This Mexican Cauliflower Rice (aka Spanish Cauliflower Rice) is a great low-carb side dish! Whatever name you use for it doesn’t matter, what does matter is that this veggie side is so savory in flavor, can easily replace rice (I promise you won’t miss it) AND it’s so dang easy to make.

Overhead image of orange-colored cauliflower rice with tomatoes in a black bowl set on top of a white napkin on a gray table

About this recipe

I don’t look at this recipe as just a low-carb alternative to rice. Though that is true and it is a benefit, this recipe is so much more. For such a simple ingredient list, this cauliflower rice has A TON of savory flavor.

The combination of juicy tangy tomatoes, perfectly crisp-tender cauliflower shreds, slightly sweet tomato paste, and a mix of spices is absolute harmony. For some reason it just works.

My favorite part—it doesn’t feel like cauliflower trying to be something it isn’t. We all know those recipes that try to swap in cauliflower to make it healthier. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. 

This isn’t one of those recipes. It doesn’t cover up the fact that it’s cauliflower, but it also doesn’t hit you over the head with brassica flavor. The balance in flavor makes this “rice” a great side dish,  filling, bed for grilled fish and chicken, or base for bowl meals (burrito bowls, taco bowls etc.). 

It’s hard to explain, but this is one of those recipes I just couldn’t stop eating. 

side angle of orange-colored cauliflower rice with tomatoes in a black bowl set on top of a white napkin on a gray table

How to make Mexican cauliflower rice

Cauliflower rice is a great low-carb alternative to regular rice. For this recipe, I took a classic dish—Mexican Rice (aka Spanish rice)—and lightened it up with cauliflower.

The flavors remain true to form, but the cooking process is drastically different from regular Mexican rice. 

Not only are we removing an ingredient that absorbs liquid, but we’re also replacing that ingredient with one that releases liquid. Do you see how this could cause some problems?

Many cauliflower rice recipes call for added water or broth, which I found to be completely unnecessary. The cauliflower itself has enough moisture to create adequate steam for cooking. 

overhead image of ingredients (cauliflower, oil, onion, tomatoes, tomato paste, spices) laid out on a gray counter
  1. Shred the cauliflower into “rice.” For this step, you can use a box grater or the food processor with the grater attachment (I prefer this method).
  2. Cook onion in a large sauté pan until starting to brown. 
  3. Add tomato paste, garlic, and spices and cook for one minute.
  4. Drain and rinse canned tomatoes. Add thoroughly drained tomatoes to the sauté pan; add the cauliflower and toss to combine.
  5. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and steam cauliflower for 5–8 minutes. 
  6. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
grid of images showing the process of cooking the rice

Optional add-ins 

  • Minced serrano or jalapeño 
  • Golden raisins
  • Olives
  • Capers 
  • Black beans
  • Rotel tomatoes and chiles
  • Chili powder
  • Avocado

What to serve with Mexican cauliflower rice:

Close up side angle of orange-colored cauliflower rice with tomatoes in a black bowl set on top of a white napkin on a gray table

Make sure to tag me @ZESTFULKITCHEN ON INSTAGRAM or comment below if you make this Mexican Cauliflower Rice!

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Overhead image of orange-colored cauliflower rice with tomatoes in a black bowl set on top of a white napkin on a gray table

Mexican Cauliflower Rice (aka Spanish Cauliflower Rice)

  • Author: Lauren
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

The combination of juicy tangy tomatoes, perfectly crisp-tender cauliflower shreds, slightly sweet tomato paste, and a mix of spices is absolute harmony in this super savory low-carb side dish. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 large head cauliflower (2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup finely minced yellow onion 
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika 
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (15 ounces), drained and rinsed
  • Salt 

Instructions

Remove stem and trim leaves from cauliflower. 

To shred the cauliflower into rice using a box grater: cut cauliflower into large chunks, then grate into rice using the medium-sized holes.

To shred the cauliflower into rice using a food processor: cut cauliflower into small pieces, attach the grater attachment to food processor, and feed cauliflower into processor to shred. 

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high. Add onion and cook until softened and starting to turn golden brown, 3–5 minutes. 

Stir in tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and paprika; cook 1 minute. Add drained tomatoes and cauliflower; toss to combine. Cover skillet with a tight fitting lid and let steam until tender, 5–8 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in ¾ teaspoon salt; season with additional salt and black pepper to taste. 


Notes

Store cauliflower rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

Cauliflower rice can be stored in resealable zipper-lock bags in the freezer for up to 2 months. 


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: ½ cup
  • Calories: 60
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Sodium: 259mg
  • Fat: 2g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: Mexican Cauliflower Rice, Spanish Cauliflower Rice, cauliflower rice, vegan cauliflower rice

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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