June 17, 2016

If you're trying to cut back on carbohydrates, your best ally is a cruciferous vegetable. It's all too often dismissed as something to swipe through dip. But cauliflower can stand in for a variety of starches, including mashed potatoes, rice, and pizza crust. Here's all you need to know about different types of cauliflower and preparing and enjoying cauliflower.

Cauliflower photo by Meredith
Photo by Meredith

Cauliflower Nutrition

This skinny starch comes with a bevy of added nutritional benefits: While low in calories, cauliflower is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. The most common variety in the U.S. has protective green leaves and a white head, consisting of bunched-together immature flower buds. But breeders have developed dozens of varieties, including those with purple florets, green florets, and orange florets, which outscore white florets in the vitamin K category. Regardless of color, cauliflower has about 29 calories, making it the caloric equivalent of kale and bell peppers.

Cauliflowers come in many colors. Photo by Meredith
Photo by Meredith

Cauliflower Types: Picking and Preparing Cauliflower

Cauliflower's fresh flavor doesn't hinge on its size, so small and large heads are equally fine to buy. What you want to avoid are particularly small flowers, as well as flowers that aren't tightly clustered. Look for unblemished, bright white florets, surrounded by plenty of leaves.

Most cauliflower you find in the supermarkets are white. But there are many types of cauliflower in addition to the familiar white cauliflower. If you're lucky, you might find varieties including orange ("Cheddar"), green ("broccoflower"), and purple.

To store cauliflower, stash it in a paper or plastic bag, stem side down. It should keep in the refrigerator for a week. When you're ready to cook, cut away the outer leaves and slice off the florets at their base.

How to Cook Cauliflower

Check out these ideas for cauliflower -- deliciously different ways to eat cauliflower.

Steaming Cauliflower

Steaming is the first step to mashed cauliflower. For a steaming shortcut, use the microwave.

"A great way to add some zip to your cauliflower," says BOOKCHICKADEE. "This recipe is low-carb and resembles a loaded potato! Very unique and down right tasty!"

Loaded Cauliflower. Photo by lutzflcat
Photo by lutzflcat

Frying Cauliflower

Fried cauliflower is a popular snack in Egypt and India. If you're not keen on deep-frying, you can also stir fry on the stove.

"These cauliflower fritters are easy to make and a different way to have cauliflower," says BETTYCOOK. "So delicious and tasty. I've made these a number of times for my family and friends."

Grilling Cauliflower "Steaks"

Cauliflower substitutes for steak? I mean, cauliflower as a substitute for potatoes and rice is one thing, but steak? Well, to quote Monty Python, "it's not meant to be taken literally." A recent restaurant rage, a cauliflower "steak" is just a piece sliced off from top to bottom: It looks like a tree silhouette and tastes hearty, especially when cooked on the grill.

Cauliflower - cutting steaks. Photo by Meredith
Photo by Meredith

"This is a simple and beautiful way to cook a whole cauliflower," says SPetrocelly. "These cauliflower steaks look beautiful on their own, and even better alongside a bit of mashed potato or yams. This is a great vegetarian alternative for meatless Mondays!"

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks. Photo by Rock_lobster
Photo by Rock_lobster

Roasting Cauliflower

If you don't want to fuss with lengthwise chopping or separating florets from the stem, you can roast the whole head in the oven. The end result is a striking centerpiece for a vegetarian meal, rivaling a rib roast or roast turkey.

"An entire head of cauliflower roasted with butter, garlic, and herbs," says farmerbrown. "Can convert cauliflower-avoiders into cauliflower-lovers! A beautiful and delicious way to serve cauliflower. Never any leftovers."

Roasted Cauliflower. Photo by Sacto ThreeSixty
Photo by Sacto ThreeSixty

Baking with Cauliflower

See how to turn cauliflower into tasty, gluten-free pizza crust.

Other Ways to Prepare Cauliflower

Like most vegetables, cauliflower is tremendously versatile, suitable for everything from soup to custard. Here are a few recipes that suggest even more ways to use it: