Cauliflower, like other cruciferous veggies, is good for your ticker, brain, and bowels (not so sexy, but definitely important), thanks to its high fiber, folate, and antioxidant content. And at less than 60 calories per cup, it’s low-calorie way to fill up.
As chock-full of nutrients as it may be, cauliflower also happens to taste rather bland—and unless you’re picking up an orange or purple variety, it’s not particularly pleasing to the eye, either.
That said, cauliflower’s subtle flavor makes it a versatile, healthy substitute in all sorts of recipes—from dips to ‘meatballs’ to smoothies—because it masterfully takes on whatever other flavors you’re cooking with. If you’ve ever tried cauliflower mashed ‘potatoes’, you know exactly what we’re talking about.
Save major calories and up your intake of the good stuff with these seven nutritionist-approved cauliflower recipes—all of which are bursting with flavor.
1. Cauliflower Fritters
These healthier fritters are sure to be a crowd pleaser at any potluck, game day get-together, or holiday gathering. After all, who doesn’t love a bite-sized appetizer?
These healthy bites are also easy to make: “First, mix together two cups of finely chopped cauliflower florets with two eggs and your favorite spices (like salt, pepper, and fresh parsley, or garlic, ginger, and cilantro) to make a batter,” says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet. Form the batter into palm-sized fritters and cook in a shallow non-stick pan in a little olive oil over medium-high heat, until lightly browned on both sides (about two or three minutes per side).
Then, top each fritter with a dollop of plain Icelandic or Greek yogurt (both are higher in protein and lower in sugar than most yogurts) and garnish with herbs and spices like cilantro, mint, sriracha, turmeric, capers, and good old fashioned salt and pepper, Moon says.
2. Cauliflower Romesco Spread
Your usual Romesco spread gets a nutritional boost with the addition of cauliflower. “This spread is amazing as a veggie dip, on top of chicken or fish, or simply spread on whole-wheat crostini,” says Moon. And, even better: “It’s 100-percent plant-based and packed with healthy fats, fiber, and whole grains,” she adds.
Pop the following into the food processor: one head of roasted cauliflower florets, one blanched and peeled tomato, two cloves of garlic, half a cup of toasted almonds, two slices of whole-grain bread (look for one high in fiber and protein, like Dave’s Killer Bread), a tablespoon of either ancho chili or mild paprika powder, and half a teaspoon of thyme.
Blend until smooth, and then slowly add two tablespoons of red wine or pomegranate vinegar and a quarter cup of olive oil. Add a little water if too thick and season with herbs and spices like garlic, onion powder, rosemary, turmeric, or pepper, to taste.
3. Cauliflower ‘Meatballs’
Cauliflower is a great substitute to use in meatless burgers and ‘meatballs,’ but you can also swap it in for half the meat portion of any burger or meatball recipe to slash both calories and saturated fat while increasing fiber, folate, and antioxidants.
If you’re going halfsies, Moon recommends combining a cup of steamed and drained finely-chopped cauliflower with a pound of lean ground turkey or beef. If you’re going all-out veggie, she recommends combining one cup of cauliflower with one cup of a grain (like cooked quinoa or brown rice) and half a cup of bean paste (think smashed cooked chickpeas or black beans).
Related: 7 Vegetarian Protein Sources
To keep the patties or meatballs packed with flavor, season with your go-to herbs and spices, like onion powder, ginger, or red pepper flakes, or even a dollop of your favorite sauce, like tahini, sriracha mayo, mustard, or pesto.
4. Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Craving a rich, creamy soup to warm you up in the winter months, but not interested in downing tons of fat-laden calories? Cauliflower to the rescue.
Start by blending boiled or steamed cauliflower until smooth. Add that ‘creamy’ blend to any of your favorite soups to thicken them up and add make them feel more indulgent—without the saturated fat and calories in cream, Moon says.
5. Cauliflower-Powered Smoothies
Don’t be alarmed—cauliflower makes for a healthy but undetectable addition to any smoothie. “Adding frozen cauliflower to smoothies is a great way to add bulk and nutrients for few calories,” says Moon.
If you tend to feel gassy after eating cruciferous veggies, steam your cauliflower before popping it in the blender to make it easier to digest, she adds.
Cauliflower’s mild flavor will get lost beneath the other flavors and ingredients in your smoothie, but it’ll add bulk, creaminess, and fiber to keep you feeling more satisfied.
6. Cauliflower Crust
Cauliflower crust has become so popular you can buy it pre-made in tons of grocery stores these days. Nutritionists love cauliflower crust because it adds nutritional value to a pizza or flatbread while cutting back on carbs, says Moon.
To make your own cauli crust, start with one head of boiled cauliflower rice. (Press with a towel or cheesecloth to get as much moisture out as possible.) Then, mix the cauliflower rice with two eggs, and salt and pepper to taste. If desired, you can add other herbs and up to a cup of your favorite cheese here, too. Combine well. Lightly spray a baking sheet, spread out the dough, and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees (or until medium brown). Then add your desired toppings and bake for another five to 10 minutes, or until any cheese is melted.
7. Cauliflower Grilled Cheese
Cauliflower also helps transform grilled cheese—one of our childhood favorites—into a healthier, veggie-based meal.
Ilyse Schapiro, M.S., R.D., C.D.N uses cauliflower to make the ‘bread’ for this comforting sandwich. Here’s how to do it: Mix one head’s-worth of cooked cauliflower rice with one egg, two ounces of grated cheese (like cheddar or Parmesan), and a sprinkle of salt. Form into two ‘slices of bread’ and bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is dry and golden.
Then, heat a pan over medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of the cauliflower ‘bread’ and place them in the pan. Cover the other side of each slice with cheese, and form your sandwich. Cook until golden brown on each side (about two to four minutes). Schapiro likes to serve her sandwiches with hot sauce, sriracha, or pesto, and a side salad.
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