Cauliflower “Couscous”

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

LC Game Changer Note

This recipe is a game changer for those reticent to try cauliflower. Seriously. They—or you—won’t even recognize it.

Cauliflower Couscous

Cauliflower Couscous
Eric Gower

Prep 35 mins
Total 35 mins
8 servings
180 kcal
5 / 5 votes
Print RecipeBuy the The Breakaway Cook cookbook

Want it? Click it.


For the lemon sauce

  • 10 large (about 1 cup loosely packed) basil leaves
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons preferably Meyer
  • 1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

For the cauliflower 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 lemon sauce
  • 2 tablespoons basil chiffonade


Make the lemon sauce

  • Combine the basil, lemon zest and juice, oil, and maple syrup in a blender and purée. (You can keep the sauce in a jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to 7 to 10 days.)

Make the cauliflower couscous

  • Reach for a skillet or wok large that’s enough to hold all the cauliflower, place it over medium-high heat, and melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion and saute until the onion softens, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the cauliflower, stir thoroughly, salt and pepper liberally, and cook until the cauliflower softens, about 10 minutes.
  • Add 2 tablespoons lemon sauce and cook until the cauliflower is 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.
Print RecipeBuy the The Breakaway Cook cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 180kcal (9%)Carbohydrates: 7g (2%)Protein: 2g (4%)Fat: 17g (26%)Saturated Fat: 3g (19%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 4mg (1%)Sodium: 23mg (1%)Potassium: 255mg (7%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 138IU (3%)Vitamin C: 39mg (47%)Calcium: 27mg (3%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

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 maple syrup, but it just tempers the lemon juice, making everything pop. A delicious, delicious way to serve cauliflower.

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.

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.

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.

This was simple, clean, tasty, and freshly flavored, a bright light in the gray of February. Happily it is now Meyer

lemon season, but I am sure this would work as well with regular lemons. As a vegetable-loving vegetarian, I try to share dishes with friends to solicit their opinions as well. One friend, 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 and lemon were delicious, my friend suggested the addition of some chipotle to add depth and substance.

Originally published March 16, 2010


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. 5 stars
    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.

  2. 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!

    1. 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…

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish