Cast Iron

Spice Merchant Cauliflower Couscous

March 23, 2021
24 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4-6
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, It became a foundation for many wonderful dishes. It even made my daughter eat cauliflower, for which I will be eternally grateful. —QueenSashy

Test Kitchen Notes

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. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 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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Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.

111 Reviews

BarbaraTheCook February 19, 2023
Absolutely loved this recipe. Will make it again and again. I used almonds I had on hand rather than cashews, otherwise made exactly as ordered. Am already a cauliflower lover so this was easy to add to my list of favorites. So much flavor, great textures.
Maya July 20, 2022
Flavorful and filling. It really comes together fast and it's easy to make extra for leftovers. I added the seasoning and garlic a little earlier, but it all came together very well
Bethany S. March 23, 2021
Recipe is great as is, but I have been known to substitute pasta (acini di pepe or couscous) for the cauliflower. Delicious either way
Carla April 14, 2019
This recipe is delicious....lasts along time and I even eat it for breakfast! We like more seasoning...but made exactly as written is also very, very good.
Amanda P. December 20, 2018
My husband is gluten free, and one of the things he really misses is couscous. This is a lifesaver! It's an easy recipe, especially because you only need a food processor for the cauliflower, not a ricer. I made the recipe to the letter and it came out great, but I can see myself adding many variations in the future. One thing I'll try is instead of adding two more tablespoons of olive oil at the end, I'll use chicken or veggie stock. But all in all, this recipe is a winner, and that's coming from someone who really doubted cauliflower could taste like couscous. IT DOES!
kohlrabi December 8, 2018
This is a great recipe, which I’ll continue to riff on. I added way more spices including some rascal hanout, and about a cup of mixed herbs — parsley, cilantro and mint.
Sarah K. October 12, 2017
Genius recipe! It is now one of my go to's. There are so many ways to tweak this to your liking: try apricots or dates instead of raisins, try pine nuts instead of pistachios, try cilantro or mint, change up the spices. It's always delicious!
Karen M. March 27, 2017
Tweaked a little, didn't add as much oil, but added aliitle stock to cook. Added sprinkle of cumin seeds and a little garlic. A good starting point for many tweaks
Liz M. January 11, 2017
This is SO GOOD! The method to create the cauliflower cous cous is pure magic - the texture, taste, and look is spot on. I love the flavors here too; I kept the spices as written, but didn't have parsley so I subbed fresh sage and a bit of fresh rosemary. Delicious and satisfying!
whatcecesees December 30, 2016
I made this for a vegetarian brunch and tripled it (at least) - I like that it was forgiving in terms of ingredients and timing. I made it with walnuts since I had those on hand and it was delicious- several people asked for the recipe!
Lynn August 26, 2016
I made this for a cookout and everyone loved it. Everyone thought it was couscous. I, too, added a least double the amount of zatar and added some salt to the hot cauliflower.
Laura V. July 18, 2016
Ordered za'atar today from Amazon so I can make this with correct ingredients!
QueenSashy July 18, 2016
Oh, do not worry about the right ingredients, this is a forgiving dish. Just go for it -- even just dry thyme and oregano will do nicely :)
kohlrabi December 8, 2018
Also add some sesame seed if you have it.
judy July 12, 2016
This looked terrific. I had all the ingredients, so went ahead with the recipe. The only thing I did different was to include the green leaves and stems from the cauliflower. I think they are the best part. I just ran them through the processor separately from the florets until they were small. then sauteed tehm all together. I don't use za'tar very often and am learning that we really like it. I toasted the spices for about 30 seconds in a dry skillet before adding to the mix. Thanks for a new use for cauliflower. And exposure to another cuisine.
Gal April 21, 2016
"kitniyot" is the Hebrew word for Legumes (which includes beans, peas, lentils and peanuts).
Bunnilein April 21, 2016
For Reform and Conservative movement Jews, kitniyot (including sesame seeds) are allowed for Passover. The Conservative movement reversed its position on kitniyot in December.
GsR April 21, 2016
The reform movement allowes many things, that does not make them kosher, ie bacon and shellfish.
GsR April 12, 2016
Remember with your zaatar sesame seeds are not kosher for Passover
Lisa C. April 11, 2016
would love to make this for passover but need recipes I can make ahead.. would that work to do an refrigerate ....
QueenSashy April 11, 2016
Yes, just don't add the cashews. Toast the cashews at the same time when you make the couscous, keep them aside and add them to the salad before serving.
Schuber March 26, 2016
Absolutely fabulous! Ate warm and was delicious. I didn't have enough cashews so used almonds too without an issue. I'm going to use 1 tsp za'tar next time I make for a little more flavor.
Renee B. March 18, 2016
I'm eating this as I'm typing and there may not be any left by the time my husband gets home! It's delicious. I upped the za'atar to 1 tablespoon. With so many za'atar blends, mine may not have the umph that yours did. I also upped the parsley and used raisins because I had no sultanas. Sounds like I changed a lot but the essence of the recipe is the same. I LOVE it and can't wait to make it for book club. Thanks so much for sharing!
Laura V. March 17, 2016
Wonderful!! I cooked my garlic with the cauliflower. Used 2 1/4 teaspoons cumin, 4 tablespoons parsley, white pepper, served with lentil curry and yum!