Cauliflower rice: A tasty controversy in foodie circles

Priceless but riceless: This delicious invention has drawn the ire of the US Rice Association

Cauliflower rice. Photograph: iStock

Cauliflower rice has plenty of people in a pickle. Particularly those in the rice industry. After all, cauliflower rice isn’t rice – it’s just blended up cauliflower. However, its appeal to many the world over, particularly those trying to avoid grains for whatever reason, has made it a stalwart of vegetarian menus.

I first encountered the phenomenon of turning cauliflower into “rice” while watching a demo by Ferrán Adriá of El Bulli some time around 2014. I was amazed, and we put a version of this on the menu at Aniar. However, Adriá called it “cauliflower couscous”. I always imagined that it was the Adriá brothers who invented this technique, but it appears I was wrong.

According to Good Food, an Australian magazine, cauliflower rice was invented in 1998 by Harrison Ford's son, Ben Ford, a chef in California. He also called his creation cauliflower couscous. In 2010 chef Eric Ripert, co-owner of the three-Michelin-starred New York restaurant Le Bernardin, featured the dish in his TV show Avec Eric.

Whatever the origins of this dish, by 2017 it had aroused the ire of the US Rice Association (I didn’t even know that there was such a body). One representative claimed that cauliflower rice was damaging the reputation of rice for children. If you’re giving kids cauliflower rice and calling it fried rice, surely, they understand it’s not rice? Or maybe not.


How to make cauliflower rice with almonds and lemon

Remove and discard the core of the cauliflower. Cut into florets, then place the florets into a food processor. Pulse until the cauliflower resembles grains of rice. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add a little oil and butter. When the butter starts to foam, add the cauliflower and toss in the butter. Season with a little sea salt and freshly chopped thyme. Add a little stock and cover the pan to allow the cauliflower to steam. When it is soft, add the zest and juice of a lemon, some chopped parsley and a handful of smoked almonds.