My healthy Purple Cauliflower Rice Salad is gluten free and so colorful ~ it combines roasted and raw veggies for tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber!
Say salad and what come to mind? Green of course. And leafy. But why can’t a salad be purple, and made with cauliflower? Leafy greens are great, but once the cooler weather hits we need to loosen up our definitions if we’re going to continue to get some raw veggies into our diet. Here at tvfgi I’ve explored salads from every angle and winter salads are some of the most fun for me ~ they’re such a welcome bit of color and crunch in a sea of comfort food.
Some winter salads are simply raw seasonal vegetables, like my Shaved Winter Salad with paper thin root veggies piled up in a neat little stack. Others might feature winter fruit, like my Mediterranean inspired Spicy Citrus Salad with Olives or my Roasted Brussels Sprout and Pomelo Salad.
The first time I made cauliflower rice I was skeptical, I thought it was a fun idea, but didn’t expect to love it the way I did. And I certainly didn’t expect it to be so versatile. My Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh was such a hit in our house that I knew I wanted to try working with colored cauliflowers as well. You can find purple, orange, and green cauliflower (or broccoflower) in the supermarket and they’ll all work for making rice. All varieties are healthy, mild, and can be used interchangeably.
How do you make cauliflower rice?
Cauliflower rice is simple to make using a food processor. Remove the florets from a head of cauliflower and pulse in the machine until the florets break down into a grainy texture, this only take a few pulses, and it happens in under a minute. Cauliflower florets are naturally crumbly, so they break down easily. There’s a little video to show you in this post.
What is purple cauliflower?
Purple cauliflower is a variety of cauliflower that is sweet and mild, with a gorgeous violet color. The color is naturally occurring, and comes from the same healthy antioxidant that’s in red wine and red cabbage.
There are all kinds of things you can do with your cauliflower rice, from fried ‘rice’ and risotto to pizza crust, but I tend to prefer it raw, in salads. It has a texture very similar to couscous, cracked wheat, or quinoa. The flavor is mild enough that it doesn’t compete with other ingredients and will take on many ‘personalities’ depending on your recipe, it’s a little bit like tofu that way.
Whenever I do a super healthy salad like this one I like to include a couple of elements that add an extra dose of concentrated flavor or richness. Often that’s toasted nuts or crumbled cheese. They round out the flavor profile and make a lean salad a little more fun to eat.
In this salad I’ve also added roasted beets and Brussels sprouts, both are hearty sweet veggies that really make this dish satisfying. You can use any leftover roasted vegetable you like, including winter squash, sweet potatoes, eggplant, etc.
The dressing is swiped from my Winter Pansy Salad, it was just too good to use only once.
My Purple Cauliflower Rice Salad pulls together fall staples with a few Mediterranean touches in a base of colorful gluten free cauliflower rice, this dish explodes the notion of what a salad is supposed be.
- 1 head of purple cauliflower
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1/2 cup drained and rinsed chickpeas
- 1 small Persian cucumber, finely diced
- 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
- 1 golden beet, roasted and cut in small wedges
- 1 cup roasted Brussels sprouts
- 1/2 cup black olives
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup finely minced red onion
- 1/2 cup roasted cranberries and/or pomegranate seeds
- handful of toasted pine nuts
- sprinkle of micro-greens
- juice of 1 blood orange (about 1/4 cup)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 Tbsp champagne vinegar (or other mild white vinegar)
- pinch salt
- Remove the florets from the head of cauliflower and trim excess stems (a little of the top stem is fine to leave on) Put the florets in a food processor and pulse until they become evenly ground into a coarse grain-like texture, much like couscous. Put the cauliflower rice into a salad bowl and toss with some of the dressing.
- Arrange the other ingredients around the cauliflower, drizzle with dressing, and garnish with the nuts and micro-greens. Alternatively you can toss everything together.
- To roast beets and Brussels sprouts toss them lightly in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and put on a baking sheet. Roast in a 375F oven for about 30 minutes or until just tender.
- To roast cranberries put on a baking sheet and roast for just 5-6 minutes in a 350F oven, just until they start to pop.