Cauliflower Rice Biryani (Keto + Vegan)

Cauliflower Rice Biryani (Keto + Vegan)

A sumptuous Cauliflower Rice Biryani with tofu and keto-friendly veggies.

Eating deliciously but healthfully can be so much easier when you can eat foods like this comforting Cauliflower Rice Biryani. It's got all the lavish flavors and textures you'd find in a regular biryani, but it's so much better for you because you're subbing white rice, a food loaded with carbs, for much healthier cauliflower rice. Tofu adds in good protein while keeping this keto-friendly, and veggies like green bell peppers and zucchini add more nourishing tastiness. There are just seven net carbs and 124 calories in each satisfying serving.

Common protein sources in Indian food, like rice, wheat, lentils, millets and beans, are supremely healthy but they are also loaded with carbs. But Indian food is my comfort food and not something I can imagine living without. So as I lower my carb intake, I've been experimenting with my favorite dishes with the goal of cutting the carbs and keeping the flavor intact.

Today, I have for you a low-carb version of a food I adore and could eat everyday: a biryani. More specifically, a cauliflower rice biryani.

If you've been following my low-carb recipes, you may have noticed a theme: I try, as much as possible, to keep a recipe authentic while making some thoughtful tweaks here and there to reduce net carbs. My low-carb Coconut Dal, for instance, is made with real lentils, and there really are black-eyed peas in my Cauliflower and Black-Eyed Peas Curry. This way, I can be sure I am not leaving out the healthy vegan foods I love while staying within my goals.

If you're keeping your net carb intake between a reasonable 50 and 100 grams a day, you can eat any of my low-carb recipes safely without sabotaging your weight goals. Many of these dishes, like my vegan Butter Chicken, are even suitable for keto dieters, who restrict net carbs to between 25 and 50 grams a day.

My cauliflower rice biryani is a true biryani but is way healthier, with just 7 grams of net carbs in each serving. It is packed with veggies: there's the cauliflower, of course, and there are tomatoes and onions and zucchini and bell peppers. Tying all of these amazing ingredients together are your typical biryani spices and herbs, which give all the flavor and authenticity the recipe needs. I flavor the cauliflower rice so it tastes just like white rice would, and there's no deprivation for your tastebuds.

I hope you will try this recipe and if you do, be sure to let me know. You don't have to be eating low-carb to enjoy it: you just have to be eating tasty. 😉

Why you'll love this cauliflower rice biryani

  • It's delicious. There is flavor packed in every bite of this dish. I even flavor the cauliflower rice, which can be bland, to make sure that it rivals the white basmati rice I would have normally used for this recipe, and it doesn't disappoint. The creamy gravy is flavored with mint, cilantro, dill, and Indian spices. Tofu and cashew nuts provide lots of texture and protein.
  • It's everyone friendly. This dish is of course low-carb, but it is also gluten-free, and it can easily be nut-free and/or soy-free by leaving out the cashews and/or the tofu. You can even replace the tofu with vegan soy-free sausage chunks. I usually feed Desi and Jay the low-carb foods I eat because even though they are not watching their carbs, who has time to make two meals? This biryani was a hands-down winner both with the adult and the kid, which should tell you how delicious it is, given that Desi is a connosseiur of rice dishes and Jay is the world authority on teenage pickiness. 😉
  • It's easy. I say this everytime I share a biryani recipe (and I have many, including this amazing 30-minute but authentic Vegetable Biryani, this Vegan Keema Biryani and this Vegan Dum Aloo Biryani, among others), but making a biryani doesn't have to be a day-long job. This recipe takes all of 40 minutes, if that, and you can make your job even easier by buying cauliflower rice off the shelf. The ingredient list is slightly long but it is not intimidating (and there are a lot of the same ingredients repeated in both the veggie marinade and the cauliflower rice). If you are making a biryani it's well worth the effort to make it right instead of taking shortcuts with the ingredients and ending up with a poor approximation.
  • It's healthy. This biryani is just a big pot of veggies with other good stuff tucked in. And how can you go wrong with that?

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unflavored vegetable oil
  • 2 tomatoes + 1 onion
  • 1 recipe air fryer tofu. If you don't have an air-fryer, bake the marinated tofu for 30 to 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven, flipping over the cubes halfway through. You can also just use the tofu in this recipe without air frying it first, but if you do that don't marinate it--just use the tofu as is.
  • ¼ cup cashews. Optional if nut-free.
  • ¼ cup fried onions (for topping biryani)
  • A generous pinch saffron, soaked in ¼ cup nondairy milk (optional)

For the veggie marinade:

  • 2 zucchini + 2 green bell peppers. You can use other low-carb veggies like green beans, asparagus and mushrooms.
  • 1 tablespoon biryani masala. I have a great recipe on the blog for biryani masala, but you can also just use storebought. Even those that are labeled "chicken biryani masala" or "mutton biryani masala" are fine to use because the ingredients in the spice mix are all vegan.
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon shahi jeera or black cumin/caraway seeds. If you can't find this or don't have it, use cumin seeds.
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne (or Kashmiri chili powder). Keep in mind some biryani masalas and garam masalas might already have some chili pepper in them, so adjust the heat accordingly. I know I will get asked this so clearing it up here: don't use turmeric in your biryani. It's simply not a biryani ingredient.
  • 1 teaspoon dry mint + 1 teaspoon dry dill. Use a tablespoon of each if using fresh.
  • 2 tablespoon cilantro (coriander leaves)
  • ½ cup vegan yogurt. I always use my homemade cashew yogurt in my recipes, but any storebought, unsweetened vegan yogurt would be fine.
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ginger garlic paste.
  • ¼ cup fried onions
  • Salt to taste

For the cauliflower rice:

  • 4 cups cauliflower rice (about 2 pounds). You can buy prepackaged, frozen cauliflower rice or rice the cauliflower yourself. If you buy frozen, place the cauliflower rice in a colander and set aside for a couple of hours until it reaches room temperature and any water has drained out. If using fresh cauliflower, trim and separate into florets. Process the cauliflower florets in a food processor until it breaks down into rice-size bits. Don't turn it into a mush-- use the "pulse" function on your processor in short bursts of five seconds each time until the deed is done
  • 1 tablespoon biryani masala.
  • 1 teaspoon dry mint + 1 teaspoon dry dill. Use 1 tablespoon of each if using fresh.
  • ¼ cup fried onions (for topping the biryani)
  • Salt to taste

How to make cauliflower biryani

  • Marinate the vegetables: Place the chopped veggies in a bowl. Add all of the marinade ingredients, including biryani masala, garam masala, black cumin/caraway (or regular cumin), cayenne, mint, dill, vegan yogurt, ginger garlic paste and salt to taste. Mix well and set aside.
  • Marinade ingredients with veggies
  • Marinated veggies in bowl.
  • Prep the cauliflower rice: Mix the cauliflower rice ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl: the rice, biryani masala, mint, dill, fried onions, and salt to taste. Add two tablespoons of water to the bowl and microwave the cauliflower rice for five minutes, then set aside.
  • Spices, herbs added to cauliflower rice in bowl.
  • Cauliflower rice mixed with spices in bowl.
  • Make the biryani: Blend the tomato and onions into a smooth paste.
  • In a large pot heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the tomato onion paste and fry about five minutes or until it darkens a bit.
  • Add the marinated veggies to the pot and mix well. Add ½ cup water.
  • Tomatoes cooking in dutch oven.
  • Marinated veggies added to tomato onion sauce in pot.
  • Cover and let the veggies cook about 5-7 minutes or until they are still firm but tender and the sauce has darkened and it shimmers. Stir a couple of times while cooking to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the air fried tofu and cashews, if using, to the pot and mix.
  • Tofu and cashews added to gravy.
  • Layer the cauliflower rice over the veggie masala. Layer on the fried onions and saffron soaked in milk, if using.
  • Cauliflower rice layered over biryani gravy.
  • Fried onions layered over cauliflower rice.
  • Cover with a tight lid and cook the biryani for five minutes over medium-high heat. Then lower heat to the lowest setting and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
  • Let the biryani stand 10 more minutes, without peeking, before you serve. To serve, use a ladle to dig all the way to the bottom so you get some rice and some gravy with each serving. Spritz on some lemon juice or lime juice.

