If you have to avoid rice on a grain-free or a paleo-style diet, one of the dishes you will undoubtedly miss is a hearty, velvety risotto. It’s a popular dish to make at home because it’s budget friendly, easy and super tasty. With this recipe, I am making a grain-free risotto using cauliflower ‘rice’ and other finely diced vegetables instead of arborio white rice.
This dish has a soupy yet thick and creamy consistency – similar to risotto – and fantastic texture. The key is to dice the vegetables into very small cubes, resembling the rice kernels.
To thicken the sauce I used these methods: liquid reduction, a little bit of tapioca or arrowroot flour mixed with water, and some Parmesan cheese to bind it all together. Add to that a spoonful of grass-fed butter and you end up with a delicious, thick, glossy cauliflower risotto.
Macadamia nut butter adds extra crunch and a really nice, earthy flavour. You can use other nuts like walnuts or almonds instead.
For dairy-free version: leave the cheese out (although aged Parmesan cheese is not a bad dairy option as most of the lactose is reduced during the fermentation process) and feel free to add some nutritional yeast flakes for that cheesy, umami flavour. You can also add some cashew or almond butter to thicken the sauce, or even an egg yolk. Use ghee instead of butter, as it’s almost entirely free of any milk solids and is usually okay for those avoiding dairy.
This dish can be eaten on its own or as a side. It’s primal, grain-free and low-carb and can be made without dairy, if you must.
Cauliflower Risotto with Burnt Butter & Macadamia Nuts
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 30 mins
- Yield: 2-3 1x
- 1/2 medium white onion, finely diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely diced
- 2 cups super finely diced cauliflower
- 3/4 cup super finely diced carrot (1 small carrot)
- 1 cup super finely diced zucchini (1 medium zucchini without the seeded core)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon tapioca or arrowroot flour mixed with 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
- Ground black pepper
- For Macadamia burnt butter
- 10 macadamia nuts, smashed or ground into crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter, organic or grass-fed, if possible
- 1/2 garlic clove, finely diced
- A pinch of salt
- There are two stages in this recipe: cooking the ‘risotto’ and making the burnt butter. Read the full instructions first and try to follow the order to get the timing right.
- Prepare the onion, garlic, vegetables and Parmesan cheese (if using).
- Place macadamia nuts in a small plastic bag, lay it on a chopping board under a tea towel and give it a good smack with a rolling pin, until the nuts are crushed into little crumbs. You can also use a food processor for this.
- Heat a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions, and gently sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, stirring a few times.
- Add white wine to the pan and bring the heat to high. Let the mixture bubble away for about a minute and a half, then add the vegetable stock, stir through and cook for 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
- In the meantime, make the macadamia burnt butter. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the macadamia crumbs and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 15 seconds, until lightly toasted. Add the butter, garlic and a pinch of salt. Let the butter melt in and once it starts to bubble, take the pan off the heat and put aside.
- Add the diced cauliflower and carrots to the risotto stock. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the zucchini and stir through. Dissolve the tapioca or arrowroot flour in a little hot water and whisk through. Add to the risotto and stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir altogether until the cheese is melted in and the mixture is thickened into a creamy, risotto texture. It won’t be as starchy and sticky as a normal risotto but should be pretty close.
- Serve in bowls drizzled with the macadamia burnt butter mix and ground black pepper, plus extra Parmesan cheese, if you like.
This looks incredible, Irey!
Any thoughts on how to bind it without dairy? (and how to make it taste as awesome without the butter?)
I should update the post with some dairy-free subs ;). If you’re super strict and completely dairy free, you can omit the cheese and it will still be fairly thick through liquid reduction and gluten free flour as a thickening agent. You can use ghee (clarified butter which is all fat) instead of regular butter and perhaps something like an egg or some cashew butter to thicken the risotto. I will have to trial a 100% dairy free version.
A little on Parmesan cheese: dairy like yogurt, kefir and hard aged cheeses have been fermented long enough to eat up all sugars so won’t have any lactose left, so it’s a good alternative for the lactose intolerant. Doesn’t remove casein protein through, unless it’s a ricotta cheese. Depending on your goals and sensitivities, a bit of aged Parmesan is a good dairy option.
A little on butter: butter is typically accepted in Paleo cooking as it’s about 80% saturated fat with almost no lactose left and the amount used shouldn’t cause any harm unless you have a serious dairy intolerance. But again, ghee is a good substitute as it tastes so rich and buttery.
Hope that helps 🙂 Let me know if you try it without dairy.
Oh, I agree it’s a great paleo meal and certainly meets my parameters for that.
I was asking cause we’ve been discussing veganism for philosophical reasons lately and I’m very keen on exploring ways I can do that while sticking to paleo! This looks like just the right dish. I’ll have to experiment and let you know.
Get ya! In that case no ghee or cheese but try some cashew butter. You can even grind some cashews and mix with a little water and olive oil to make a smooth paste.
I am confused…
Is it coconut flour or something?
Definitely want to try this recipe! Just wondering how well it keeps and reheats – could you have leftovers for lunch the next day?
Please specify what kind of flour your using in this recipe? Thanks!
Done! Thanks for spotting that. Tapioca or arrowroot.
Sounds delicious! However, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands so often do an oven-baked risotto – any suggestions on how to do this in the oven?
Hey, Because it’s not made with rice but with diced vegetables instead, I don’t recommend doing it in the oven as you need to stir the sauce to thicken it. With rice, we’re kind of relying on the starch in the rice to just do its thing and that’s why we can do it in the oven. The good thing is that this vegetable based risotto doesn’t take long because we are only cooking vegetables slightly to keep them a little crunchy. My time saving tip here is to use a food processor to chop up the vegetables.