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Paleo Smoky Roasted Garlic Cauliflower “Rice” with Toasted Almonds is a delicious grain-free side dish that comes together easily and pairs well with any number of things.

Smoky Roasted Garlic Cauliflower “Rice” with Toasted Almonds {Paleo} 1

My husband is a real meat and potatoes man; and when I say meat, anything will do except pork (which we don’t eat), and by potatoes I mean starch of any kind (usually some form of pasta, bread, rice, or potatoes). You can imagine my surprise when he told me earlier this year that he wanted to cut way back on starchy foods as well as sugar!

I was as happy as a lark, armed with low-carb versions of traditional carbs like cauliflower “rice” and paleo flatbread, but I knew I’d have to come up with a few new ideas to keep things interesting for him, and that’s where this recipe came in.

Smoky Roasted Garlic Cauliflower “Rice” with Toasted Almonds {Paleo} 2

When people hear smoky, bacon is often one of the first ingredients that comes to mind. Instead, here I used smoked sweet paprika for smoky complexity and added roasted garlic for richness and depth of flavor. This recipe has a little bit of a Spanish flavor profile going on, so I used toasted almonds as my garnish (use marcona almonds if you can find them!).

Smoky Roasted Garlic Cauliflower “Rice” with Toasted Almonds {Paleo} 3

This side dish is interesting enough to pair with grilled, roasted, or pan-seared chicken, steak, or shrimp, but it’s also enough of a blank slate that it goes well with certain stews like my Smoked Paprika White Bean Stew, Sweet and Spicy Beef, Butternut, and White Bean Stew, or Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Stew.

The verdict for Mike? He liked this “rice” for what it is (cauliflower), but thought it bore no similarity to regular rice, but for its shape. And I agree! He ate it though and decided to forgo regular rice, so I can live with that verdict.

Smoky Roasted Garlic Cauliflower “Rice” with Toasted Almonds {Paleo} 4

Smoky Roasted Garlic Cauliflower “Rice” with Toasted Almonds {Paleo}
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Paleo Smoky Roasted Garlic Cauliflower “Rice” with Toasted Almonds is a delicious grain-free side dish that comes together easily and pairs well with any number of things.
  • 1 large (2 lbs/900 g) head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 3 tablespoons grass-fed ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil (or a mixture of both; see Note below)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons mashed roasted garlic (more or less to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
  • A small handful of fresh mint leaves, for garnish (optional)
  1. Add the cauliflower florets to a medium to large-sized saucepan. Cover the cauliflower completely with water, then put a lid on the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down a bit and cock the lid so it doesn’t boil over; cook until the cauliflower is fork-tender but not mushy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well and cool slightly.
  2. Add half the cooked cauliflower florets to a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is chopped into very small pieces (about the size of rice), but not pureed (scrape down the sides as necessary). Transfer the chopped cauliflower to a bowl and process the rest of the florets the same way.
  3. Add the ghee or olive oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower, salt, smoked paprika, pepper, and roasted garlic, and cook until the cauliflower’s moisture is cooked off, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle the almonds and mint leaves on top, and serve.
Recipe adapted from my recipe forLow-Carb Herbed Cauliflower “Rice” with Pine Nuts {Paleo}.

To Make Vegan: Use olive oil instead of ghee.

To Make Ahead: Cook the cauliflower and process it in the food processor (Steps 1 and 2); then let it cool to room temperature and store it in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you want to serve it, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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    1. Aww, thanks, Ksenia! Luckily for Mike, he isn’t actually allergic or sensitive to gluten or sugar – he just wants to cut back because these are things that should be eaten in moderation. Cauli “rice” was definitely a new experience for him, and I’d definitely call it a success! :)

  1. Smoked paprika sure does the trick here and I do love marcona almonds. This “rice” is something I have had several times and enjoy it because it is so easily adapted to other flavors and ingredients. I usually will process it first raw, then steam it and it seems to hold it’s shape to look more like rice – then add different flavorings. Healthy stuff and a great alternate!

    1. I agree, I love how easy this recipe is to adapt to other flavors. I’ll have to try making cauli “rice” your way some time! But I have to admit, I do really enjoy the slight caramelization that results from sauteeing. And I figure if it’s not going to taste like regular rice anyway, I might as well make it as flavorful as possible, lol!

      1. You highlight a great point in your technique with the caramelization that takes place. Actually when I think about my way it almost seems more like couscous than rice!

        BTW, just got back from my two go-to spice markets and no one has mahlab! :(

        1. I am definitely intrigued – I bet your cauli “rice” method yields a very fluffy texture! Yum.

          And yay, I am so happy to be able to send you mahlab! If I absolutely had to choose a favorite spice, as hard as it would be for me to do so, I think mahlab would be it (after salt and pepper, lol). That is how much I love using it! I’m going to email you now. :)

  2. This looks fantastic, Faith! I’d top it with a fried egg and call it dinner. :)

    I know what you mean about it looking more than tasting like rice. Sometimes I mix it half and half with rice (I do the same thing with zoodles and noodles) to lighten things up and in that proportion its more believable.


  3. Tasty and healthy. A great dish.



  4. I really think the key to making substitutions like this is to try to not compare them to their carby counterparts and just appreciate them for what they are! Smoked paprika makes everything more delicious and I love the almond crunch as well.

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