Southwest Cauliflower Rice

$3.00 recipe / $0.75 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 7 votes
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Look, I’m not one to say that cauliflower tastes like rice. It doesn’t. Not to me anyway. But there is something to say for cauliflower that has been “riced.” Or cauliflower that is minced to the size of small granules. It’s a fun and useful ingredient in its own right. So today I’m highlighting a really easy recipe using riced cauliflower. This Southwest Cauliflower Rice makes a super flavorful and easy side dish, or you can spruce it up and turn it into an entire meal! Keep on reading to find out how.

Overhead view of a skillet full of Southwest Cauliflower Rice garnished with lime and a bowl of salt on the side

What is Cauliflower Rice?

Cauliflower rice is simply cauliflower that has been minced to rice-sized granules. It takes on flavors really well and is an easy way to add a bunch of vegetable fiber to your meals. You can find this in the freezer section of most major grocery stores, or you can make your own with a food processor or a knife. I’ve got a tutorial for this coming later this week!

Cauliflower rice gained in popularity with the low-carb movement because a lot of people use it as a substitute for rice. I don’t find them to be similar at all, but I think that it’s useful as its own unique way.

Take a Short Cut with Taco Seasoning

I seasoned this dish with my Homemade Taco Seasoning (minus the cayenne and garlic powder), but if you want a short cut or don’t yet have a well stocked spice cabinet, you can use one packet of store-bought taco seasoning in place of the herbs and spices listed in the recipe below.

Overhead view of a bowl full of southwest cauliflower rice with a fork on the side

Is it Spicy?

I would rate this as a “medium” on the spicy scale. All of the heat is going to come from either the diced tomatoes with green chiles or the chili powder. Some brands of both chili powder and diced tomatoes with green chiles do make mild versions (no heat), so if you can’t handle spiciness, make sure you look for non-spicy versions of both of these ingredients. You can also try using fire-roasted diced tomatoes in place of the tomatoes with green chiles.

How to Serve Southwest Cauliflower Rice

This simple recipe makes a great side dish to any southwest-flavored dish, like Hearty Black Bean Quesadillas, Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, Baked Beef and Black Bean Tacos, or Black Bean and Avocado Enchiladas. But you can also add a few ingredients and just make the cauliflower rice into a whole meal…

Make it a Meal

To make this Southwest Cauliflower Rice into a full meal you can add a can of black beans, ground beef or turkey, top it with some shredded cheese, sliced avocado, and maybe a couple of jalapeños. In fact, that sounded so delicious that I created a recipe just like it to eat as my main dish! Check out my Beef and Cauliflower Taco Skillet.

Overhead view of a skillet full of southwest cauliflower rice with a bowl of salt and cilantro on the side
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Southwest Cauliflower Rice

5 from 7 votes
Southwest Cauliflower Rice is a quick, easy, and flavorful side dish that can also be spruced up and turned into an entire meal!
Close up overhead of southwest cauliflower rice in a skillet with a wooden spoon
Servings 4 ¾ cup each
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 15 minutes


  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 4 cups cauliflower rice ($1.66)
  • 1 10oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles ($0.50)
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder ($0.15)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano ($0.03)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)
  • 2 green onions, sliced ($0.20)


  • Mince the garlic and add it to a skillet with the olive oil. Sauté over medium heat for about one minute, or just until the garlic is slightly softened and fragrant.
  • Add the cauliflower rice and continue to sauté for about five minutes, or until the cauliflower is a little softer.
  • Finally, add the diced tomatoes with green chilies (and all the juices from the can), as well as all the spices: chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Continue to stir and cook for about five minutes more, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Taste the cauliflower rice and adjust the salt or other spices to your liking. Top with sliced green onions and serve.

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Serving: 0.75cupCalories: 83.05kcalCarbohydrates: 10.13gProtein: 3.33gFat: 4.08gSodium: 456.33mgFiber: 3.95g
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Side view of a fork picking up some southwest cauliflower rice out of a bowl

How to Make Southwest Cauliflower Rice – Step by Step Photos

Cauliflower rice in a skillet with a spatula

Mince two cloves of garlic and add them to a skillet with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sauté the garlic over medium heat for about one minute, or just until soft and fragrant. Add 4 cups of cauliflower rice and continue to sauté for about five minutes, or until the cauliflower has softened.

Tomatoes being poured into the skillet with cauliflower rice and spices

Add one 10oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (with the juices), ½ Tbsp chili powder, ½ tsp smoked paprika, ½ tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp salt, and ⅛ tsp pepper.

Finished southwest cauliflower rice in the skillet

Continue to sauté the cauliflower, tomatoes, and spices for about five minutes more, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Give the cauliflower rice a taste and adjust the salt or other spices to your preferences. Top with sliced green onions and serve!

Close up overhead of southwest cauliflower rice in a skillet with a wooden spoon
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  1. I double the spices, because it just doesn’t seem like enough flavor, then add a little more salt at the end to bring it up. Plus I add about 3/4 to 1 cup of yellow onions right after the garlic has been in the pan for 30 seconds or more. Saute the onions until tender. I love onions and this just adds a little more flavor. The recipe is delicious and everyone I’ve made it for loves it.

  2. Has anyone made this with regular rice? I love the recipe but want to make same type recipe with regular rice for someone else.

    1. I have not but if I were, I’d follow all the same steps but add the rice in last. I’d drain the rotel tomatoes into a glass liquid measuring cup and fill it remaining liquid needed to cook the rice. I’d cook the rice per time on the package.

  3. I really enjoyed this recipe and so did my husband. We added a dollop of  low fat sour cream on top of the finished rice, that we had mixed with sriracha, and it gave it a little extra kick. Amazing recipe. 

  4. Like so many of your recipes, this has become an absolute favorite at my house. Thank you so much!

  5. Omg! I made the cauliflower “fried rice” following same directions with cashews and cilantro, adding onion, garlic, soy sauce, and a bit of sesame oil. Cannot stop eating it! Thanks for great idea, Beth!

  6. This was a great way to use up a bag of frozen cauliflower rice I had bought for some other recipe I never did make. I also plopped a spoonful of Creamy Avocado Dressing on my serving, which was an excellent addition!

  7. Honestly I was so surprised how fast this came together! Added guacamole, refried beans and chips to make a quick bowl meal and again – was shocked that even my 18 month old was asking for more. What a win! Thanks Beth! You’ve restored my confidence in the versatility of cauliflower rice.

  8. Wow! Beth! I am making this for dinner tomorrow. So easy….I know it’s going to be a winner! Thank you!

    1. Delish! Added a can of black beans to bulk it up for a meal but the flavors were spot on!

  9. Amazing!! I made it into a bowl meal like you suggested with black beans, minced turkey, sliced avocado, shredded cheese, pickled jalapenos and fresh coriander. So delicious, quick and healthy. Going in my regular rotation.

  10. I suppose for people searching for the recipe it is wise to call it “cauliflower rice” but really at first glance it looks like a rice recipe. I wasn’t confused for long.