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A Healthier Alternative to Couscous

Spiced Cauli 'Couscous'-3

Before I learned about the perils of eating lots of carbs and started (mostly) avoiding grains, I used to LOVE couscous.

I mean its so quick and easy to prepare and has all that carby comforting goodness. What’s not to love?

But as I’ve discovered, couscous didn’t love me.

So it’s been literally years since I made couscous. I had tried using grated raw cauliflower as an alternative. It was fine but didn’t really look or taste like couscous.

Recently I was inspired to try it again. But this time I did a few things differently…

First, I pulsed some cauliflower in the food processor until it was broken down into couscous sized grains.

Then I did the most important thing for making practically anything taste more delicious… I added lots of butter to the pan before warming my cauli ‘couscous’.

To give it better colour and some extra flavour, I added some spice and plenty of salt and pepper.

And the result?

When we sat down to dinner my Irishman asked, ‘is this couscous?’ So it definitely looked the part.

It tasted great. Buttery and comforting like a good couscous should with the added bonus of a bit of spice. So good!

And even better I felt great after eating it. No ‘couscous bloating’… so now I love my cauli couscous and it loves me.


Spiced Cauli 'Couscous'-2

Spiced Cauliflower ‘Couscous’

Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend of over 20 spices so it’s got a lot going on. You’ll need to get it from your favourite spice merchant but if you prefer to keep it simple just use a 50:50 blend of ground cumin and ground coriander. Serve as a side anywhere you’d normally serve couscous or rice or see below for ideas to turn it into a whole meal.

enough for: 2 as a side
takes: 15 minutes

1/2 small cauliflower
3-4 tablespoons butter
1-2 teaspoons Ras El hanout
1 bunch coriander – leaves picked (optional)
handful pinenuts (optional)

1. Whizz the cauli in your food processor until it looks like little grains of couscous.

2. Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add cauli and the spices and stir fry over a medium high heat until everything is warm.

3. Taste and season with lots of salt and pepper. Serve with coriander leaves and pinenuts on top (if using).

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no food processor? – you could try hand cutting or grating with a box grater but it will take a while!

no ras el hanout – use a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander OR substitute the Lebanese spice blend baharat if you have it.

more complete meal
– serve with pan fried or BBQ chicken or fish. Or for a veggie meal top with poached or fried eggs or a drained can of chickpeas.

nut-free – just skip the pinenuts or replace with a little chopped red onion for crunch.

carb-lovers – replace some or all of the cauliflower with couscous or quinoa cooked according to the packet.

different herbs – mint, basil, chervil, sorrell or flat leaf parsley are all great.

more veg – soften an onion in the butter before adding the cauli. And stir in chopped red bell peppers (capsicum) or halved cherry tomatoes with the herbs.

What about you?

Got any foods that don’t ‘love you back’ that you’d like to find an alternative for? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Big love,
Jules x


{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Dante 16 June, 2015, 7:46 am

    I can’t eat cauliflower, so I used broccoli, not as good probably as the cauliflower, but it was still good.
    As for food that doesn’t love me, meat, I am a huge carnivore, but meat and I don’t get along, so I eat other stuff and pretend a lot :-)

  • Gracie Em 16 June, 2015, 7:48 am

    Thanks Jules. I’m 6 weeks off the grains, and really happy with the results–including the 8 lb (so far), mainly from my belly, a huge decrease in pain from sciatica and carpal tunnel symptoms, and a longstanding GI issue cleared up almost overnight! YAY! You have become my go-to for ideas and recipes–they have been so healful during this transition and detox–I had serious brain fog for the first 2 weeks, but all is good now.

  • Daryle in VT 16 June, 2015, 9:40 am

    OK Jules,
    Apparently you traded a few grains of carbohydrate for “lots of butter” and “plenty of salt.” It probably wasn’t even Himalayan salt, was it? I just know I’m missing something! ;-)

    • Marcia 17 June, 2015, 1:51 am

      Himalayan salt is pretty good.

      “A few grams of carbohydrates” – I’m guessing she has problem with wheat in general (hence intolerance to couscous). I’ve got several friends with wheat intolerances.

  • Melané Fahner 16 June, 2015, 4:28 pm

    Hi Jules, completely with you on the caulicous-cous. I love to fry up some Cummings seeds, douse that with tomatoes and then add the the cauliflower and stir-fry at a high temperature. Divine. However: cook up a pot of millet in veggie stock at the beginning of your week and have it as porridge in your favourite milk, in your salad at lunch or fried up in your spices of Araby for dinner: if millet is only for the birds then I’m singing like a canary ????

    • Larissa 16 June, 2015, 8:11 pm

      LOVE millet as a cous cous substitute, I dry roast it, then cook with veggie stock and mix through a good handful of chopped herbs. My super very fussy cous cous loving boys devour it. I’m going slip some sorghum into the pearl cous cous and see if they notice.

    • jules 23 June, 2015, 10:35 pm

      Good for you Melane!

  • Leanne 16 June, 2015, 9:41 pm

    I just cannot seem to stomach beans of any kind (e.g kidney, broad) and get dismayed as so many recipes incorporate them these days. I would love any ideas about substituting these.

    • jules 23 June, 2015, 10:33 pm

      Oh no Leanne… I love beans! Have you tried using fresh or frozen broad beans? Or lentils? Or green / yellow split peas? Jx

  • Marcia 17 June, 2015, 1:49 am

    This looks really good. I’ve noticed a difficulty with grains with my friends and myself also. They are so hard to give up when they were such a big part of my life for so long.

    • jules 23 June, 2015, 10:32 pm

      I know it can be tough to change old ways Marica. I find looking for healthier alternatives easier than just cutting things out Jx

  • Marcia 17 June, 2015, 3:45 am

    Also, I am browsing the E-book for loving your waistline, and I love it! Can’t wait to use some of these ideas.

    I’m turning 45 next week (eek!) and had my second baby at 42. I am struggling to lose the baby weight (and want to get it off before I hit menopause!) I managed to lose 26 pounds last year, but a few of them have found me again, and I’m about 10 lbs from a healthy weight.

    My experience last year (lots of experimentation) is that I do better at weight loss if I count calories and limit grains, especially wheat. But man, that is so hard to do. I am trying to focus on what I *should* eat and not what I *shouldn’t* eat. Counting calories usually works but man it’s a ton of work and I just am tired of doing it.

    • jules 23 June, 2015, 10:30 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying the book Marcia! Best of luck on your journey ?xx

  • Claire 17 June, 2015, 9:42 am

    I’m not very fond of raw cauli as a substitute for couscous or rice so I will gently warm the cauli through with a tablespoon of coconut oil. Delish – also love zesting a lemon and adding the juice for extra flavour.

    • jules 23 June, 2015, 10:29 pm

      Am sure the lemon and coconut oil are lovely additions Claire!

  • Thalia @ butter and brioche 17 June, 2015, 1:39 pm

    I never have tried cauliflower cous cous before but it sure looks the same in appearance and in texture.. and I can imagine its more flavoursome too. Definitely need to try the recipe!

    • jules 23 June, 2015, 10:28 pm

      It’s worth trying Thalia!

  • Carol 20 June, 2015, 8:37 pm

    I have done this by chopping by hand! It is not that bad and I like the irregular sized chunks. Great rice substitute with Jules’ butter chicken! I like it even better than rice actually.

    • jules 23 June, 2015, 10:24 pm

      Great Carol! I like it better than rice too :)

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