Cauliflower Rice Pilaf

I’m doing a cooking demo at the PaleoFX conference today, sautéeing up a batch of the sweetly-spiced Cauliflower Rice Pilaf from Well Fed, while wearing a microphone headset like Madonna. I may or may not vogue while on stage; the jury is still out.

Since you all can’t be there with us, I thought I’d share the recipe, just in case you want to stir up a batch yourself. Vogue-ing optional.



Cauliflower Rice Pilaf

Serves 4 | Prep 10 minutes | Cook 10 minutes | Whole30 compliant

  • 1 large head fresh cauliflower

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 8 dried apricot halves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons raisins

  • 2 tablespoons pine (pignola) nuts

  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • salt and black pepper, to taste


Break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in the food processor bowl and pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice. This takes about 10-15 1-second pulses. You may need to do this in two batches to avoid overcrowding (which leads to mush).


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add  1 tablespoon of coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the apricots, raisins, pine nuts, onion, and garlic. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine and cook until the onions are translucent and the nuts start to brown, about 5 minutes.


Push the onions to the side of the pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Add the cumin and cinnamon to the oil, then stir everything together—oil, spices, onions, nuts, fruit—so they all mingle in happy harmony. When you can smell the spices, about 30 seconds, toss in the riced cauliflower and sauté until the cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Try a bite, then season with salt and pepper.

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  • Melissa says:

    Rice pilaf is a staple in my house along with so many of your recipes from Well Fed. Sounds like you are all having a good time in Autstin!

    Enjoy and waiting patiently for Well Fed 2

    Thx for all your great food’, Melissa.

  • Dan says:

    I made some of this the other night but made it like couscous. I was honestly amazed and I don’t think anyone would have known the difference.

  • Tarable says:

    Woke up this morning thinking I need to try a new cauli recipe and well whaddaya know, look what you posted! It’s a sign and I’m going with it!

  • noblepower says:

    This is one of the recipes from Well Fed that I make the most often. Very flexible, tastes terrific & you can play “know how you can do that?” endlessly with it. YUM. BTW, cannot wait until WFII hits the stands. I love your recipes!

  • Danielle says:

    Love you so much!

    That pilaf smelled delicious. 🙂

  • Jessica S says:

    I am making this next weekend with short ribs Rangoon for a dinner party. Fresh mint is a great addition, chopped or torn and thrown in just before serving!

  • Tom R. says:

    Already had the confetti version teed up to go with my Well Fed Carnitas for Easter dinner. Thanks for all the great food and recipes. Makes cooking for a crowd a snap.

  • Dana says:

    Whoa, Nelly! I *just* made this, and it is delicious. And there is SO much of it. I will be serving it as a side dish for 8 adults, and I have no worries that there will not be enough (except that it is so good that everyone will want a giant mound of it!). Pre-Paleo, I really loved rice, couscous, quinoa, etc. To my surprise I find that there is a greater depth of flavor in this cauliflower “grain”!

    Mine came out with a texture more similar to couscous than rice, but that’s ok with me. While cooking the cauliflower I found that it was still pretty crunchy after 5 minutes of sautéing, so I actually put a lid on it and let it steam, stirring at 1-2 minute intervals until it became tender (maybe 5 more minutes?).

    It has taken me a YEAR to finally do something grain-like with cauliflower, but I have the feeling that this is the beginning of a bee-u-tee-ful friendship!

    • Dana says:

      Also, my husband-who passionately *hates* cauliflower-declared: “This is a perfectly acceptable rice substitute.” (And he really likes rice!) He happily took leftovers to work today. 🙂

  • DM says:

    Made this for supper last night – sooo easy and sooo good!

    The best part? It doesn’t taste like cauliflower 🙂

  • Jocelyn says:

    My husband and I had a Whole30 Easter dinner yesterday. We made compliant dishes for ourselves, with enough to share with anyone who wanted to try them. I roasted my first ever turkey, since ham was out of the question. I made your velvet butternut squash from Well Fed and I made baked stuffed peaches with your coconut whipped cream recipe for our dessert. I have to say, buying your cookbook was the best decision we made with the Whole30. I find myself doing “you know how you could do that” often. I’m grateful for your delicious recipes that have me stepping out of the box and looking at food differently. I can’t wait until your next book comes out!

  • Mel says:

    So glad you all are enjoying this recipe — thanks for letting me know and sharing your stories… and now I’m hungry for pilaf and need to make a batch tonight!

  • Emily says:

    If you do Vogue, please film it! 🙂

  • Pbizzle says:

    So I just tried this. It’s THE JAM! I’ve never ever posted on one of these awesome paleo blogs, or left comments but I HAD TO because this was SO GOOD. I kicked it up even more by adding your caramelized coconut chips to the top…Holy goodness. I will now immediately buy your cookbook because this may have been the first of your recipes I’ve tried, but DEFINITELY NOT THE LAST!!

