Low Calorie Rice: A Vegetable Makes Life Lighter

February 26, 2023   53 Comments

This low calorie rice is a win-win substitute for real rice.

Low Calorie Rice: A Vegetable Makes Life Lighter

When I wrote about cooking brown rice, a WW member asked:

Do you have any ideas why brown rice and white rice both have 4 points? I like brown rice just as much as white and the rice cooker makes it easy to make either but I am discouraged by the 4 points per serving for either.

Yeah, it is a steep amount of calories per serving because it is a grain. Just like it is almost impossible to have a low calorie baked good because of the wheat - rice is a staple that is packed with carbohydrates.

One way to reduce calorie consumption is to reduce the amount of pasta, bread, and rice that you eat.

Now, I am not advocating for a low carb diet such as Atkin's or Zone. I am just saying that one cup of rice is 200 calories (without adding anything to it) and ridiculously easy to eat without noticing how much you have consumed.

You ever measure how much rice comes in a Chinese take-out container?

Here is my suggestion:

Cauliflower is a vegetable so it has many fewer calories per serving - only 50 calories for an entire cup. So, you are saving 150 calories by substituting cauliflower for rice.

The lowest calorie rice isn’t rice at all! The win-win is that cauliflower is lower in calories and a vegetable (so you up your servings of veggies when you make this substitute).

Fortunately, making "cauliflower rice" is almost as easy as making regular rice. All you have to do is grate a cauliflower into a bowl and microwave.

I don’t use a box grater because I find it much faster to use my food processor (check out the video).

If you don't own a microwave, you can steam the cauliflower on the stove with a 1/2 cup water in a covered pot. Just drain it when it is done.

I store my cauliflower in container and just substitute it for my favorite rice dishes. For example, this recipe is great with my lighter chili with cocoa powder.

You can find riced cauliflower in the freezer section of your supermarket if you don’t want to get out your grater or food processor.

If you still want rice (who doesn't love it), you can mix the cauliflower in whatever ratio you like. Your family might not even notice the cauliflower.

A couple of readers asked me to make a low-carb version of a pizza crust using rice cauliflower. I attempted it - but it was mixed with cheese and it stuck to the cookie sheet. I got out my chisel to try and unstick it - but it took a jack hammer to get it off.

I'm not sure 1 cup of cheese in a crust is much better than just a regular pizza crust - though it is low in carbohydrates.

Have you tried this low calorie rice?

Low Calorie Rice Recipe

3.0 from 4 reviews

Makes 8 cups
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 6 min

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1 head cauliflower


Grate or chop the cauliflower into very small pieces the size of rice kernels. Heat cauliflower in a microwave proof bowl for 3 minutes and stir. Repeat until tender (6-8 minutes).

To cook on the stove, put the cauliflower in a saucepan with a 1/2 cup water in a covered pot. Heat to high and cook for three minutes (or until your desired consistency). Drain cauliflower when tender. Enjoy! Store in your fridge for up to one week.

Nutrition Facts

One cup: 25 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 5.3 g carbohydrates, 2.4 g sugar, 2.0 g protein, 2.5 g fiber, 30 mg sodium, 0 Green, 0 Blue, 0 Purple WW SmartPts

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only. See all Snack Girl Recipes

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According to the nutritional information, my brown rice is usually 190 calories a cup?

What a great idea! I love love love cauliflower-I can't wait to try this and to make your "rice" and bean bowl which sounds yummy!

I've kept a container of steamed, chopped cauliflower in my fridge most of the time since I started WW a year ago. It's great for bulking up almost anything - chili, soup, stir-fry, etc., a little in an omelette tastes surprisingly like potatoes. And, of course, I could eat a whole cookie sheet of roasted cauliflower!! I still make my brown rice "cakes" in 1/2 cup portions to freeze for when I want the nutrition and taste of brown rice - I find a 1/2 cup portion (2.5 Pts+) enough to add to a stir fry or to hot & sour soup along with 3 oz chicken to make a good healthy meal without too many points as long as all the rest is 0 pts veggies - 6 Pts+ for rice & chicken + 0 Pts+ for mushrooms, peppers & onions makes a really low points meal - even counting the veggies in Recipe Builder, you get a really substantial meal for less than 9 Pts+. Just save your brown rice for mixing with 0 Pts+ veggies and use cauliflower when mixing with higher points foods, and you can use both to your advantage :-)

Great ideas for using less rice JaneG. I will definitely try the cauliflower sub'd for rice since I tend to eat way more rice than I should. Thanks Lisa for the great idea! :)

Is that a cup of cooked or uncooked rice? Mine says 218 per cup cooked.

That is a great idea.

The cauliflower pizza is tricky to get right - I bake it on parchment paper that is liberally sprayed with oil (yeah yeah, olive oil is yum) and it tastes sort of frittata-ish. It was good during Passover!

If anyone (you, Snack Girl?) has a Vitamix, I recommend wet-chopping the cauliflower so you get it perfectly grated in about 2 seconds. You do have to dry it/drain it, but it sure beats actual grating to me! ;)

Eating rice/carbs isn't a bad thing though -- your body needs carbs to recover after work outs, and for energy. Perhaps the goal should be to cut your rice intake in half, and substitute cauliflower for the other half of the rice portion?

When I saw the latest photo I thought, "Hey, what is snack girl doing eating all that white rice?!" What a great idea! That cauliflower that's been staring at me in my fridge is toast...well, "rice". What a great idea - thanks!

Wonderful dish! If you go to Trader Joe's and get the forzen organic Brown Rice it's only 160 calories for one cup! It's fantastic! My brown rice hating family even loves this rice. 3 minutes in the microwave and it's done!

I like it. I like it A LOT!!! Thanks for providing yet another genious idea for cauliflower.

This blog today is quite a coincidence since just 5 minutes ago I read another article about chopping cauliflower as a sub for rice too. (The article was about veggies that you can eat raw that aren't typically eaten that way). I'm definitely going to have to try this now. It's like an sign from, well, Weight Watchers I guess. Either that or cauliflower got the same marketing group as kale. :)

My math was a bit off today - I have fixed it in the post. A cup of brown rice cooked ranges a bit - and I got it wrong on my own brown rice post (which I have now fixed).

A cup of brown rice cooked via Calorie Count is 218 calories - see here:…

I think we can all agree that a cup of cauliflower for 50 is still a good choice if you are trying cut calories. But, if you need calories - brown rice is packed with nutrients - and a great way to get energy.

Misinformation here: " all protein diet such as Atkin's or Zone." Look out, your bias is showing. Neither is an all-protein diet, they are carbohydrate-controlled diets. Atkins is based on protein, vegetables, fruit (in limited quantities during initial weight loss phase), and seeds/nuts, with even more carbs allowed in maintenance. Zone Diet is even more inclusive. People who watch their carb intake have been subbing cauliflower (and other veggies) for rice for years. At long last, other dieters are coming to understand that reducing overall carb consumption is important for many people, especially those looking to control their weight. The new WW Points system takes carbs into account rather than just fat (finally!) and people are having more success with it. It's frustrating to see people take the handy carb-cutting tips from the low-carb world while still finding it necessary to bash the healthy low-carb plans they're cribbing from.

@Jas - you are right - they are not "all protein" - that was an exaggeration and I have changed the line to say "low carb". I am not bashing those diets - I am just not advocating FOR them. I think that they are too restrictive and unrealistic for many. As for cribbing them - I didn't even know this was a feature of those diets - a reader sent me an e-mail suggesting it.

Here's a thought about your pizza crust. You could try baking it on a sheet of Reynolds No-Stick aluminum foil. I have yet to find ANYTHING that sticks to that stuff. I bet you could bake it on a Silpat-type of pan liner, as well.

The idea of substituting cauliflower for rice is very interesting, and I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

I've bit my tounge quite a bit lately, but I really can't take it anymore. I understand swapping out treats with healthier alternatives (I loved the chocolate dipped figs, for instance) but this is a grain. Points or not, grain is something your body needs. Saving your points by eating veggies is great, but not if you're so obsessed with counting points/calories that you can't eat a whole grain that your body actually needs.

What is the point of losing weight if you don't feel really good later? Cutting out grains is going to cause nothing but fatigue and nutritional deficiencies. And what are you saving that whole four points for, anyway, that a grain isn't going to satisfy?

Lately it feels like the only thing you're giving us is weight loss tips. Health tips benefit us so much more than "skinny recipes" and as someone trying to bring about healthy eating, the fact that you're teaching us to swap out brown rice, an unprocessed whole food, for a vegetable that, while good for you, is not a substitute for rice is going to hurt a lot more people than it will help.

You explicitly say you don't believe in low carb diets, so why cater to low carb dieters? I really respect you, Snack Girl, but I miss the focus on health over weight loss.

@Courtney - It is difficult to know how one is being interpreted and I hear your point. What I was trying to do here is add vegetables to a diet. I was specifically talking to people who have trouble keeping carbs in check - so this is a weight loss tip - but I also think that eating a bowl of cauliflower is a healthy choice. Do I think you should give up a whole grain such as brown rice? No! I featured brown rice last week! I just wanted to help the person who is having trouble with losing weight and I believe this is a healthy tip in moderation. I am not suggesting she never eat rice again - just a swap for sometimes. I do very much believe in health over weight loss.

I love this idea! Our family LOVES rice and my children are fairly healthy eaters but I would love to sneak in a few more vegatables at times. I think it's a great idea and can't wait to try it out! Thanks!

I like the idea of substituting cauliflower for at least part of the rice in a dish because I'm a Type 2 diabetic who is controlling it through diet and exercise. Since I count carbs at every meal, I, for one, think the cauliflower is a wonderful suggestion. I still eat rice, but it doesn't take very much rice to fulfill carb requirements for a meal.

Zone isn't actually "low carb." Getting 40% of your calories from carbs still has plenty of carbs in it--and it's the way all of my diabetic relatives have been instructed by their doctors to eat once they became diabetic.

One thing I do instead of regular rice that sounds odd but is good, is get puffed rice (or wheat or another grain) as in the nonsweetened fluffy cereal, and mix that with whatever you'd put on a bowl... and I make "nachos" with lowfat cheese, salsa, black beans and popcorn.

The main thing is that air adds volume and lowers the calories on grains. So if you want grains but to limit the quantity, puffed or popped is a great way to go.

@courtney, would you relax?! This is a great healthy recipe! Snack girl says nothing about avoiding carbs! Not everyone eats the same its nice she left it open to customize. If you feel this is unhealthy without a grain, add a whole wheat tortilla! BTW The chocolate dipped figs recipe you loved so much, did not feature a grain LOL. If you "cant take it anymore" then instead of harassing Lisa, go elsewhere!!!!

Great idea for cauliflower. The same can be done by mashing with some fat free chicken broth, lite cream cheese, fresh garlic, salt/pepper, and you've got mashed "potatoes" without all the calories.

I chop up an onion, red bell pepper, 2 or 3 cloves garlic. Put a little bit of olive oil in fry pan, add onion, red bell pepper, and garlic to pan.

saute till almost tender. Take chopped cauliflower put in microwave for about 5 minites do not add any water. Add to pan, also add some peas, spinich, and dried mints leaves. Stirfry for a little bit. DELICIOUS

Oh my gosh I love you. This is genius!

i don't at all take Snack Girl's post for subbing stuff for grains is at all saying you should never eat grains, it is simply a TIP. Not everyone reading her posts are the same and people are reading it for different reasons. I am a vegetarian and on days she rights about animal products I still read so that I am knowledgeable but I may not necessarily agree or utilize the TIP in my everyday life. Some are reading for weight loss, some are reading to make healthy eating habits more of a lifestyle than a fad diet. A good way to make sure your carbs/grains are in good moderation is try to eat your carbs before dinner. That way you are using the carbs benefits of energy/brain food when you really need it and you have time to burn it off. Eating carbs later in the day you won't have as much time to burn off the negative effects and therefore it becomes a weight gainer. For me, even though I am trying to loose weight, trying to make sure I am teaching my family the proper nutrition habits, etc. etc. This post hit me on a day that I am am struggling to get my toddler to continue to eat all the vegetables that he normally loves but now since he is 2 has decided he wants to be picky. He loves rice which I have no problem serving him. However, subbing cauliflower is just a great idea to get some additional veggies in. BTW - he LOVES Cauliflower pizza crust, I have yet to perfect it, mine comes out mushy (I think it is because I try to not use so much cheese to cut out the fat factor?) I LOVE SNACK GIRL and people, if you don't particularly agree or care for one post just hit delete and wait for the next day. Chances are she has made a difference in someones life to make a healthier choice in their day!…

At the risk of blatant self-promotion (really i could care less about hits, just want to be useful)- If you ever want to try again on the crusts, have some inspiration. Oh, btw, you can buy a ricer that'll make making cauliflower rice easy for about $20 (also good for potato rice, or just smooth mashed potatoes). And NEEDING grains, Courtney? Um, read… and get back to me.

