Potatoes are my kryptonite. Finding a good substitute for mashed potatoes is not enough! I need an excellent one. Like keto baking, getting riced cauliflower right requires some experience–and some tricks. After scanning many recipes, I experimented in making a single serving of mashed cauliflower to try out these techniques.
The Olden Days Before You Could Buy Riced Cauliflower
I remember having my first serving of “cauliflower puree” at a local, upscale restaurant. It was smooth, buttery and craveable. Not exactly potatoes in terms of flavor, but it completely delivered on a starchy, near-potato flavor and texture. This was back in 2012, when I first went LCHF. Back then, you had to buy a whole cauliflower and either chop like a mad thing or invest in a food processor to get mashed cauliflower.
Food processors have learning curves. Making this dish in 2012 was an involved process involving chopping up whole cauliflowers into florets, boiling or steaming them, mashing and squeezing all the excess moisture out of them –and then figuring out how to get the food processor to produce a nice, even “rice” from the florets.
Today as low-carb eating styles have become popular, you can get riced cauliflower in most supermarkets. This is a huge timesaver, but it’s only the first of the challenges. The real issue is creating YOUR WAY of making this “fauxtato” dish with the equipment you have at hand.
The Keto Tricks to Mashed Cauli
Trick #1. Steam or microwave or boil?
Reading over a half a dozen mashed cauliflower recipes, the first problem is getting the riced cauliflower to be sufficiently soft. You don’t want the cauliflower to be even slightly hard (or “al dente”). Some folks say the best thing to do is steam the riced cauliflower, others say you can microwave-steam rice cauliflower.
I’ve found with all of these methods, the #1 danger is getting your fingers or hands burned. The cauliflower gets dangerously, burningly hot. The steam can really hurt you, as in “visit the hospital” kind of hurt. Be sure you have oven mitts or gloves and are very careful with the escaping steam in these techniques!
Keto Old School: Boiling the Cauliflower
In the days before we could buy riced cauliflower, people boiled cauliflower florets and then put them through a food processor. The biggest problem in getting a good cauliflower mash was removing moisture from the boiled florets.
Boiling caulflower florets ADDS alot of moisture, which means we’d have to squeeze the moisture out of them. This process involved putting them into a cheesecloth (after they had cooled) and squeezing them the way one would squeeze moisture out of, say, cheese. I don’t make cheese. I couldn’t do this either.
Unless you’re an experienced cheesemaker or cook, this process is godawful. Or maybe it’s just me. You will risk severe burns if you don’t wait long enough for the florets to cool. It’s terribly messy.
Conceivably, you can simply boil the riced cauliflower. Reportedly, this does not result in as fluffy a result as steaming the cauliflower. At best, you’re going to have bland, wet granules of cauliflower. Not recommended.
Experiment 1: Microwave steaming
Some recipes recommended putting the riced cauliflower in a bowl, covering it in cling film, and microwaving it for 5 to 8 minutes. I found that the steam can burn right through the cling film. The steaming cauliflower gets VERY hot.
I put a plate on top of the bowl instead. In this test flight, I put the a cup of cauliflower in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. I microwaved it for 5 minutes, then checked it. The cauliflower was not yet soft and had begun to be a bit dry. I put in another tablespoon of water.
This was a simple method but the cauliflower can begin to burn. You don’t want to have to stop and start checking it, because you will get burns from the steam. You’ll also release the steam, when you check on it. This is exactly what I had to do. I checked it at five minutes, then added another 3 minutes. Microwave ovens vary from brand to brand in how quickly they cook food.
And as microwaves vary, expect to to have to do an experimental batch–or two–before you find the right formula for HOW LONG you microwave HOW MUCH cauliflower. I was working on a formula for a large, personal serving. If you’re going to make this “family sized” (or for several days), I recommend regular steaming (see below).
Note: I recently found some “vegetable steaming bags” which may be a nice shortcut. I plan a future post on making a whole batch of mashed cauliflower, suitable for four to six servings. I will be using this product for that, as well as scaling up the “regular steaming” technique for that future recipe. But for now, I’m doing test batches, to get the technique down.
Option #3: Regular Steaming
This method involves putting a strainer above a pot of boiling water. The boiling water should not touch the bottom of the strainer. I used a tea strainer for this experiment that used just one cup of cauliflower. You can get a cheap strainer at the dollar store, if you don’t have one. This method is easy. It takes a little longer than the microwave, but it scales up for larger batches.
Trick #2. Let the cooked cauliflower sit for about 10 minutes.
Untent the cauliflower and poke it with a fork to make sure it’s soft. Take the tent off carefully so you don’t get burned by the steam! Letting the riced cauliflower sit for awhile allows the release of excess moisture as well as cooling the cauliflower down to where it can be more easily handled.
Trick #3. Use an electric hand mixer or an immersion blender.
Just whip the heck out of them. It took a good five or six minutes of serious whipping, adding the butter and the heavy whipping cream and salt. Some people recommend an immersion blender — and that’s another good option. But I grew up making mashed potatoes with the old reliable hand mixer –and it works very well.
Once again, I ate the results before photographing. :* I took both the steamed AND the microwaved cauliflower, which started out at two cups, and put them together in the same bowl. They were pretty much indistinguishable from one another. I added a tablespoon of butter, or so, and a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream and used the hand mixer. I got maybe a cup and quarter, pretty much one serving, out of the two cupped of riced, raw cauliflower. I plan another go at this in a couple of days — to make a much larger serving suitable for photographing.
Here’s a handy recipe I plan to use for my next try at cauli-mash.
Bon Appetit! ~Lola