Cauliflower Risotto

Cauliflower Risotto gets a thumbs up from everyone! It's easier to make, and more delicious than you might think. Plus, while no risotto is 'diet' food, this is as close to a 'diet risotto' as you can get, using the creaminess of low-calorie cauliflower to make up much of the volume.

Cauliflower Risotto

"This risotto was soooo delicious. ... I had to keep myself from gobbling the ENTIRE DISH in one sitting! " ~ ShinyLightDesigns
"I tried this recipe and yum yum yum!" ~ Mia
"This was a great dish, I actually made it twice this week! It is my first experience making risotto." ~ Jessica

Even adventurous home cooks return repeatedly to favorite recipes, bypassing new ones that at first seem appealing but then get dismissed as too ‘something’, insert ‘weird’ or ‘complicated’ or ‘exotic’ though what we really mean is ‘unfamiliar’.

For years, so it’s been for risotto and me. I saved it for special occasions when someone else could man the spoon and somehow never once made it myself. No more. Since last spring, I’ve made risotto two or three times a month in four different kitchens. On trips, I tuck Arborio rice into my suitcase, just in case I get a turn at the stove.

This creamy leek and cauliflower risotto gets thumbs ups from everyone, men, women, even kids. Served with a big salad, it’s an easy and inexpensive main dish but I like to serve it on the side with grilled shrimp or steak. Risotto does take nearly constant attention, although between stirs, there’s plenty of time to make the salad, set the table and sip a glass of wine.

ALANNA's TIPS To clean and trim a leek, wash well, then slice off the root and dark green leaves. Halve bulb lengthwise, then separate the layers slightly and rinse under running water. Inside the remaining dark leaves, find a slender piece of additional light-green leek, so cook this too. (Need more information? See the photo illustrations, how to clean leeks.) Risotto traditionalists insist on rich, homemade chicken stock and yes, risotto’s extra delicious that way. But I’m quite happy with a good condensed base such as Better Than Bouillon or even a good powder. My sister tucks spoonfuls of warm risotto into spinach leaves for small lunch-time wraps.


Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Makes 4 cups, easy to double
  • Big pot of salted water
  • 1 large leek, trimmed & cleaned (see ALANNA’s TIPS)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower (about 1 pound) cored, cut in florets
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken stock (see TIPS)
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped (or 2 tablespoons bacon grease or butter)
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan (from about 2 square inches)
  • Fresh herbs - dill, oregano, another herb
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil. Drop in leek and cauliflower for 1 – 2 minutes then drain. Cut leek into half rings, florets into smaller pieces.

Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring stock to a boil; adjust heat to maintain slow simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, cook bacon til crisp, lift onto a plate to cool, leaving fat in skillet. Stir in leek and cauliflower, let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in rice, turning several times to coat with fat. Stirring nearly continuously, add simmering stock a half cup at a time, adding more only when what’s been added is incorporated. As mixture cooks, break cauliflower into smaller and smaller pieces. Mixture is done when rice is tender and creamy looking. Stir in Parmesan, cooked bacon, herbs and season to taste. Serve immediately.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE (How many calories in Cauliflower Risotto? How many Weight Watchers points in Cauliflower Risotto? Per Cup: 252 Calories; 11g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 29g Carb; 4g Fiber; 605mg Sodium; 18mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 5 points

VEGETARIAN RISOTTO For a vegetarian version, use olive oil or butter instead of bacon, then for broth, use vegetable stock or Homemade Vegetable Bouillon.
This is my go-to recipe for risotto. I've made it with all kinds of vegetables but cauliflower remains the favorite.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. In 2009, Kitchen Parade celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special collection of my mother's recipes. Do you have a favorite cauliflower recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture.

More Cauliflower Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Lighter Mashed 'Potatoes' Roasted Cauliflower Cauliflower Salad with Fresh Herbs
from Kitchen Parade

Cauliflower Spanish Rice
Whole Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce
Cauliflower Mac 'n' Cheese
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog about vegetables

More Rice Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Julia Child's Soubise (Onion & Rice Casserole) Oven-Baked Brown Rice Pork Chops & Rice Oven Dinner
~ more rice recipes ~

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(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

I love those herbs on the background, Alanna! I made a lovely cauliflower and mince gratin yesterday, so I'm very much on the cauliflower consumption mood at the moment. Thank you for a great-looking recipe!
Good eye, Pille! Yes, that's a pot of French tarragon, rosemary and some small bits of thyme, with another pot of safe nearby. These are mostly 'decorative' on the patio, the 'eating' herbs are on a side garden.
I, also, make risotto often, It's so easy and soooo good. I saw white, purple, green and orange cauliflower at the market today - the orange was new to me and I was so tempted...but with the beans, acorn, butternut, courgette and pumpkin all in the garden I can barely keep up with the eating as it is (freezer's full except for the space allocated the pumpkin). I hope it's there again in a few weeks ;-)
Alanna, this looks really interesting and delicious! I rediscovered risotto recently -- made some last weekend that was so good, and I'd kind of forgotten about making it for awhile. I'm going to give this recipe a whirl when I get back from my next round of business travel.
Hi. Just wondering, in terms of making this recipe vegetarian, whether I should put a bit of oil in the pan after I cook the soy bacon? It doesn't leave nearly as much fat behind, but if you don't think it's necessary that's excellent. On the WW and like to save points where I can!
Thanks so much. Absolutely love your stuff!
Katie ~ Oh I long for those colored cauliflowers but just never see them. But I know what you mean about 'keeping up'. It's hard, this time of year when the seasons begin to cross. (What 'hardship'!)

Genie ~ Darned ol' travel, gets in the way of the kitchen, doesn't it ...

* ~ I don't have experience with soy bacon but have made this without bacon, it's about 2 tablespoons of fat that you're looking for. You might think about supplementing with butter vs oil for flavor, however. Let me know how it goes!
It's fall, it's cooler. I love risotto. This would be just perfect for now. And Katiez's talk of the purple and orange makes me think Halloween. Have to see where that leads.
This looks super fine Alanna.
It does sound very "delish." I love the idea of adding the cauliflower, which would make it much more South Beach friendly for me. Heck, I would cheat for this dish any day. Thanks for participating and being such a great friend and food blogging confidante!
I haven't had risotto is a while -- I think of it as more of a winter dish. But this looks delicious and it's starting to get rather cool here.
Yes, Alanna, I am always prepared to cook in my destination's kitchen. As a matter of fact I am doing just that today!

Your cauliflower risotto is inspiring.
This risotto was soooo delicious. I had to make it for myself, because my boyfriend hates cauliflower, but I had to keep myself from gobbling the ENTIRE DISH in one sitting! Thanks for the recipe. I love your column and the Veggie Venture blog. Keep it up!
Shiny Light ~ Oh good!! Thanks so much for taking a minute to share your results. I could eat the 'whole pot' too - which is why I tend to make it for other people, not for home! Maybe the cauliflower is delicate enough that it he could learn its virtues?
Thanks for the recipe - I love risotto and I too never really made it much b/c I thought it was too hard.

Thanks for the Blogher highlight!!!
Only a year later, I tried this recipe and yum yum yum! I'm eating it now.... only thing is that I think you meant to type 1 cup of rice instead of 1/2 cup? I put the 1/2 in at first and it seemed very small and lonely for 2.5 cups of water, so I added more and now have something that looks exactly like your picture! Well, your picture is much prettier, but still. Thank you so much for this!
Mia ~ Isn't it good?! I do indeed mean just 1/2 cup of rice, the additional volume comes from the cauliflower, which is how the calories and carbs are limited. Still, recipes are meant to be adapted, so glad to know that more rice works fine too. Thanks for taking the time to let me know ...
Ahhhhh...... healthy risotto! Heehee, I guess that wasn't on my mind at all. My husband got home later and had some and loved it as well. I'm going to continue browsing through your other recipes. Already have my eyes on the mushroom soup!
This was a great dish, I actually made it twice this week! It is my first experience making risotto. I am thinking maybe I am doing something wrong as I am only getting 3 cups rather than 4? Regardless, this is now in the rotation and a big hit!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna