This post may contain affiliate links.
With a light, fluffy texture and all the traditional flavors, this Mexican Cauliflower Rice stands in beautifully for the original version of this classic Mexican restaurant side dish. It's made quick and easy on your stovetop - less than 30 minutes start to finish.
Mexican food is all about fresh, vibrant ingredients prepared simply. Tender cauliflower rice, mildly sweet white onion, tangy roma tomatoes, spicy jalapeños, pungent garlic, earthy cumin, and rich tomato paste unite for an authentic tasting Mexican restaurant-style cauliflower rice. A scatter of chopped cilantro and squeeze of fresh lime juice guarantee a dish that's tastier than the sum of its parts.
Ingredients You Need to Make Mexican Cauliflower Rice
- Cauliflower: large head or store-bought cauliflower rice
- Onion: Ideally a white onion, but a yellow onion will also work.
- Tomatoes: fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes (You can use plum tomatoes, but they're less firm and won't hold their shape as well.)
- Tomato Paste: Instead of a can, look for tomato paste sold in a tube that you can store in your refrigerator. It's a convenient way to have it on hand for recipes that require a small amount.
- Garlic: Look for a plump, firm head with smooth, silvery-white skin.
- Jalapeños: Look for deeply green, firm, smooth-skinned fresh jalapeños. Leave the seeds intact for a spicier dish.
- Chicken Broth: or vegetable broth or water
- Cumin: ground cumin
- Oil: neutral flavored, high heat vegetable oil like avocado oil
- Chipotle Chili Powder: Note that this is not standard chili powder, which is a blend of spices. It's purely dried and ground chipotle chiles that add a smoky flavor to the dish.
- Cilantro: for finishing plus more for garnish if desired
- Lime(s): fresh lime juice for finishing the dish plus additional wedges for serving if desired
- Kosher Salt
How to Make Uniform Cauliflower Rice
Though you can use store-bought cauliflower rice, it's simple and fresher to make your own. If you have one, a food processor makes quick work of making riced cauliflower with a similar texture to regular rice. Many recipes call for using the standard S blade to rice cauliflower florets, but I find that it's easy to over-process them and end up with something more like cauliflower couscous.
The shredding disc provides more reliable results. First remove the stem from a head of cauliflower and separate / cut into small florets. Then, with the food processor running, push florets through the shoot onto the shredding disc for uniform cauliflower rice. If you don't have a food processor, you can shred cauliflower florets by hand on a box grater. It will take a bit longer to make, but it's worth the effort.
This lightened-up version of the classic Mexican dish is great for gluten free, low carb / keto diets. An excellent low-carb side dish for Cinco de Mayo! Swap in water or vegetable broth for the chicken broth to make it vegan / vegetarian. With the essential Mexican flavors and authentic texture, you won't have to sacrifice a thing.
- Shrimp Tacos or Grilled Shrimp Tacos
- Carne Asada or Carne Asada Tacos
- Pork Carnitas Tacos
- Chorizo Tacos
- Pulled Pork Quesadillas
- Rice Cooker Mexican Rice (for those who prefer the traditional version)
- Tortilla Chips with Pico de Gallo or Salsa Guacamole
- Classic or Virgin Margaritas
How to Make Mexican Cauliflower Rice
In a large, non-stick skillet cook cauliflower rice in hot oil until tender and lightly toasted. Transfer to a clean bowl.
To same skillet add oil and swirl to coat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeños and salt and cook until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, cumin and chipotle chili powder and cook and until tomatoes are softened. Stir in tomato paste.
Return cauliflower rice to skillet; cook and stir until cauliflower is fluffy, tender and heated through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and fresh lime juice. Season to taste with salt, garnish with more cilantro and serve with lime wedges if desired.
Mexican Cauliflower Rice
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil divided, such as avocado oil or other neutral, high heat oil
- 6 cups cauliflower rice about 1 large head of cauliflower separated into florets and shredded (see recipe note)
- 1 small white onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 jalapeños minced (stems, ribs, and seeds removed - gloves recommended!)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 2 large roma tomatoes finely chopped
- ¼ cup chicken broth or vegetable broth or water
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder or more for extra heat
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice about ½ a lime, plus more lime wedges for serving, optional
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering; swirl to coat the pan. Add cauliflower rice and spread into an even layer; cook, undisturbed, for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned on one side (take care not to burn it). Stir and again spread into an even layer to cook, undisturbed, for 2-3 minutes more or until lightly browned on the other side. Stir and transfer toasted cauliflower rice to a clean bowl.
- Add remaining tablespoon of oil to skillet (no need to wipe it out) and swirl to coat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeños and salt; cook and stir until mixture is fragrant and onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, cumin and chipotle chili powder; cook and stir until tomatoes are softened, about 3 minutes more. Stir in tomato paste. Return cauliflower rice to skillet and stir to combine; cook and stir 2-3 minutes more, or until cauliflower is fluffy, tender and heated through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and fresh lime juice. Season to taste with salt.
- Serve with lime wedges, garnished with more cilantro if desired.
- To make uniform cauliflower rice at home, core a large head of cauliflower and separate into florets. Quarter or halve any large florets. Attach the shredding disc to your food processor and, with the machine running, add florets through the chute. (It's easier to get a consistent size cauliflower rice with the shredding disc than using the standard S blade.)