Spice Merchant Cauliflower Couscous

By • March 7, 2013 • 69 Comments

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Author Notes: Opening a jar of spice is like magic. Adding a dash of spice to a simple dish, feels like letting a genie out of the bottle. A touch of cumin, a touch of lemon, a few good quality ingredients -- we think of the long journeys along the silk road, and remember that once upon a time spices were more precious than gold, tightly guarded, that they created civilizations, destroyed empires, and led to the discovery of new continents…

P.S. I learned the magic of turning the cauliflower into couscous from Sam1148’s post, http://food52.com/recipes/14493-cauliflower-couscous. It became a foundation for many wonderful dishes. It even made my daughter eat cauliflower, for which I will be eternally grateful.

Food52 Review: WHO: QueenSashy is a native New Yorker and a scientist who loves a lot of things, but does not love cilantro.
WHAT: A deeply spiced cauliflower dish masquerading as couscous. (Or is it the other way around?)
HOW: Blitz a head of cauliflower, let magic ensue, then mix it all up with a blend of spices, citrus, nuts, and raisins.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We were transfixed with the genius treatment of cauliflower in this dish -- that is, until we tasted the complexity of the spice, the nuts, the raisins, and the herbs. Nevermind that it's a gluten-free version of couscous -- we put it out for lunch one day, and counted the minutes until it was gone.

Serves 4-6

  • 1 large cauliflower (about 1 ½ pound of cauliflower florets)
  • 5 ounces raw cashewnuts
  • 3 ounces sultanas (gold raisins)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon za’atar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Place the sultanas in a bowl and pour warm water over them. Leave the sultanas for about 15 minutes, until plump. Drain and discard the water.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the cashewnuts and toast them for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden and gently charred. Stir frequently to make sure that cashewnuts do not burn. Let the cashewnuts cool. Cut the half of the cashewnuts into smaller pieces (or simply crush them with your hands).
  3. Break the cauliflower into florets, making sure to leave behind as much of the stem as possible. Chop the florets into smaller pieces. Transfer the cauliflower into food processor in batches, and pulse until the pieces are finely chopped and resemble couscous. Be careful not to over-process.
  4. In a large sauté pan, heat three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower couscous to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove the couscous from the heat and let it cool. Add the sultanas, cashewnuts, za’atar, cumin, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Leave the couscous for about 15 minutes for the flavors to combine. Serve at room temperature.
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Comments (69) Questions (1)


2 months ago corsomomma

Made this last night with some changes. Used the recipe below for za'atar (I also added 1/2 t dried pomegranite seeds), and roasted the required amount of spices right before tossing it with the cooled cauliflower bits. (I used more than the recipe said, around 1t) We made this for our guests and they absolutely loved it. My fiance, who hates lemony things, didn't like it at first when we first tried it out. After it sat while we were waiting for them to come, it mellowed out. When we added the garlic (roasted it with the cashews) and cashews in the end, along with the raisins it TOTALLY changed the flavor profile and he loved it. I also didn't use as much oil as I am really trying to watch what I eat. This was perfect for carb watchers and diet sensitive people, and more over, to foodies who like new things. Everyone was raving! I posted a pic on facebook and no one figured out what it was.


3 months ago Natalie Taylor

Amazing. Serves 4 to 6 unless you can't stop yourself from eating 2 servings.


4 months ago stephanieRD

I just made this and tasted it while it was still warm and it literally made me say "WOW". Blown away by the flavors! I didn't even have sumac on hand so I did some research and made a little mini blend of sea salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, sesame seeds and fenugreek to substitute. It ended up being WONDERFUL. Will go get sumac though to make it for next time.


5 months ago jayaymeye

Very delicious! I added diced preserved lemon and doubled the za'atar. Really, really good. Worth making.


5 months ago Alicia

This is so delicious and so incredibly easy to make! I made it for our Passover meal last night, and wow! It disappeared so quickly. Even people who said they didn't like cauliflower gobbled it up.


5 months ago Nyborg

Whoops, I mistakenly followed Sam1148's post on cauliflour "couscous," thinking it was this one, and mixed all his ingredients before realizing it. So then I used the dressing from this recipe and it's a great combo. Very fresh due in part to the fact that his is raw..


5 months ago Sarah Clark

This was so good! Even my healthy-hating husband loved it. Love the idea from the commenter to add pomegranate seeds - will do that next time!


6 months ago ro_laren

Hello, I really want to make this delicious recipe. Can you please confirm how much couscous I would need?


6 months ago beejay45

ro_laren, there is no actual couscous. The cauliflower is masquerading as couscous, making this not only delicious but gluten free!


6 months ago London GM

We tripled the amount of nuts evenly among cashews, almonds and pistachio plus we hadded the seeds of one fresh fresh pomegranate - it was a show stealer!


6 months ago nycnomad

Also I tried this with pumpkin seeds instead of cashews…amazing and I think next time I'll sauté it in coconut oil. I think it might be an interesting modification. So yummy!


6 months ago nycnomad

Hi I just made this recipe and realized, you don't mention what to do with the garlic. I sautéed it in the pan before adding the cauliflower but am not sure if that was the intention. Could you be so kind as to comment. Thank you.


6 months ago QueenSashy

Hi nycnomad! When the cauliflower has cooled, I added crushed garlic together with the other ingredients.


7 months ago Amy

I have never used Za'atar and am overwhelmed with the choices on Amazon. Can someone advise me what to order?


7 months ago Hana

Hi Amy, I haven't tried this spice in this brand but their other spices are great so I think this one will be just as great. Teeny Tiny Spice Co. of Vermont Organic Za'atar. Hope this helps.


7 months ago QueenSashy

There are more za’tar blends than there are people on this planet! This dish is very forgiving, whatever blend you use, it will be mighty fine. I have many different ones, some with cumin, some without. I used "cumin-less" Israeli brand in this dish (thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, anise, coriander, fenugreek) and added cumin separately.


7 months ago lalf

It’s so easy (and inexpensive!) to make your own, fresh, especially since some store-bought brands can be bitter or otherwise not great tasting. There are lots of recipes for Za'atar on the web. Here's one from Sylvena Rowe, author of “Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume”:
2 tbs thyme
1 tbs marjoram
2 tbs sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 tbs sumac
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together and store in a jar.


8 months ago Hana

This looks so good! I'm going to make this right now, I just so happen to have all of these ingredients. Thanks for the recipe!


8 months ago Allison Klein

I made this last night and it felt like magic--turning cauliflower into what looked like snow, and then cooking it for a short while until it became something that is almost indistinguishable from couscous. I used everything the recipe called for, but I had some mushrooms, carrot and celery hanging around, so I sauteed them and added it to the mix. I also added a bit more za'atar, plus a dash of smoked paprika, and pomegranate arils. Tasty, and I feel so virtuous while eating it!


8 months ago Frank

I replaced the cauliflower with 1 cup of quinoa. Came out AMAZING.


8 months ago elise maiberger

Unable to consume grains for health reasons, I am loving the runaway versatility of cauliflower. I can enjoy couscous again! Thank you for this recipe.


12 months ago teafanatic

Made this for dinner last night... used ideas from many comments: cooked the garlic (3 cloves) w/the cauliflower, added mint, and increased the amts of cumin, zatar, and parsley dramatically (we like our food spicy). Fantastic! Thanks QueenSashy & F52 community for another keeper.


12 months ago fearlessem

Made this (with tweaks) last night and it was a big hit at a potluck I brought it to. Like LovesFood I sauteed the garlic with the cauliflower, and also took Antonia's suggestion to toast the cashews in the oil first... I didn't have raisins, but did add substantially more parsley as well as some chopped mint. Fantastic! Really really impressed with the couscous-style treatment as well as the overall flavor profile...


12 months ago QueenSashy

so glad it worked, thanks so much for letting me know...


about 1 year ago andrea lee

I just made this, thank you for posting! I added curry powder instead and sautéed with jalapeños and garlic, then tossed in raw, chopped walnuts with the soaked sultanas and chopped dried cherries. So good!


about 1 year ago QueenSashy

sounds delicious, thanks for sharing...


about 1 year ago Loves Food Loves to Eat

I made this last night, and I'm obsessed. SO GOOD. I sautéed the garlic with the cauliflower rather than throwing it in raw, and I don't actually know if my nut & raisin proportions were accurate, because I just threw a handful in of each, but wow... such great flavors. Can't wait to make this again... like every night. Now I just need to get a bigger food processor...


about 1 year ago QueenSashy

Thanks for letting me know...