I swore I wasn't going to say anything, I really wasn't but the comments on carbs-no carbs has gotten me going.

1. Most nutritional studies are poorly done, based on correlation not causation and poorly replicated. Even the Framington studies have problems.

2. Food, real food, is a good thing.

3. The only real evidence about carbs demonstrates a strong link between high blood sugar and processed carbs. Much of the other literature presents some interesting paths to pursue but there are to many interacting factors to point the finger.

4. The link to Mark's Daily Apple is misleading at best. The study about fiber and the disdainful way it was presented on the blog was not science. Mucus in the digestive track is a good thing (if you want literature for this, I can cite it). IBS sufferers have an over-reaction to certain foods that cause the nerves to go haywire, hence either constipation (no movement) or explosive diarrhea (nerves too active). If he stopped his symptoms by stopping grains, fantastic. Guess what, I stopped my symptoms completely by quitting meat and adding lots of unprocessed grains.

The point I am attempting to make, if a little ranty (really sorry Snack Girl), is that what works for some of us does not work for all of us. Try to remember that the next time saying absolutes about carbs or no carbs (low carbs, medium carbs). The unfortunate part of being human is that we are not the average, the median or the mode. We are on a spectrum. If you have IBS, try a number of different things until you find what works for you. Trying to lose weight, same thing. Trying to eat healthy, same thing.

And please, please, read the actual scientific literature if you plan to use it to defend your argument. Reading a media piece or a blog leads to so much misinformation, it is awful.

Again, I apologize, Snack Girl. I am just so very tired of dogmatic assertions that there is only one way to be healthy (although the only one that makes sense to me comes from Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants).

I really like your "cauliflower rice" suggestion, and I have heard it before. However, I have been eating a lot of rice lately and it really didn't occur to me to sub some or all of my rice with cauliflower.

But a lot of info on healthy eating is that way right? It often comes down to habit, and sometimes you hear and idea that reminds you how you can make your own approach to eating healthier.

Thanks for presenting information that applies to people with a wide range of dietary habits and dogmas. And thank you for helping people find healthier options, no matter what their current level of nutritional wisdom.

Apparently there were 2 Karens, so I looked more... attack-y? - than I meant to. Anyway I picked the MDA link for the summary in one place. I have read plenty of real lit that supports paleo/primal too. It just usn't worth it for me to dig for a bunch of studies. I agree though, not one thing works for everyone. My main point was that no, we don't NEED grains, not that they're evil (at least for everyone). Cutting them made me healthier, I just get my carbs elsewhere. And sorry to Snack Girl for turning a good post complicated, that comment just really got me. :-/

Read Gary Taubes book "Why We Get Fat, and What To Do About It". This book has changed my life and my diet. Man did not live with carbs until fairly recently. Mostly meat, some fruit, some roots, etc. for years and years and years. Carbs as we know them today didn't exist until recently. Read this book, it will change your life. I have literally lost my appetite for bread, pasta, sugar, beans, potatoes, and now I crave fresh veggies, salads, fruit, etc. Pop is now gone. I will try this idea. I don't feel so tired anymore. I am large in the middle and short on both ends - HAHA.

I personally have never liked cauliflower. So, last night, I just used half brown rice and half 'cauliflower rice'. i didnt taste the difference at all! I cooked mine in the microwave and tasted it before i added it to my stir fry, and i even liked right out the mircrowave! so, while i was nursing my 2 month old, i grated a whole head of cauliflower. . . here's the main reason for my post. . . as a non cauliflower eater before (as some other readers may be) i was totally unaware of the CABBAGE like ODOR the grated cauliflower produces. my whole living room was stinky and even after i put it in a zip lock, my fridge is a little stinky too! Still totally worth it to me, but just a heads up.

I just made this tonight deciding i will give it a go and I am so shocked how much the texture and consistency of cauliflower is the same as rice when grated and micro'd. I am so plesantly suprised I made this with the black beans, sharp cheddar, salsa, olives, and for more added flavor I added the Morningstar meat crumbles ( I made them taco style with cumin chili and taco power and some garlic) will be making this again so filling and delicious!!!!

