The Complete Guide to Cauliflower: Nutrition, Benefits, Recipes, and More

By Kristen Mccaffrey on
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Learn all about cauliflower nutrition, health benefits, plus a complete guide to picking, preparing, and cooking cauliflower. Delicious recipes and more!

Roasted, mashed, pickled, riced, diced, blended, steamed, sauced, or stir-fried, the amazing cauliflower plant is as adaptable as it is nutritious. And these days, you’d be hard-pressed to miss it. This versatile vegetable is showing up in recipes everywhere, from pizza crusts to faux-buffalo wings and from hummus to “tots.” 

Whether you’re looking to lose weight, add more nutrition to your meals, or simply in search of new ways to prepare and eat your veggies, cauliflower is a perfectly healthy choice. Easy to pick out, purchase, and prepare, consider adding cauliflower to your diet. 

Is Cauliflower Good for You? 

Eating ample amounts of non-starchy, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli has been linked to lowering your risk of developing some types of cancers and heart diseases, and its vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients have also been found to neutralize toxins that could otherwise damage your cells. It’s also a great veggie to turn to when trying to lose weight, as it is low-calorie and its fiber and high water content will keep you both hydrated and feeling fuller, longer. Plus, you can slash the calories in some of your favorite meals by using it as a substitute for more caloric ingredients like flour and rice. 

The Nutritional Makeup of Cauliflower 

One cup of raw cauliflower contains only 27 calories, 2 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of sugar. You’ll also get your fill of nearly every essential vitamin and mineral, including calcium; magnesium; potassium; vitamins C, K, and B6; and folate. 

The Health Benefits of Cauliflower 

  • It’s low calorie. When compared cup-for-cup to rice, consuming cauliflower’s 27 calories seems like a no-brainer when you consider eating a cup of cooked white rice will add up to 108 calories. Substitute riced cauliflower for actual rice and you can also quadruple your portion without the guilt. 
  • The fiber will keep you fuller, longer. Sure, there are other foods out there with more fiber, but if you’re going to eat cauliflower for all its other health benefits then why not also enjoy a little fiber-filling bonus?  
  • It’s high in water content. Even if you have no trouble getting all your water in for the day, a little bonus via water-laden vegetables won’t hurt. Plus, the extra water in cauliflower can fill you up faster, which is great when you want to lose weight but don’t want to be hungry all the time. 
  • High in vitamin C. Cauliflower contains vitamin C which can help your body better absorb the iron it needs for your blood. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant. It helps the body with tissue formation, repair, and maintenance; protects against heart disease; decreases bad cholesterol levels; helps produce collagen; and can help protect your body against certain types of cancer. All told, one serving provides 77 percent of the total amount of vitamin C you need every day. 
  • It’s good for your skin and hair. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower helps protect your skin against harmful UV rays from the sun. It also helps with hair growth due to the sulfur and silicon it contains. 
  • It contains protein. Protein powers every cell in the human body. Your muscles need it for growth and repair. It’s also an essential macronutrient your body uses to make hormones and enzymes. And, it’s an important player in the building structures of your body – your muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, and bones. Your body doesn’t store protein so you have to make sure it’s part of your daily diet. 
  • They are very low-fat. I didn’t even bother to note the fat before because it’s less than 1 gram per cup. That means you can enjoy cauliflower any way you like it and maybe even make it a regular part of your weight loss and maintenance plan. 
  • It fights inflammation. Cauliflower contains antioxidative properties as well as anti-inflammatory ones. Pair cauliflower with turmeric, as I did in this yummy Cauliflower Potato Curry, and you have yourself a healthy, winning combination. 

Why Is Cauliflower Called a “Superfood”?

For all the reasons listed above and more, cauliflower deserves its superfood status. Packed full of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, not a lot of calories, and very little fat, I think the better question is why wouldn’t it be called a superfood? 

Is It Better to Eat Cauliflower Raw or Cooked?

The truth is, cooking cauliflower can destroy some of its vitamins and minerals and raw veggies are usually better for you. However, cooking them doesn’t destroy everything beneficial. It’s perfectly okay to cook your cauliflower, and still reap plenty of benefits. Plus, mixing up cooked and raw veggies is a great way to ensure you’re eating the rainbow. 

Which Is Better for You - Broccoli or Cauliflower?

Although broccoli wins in terms of containing more vitamins and minerals per serving, cauliflower isn’t without its nutritive properties. Cauliflower is also a little bit lower in calories than broccoli. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either choice. 

Is It Possible to Eat too Much Cauliflower?

Like anything in life, moderation is key. Besides, I mean, I know cauliflower is an amazing vegetable but why exhaust the fun of it right away? Spread out the joy that is cooking with cruciferous vegetables. 

