Ancho chile, cumin, coriander, and oregano is accented with lime and fresh cilantro to bring Southwest Cauliflower Rice Pilaf with Toasted Pepitas to life. We love this tasty, low-carb side dish for its warming spices and subtle crunch of toasty pepitas—especially with our Skillet Beef Fajitas.
What exactly is cauliflower rice?
Cauliflower has become the darling of vegetables for its subtle taste and versatility as a substitute for starches and grains. We use a food processor or a large-hole cheese grater to “rice” the cauliflower and occasionally purchase it in stores as “cauliflower pearls”. In my opinion, grated cauliflower resembles the texture of rice so long as it is cooked quickly and remains slightly underdone.
A little regular rice makes an easier transition to cauliflower rice.
Riced cauliflower is best when served fresh because the texture suffers a little when reheated and becomes soft or mushy if frozen. I routinely plan to have leftovers for lunches or freeze for later, so I add a small amount of cooked rice to maintain a consistent, satisfying texture. We use a similar ratio to this recipe (4 to 1) when preparing rice for Chicken Broccoli Casserole, Red Beans & Rice, or Chicken Curry.
Of course, you can substitute the brown rice with quinoa, farro (not gluten-free), buckwheat, or any favorite cooked whole grain.
Turn this healthy side dish into a quick main dish.
A few slices of grilled chicken or steak over a bowl of Southwest Cauliflower Rice Pilaf, turned it into a complete, satisfying main dish. One bowl, fast and delicious. It could just as easily become soup by adding broth—so many healthy possibilities from one recipe.
Southwest Cauliflower Rice Pilaf with Toasted Pepitas
- 1/2 cup long-grain brown rice
- 15 ounces diced canned tomatoes (, drained of juices)
- 1 lime (, zested and juiced)
- 1/3 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup diced red onion
- 2 cloves garlic (, minced)
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 14 ounces black beans
- 4 cups grated cauliflower ((1 small head))
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
- 1 1/2 cups corn
- 1/3 cup raw pepitas (, toasted)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Cook the rice according to package directions. Note: If leftover plain brown rice is available to use, skip Step 1. Meanwhile, simmer beans in their liquid with 1/2 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes, then drain beans.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and cook the onion until softened and beginning to lightly brown at the edges. Add garlic, coriander, cumin, and oregano; stir until fragrant. Add the stock, tomato paste, tomatoes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring to loosen any bits and spices from the pan. Simmer 2 minutes to allow liquid to evaporate. When the rice is done, stir the tomato mixture into the rice, cover, and set aside.
- In the same skillet, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower to the skillet and season with ancho chile powder, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until almost soft, about 3 minutes. It's okay if it browns in spots, but important that it doesn't overcook in order to retain a firmer texture. Add corn and beans to the skillet with the cauliflower to warm through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss with lime zest, rice mixture, and cilantro.
- Toast the pepitas over med-high heat in a dry skillet until browned and popping, about 2 minutes (this can be done in advance). Stir into rice just before serving.