Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous Salad

colorful and healthy gluten free cauliflower couscous salad

Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous Salad ~ healthy cauliflower turns a grain salad into a gluten free glow bowl full of fresh vibrant flavors ~ if you love easy cauliflower rice recipes you’ll want to try this one, it’s gluten free, low carb, and so yummy.

cauliflower couscous salad in floral bowls

I had this salad when I was in Florida over Thanksgiving weekend and fell in love with it. The riced cauliflower is so similar to grains of couscous you’d hardly know the difference, except that this salad is vibrant, gluten free, and full of fresh crunch. I have nothing against regular couscous recipes, I’ve made lots on this blog, but this grain free version is a delicious alternative, whether or not you’re on a gluten free diet.

What is cauliflower rice?

  • Cauliflower rice is simply cauliflower that has been pulsed in a food processor to break it down.
  • After a few pulses, cauliflower florets break down into a grainy texture that resembles rice or couscous.
  • Cauliflower rice is used as a nutritious, gluten free alternative to grains in all kinds of dishes like salads, stir frys, etc.
  • It’s often served cooked, but I love to use it raw in salads. The flavor is so mild that it can take on many different ‘personalities’.
  • You can rice all varieties of cauliflower, including orange, green, or purple.

making a cauliflower couscous salad with lemon basil dressing

The fresh veggies get a boost of flavor from the briny olives and marinated peppers and tomatoes. The bit of feta and toasted pine nuts give it a little richness, and it’s all tied together with a light lemon basil dressing.

Ingredients for cauliflower couscous salad

  • a head of cauliflower
  • cherry tomatoes, the smaller the better
  • Greek kalamata olives, make sure they’re pitted
  • green stuffed olives
  • cucumber, I use the small Persian or pickling types
  • feta cheese (leave out for vegan)
  • marinated roasted red peppers
  • marinated sun dried tomatoes
  • red onion
  • toasted pine nuts (toasting is essential, it brings out incredible flavor)
  • fresh mint

Pouring lemon basil dressing over a cauliflower rice salad

How do you make cauliflower rice?

  • Break apart a head of cauliflower into smaller florets. Trim the excess stems and discard. (The upper parts of the stems are fine to leave on)

  • Put the florets into a food processor and pulse until the florets break down. You can run the machine for a few seconds, and then open up and check. Cauliflower is a soft vegetable so this happens quickly. If the grains aren’t a consistent size, like couscous, scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse a few more times. That’s it, you’ve made cauliflower rice!

  • If your cauliflower rice seems very wet, let it drain on paper towels to remove excess moisture.

making cauliflower rice in a food processor

A cauliflower rice salad in floral bowls, with lemons

This salad serves as lunch, or a fresh side dish for dinner, and I think it’s really season-less. A great way to get some fresh veggies into your diet all year round.

What to serve with cauliflower couscous salad

It can be a light lunch all on its own.

I love it as a side for grilled chicken and fish.

It can stand in any time you’d serve a green salad or coleslaw.

colorful and healthy gluten free cauliflower couscous salad

colorful and healthy gluten free cauliflower couscous salad
4.67 from 6 votes

Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous Salad

Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous Salad is a healthy gluten free glow bowl ~ this easy cauliflower rice recipe is gluten free, low carb, and so yummy.
Course main course salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Yield 6 servings
Calories 184kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • a food processor


  • 1 small to medium head of cauliflower
  • 1 small Persian or pickling cucumber, cut in small dice (no need to peel)
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup stuffed green olives, halved or chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup small cherry tomatoes, chopped or halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped marinated sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (omit for vegan)
  • 1/4 cup chopped marinated roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (substitute fresh basil)
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

lemon basil dressing

  • 1/4 cup basil oil (If you don't have basil oil you can add very finely minced fresh basil to olive oil)
  • 3-4 Tbsp Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced


  • Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.
  • Rinse and remove the stalk and leaves from the head of cauliflower. Break apart the cauliflower into rough chunks. Add to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower breaks down into a grainy texture. This won't take long, less than 30 seconds is usually sufficient. Be sure to pulse the machine, don't run it continuously. Turn the cauliflower into a salad bowl. Note: if the cauliflower seems very wet, you can drain it on paper towels to remove some of the excess moisture.
  • Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl. Toss with just enough dressing to moisten the salad, and save any extra for adding later if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve, and give it a toss right before serving.


Calories: 184kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 367mg | Potassium: 590mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 224IU | Vitamin C: 57mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.


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  • Reply
    February 23, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    This is a very expensive salad. I don’t keep either kalamata or stuffed olives on hand nor marinated roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, and I have no won’t other recipes that use them, Fresh basil and mint in my area are pricey specialty items, too. This is a special-occasion-only dish for me.

    • Reply
      March 10, 2020 at 12:15 pm

      5 stars
      I must eat crow. At my wife’s continued insistence, I made this salad. It’s a 10/10 on the gustatory scale! I made it twice in a row for us — a rarity.

      HOWEVER, the original recipe is full of potential allergens: onions, garlic, and nuts. Recently, I made this dish for a grieving family in which both garlic and onions were off the menu. I substituted tarragon for the garlic in the salad dressing (1t in a double batch), jicama (1/2 of the fruit) for the onions, and hemp seed hearts for the pine nuts (equal measure, just as an experiment). The dish tasted different but still good, according to the family.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2020 at 8:36 am

    5 stars
    This is a great recipe; it forms layers of flavor while is still light and fresh. It is an early welcome to spring I never thought of cauliflower as a base. .i made it only yesterday and it is delicious . Thank you!

    • Reply
      January 10, 2020 at 8:47 am

      Thanks Alexandra, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I think cauliflower really does make a refreshing couscous!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2020 at 4:27 am

    I am going to absolutely try this it sounds amazing. I am completely in love with the bowls you used for this shoot. Can you share where I might find them?
    I love the view from great island!
    Thank You.

    • Reply
      January 9, 2020 at 7:02 am

      Hey Arlene, the bowls are made by my friend Sandy, I wrote all about her in this post, and you can buy her stuff on Etsy:

  • Reply
    January 8, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    Lovely looking salad – a definite ‘must try’. Just what is needed after all the Christmas/New Year indulging.
    Like all the other commenters I love your salad bowls!! :))

  • Reply
    Amanda Marie
    January 8, 2020 at 10:24 am

    5 stars
    Love your suggested add-ins. Also love your serving dishes … are they old favorites or available somewhere? You always have the prettiest serving dishes! Happy New Year.

  • Reply
    Joy Massa
    January 8, 2020 at 10:23 am

    5 stars
    I’ve been yearning for a “new Winter salad” and you’ve come through, as always, Sue!

    What I’m really thinking about now, though, is THOSE GORGEOUS BOWLS!!! Please say you acquired them in exotic travels, so that I can let go of finding them, for myself! LOL!

    • Reply
      Joy Massa
      January 11, 2020 at 10:59 am

      I saw your reply to Amanda about the bowls made by your friend. Thanks, and I do remember “meeting” her in your Artisan Series! (I just can’t believe it was so long ago….seems like yesterday!)

      • Reply
        January 11, 2020 at 11:09 am

        I would love to revive that series 🙂

  • Reply
    January 8, 2020 at 10:01 am

    Looks sooo good! Never riced cauliflower..I will:)

  • Reply
    January 8, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Oops!! Autocorrect intervened! “Cous Cous.”

  • Reply
    January 8, 2020 at 9:25 am

    This looks yummy, but the title is misleading!! I was already thinking GF and that I’d use Quinoa, but I see that the cauliflower is the “cows cous!” Can’t wait to try. Thank you!

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