Just tried this last night with my beef and broccoli stir-fry. Deluish! I tried grating at first, made quite the mess! Ended up just chopping it up and microwaving like you suggested. Worked awesome! Thanks so much for all of your great ideas!

wow! I made this with a recipe from another site...Asian Sesame Roasted Green Beans. Loved it! That's all I ate for supper lol...can't wait to add some salmon or chicken. I did make myself keep part of it for my lunch at work tomorrow!

Awesome information! I make cauliflower mashed potatoes every week, they are awesome. I am going to try the rice tonight, that sounds easy and yummy.

We had cauliflower "rice" pilaf last night as part of our veggie trio. My boys LOVED it! Last week we had cauliflower "mac" and cheese. Cauli-rice is a great substitute for white rice, especially for people like us who can't stomach the taste of brown rice. Thanks for sharing!

Oh people complaining this is no carb food and as such not nutritious, did you happen to notice the BEANS in her recipe?

I just found another way to prepare this cauliflower rice - use the food processor and make a few quick grind! I still find the taste a little awkward to go with my curry :-)

I have seen this cauliflower rice thing numerous times on blogs, but have never tried it. I do like cauliflower, and LOVE rice, but only use it in very small amounts to add to huge green salads. I would love to use a mix of a tiny bit of rice (the chewy texture just can't be replaced) with lots of cauliflower rice, because that way I get to eat more for the same calories!! I wish my food processor wasn't broken, as it would be soooo much easier to grate/shred the cauliflower in there than by hand!!

Love Califlower and will try this soon! Thanks!!!

Brown rice is the same thing as white rice (why the calories/points are the same, but white rice has the healthy components of it taken off the ends, it's stalked, so that it is just pure starch and doesn't have the natural, healthy grains your body responds well to. Brown rice is rice in it's natural state.

I will have to try this! I have been known to use cauliflower instead of potatoes... You steam the cauliflower until soft and mash like potatoes add salt and margarine to taste. Love them! Thanks for the new ideas!

I would like it if you would continue to substitute carb. recipes for vegetable recipes. I dislike vegetable's and I have Thyroid Disease which makes it next to impossible to reduce my weight. I feel tired and very unhealthy most of the time. Help Snack Girl!

Please I would like the cauliflower bean bowl

I tried this last night, the cauliflower rice and it is good. I love rice; I grew up in the south and would eat rice at least 2x a day with me. I was skeptical but it taste good. Added salt and pepper and cooked in microwave for six minutes. I did not make the fried rice instead I grilled fish and sautéed veggies and put the veggies over the cauli-rice. With all the news about arsenic in rice I thought it would be a good idea to cut back on rice, especially brown rice.

Rachel Ray makes a delicious skillet meal using sauteed onions, a fresh head of cauliflower and chicken stock cooked until you can fork-mash the cauliflower,then adding grated Italian cheeses and a small amount of cooked, whole wheat rigatoni (which I have omitted from my own version at times). I may have also omitted some ingredients that one would also sautee prior to adding the cauliflower and stock (peppers, garlic, fennel, perhaps?)but I've made it many ways and it's always filling, healthy and satisfying.

I'm a lazy cook...and I cook just for myself. One of my favorite dinners is to get one of those Vegetable Medley fresh veggie bags, then chop the cauliflower into 'rice', and stir fry the broccoli and carrots with a little chicken or tofu. Intant Asian stir fry, with 'rice' in the same package.

I'm trying to get nutrients and fewer calories. Since we eat plenty of grains, I wanted to try your cauliflower as a substitute. Easy and fantastic. We ate it as the "rice" under Veggie Tofu Green Curry. Thanks!

I just don't get the rice cauliflower. I like cauliflower but if I want rice, I don't want to eat 'rice' that tastes like cauliflower. Just give me cauliflower. Maybe you can tell me why this is so 'in'. I know it is a low GI vegetable, but for heaven's sake it just tastes like cauliflower!

Yuk Still tastes like cauliflower


Cauliflower is not a low calorie rice. It is a vegetable that can be riced! I was hoping for a rice and vegetable recipe. This is a vegetable only recipe. I have no problem with a low calorie riced vegetable recipe. The title mislead me.

I don’t think of riced veggies as fake rice or rice substitutes. They are veggies that are cut a certain way and can be very good for adding substance to a dish or rounding out a meal. I like hearts of palm “rice,” personally and Natural Heaven is a great brand

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