Parmesan pesto cauliflower rice is a quick, healthy side dish flavored with Parmesan cheese and pesto sauce. Its light and fluffy texture make this lower-carb dish a treat!
A cauliflower rice recipe here has been a long time coming. Better late than never, right? A few readers asked about preparing turmeric coconut basmati rice with cauliflower, and it made me realize that cauliflower hasn't made an appearance on the blog, well, ever. Time to change that.
When I cook with cauliflower, I'll usually throw it in slow cooker curries or make super simple cauliflower rice. Like really simple - cauliflower, olive oil, salt, and pepper. No recipe required. But when a friend graciously gifted me the cauliflower from her CSA box, I wanted to come up with a proper, flavorful cauliflower rice recipe that would be gobbled up by my cruciferous veggie-tepid fiancé without comment ("Oh, is this cauliflower?" 😐 ).
This Parmesan Pesto Cauliflower Rice totally did the trick. Cauliflower florets are broken up into tiny pieces quickly with a few pulses of the food processor, then are sauteed for a few minutes in a bit of olive oil on the stove. While you can leave the cauliflower rice raw I strongly recommend sautéing it. Those few extra minutes (and extra pan to wash) are well worth it because it makes this cauliflower rice have a much milder cauliflower flavor.
A milder cauliflower flavor means more room for the other goodies in this parmesan pesto cauliflower rice to shine. A small batch of pesto sauce whips up in the time it takes for the cauliflower to sauté, and gets stirred into the cauliflower rice once it's done.
One of the great things about cauliflower rice - besides it being low-calorie, low-carb, and nutrient-heavy - is that it stays fluffy after it cooks. Of course it's not actually rice, but the texture isn't wildly different. Stirring the sauce into the cauliflower rice adds just the right amount of flavor without making it oily or soggy.
Then there's the last bit of the title - parmesan pesto cauliflower rice. This one's easy. While there's some parmesan included within the pesto sauce itself, stirring in an additional amount (or as much as your heart desires) before serving makes this dish all the more satisfying. Don't skip it!
Parmesan Pesto Cauliflower Rice
- 1 head of cauliflower (see note)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided (¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon)
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts*
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the cauliflower head into four sections and then cut away the middle stem to separate the florets from the stem. Place the florets in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is in very small pieces. Remove cauliflower from food processor and wipe clean for the pesto later on.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add broken up cauliflower and stir. Cover and cook 5 or so minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower has softened slightly. Remove from heat once done.
- Add basil leaves, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and 2 tablespoon Parmesan to food processor and pulse until the pesto is broken up and cohesive, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- Once cauliflower has been removed from the heat, stir in lemon juice, pesto sauce, remaining 6 tablespoon (¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese), and salt and pepper to taste.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer
Kim batchelder says
Can you use cauliflower rice instead of fresh?
Hi Kim, prepackaged cauliflower rice should work just fine here!
Hi there! So excited to try this recipe! I’ll be making it tomorrow! If I were going to use jarred pesto from the store instead of making the pesto for this recipe, how much would you say I would use?
Hi Eliese! I'd say somewhere between 1/4 - 1/3 cup of jarred pesto should do it, maybe a little more. I'd start smaller and add more if needed to not risk adding too much and having it get soupy. I hope you enjoy!
Sandra Shaffer says
I'm completely obsessed with all things cauliflower. It's a perfect veggie for low carb followers like myself. The parmesan pesto combination looks delicious. Trying this tonight!
This just looks packed with flavor!!!! So often cauliflower rice is plain and a bit boring.
My hubby is currently trying to cut down his carb intake, so this is going to be perfect for him.
Thank you 😀