side dish Archives - Birdseed Kitchen

Mexican Cauliflower Rice, and My New Favorite Way to Rice Cauliflower

Mexican Cauliflower Rice

Mexican Cauliflower Rice has all the great flavors of Mexican rice, but is made healthier using riced cauliflower. You’re just 15 minutes away from a healthy version of a great Mexican side dish.

I only recently learned that you can make cauliflower rice with a spiralizer, and I was like whaaaaaaat?

You’d better believe it. It’s how I riced the cauliflower for this recipe.

I’ve been making cauliflower rice for a while, perfectly happy to utilize my vintage 1999 Kitchen Aid food processor, fitted with a shredding blade. But using the spiralizer is just as easy. And unlike with a food processor, there’s no issue of bowl capacity, leaving you free to shred entire heads of cauliflower in a single bound.

And that’s ok, because riced cauliflower keeps super-well in the refrigerator. Just toss it into a pan, and you’re less than 10 minutes away from delicious cauliflower rice.

And I might be alone here, but I think rinsing the spiralizer is easier than cleaning the food processor. (Confession time: does anyone usually just rinse their spiralizer in hot water and call it good enough?)

Here is a somewhat mesmerizing video of spiralizer cauliflower in action. It features the same spiralizer we use and love: the OXO Good Grips spiralizer. I’ll admit, I watched this video more than twice when I first found it.


Are you ready to make some spiralized cauliflower rice? Here’s the setup.

How to Make Spiralized Cauliflower Rice

First, you’ll need a head of cauliflower that fits into your spiralizer. You should be able to secure the stem end on the spikes near the handle, and have the side of the head clear the bottom below. Basically, the head of cauliflower needs to spin freely. You could trim it up a little if it’s too big.

Rinse the cauliflower and pat dry. Remove the leaves from the bottom, leaving a flat stem in the center. (You’ll need this to secure it to the spiralizer.)

photo of cauliflower stem, prepared for spiralized cauliflower rice

Set up your spiralizer with the spaghetti blade, and secure it to the countertop. Leave the crank assembly off for now.

Next, with your cauliflower stem side down, carefully insert a chopstick into the top center of the head, and press down firmly until it pierces all the way through the cauliflower. The more pointed the chopstick, the easier this is.

I used a metal chopstick because I love metal chopsticks, and they are the pointiest kind I own. They are actually travel chopsticks; they screw together in two parts, and fit in my purse. You never know when food will happen! I need to be prepared!

If you have extra takeout chopsticks floating around in your drawer, now you have a great use for them.

Insert the top of the chopstick through the round blade of your spiralizer.

Slide the head of cauliflower all the way over against the blade. Insert the crank assembly onto the spiralizer, and press the spikes into the stem end of the cauliflower.

Turn the crank, and prepare to be amazed by your mountain of fresh cauliflower rice!

head of cauliflower on the spiralizer, making spiralized Mexican cauliflower rice

Making Mexican Cauliflower Rice

I’ve been making Mexican rice for years using a standard method of cooking rice in a mixture of chicken broth, tomato sauce, onion, cumin, black pepper, and other seasonings. I knew I wanted to make Mexican Cauliflower Rice from the first time I made regular cauliflower rice. I could eat have eaten a whole plate of Mexican rice… but that’s not very healthy. So I’m very excited about this alternative.

The problem with infusing flavors into cauliflower rice is that you really can’t use liquids. The secret to successful cauliflower rice is to keep it dry.

My secret weapon? Tomato powder. We picked some up at The Spice House in Chicago, thinking it looked interesting, but not really having a use for it. Well, I use it ALL. THE. TIME. It’s great in deviled eggs, or sprinkled on a sandwich. And I use it to create my own taco seasoning, and in this Mexican Cauliflower Rice. It gets hydrated just enough from the moisture in the cauliflower to lend a subtle tomato flavor, and that characteristic red color that you know from traditional Mexican rice.

The flavor from chicken broth comes from a quick addition of a little Better Than Bouillon chicken stock concentrate, which is added to the oil JUST before you add the rice. It melts and infuses into the rice. If you want to go vegetarian, of course, you could sub in their variety of vegetable bouillon.

Ready for Mexican Cauliflower Rice? You can eat a plate of it if you want to, it’s ok.

plate of Mexican Cauliflower Rice with Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

Or serve it with Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas and Quick Pickled Red Onions, or Pressure Cooker Chipotle Chicken Thighs.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice
4 from 1 vote

Mexican Cauliflower Rice

All the great flavors of Mexican rice, made healthier using riced cauliflower.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4
Author Rachel


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon, Chicken Flavor
  • 3 cups riced cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp tomato powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pinch granulated sugar
  • salt and black pepper, to taste


How to Rice Cauliflower

  1. Using 1/2 of a large head of cauliflower, break or cut it into florets, including the stems. Use one of the following options to create rice-sized pieces of cauliflower:

  2. In a spiralizer: Wash head of cauliflower and pat dry. Remove leaves, leaving stem intact. Insert a chopstick straight down into the top of the head, all the way to the stem. Insert chopstick in round blade of spiralizer, set up with spaghetti blade. Rotate cauliflower to shred it into riced pieces.

