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 "low carb" and "diet risotto" as we'll get. The creamy but low-calorie cauliflower makes up so much of the volume. This is my go-to recipe for risotto! Every fall, it calls to me!
Cauliflower Risotto ♥, traditional risotto lightened up with creamy cauliflower. Rave reviews!
  • "... soooo delicious. ... I had to keep myself from gobbling the ENTIRE DISH in one sitting! " ~ ShinyLightDesigns
  • "... yum yum yum!" ~ Mia
  • "I actually made it twice this week! It is my first experience making risotto." ~ Jessica
  • Add yours, leave a comment, below!

Not Weird, Not Complicated, Just Unfamiliar

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 "too 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.

Cauliflower Risotto ♥, traditional risotto lightened up with creamy cauliflower. Rave reviews!

Have Arborio, Will Travel

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.

Cauliflower Risotto ♥, traditional risotto lightened up with creamy cauliflower. Rave reviews!

A Perfect Balance Rice:Cauliflower

I'm always tempted to double the cauliflower. But a word to the wise, just don't! Cauliflower Risotto's proportion of rice:cauliflower and even rice:cauliflower:cheese is just right!

You'll Love My Cauliflower Risotto If ...

  • if you hanker for risotto but blanch when the usual rice and butter and cheese calories add up
  • you love cauliflower but are less than impressed by "faux" cauliflower dishes like cauliflower rice
  • and who're we kidding? bacon! bacon! bacon!


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 (90g) Arborio rice
  • Salt to taste (be generous)
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan or gruyere (from about 2 square inches)
  • Fresh herbs chopped fine - dill, oregano, rosemary, other herbs
  • Cauliflower slices, for garnish, optional

PAR-COOK (PARTIALLY COOK) THE LEEK AND CAULIFLOWER Bring the water to a boil. Drop the leek and cauliflower into the boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes, then drain. Cut the leek into half rings, the big cauliflower florets into smaller cauliflower florets.

BRING THE STOCK TO A BOIL Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring the stock to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer. You want the stock to stay hot!

COOK THE BACON Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet large enough to be your risotto-cooking skillet, cook the bacon until crisp on medium heat. Lift the bacon onto a plate to cool, leaving the bacon fat in skillet.

FINALLY, LET'S MAKE RISOTTO! Stir the leek and cauliflower into the bacon fat, let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the rice, turning it several times to coat with fat.

STIR.STIR.STIR. First trick! From here on, you'll need to stir almost continuously, that means "without interruption" so no leaving the stove, okay? Use a wooden spoon or a spatula, it's fine to stir slowly, you just don't want the rice or cauliflower to stick to the bottom of the skillet.

SLOWLY.SLOWLY.SLOWLY. Second trick! Add the hot stock to the rice, but slowly, only a half cup at a time. Stir in each half cup, letting the rice absorb that liquid, before adding another half cup. As the mixture cooks, use the spoon to break the cauliflower into smaller and smaller pieces, it'll become almost invisible. Take your time during this step, relax, sip a little wine, just enjoy the moment in the kitchen. But stir!

SALT.SALT.SALT. Third trick! Before adding each new half cup of stock, take a little taste, add a little salt to taste. Especially if you use homemade chicken stock, you'll add quite a bit. Remember, you're seasoning the rice, the cauliflower and the stock, it's okay to be generous!

WHEN IS THE RISOTTO DONE? The risotto is done when the rice is tender and creamy looking. And of course? When it tastes good, to YOU, when the texture is right for YOU.

FINISH, SEASON, GARNISH, SERVE & SAVOR Stir in the cheese, cooked bacon and herbs, then taste and adjust the seasoning one last time. Garnish and serve while hot!

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

LEFTOVERS Cauliflower Risotto reheats just beautifully. My sister has taught me to tuck spoonfuls of warm leftover risotto into spinach leaves for small lunch-time wraps. So good!

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.) No leeks? No problem. Just use half an onion cut into large pieces. When it's available, I'll choose pancetta over bacon, just leave the bits in the pan while the risotto cooks. I'm quite happy with Trader Joe's pancetta. Risotto traditionalists insist on rich homemade chicken stock (around here that nearly always means my No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock) and yes, risotto’s extra delicious that way. But I’m also quite happy when the stock starts with a good condensed base such as Better Than Bouillon (look for it at grocery stores) or even a good powdered bouillon.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 249 Calories; 10g Tot Fat; 4g Sat Fat; 20mg Cholesterol; 464mg Sodium; 29g Carb; 4g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 11g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 6 & PointsPlus 6 & SmartPoints 8 & Freestyle 6 CALORIE COUNTERS 6 tablespoons = 100-calorie serving (4g protein).

More Cauliflower Recipes

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Quick Cauliflower (or Broccoli) Soup Cauliflower Salad with Fresh Herbs Stuffed Mushrooms with Cauliflower & Smoked Gouda
Savory Cauliflower Cake Spiced Chicken with Cauliflower Tagine Roasted Veggie Enchilada Casserole
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
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 with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Julia Child's Soubise (Onion & Rice Casserole) Red Rice with Tomatoes Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole (Kabeli Palau)
~ more rice recipes ~

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ leek recipes ~
~ cauliflower recipes ~
~ bacon recipes ~
~ rice recipes ~
~ Parmesan cheese recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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 ;-)

  4. Anonymous10/12/2007

    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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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?

  13. Alanna-
    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!!!

  14. 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!

  15. 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 ...

  16. 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!

  17. Jessica9/23/2010

    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