There’s something irresistible about carbs—the way they soak up flavors of sauces, spices and ooey gooey cheese. All on their own, a slice of bread, a ribbon of pasta is enough to make you do a food dance. The downside, however, is that not all carbs are created equal, and many ought to be left to the occasional indulgent comfort food category. But good carbs can be great, and shouldn’t be overlooked as a healthy supplement to your daily diet. So, when comfort is calling your name, why not opt for healthier versions like cauliflower?
Cauliflower is coming in hot for its health benefits, versatility and, of course, yumminess. The cruciferous vegetable is incredibly nutrient dense, offering large quantities of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytochemicals. The vegetable contains several compounds that have been shown to fight cancer and boost brain health thanks to its good source of choline, which is a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. Cauliflower also helps the body’s ability to detoxify too, as it contains antioxidants that support Phase 1 detoxification, and sulfur-containing nutrients crucial for Phase 2 detox activities. Cauliflower contains glucosinolates that also activate detoxification enzymes. Researchers have found that sulforaphane made from a glucosinolate in cauliflower can help protect the lining of your stomach as well, making the vegetable beneficial for digestive health.
Cauliflower also happens to be the perfect substitute for things like pasta, potatoes, bread and more without sacrificing deliciousness, so let’s dig into some of the most scrumptious meals where cauliflower shines as a replacement for carbs. A simple swap of an ingredient can make all the difference without your gut or your guilt suffering the consequences.
Instead of macaroni
Mac n’ cheese is always a yes please when you’re craving comfort food. But this delicious version swaps out the typical macaroni for cauliflower. It’s hearty, healthy and warming while also being gluten-free, packed with 31 grams of protein, and rich in flavor.
Instead of potatoes au gratin
Try: Cauliflower Au Gratin by Get Healthy U
Au gratin potatoes are a melt-in-your-mouth side dish from heaven. But this healthier version is definitely giving the classic a run for its money. It’s creamy, cheesy, and oh so simple to make. All done in the oven, anyone who’s a clean freak will be glad to know this recipe can be whipped up without dirtying any extra pots or pans.
Instead of fettuccine Alfredo
Try: Paleo Spaghetti Squash Bowls With Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce by Food Faith Fitness
Fettuccine is packed with carbs, and typical Alfredo sauce is laden with calories. This recipe swaps out BOTH by incorporating spaghetti squash instead of noodles, and a cauliflower sauce instead of the classic Alfredo version. This low-carb treat is packed with flavors and textures, and the creaminess of the cauliflower sauce is enough to make you wonder why you ever indulged in the classic version to begin with!
Instead of pizza dough
Pizza is a people pleaser, that’s for sure, but when you want it without the guilt, this version will do just the trick. This dairy-free cauliflower pizza crust requires such simple ingredients: cauliflower, egg, olive oil, nutritional yeast and salt. Try the toppings we’ve offered, or go crazy and incorporate your own!
Related: 16 Breadless Sandwich Substitutions
Instead of rice
Try: Chickpea Curry with Cauliflower Rice by LaaLoosh
Rice is the glue to many meals, but when you want something to soak up all the flavors without adding to your waistline, try cauliflower rice. This recipe is vegan, bursting with healthy ingredients and sensational flavors, and so easy to make. Once you process and bake the rice, simply stir fry your veggies, add your spices and chickpeas, cook and combine with the cauliflower in a bowl for an incredible meal that’s ready in under 30 minutes.
Instead of mashed potatoes
Try: Mashed Cauliflower by Get Healthy U
When you want mashed potatoes but know you need a healthier side dish, try this mashed cauliflower recipe that’s extremely easy to make and delicious to boot. The cauliflower transforms into a texture reminiscent of mashed potatoes once processed, and the creaminess shines through to make every last bite one to remember.
Instead of fries
Try: Crispy Cauliflower Bites with Sriracha Dipping Sauce by Get Healthy U
Fries are the finger food people just can’t say no to, especially when it comes to dipping them into a bowl of ketchup. But the snack has guilt written all over it. This easy recipe is a perfect swap, however. These cauliflower bites are crispy pieces of perfection browned to a golden use. Rather than ketchup, kick it up a notch by making this delicious sriracha dipping sauce.
Instead of fried rice
Try: Low Carb Cauliflower Fried “Rice” by Slender Kitchen
Fried rice is comfort food to many, but it’s definitely not healthy. This version skips the rice in favor of healthy cauliflower without sacrificing flavor. Mixed with sesame oil, eggs, onions, green cabbage, carrots, garlic, fresh ginger and soy sauce, it’ll give you the fierce flavors of the classic version without weighing you down.
Instead of breadsticks
Try: Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks by iFoodreal
The next time you’re craving something indulgent like breadsticks, whip up this healthier version instead. These cauliflower breadsticks offer just as much flavor, ooey gooey cheese, and are so easy to make. Better yet? You can indulge in 5-6 of these bad boys while still consuming very little calories, fat and carbs.
Instead of tater tots
Try: Parmesan Cauliflower Tater Tots by Eating Well
Tater tots get an upswing with cauliflower as the stand in for potatoes in this recipe. Mashed, mixed with cheese, then coated with crispy breadcrumbs, the cauliflower concoction is then baked until warm, golden tots are achieved. Try a spicy dipping sauce of ketchup, sriracha and chile sauce to liven things up.
Instead of grilled cheese
Try: Cauliflower Crusted Grilled Cheese by Weelicious
Grilled cheese is a kid’s favorite and an adult’s guilty pleasure — until now. A head of cauliflower transforms into slices of bread that make the perfect bookends to cheesy goodness. Plus, this no-bread sandwich is gluten-free and made with nothing but whole ingredients. The taste is out of this world, just find out for yourself.
Instead of nachos
Try: One-Pan Cauliflower Nachos by Fit Foodie Finds
Melted cheese on top of baked chips? Yes please! But if you’re healthy conscience is getting in the way, try this version, which lightens things up by roasting cauliflower instead of chips. Try topping with rotisserie chicken, pico de gallo and avocado.
Instead of tortillas
Try: Cauliflower Tortillas by PureWow
Next time tacos are calling your name, try stepping outside the box of corn and flour tortillas and opt for this delicious cauliflower version. They require a mere five ingredients to make, and take just 25 minutes to whip up! You may never go back to your typical tortilla ever again.
Instead of muffins
Try: Banana Cauliflower Muffins by Viedela Vegan
Muffins get a bad rap — especially the store-bought kind. Simple carbs, empty calories, loads of sugar, preservatives and more fill many muffins, wreaking havoc on your health and your weight. These muffins will blow you away, however. No bad ingredients here! They’re made with oat flour, stevia, poppy seeds, bananas, cauliflower florets and unhulled tahini.
Instead of Shepherd’s pie
Try: Cauliflower Shepherd’s Pie by Wellness Mama
This comfort food is one tasty treat when winter is in full swing, but if you want to enjoy it without the added guilt, this version will be your go-to. It’s made with a cauliflower topping as opposed to the traditional potato topping that cuts carbs and adds extra veggie-goodness.
Instead of hash browns
Try: Cauliflower Hash Brains by Tastemade
What’s for breakfast? Eggs and a side of hash browns? While a wholesome morning meal is essential, hash browns can take away instead of add to your energy levels. But this cauliflower version will do the trick when you’re craving a side of carbs with your sunny side up combo. They’re easy to make and require minimal ingredients, plus the taste just like the good stuff you’re used to.
Instead of bagels
Try: ‘Everything Bagel’ Cauliflower Rolls by Lexi’s Clean Kitchen
Speaking of breakfast, it’s time you toss your typical bagels for this cauliflower recipe, which are low-carb, paleo-friendly, and still give you all the texture and goodness of a soft and delicious everything bagel without the worry of how it will affect you later.
Instead of chowder
Try: Roasted Cauliflower Chowder by Daring Gourmet
Craving some warm, thick and creamy chowder? Try this healthier version that used roasted cauliflower instead of typical white potatoes. The texture of the veggies with the chunkiness you love from the classic, and yet the flavor won’t overpower the traditional flavors!
Instead of pizza bites
Try: Cauliflower Pizza Bites by Damy Health
Can’t commit to a full pizza but craving a little snack? Check out these cauliflower pizza bites that will please adults, children and a group of friends alike. Bonus: they’re perfect for on-the-go snacks when the kids (or you!) need something to hold them over when you’re traveling and otherwise. This recipe is gluten-free, low-carb, packed with protein, high in fiber, low in fat, and oh so delicious.
Instead of breaded chicken
Try: Buffalo Cauliflower by Maria Mind Body Health
Buffalo chicken wings are one of those fan favorites that are hard to say no to. The tangy, spicy, succulent flavors make you bite into one after another until suddenly they’re all gone! Whoops. If this sounds like you, it’s time to try this lighter version that features cauliflower plus all the saucy goodness.
Instead of couscous
Try: Cauliflower Couscous by Heinstirred
When you want something delicious to replace couscous or any type of pasta, try utilizing cauliflower. This recipe won’t even make you miss high-carb meals with all its goodness, like baby tomatoes, baharat, smoked haddock, peas, broccoli, feta cheese, parsley and toasted flaked almonds.
Instead of a sandwich
Try: Cauliflower Lettuce Cups by Veggies and The Beast Feast
Salads are lovely, but sometimes a sandwich is just calling your name come lunchtime. There’s something about layers of food packed between two slices of bread that’s too enticing to pass up. Switch it up next time with these lettuce wraps, however. While the lettuce acts as the bread in this case, it’s the texture of the cauliflower that gives it a rice-like filling that’ll certainly satisfy you.
Instead of brownies
Try: Cauliflower Brownies by I Breathe I’m Hungry
Having a sweet tooth can prove to be a double diet whammy: loads of carbs and loads of calories. When the craving hits, try these low-carb brownies that are so delicious. They’re chocolatey, a bit sweet, and you won’t even taste the cauliflower!