Cauliflower’s gotten more attention in the past decade than it ever has, and often it’s used as a healthy substitute. Whether to cut back on carbs, replace meat in a roast, chicken wings, rice, pizza crust, or anything else, cauliflower is way more popular than it used to be.
So what happens when you simply run out of it, but still want to use a healthy substitute ? You need a cauliflower substitute, one that can do almost everything a cauliflower head can do. Or maybe you just can’t stand the taste, and we’ve come up with a few ways to get around that too. Let’s take a look.
Best cauliflower substitute
The best cauliflower substitutes are broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, any root vegetables, mushrooms, and finally legumes. Whichever you decide to use has a fair amount of digestive fiber, cooks fairly fast, and is low in carbohydrates.
Some substitutes may work better for some specific recipes, while others are better to just bulk up a dish. In this list you’ll find substitutes that are close in flavor, and ones that have a completely different flavor, and texture. If flavor is the main problem with cauliflower, we’ve dedicated a section to improving or masking the cauliflower flavor, after the substitutes.
You can use broccoli in the exact same way you would use cauliflower: rice, mash, pizza crust, creamed soup, roast, anything you like. Just keep in mind the color change, since it may impact your recipe.
Zucchini is great as an all-round veggie substitute, cauliflower included. It’s better for bulking up a recipe, since cooking it softens it way too much. You can use cauliflower raw, and you can use zucchini raw just the same.
Lightly fried breaded zucchini can be a great alternative to a cauliflower roast, if you don’t mind the oil. Keep in mind that zucchini, when subjected to heat, will leak a lot of moisture.
Asparagus is milder than cauliflower in flavor, and it’s amazing on a gridle pan or grill, or even just baked. It’s also great as a substitutes for cauliflower in a cream soup, since it’s got just as much fiber (if not more) and a milder taste.
Like broccoli, it’s a dark green and this will show up in the final dish, so you may want to keep this in mind when cooking. Asparagus tends to get very soft when reheated, s it’s best to use it in recipes that you’ll finish in one sitting.
4. Root vegetables
Turnip, rutabaga, parsnip, celery root, carrots, they’re all great replacements for cauliflower, especially for cream soup or roasts. They great for a mash, and they give a very different flavor. For example turnip, rutabaga, and celery root bring an earthy flavor that can contrast nicely with a light meat like chicken or fish.
Parsnip and carrots are a bit sweet, so they may be better with something with a bit more flavor, like red meat. All of these are great ways to add bulk to a recipe, but keep in mind they have strong flavors (stronger than cauliflower).
Mushrooms are great replacements for cauliflower, especially for roast or pan-fried versions. They’re not so good for a creamed soup or mash, since mushrooms in general don’t come out smooth when you blend them.
They’re great to add as bulk, especially if you’re trying to replace meat and add more protein. If used in a stock they give a really nice depth of flavor, and a deep color as well if you keep the gills on.
Legumes of any kind will do great as cauliflower replacements, especially for a mash or creamed soup. They’re not so good for a roast, though you can roast them in a pan and add them to a salad. Or you can mash them and turn them into veggie patties, and fry those in a pan.
If you’re wondering what your options are, you can choose between lentils, chickpeas, peas, split peas, and plain ol’ beans. All of these are great ways to add more protein into a meal too.
How to make cauliflower taste better
If the reason you wanted to replace cauliflower with another veggie is because of its taste, then there’s still hope. Cauliflower has a strong, specific taste but it can be made better with a few ingredients.
1. Add bacon or liquid smoke
Something very meaty and smoky will always make cauliflower taste better. Be it bacon or ham or prosciutto, it doesn’t matter as much, as long as it can mask part of the flavor. Just be careful to not add too much grease, since cauliflower is very low in carbohydrates, s it can’t absorb as mush. You’ll end up with a greasy mess if you try to add as much as you would for potatoes.
2. Add Parmesan or a similar, flavorful cheese
Cheese has always been a great way tp cut through the flavor of broccoli, and it works beautifully for cauliflower too. What kind of cheese you use is up to you.
We recommend trying with a bit of grated Parmesan to start off. You don’t need much, since it’s a strong flavor. Other options can be Pecorino Romano, or blue cheese.
A milder cheese would work too, but rather like a sauce. Something like a Colby and Cheddar melt would cover the flavor well. Don’t use too much though, you should still taste the cauliflower a little.
3. Add a pinch of garlic
A pinch of garlic an be a single mashed clove, or a bit of granulated garlic, whichever you’ve got or you’re most comfortable with. A little goes a long way with garlic, so don’t overdo it.
4. Try some cumin and ginger
Cumin and ginger can really lift the flavor of cauliflower, and they can make it less dense. If you’re using fresh ginger you may notice it’s a bit spicy, so use less if you don’t like it as spicy.
Another option is to use curry powder, and get a well rounded flavor. Again, like garlic, don’t add too much because it can completely mask the flavor of cauliflower, and it’s a bit spicy as well.
5. Add nuts and seeds for extra flavor
Roast nuts and seeds add a bit of extra flavor and crunch, and if you’re making a creamed soup or mash, then they’ll really help the cauliflower.
6. Add soy sauce
Adding soy sauce may sound like a cheap trick, but if it works it works, right ? Try to use low sodium, or don’t add any salt until you’re done cooking. Soy sauce is both flavorful and salty, so be sure to taste as you go.
You can use any of these flavor ideas together to make cauliflower more palatable, or you can use them with the substitutes we talked about above.
If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.