Low Carb Cauliflower Risotto

4.73 from 69 votes
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Discover the comforting delight of cauliflower risotto, a healthy twist on the classic Italian dish that doesn’t skimp on flavor. This 30-minute recipe is a grain-free, low-carb alternative to traditional risotto.

For more low-carb inspiration, check out my recipes for shrimp-fried cauliflower rice, orange chicken bowls, and zucchini noodles.

Bowl of cauliflower risotto with mushrooms and peas.

I learned how to make risotto in culinary school, but as you may know, it can be a heavy meal. I decided to take this classic dish and make a grain-free version. This cauliflower risotto recipe is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet while cutting down on higher-calorie carbohydrates like rice.

Substituting carbs with broccoli rice and cauliflower rice is a game-changer to making keto and gluten-free recipes! You can easily transform the hearty florets into tiny grains when shredded or chopped. This delicious Italian-inspired recipe is loaded with nutrients and is prepared in a fraction of the time.

“Yummy! Excellent and easy recipe- even the kids loved it! Thank you!”—Annamay

Recipe ingredients

Ingredients needed to make this cauliflower risotto recipe.
  • Cauliflower: Select a large head of cauliflower, about 1 ½ to 2 pounds, to yield at least 4 cups of riced cauliflower.
  • Alliums: Diced yellow onions and minced garlic add earthiness to the dish.
  • Vegetables: Add a variety of vegetables like brown mushrooms, asparagus, grated zucchini, and peas. They provide color and texture contrast.
  • Liquid: Vegetable broth or stock infuses savory flavor into the riced cauliflower. Milk adds a creaminess that is missing since we are not using starchy arborio rice.
  • Wine: A dry white wine adds acidity and an oaky taste. I recommend Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Glanc.
  • Oil: Use high-quality olive oil for cooking the vegetables.
  • Seasonings: Salt and pepper enhance the neutral flavor of the vegetables. Lemon zest adds brightness and a lingering citrus taste.
  • Herbs: Garnish the cauliflower rice risotto with freshly chopped parsley and sliced basil.
  • Cheese: Aged grated parmesan cheese adds a nutty and savory flavor.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Make the cauliflower rice

Clear glass bowl filled with freshly grated cauliflower rice.

Step 1: Cauliflower is a very stable vegetable as it doesn’t turn to mush when cooked for long periods of time. This makes it perfect for a risotto. To make cauliflower rice, use a large-holed boxed grater to cut down the florets into little bite-sized pieces that resemble grains of rice.

Pro Tip: Other methods include chopping with a chef’s knife or adding the cauliflower florets to a food processor.

Cook the mushrooms

Step 2: Use a Dutch oven or a wide skillet with high sides. To add heartiness and an umami flavor to the risotto, saute sliced brown mushroom. Cook them in olive oil to release their moisture and to brown the surface for more flavor. Transfer them to a plate or bowl while you cook the rest of the cauliflower risotto.

Saute the onions and rice

Step 3: Similar to making a mushroom risotto, you need to build layers of flavor. Start by sauteing diced onions and minced garlic in olive oil or butter. It takes a few minutes to tame the raw and pungent flavors. Add the cauliflower rice and briefly saute for a few minutes to add flavor to the surface, but don’t cook it all the way through.

Deglaze with pan

Step 5: Add white wine, then deglaze by scraping the bottom of the pan to dissolve the flavorful bits. Stir and simmer until the wine evaporates.

Cook the vegetables

risotto cooking in a big pot with sliced mushrooms and peas

Step 6: Add the asparagus, peas, and zucchini. Stir them in, then turn up the heat to medium-high. Add the vegetable broth and milk, stirring occasionally, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. After about 6 to 8 minutes, the cauliflower should be tender, with just a small amount of liquid left in the pan.

Add the cheese and mushrooms

Step 7: It’s best to turn off the heat before adding the cheese to allow the parmesan to melt gently, infusing it into the risotto. I also add salt and pepper as well to enhance the savory taste of the cauliflower rice. Lastly, add the cooked mushrooms and stir in the lemon zest.

