By Sarah McColl
Zoodles, watch your back. Cauliflower rice has roared into supermarkets and the bottom of Buddha bowls, and now other vegetables are ready to get a piece of the action. Before you pay a premium for prepackaged supermarket varieties, read on to find out what vegetables make the best rice and how to DIY.
RICE, RICE BABY
Firmer vegetables are easy to work with and make tasty, colorful “rice.” Here are some good ones to try:
- Butternut squash
- Purple potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
GRATE WAYS TO RICE
“Most people will say that you need a food processor,” says Ken Immer President & Chief Culinary Officer of Culinary Health Solutions. “While that is one way to do it, your good ol’ box grater works really great, too—and is a lot easier to clean up without all those parts.”
Peel veggies like sweet potatoes and carrots, and then, using the largest holes on the box grater, simply grate the vegetable of choice into little bits as you would a hunk of cheese. For broccoli and cauliflower, don’t forget to use the stem.
“Give me a box grater, and I’ll make rice out of any hearty vegetable,” agrees registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood. “My favorites have been sweet potato rice and beet rice because they’re crunchy and can absorb the flavors of sauces nicely.” Both are rich in antioxidants and boost immunity, she notes.
Stella Metsovas, author of Wild Mediterranean, uses a box grater for butternut squash. “I make a killer arrabiata using crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and extra-virgin olive oil,” then she spoons the sauce over the squash rice and sprinkles it with Pecorino Romano.
A knife also works well, says holistic health coach and chef Mia Ridgen. “I literally shave cauliflower or broccoli florets with a super-sharp knife and it cuts into perfect rice.”
Of course, a food processor is also quick and easy. Peel and cut vegetables into small pieces before adding to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. “Be sure to pulse for the best results,” Immer says. “Less is more.”
COOK VEGGIE RICE LIKE A PRO
“Cauliflower rice is best when it’s well seasoned,” says Immer. The same goes for other veggie rices, too. Sauté a small chopped onion in butter over medium-low heat—you don’t want anything to brown—and add garlic, herbs and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Add rice, cover pan, and steam. Cauliflower rice will take about 3 to 5 minutes, while harder vegetables, like rutabaga, will take longer to cook.
Pro tip: Remove your vegetable rice from heat when it’s still on the al dente side, Immer says. It will continue to soften and will be the perfect texture when served.
Or skip the cooking altogether. Sunchoke rice is delicious when tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, Immer says. Or try swapping out the whole grains in a farro, barley, or bulgur-based grain salad, like tabouli, with riced carrots.