  • Kelly says:

    Oh. mah. gawd. Just reading this recipe is killing me. It will be the first thing I make when my Whole30 is done. (Dried fruits are banned, right? Maybe I’ll go look it up. Just to be sure.)

    • Mel says:

      Dried fruit is allowed during the Whole30 and this recipe is Whole30-approved. ALL of the recipes except the Fruit Crisp in Well Fed are Whole30 approved by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. Enjoy!

  • Dona says:

    Well Fed is my favorite recipe book. Made cauliflower rice for Easter and it was a hit. Thanks for all the good ideas.

  • Carole says:

    Hi there. The current Food on Friday on Carole’s Chatter is collecting links to dishes using cauliflower and/or cabbage. I do hope you link this in. This is the link . It would be great if you checked out some of the other links – there are lots of good ones already. Cheers

  • Susan says:

    Sorry for inserting myself into a random convo, but I just bought your book and wondered why you don’t think stevia is a good idea? Maybe one of Melissa’s followers would know?

    • Mel says:

      Because I follow the Whole30 guidelines, I don’t use any added sweeteners, beyond fruit juice. This is what the Whole30 has to say about stevia:

      “All nonnutritive sweeteners are out as they promote metabolic dysfunction. Unfortunately substituting sweet with sweet won’t help you get over sugar cravings. It’s out for 30 days. Other things will soon taste very sweet to you like carrots and strawberries! “

      • Susan says:

        Thanks! I’m digging your cookbook and blog. Thanks for getting me excited about cooking again. I was getting soooo booooored with steamed veggies and broiled protein that I was tempted to attack some Taco Bell. You saved me!

  • Leanna says:

    This looks delicious! I wonder how it would be with some fresh mint chiffonade. Yum!!

  • Sarah says:

    ZOMG. I’ve eaten it 3 times in 24 hours. I want to mash my face in it. Woop!

  • bonnie says:

    Could I just grate the cauliflower, or would that make it too mushy?

    Thanks for all the great ideas!! Have you tried the cauli-crust pizza? YUM!

  • Stacy says:

    Mel, you’re genius! I bought “Well Fed” for my Kindle early Sunday morning after deciding I just. couldn’t. wait. for the book to be delivered to my house. I perused it while still in bed and literally jumped out to make a shopping list over breakfast. By that night I had made your mayo, pesto, sunshine sauce, cauliflower pilaf, a whole mess of chicken breasts and pad thai for the week. I’m hooked! I’ve already pre-ordered “Well Fed 2” and haven’t stopped yapping about “Well Fed” for the last 48 hours. You’re wonderful and I’m so happy I bought your book!

    • Mel says:

      I love it when you call me a genius 😉

      I’m so glad you’re excited about Well Fed and that you got cookin’ right away. Thank you so much for your sweet words. Wishing you many happy, healthy meals. YAY!

  • Shannon says:

    I changed this up a little bit and it was really good! I used walnuts, dried cherries and tumeric (I didn’t have cumin) and everything else the same…..all I can say is YUM! I don’t even like cauliflower! Thank you for an amazing cookbook, I just started paleo!

  • claudia says:

    It’s not only the fact that you’re an incredibly talented writer -just by looking at a few posts on your blog, one can see that. It’s not even the fact that you’re so darn clever, ingenious, and have the funniest way to tell stories (I am quoting you to my friends every other day I swear). It’s also about the honesty that pours out of your words.

    I bought Well Fed right after I finished reading ISWF, and have not been able to put it down -even though I read it all in a couple of days. I hear people on the Whole 30 forum complaining about the plan sometimes, and to be 100% honest, my plan is awesome thanks to you, and thanks to your recipes.

    I’ve also pre-ordered WF2 (and chose expedited international shipping, even though that is costing me more than the actual book! -just because I simply can’t wait).

    My most sincere thanks for helping me improve my life, and in such an awesome and fun way.

    Oh yeah and you totally rock, I’m a huge fan 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Well… this comment totally made my day. Thank you so much for your sweet words — so thoughtful of you to stop by.

      Congrats on Whole30ing — and thank you very much for pre-ordering Well Fed 2! I’m really glad to know my recipes have helped you make the transition to awesome real food, without feeling deprived. YAY!

      Keep us posted on how you’re doing!

  • Laura says:

    I love this and the well fed cookbook! I also just made this with brocolli, califlower and sweet potato mixed together and some ghee, salt and pepper. Amazing! Yum!

  • Eryn says:

    WOW!!!! That is all. 🙂

  • Carol says:

    I made this for a family dinner party with adult guests. My adult daughter asked that I keep the meal gluten and dairy free. (It was her bday) She and I are the only ones who eat this way. I decided not to mention anything about the dish–just called it “pilaf”. Everyone loved it. I should have made way more because people wanted seconds. My daughter told people afterwards that it was cauliflower and no one had any idea. Fabulous dish!

  • Andrew Huang says:

    What would be a good substitute for pine nuts? I’m allergic to them, but not other nuts.