Serve the cauliflower risotto

Step 8: Garnish with parsley and basil, the two fresh herbs I often add to complement Italian cuisine. Finish with a sprinkle of salty parmesan cheese, and then serve.

Flavor variations

Now that you know how to make cauliflower risotto, it’s easy to switch up the flavor of this side dish. Try these delicious options:

  • Wine: Use a dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. If you don’t want to use alcohol, simply use vegetable broth to deglaze the pan.
  • Vegetables: Cut vegetables into small pieces, like butternut squash, eggplant, carrots, or tomatoes. Stir in sundried tomatoes, spinach, or kale.
  • Herbs: Add fresh thyme, rosemary, or oregano. Add dried Italian seasoning for a potent mixture of herbs. Add while cooking the onions and garlic to extract the most flavor. Garnish with chives or tarragon.
  • Cheese: Add Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano. If you want to omit cheese but still want a burst of savory flavor, sprinkle in nutritional yeast.
  • Dairy: For a richer risotto, add heavy cream instead of milk, or make it dairy-free with cashew, coconut, oat, or almond milk.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

Can I use pre-cut cauliflower rice?

Many grocery stores sell packaged cauliflower rice, saving on prep time. Purchase 4 cups of riced cauliflower for the risotto.

Can I use frozen cauliflower rice?

Yes! Do not defrost the frozen cauliflower rice. Add it to the pan, sauteing until fully cooked. It will take a few extra minutes as the rice needs to defrost in the hot pan.

Mushrooms and peas in a cauliflower rice risotto.

Recipe Science

Making cauliflower risotto creamy

A classic risotto is made with short-grain arborio rice. The slow addition of the stock and constant simmering and stirring disperse the starches, yielding grains suspended in a creamy sauce. To mimic the texture add whole milk as the fat adds creaminess. Parmesan cheese further helps to meld the vegetable risotto together.

Cauliflower Risotto

This low carb cauliflower risotto recipe is a healthier alternative made in just 30 minutes or less! Each spoonful is packed with fresh garden vegetables.
4.73 from 69 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, 4 cups riced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup sliced brown mushrooms, ¼" thick
  • ½ cup diced yellow onions, ¼" dice
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup sliced asparagus, cut into ¼" coins
  • 1 cup grated zucchini, grated
  • ½ cup green peas, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup vegetable broth, or stock
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sliced basil

Instructions 

  • Make the Cauliflower Rice – Carefully grate the florets using the largest hole on a box grater. This should yield about 4 cups of cauliflower rice. Alternatively, use a chef's knife or food processor to make rice-sized pieces.
  • Cook the Mushrooms – In a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and reserve.
  • Saute the Alliums and Rice – Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower rice and stir to combine. Saute to lightly cook the surface, about 2 minutes.
  • Deglaze with Pan – Add the white wine and stir and scrape the bottom of the pan until the wine has evaporated, about 2 minutes. A non-alcohol alternative is to use vegetable broth.
  • Cook the Vegetables – Add the asparagus, zucchini, and peas. Stir to combine, then turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the broth and milk, stir, and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates, about 6 to 8 minutes. The cauliflower should be tender, with a small amount of liquid left in the pan.
  • Add the Cheese and Mushrooms – Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, and black pepper. Add the cooked mushrooms and lemon zest, and stir to combine. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
  • To Serve – Garnish with parsley, basil, and more parmesan cheese on top if desired.

Notes

  • Serving Size: About 1 cup 
  • Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 226kcal (11%)Carbohydrates 19g (6%)Protein 10g (20%)Fat 12g (18%)Saturated Fat 4g (20%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 15mg (5%)Sodium 691mg (29%)Potassium 866mg (25%)Fiber 5g (20%)Sugar 9g (10%)Vitamin A 689IU (14%)Vitamin C 92mg (112%)Calcium 212mg (21%)Iron 2mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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  1. Wendy Vandenberg says

    I made this with roasted chicken thighs. It was delicious! Thank you for sharing a healthier version of one of my favs foods.

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