  3. In the food processor, shredded: Set up your food processor with a shredding blade. Shred the cauliflower. 

  4. In the food processor, pulsed: Place florets in the food processor. Pulse until they resemble rice grains. Do not over-process. 

Make the Mexican Cauliflower Rice

  1. Mix tomato powder, onion powder, cumin, and sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside near the stove.

  2. Heat a large skillet (one that has a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat. Add olive oil.

  3. Add riced cauliflower and Better Than Bouillon stock concentrate. Stir immediately to prevent the cauliflower from sticking, and to distribute the melted bouillon, about 30 seconds. 

  4. Sprinkle spices over the rice, and season with fresh ground pepper and salt. Stir for one minute more.

  5. Cover skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook rice for 5 minutes with lid on, until tender but not overly soft (like the consistency of rice.)

  6. Remove from heat, season to taste, and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

The pinch of sugar in this recipe might seem odd, but trust me - it's necessary to balance out the slightly bitter flavor of a cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower. When properly balanced using the right amount of added salt and sugar (and it doesn't take much), this dish will taste a lot less like cauliflower and a lot more like rice. Just add a little of each at a time before serving, and taste as you go.

Roasted Beet, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Salad

Roasted Beet, Walnut and Gorgonzola Salad

A hearty winter salad made from roasted beets, toasted walnuts, and creamy gorgonzola with a lightly herbed olive oil vinaigrette.

Roasted vegetable salads keep me eating salads in the winter, when I don’t necessarily want a bowl of cold greens. This Roasted Beet, Walnut and Gorgonzola salad is a little bit salad, and a little bit side dish.

I love beets, and they’re one of my favorite vegetable to roast. We especially love to spiralize them, which speeds up the roasting time, and honestly, makes them just a little more fun to eat. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can also slice the beets or cut them into chunks. As long as they’re all about the same size, you’ll be ok. Adjust your roasting time accordingly.

There aren’t many things I like better with beets than creamy gorgonzola and toasted walnuts. They both add some protein, and walnuts have lots of healthy fats.

Yup. Toasted walnuts and creamy gorgonzola are right at home in this salad. And then it’s finished off with a simple herbed vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar. The recipe for the dressing is based on Food 52’s instructions on how to create a vinaigrette without a recipe, and their formula is easy to memorize and will forever change the way you dress salads:

3:1 (oil to vinegar) + emulsifier (dijon mustard) + sweetener (honey, agave, whatever) + herbs and seasonings

Roasted Beet, Walnut and Gorgonzola Salad

This recipe for vinaigrette will make a lot – about a cup. You won’t need a lot for each salad, just a drizzle to add a perk of acid and pull it all together. We like to keep the rest in the refrigerator in a squeeze bottle, mason jar, or cruet.

Roasted Beet, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Salad

Course Side Dish
Servings 2
Author Rachel


For the Salad

  • 2 beets spiralized with fettuccine blade, or sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 small red onion very thinly sliced or spiralized
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 tbsp gorgonzola cheese crumbled

For the Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh oregano minced
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


Prepare the Salad Ingredients

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Prepare the beets by scrubbing them clean with a brush and trimming the stem and root ends. If desired, spiralized them with a fettuccine blade. Or, slice them into julienne strips.

  3. Spread beets on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat, then season with salt and fresh black pepper.

  4. Bake for 18 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, being careful not to over-toast or burn them. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Prepare the Vinaigrette

  1. In a bowl or blender container, combine all ingredients except olive oil.

  2. While adding oil in a thin stream, whisk constantly until emulsified. Or, run a blender on medium-low speed and drizzle oil in through the top to emulsify.

Assemble the Salad

  1. Layer beets, slivered red onion, walnuts, and gorgonzola on plates, and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

This vinaigrette recipe is based on Food52's excellent article on How to Make a Vinaigrette Without a Recipe. Their proportions are spot-on, and learning them has opened up the possibilities for so many tasty homemade dressings.

You will have leftover dressing - this makes about a cup. We like to store the leftovers in squeeze bottles or mason jars and keep them in the refrigerator. 

Spiced Persimmon-Pomegranate Salad

We’re food people, so Thanksgiving is our holiday. Preparations begin weeks in advance. If we’re smart, a spreadsheet is involved. If we’re very smart, we prepare as much as we can in advance. (We’re usually not that smart, even with the best of intentions.)

