Spice Merchant Cauliflower Couscous

March 7, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

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.... 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.
The Editors

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
In This Recipe


  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.

More Great Recipes:
Salad|Cauliflower|Couscous|Cumin|Lemon Juice|Parsley|Vegetable|Cast Iron|Serves a Crowd|Make Ahead|Summer|Fall

Reviews (107) Questions (1)

107 Reviews

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!
Author Comment
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 ....
Author Comment
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!
Elena February 6, 2016
Instead of tossing the stem, peel or use a paring knife to remove the tough, outermost layer. The leaves, if in good condition, can also be used, in this dish or another, sauteed, shredded, however.
Joan M. February 3, 2016
For an easy way to make this recipe, go to Trader Joe's for their cauliflower rice in the frozen section. All chopped up and ready to go. After using that, the recipe is a snap to make...and absolutely delicious. I did not have cashews, so I toasted pine nuts and they added just the right amount of crunch. Definitely a saver!
Sandra January 26, 2016
Fantastic! But 1/2 teaspoon of zatar and cumin is baffling to me -- not enough to even begin to flavor 24 oz of cauliflower. I doubled both and the flavor was still extremely subtle. I easily doubled the parsley, but the dressing was perfect. Nevertheless, it was delicious as written. I am going to work on it to satisfy my husband's and my tastes; some of the suggestions below are intriguing, such as preserved lemon. Even though I'm someone who can add ridiculous quantities of nuts to almost anything, I can't imagine tripling the nuts (there were already lots) as someone below suggested, but I guess it would make a very different but delicious dish.
Joy January 25, 2016
this is a very tasty recipe, i didn't have the sumac to complete the za'atar or parsley, but nonetheless! flavorful!