Cauliflower “Couscous”

Side DishGluten-FreeVeganCouscous

Gluten-free, vegan, mock couscous made with steamed ground cauliflower, apples, nuts, and other mix-ins.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

These days so many people are avoiding wheat or gluten. My mother and I are both sensitive to gluten, so we eat foods containing it sparingly, and often look for gluten-free versions of ingredients such as pasta.

That’s why when a friend introduced me to the idea to make a mock couscous out of cauliflower (an idea she got from Chef Eric Ripert), my ears perked up.

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Cauliflower couscous? Why not? Of course nothing beats true, steamed to perfection, durum wheat couscous. But for those of us avoiding wheat, cauliflower couscous is a tasty and practical solution.

Making cauliflower couscous couldn’t be easier. You just grind up fresh cauliflower florets in a food processor until they resemble couscous. Steam the cauliflower in just enough water to coat the bottom of a pan. Then lightly sauté some nuts, fruit, and onions and toss with the “couscous”.

It tastes great! And it’s vegan. Consider it for a holiday side if you have guests who are vegetarian or gluten-free.

Cauliflower “Couscous” Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 as a side

Here we present 2 versions of cauliflower "couscous", one with rosemary, lemon zest, almonds, raisins, celery, and apple, the other with orange zest, dried sweetened cranberries, walnuts, green onion, and apple.

You could use any combination you want of sweet (raisins, craisins, apple, pear), tangy (lemon zest, orange zest), allium (garlic, green onion, shallots), and nutty (almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, pecans).


  • 1 head cauliflower, cored, broken into florets (see How to Cut and Core Cauliflower)
  • 1/2 cup water (more or less depending on the size of your pan)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Mix-ins Version 1

  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2/3 cup of sliced green onion (green part only)
  • 1 large red apple, cored and diced (peel can stay on)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Mix-ins Version 2

  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried, sweetened cranberries (could also use fresh pomegranate arils)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 large apple, cored and diced (peel can stay on)


1 Process cauliflower florets in food processor: Place cauliflower florets into a food processor. Pulse several times until the cauliflower looks like a coarse meal, resembling traditional couscous.

pulse cauliflower in food processor

2 Steam ground cauliflower in sauté pan: Cover the bottom of a large sauté pan with a thin layer of water. Add salt, zest, and an aromatic herb such as rosemary, if using. Bring to a simmer, stir.

infuse oil with rosemary for cauliflower couscous

Add the ground cauliflower to the pot, spreading it out in an even layer. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to the lowest possible simmer setting. Cover the pan and cook/steam for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Remove cauliflower to a sheet pat to cool.

spread cooked cauliflower out in sheet pan for couscous

3 Brown nuts, cook celery, add green onions, raisins, apples: Heat olive oil in a medium sized non-stick sauté pan on medium heat. Add the chopped nuts and cook until the nuts begin to brown slightly.

If using celery, add the celery and continue to cook until the celery is lightly softened, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Then add the green onions, raisins or dried cranberries, and diced apple to the pan, and stir to warm through.

heat mixins for cauliflower couscous

4 Combine and serve: Place cauliflower and nut apple mixture into a serving bowl and gently stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Cauliflower Couscous

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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14 Comments / Reviews

No ImageCauliflower “Couscous”

Did you make it? Rate it!


    Is couscous a carbohydrate?

    Show Replies (1)
  2. margaret rivera

    Tried it , it came out delicious!!! Thanks :) served it with grilled salmon.


  3. Mish

    Just made this with version two (cranberry and orange zest) and it’s delicious!!


  4. Lynette

    I was a guest at my in-laws for Thanksgiving yesterday. They’d asked me to bring “a vegetable.” I made your cauliflower couscous and it won rave reviews. I made a hybrid version — basically version 1 with orange zest instead of lemon. This really is the perfect Thanksgiving side dish. It is light, and the flavors complement instead of compete with all of the other traditional Turkey Day trimmings. The fact that it can be served warm or at room temperature makes it easy to work into your plans. We loved it! Thanks, Elise.


  5. Jacob

    Hi Elise,
    Looks delicious!
    Would the recipe work with frozen caluflower?


    Show Replies (1)
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Cauliflower CouscousCauliflower “Couscous”