As the turkey timer winds down, not a surface is left uncovered, not a pot left unused in the glorious ballet of kitchen chaos. All available hands are plating, mashing, whipping, and carving. The CO detector usually goes off in the middle of this madness, from using the oven and most of the burners all day. Last year, the turkey ended up resting in a hallway.

Somehow, we all land around the table, and someone says “go!” And if we’re lucky, we still have room for our plates on the table amongst the feast.

It’s not that we’re gluttonous – I just think we all want our favorites for Thanksgiving, and it’s a time when we look forward to creating all these special dishes for each other.

Spiced Persimmon Pomegranate Salad - a recipe sketch
Spiced Persimmon Pomegranate Salad – a recipe sketch

As family Thanksgivings moved from my grandma’s house to either my parents’ or my own house, old favorites came along. There’s turkey, of course, though it’s been upgraded from frozen Butterball to fresh, Amish-raised. There must always be stuffing (a.k.a. dressing) and mashed potatoes, because where else would you put the gravy? Sweet potatoes have evolved quite a bit over the years; the marshmallows of old have been replaced by ginger and maple syrup.

This carb-fest is usually balanced out by various and rotating vegetable dishes. This is where we get the most variety. Last year, my brother-in-law, Ben and his wife, Natalie, made some delicious green beans with pecans and tarragon. The previous year, Ben hand-shaved a large amount of fresh brussels sprouts and tossed them with a lemony dressing.

This year, I was looking for a fresh fruit salad to bring to Thanksgiving at my mom and dad’s, and I created this persimmon salad. Persimmons are a fruit I only recently discovered. They’ve easy to use if you can get them at the correct state of ripeness. There are no peels or seeds to discard, just remove the stem and dice them up. They pair prefectly with apples and pomegranate seeds, two other great fall fruits. The sweet-spicy dressing with ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and honey brings it all together, creating a fresh and crisp salad that pairs perfectly with your choice of Thanksgiving carbs.

Spiced Persimmon-Pomegranate Salad

This salad is also a great excuse to try this technique for seeding a pomegranate in water. What’s your favorite technique?

Spiced Persimmon-Pomegranate Salad
5 from 1 vote

Spiced Persimmon-Pomegranate Salad

Course Salad, Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings 6


For the salad...

  • 2 Jiro persimmons see note below
  • 1 large honeycrisp apple
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 3 tbsp fennel, minced

For the dressing...

  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 valencia orange, juiced
  • 1 generous pinch of salt


  1. Remove the stems from the persimmons and cut into a small dice

  2. Core the apple and dice into small pieces.

  3. Score the skin of the pomegranate in quarters. Fill a medium-sized bowl with water. Placing the pomegranate under water in the bowl, pull the quarters apart and gently loosen the seeds. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and the pieces of white membrane will float to the top. Pour off part of the water and the membrane pieces and drain the pomegranate seeds in a colander. 

  4. In a large bowl, combine persimmons, apple, pomegranate seeds, and minced fennel.

  5. In a smaller bowl, combine ingredients for the dressing. Whisk together until brown sugar is dissolved.

  6. Pour dressing over salad, and toss gently to combine.

  7. Optional: garnish with green fennel fronds before serving.

Recipe Notes

You may find a few different kinds of persimmons in the store. I use Jiro persimmons for this salad, one of the more common varieties. They look like a slightly-flattened orange tomato. They are ripe when they feel slightly over-ripe by tomato standards, or almost gelatinous under their skin. Read more about persimmons on Wikipedia.

Samosa Potato Salad

samosa potato salad

This is what happens when a favorite Indian street food and a favorite picnic dish collide in my thoughts at 3 a.m. The amount of cayenne can be varied to alter the spiciness, but the 1/4 teaspoon called for in the recipe adds just enough for most tastes, while keeping the other flavors balanced. Use a good quality curry powder.

Samosa Potato Salad

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 3 lbs yellow potatoes diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced about 1 medium onion
  • 4 tbsp ginger minced
  • 1 3/4 tbsp yellow curry powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/4 cup mayonnaise or vegan mayo
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup petite green peas frozen is ok


  1. In a large pot, boil potatoes in lightly salted water just until tender. Drain and set aside.

  2. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a wide skillet over medium high heat. Add onions. Saute until fragrant and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, curry, coriander, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Saute until spices are fragrant and onions are tender, about 3 more minutes.

  3. Remove from heat. Add peas, lime juice, mayonnaise, and cilantro. Stir to combine.

  4. Pour onion and pea mixture over potatoes in a large bowl. Fold together to combine. Chill for at least one hour before serving.