Can Cauliflower Make You Gassy? 

As in anything that can be classified as too much of a good thing (see above), cauliflower does have its downsides. Both cauliflower and broccoli have complex sugars that we can’t digest easily. The sugars are called raffinose, and that plus the extra fiber in the veggies can make you gassy or bloated. 

Cauliflower on a cutting board with a knife and some florets.

What Foods Go Well with Cauliflower?

Just about anything goes well with cauliflower. Though I like it roasted or as a rice substitute, you can eat it sliced thin with hummus or another health(ier) dip, mix it in with your meats, or mash it up with your favorite flavors. I can’t really think of anything that wouldn’t go well with cauliflower. 

How to Choose Cauliflower

Though there are a variety of different cauliflowers from which to choose (white, orange, green, or purple and Italian, Northern European, Northwest European, or Asian), the way to pick a perfect head remains the same. You want to look for heads that are firm and closed tightly, and that don’t have any dark or soft spots. You can cut off some brown spots, and it will be perfectly fine, but you don’t want the head to be too brown. It also helps to choose a head that feels heavy for its size. And, as cauliflower is known as a cool-weather crop, it’s going to taste the best when it’s in season – in fall, winter, and early spring. 

How to Store Cauliflower

For best results, keep the cauliflower heads whole until you’re ready to use them. You can store them, loosely wrapped, in your vegetable drawer for four to seven days. Once you’ve cut or riced the cauliflower, it should keep for about four days, then it will start to brown and turn mushy, especially if it’s been riced. If this is the case, consider pitching or composting and starting over. 

How to Prepare Cauliflower

Now that you’re ready to dive headfirst into incorporating this winning vegetable into your meals, all you have left to do is pick a preparation. If you’re in a hurry, oftentimes your local grocery chain will offer pre-cut or riced cauliflower in the produce department, so be on the lookout for these – it will make pulling off a delicious cauliflower recipe that much easier.  

To prepare cauliflower for almost any recipe, first rinse the head and pat dry. Next, remove all of the green leaves. Slice the cauliflower in half, slice the halves into quarters, and then remove the core from the quarters. From there, you can cut the cauliflower however you like, or break up the florets by hand.  

Cauliflower recipe that is roasted with Parmesan cheese.

How to Cook Cauliflower

Cauliflower can be prepared in just about any way you can imagine. There are no real rules for cooking it up whatever way you like. However, there are a few tried-and-true, no-fail ways to roast, mash, rice, and blend the stems and florets into delicious dishes. 

Roasted

Break your cauliflower down into florets or cut into larger steaks. Line a large baking sheet with foil and preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cauliflower with olive oil, garlic, and your favorite spices, spread the mixture on your baking sheet, roast, and try not to drool as the aroma of nutty deliciousness fills your kitchen like in this recipe for Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower.  You can also roast whole cauliflower steaks like in this Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri.

Mashed

Start with your cauliflower broken up into florets. Boil the florets in salted water until tender. Before mashing and adding in your other ingredients, make sure you drain and then dry the cauliflower with paper towels or a dish towel to ensure a nice, creamy (not runny) texture, like in my favorite dish, The Best Mashed Cauliflower.  For a lighter take on mashed potatoes, you can mix half potatoes with half cauliflower like in this Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes recipe.

Rice

If you haven’t purchased your cauliflower pre-riced, you can make your own rice in a food processor. Chop the florets and then pulse in a food processor until rice-like pieces form. Boil the riced cauliflower until tender as in this Cauliflower and Carrot Rice with Browned Butter recipe or use it as a substitute for rice in your favorite dishes, such as in this Turkey Taco and Cauliflower Rice Skillet or Low Carb Cauliflower Fried Rice.

Blended

Cauliflower is the perfect vegetable to add to just about any soup recipe (my go-to is this Coconut Cauliflower and Cumin Soup) – simply blend up cooked cauliflower with your other ingredients to add a nice, creamy, thick texture without the extra calories and added fat. I use an immersion blender, but you can also remove the soup a few cups at a time and blend in a blender as well. Just use precaution and take care when blending – it’ll be hot and can splatter. 

Slow Cooker Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala in a bowl.

More Cauliflower Recipes

Cauliflower is so much more than a side dish and can be part of so many delicious dishes. Here are some more of our favorite recipes.

Main Dishes

Salads

Soups

What's your favorite way to prepare cauliflower?

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1 Comment
On The Complete Guide to Cauliflower: Nutrition, Benefits, Recipes, and More
Maryanne V.
September 20, 2018 - 15:54
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5
Great article and welcomed recipe ideas.