral palette for all sorts of flavors.

  5. Michele says:

    I made this a couple of weeks ago and it was a huge hit! I’m making it again tonight. The only way I have ever been able to include cauliflower in meals was by masking it with heavy Asian sauces, which are yummy but you wouldn’t know there was cauliflower in it. This was so much simpler and tastier. I bought a couple of basil plants so I have fresh leaves on hand now whenever I want to make this. Thank you so much for this!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Wonderful, Michele! And stay tuned, as we have a similar recipe that just came through recipe testing that we’ll post on the site soon….

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