What to serve with the cauliflower biryani

  • This biryani needs just a simple raita, like this vegan cucumber raita, to make a wholesome, amazing meal.
  • You can also serve this with a Mirch ka Salan, a spicy curry biryani is often served with in India, and which would work very well for a low-carb diet.

Storage and freezing

  • You can store the cauliflower biryani in the fridge for up to three days. It tastes even better the next day.
  • For longer storage freeze in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Thaw and reheat before eating.

Related recipes

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Cauliflower Rice Biryani (Keto + Vegan)

Eating deliciously but healthfully can be so much easier when you can eat foods like this comforting Cauliflower Rice Biryani. It's got all the lavish flavors and textures you'd find in a regular biryani, but it's so much better for you because you're subbing white rice, a food loaded with carbs, for much healthier cauliflower rice. Tofu adds in good protein while keeping this keto-friendly, and veggies like green bell peppers and zucchini add more nourishing tastiness.
Course Main
Cuisine gluten-free, Indian fusion, Soy-free, Vegan
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword Cauliflower Biryani, Keto Cauliflower Biryani
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 124kcal

Equipment

  • 1 microwave safe bowl
  • 1 Colander (if using frozen cauliflower rice), or
  • Food processor (if using fresh cauliflower)
  • 1 large dutch oven or pot with a tight fitting lid

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 recipe air fryer tofu
  • ¼ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup fried onions
  • A generous pinch saffron
  • ¼ cup almond milk

For the marinated veggies

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium green bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon biryani masala
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon shahi jeera (black cumin or caraway seeds. Cumin seeds are a good replacement)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne (use more or less depending on how spicy your biryani masala and garam masala are)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mint
  • 1 teaspoon dry dill
  • 2 tablespoon cilantro (chopped)
  • ½ cup vegan yogurt (I used cashew. Use a nut-free, unsweetened yogurt if nut-free)
  • 1 heaping tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • ¼ cup fried onions
  • Salt to taste

For the cauliflower rice

  • 4 cups (2 pounds) cauliflower rice (Use fresh cauliflower or buy frozen cauliflower rice. If using a cauliflower, trim and separate it into florets. Process the cauliflower in a food processor until it breaks down into rice-size bits. Don't turn it into a mush-- use the "pulse" function on your processor in short bursts of five seconds each time until the deed is done)
  • 1 tablespoon biryani masala
  • 1 teaspoon dry mint
  • 1 teaspoon dry dill
  • ¼ cup fried onions
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

Marinate the vegetables: 

  • Place the chopped veggies in a bowl. Add all of the marinade ingredients, including biryani masala, garam masala, black cumin/caraway (or regular cumin), cayenne, mint, dill, vegan yogurt, ginger garlic paste and salt to taste. Mix well and set aside.

Prep the cauliflower rice:

  •  Mix the cauliflower rice ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl: the rice, biryani masala, mint, dill, fried onions, and salt to taste. Add two tablespoons of water to the bowl and microwave the cauliflower rice for five minutes, then set aside.

Make the biryani:

  • Blend the tomato and onions into a smooth paste.
  • In a large pot heat the vegetable oil. Add the tomato onion paste and fry about five minutes or until it darkens a bit.
  • Add the marinated veggies to the pot and mix well. Add ½ cup water.
  • Cover and let the veggies cook about 5-7 minutes or until they are still firm but tender and the sauce has darkened and it shimmers. Stir a couple of times while cooking to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the air fried tofu and cashews, if using, to the pot and mix.
  • Layer the cauliflower rice over the veggie masala. Layer on the fried onions and saffron soaked in milk, if using.
  • Cover with a tight lid and cook the biryani for five minutes over medium-high heat. Then lower heat to the lowest setting and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
  • Let the biryani stand 10 more minutes, without peeking, before you serve. To serve, use a ladle to dig all the way to the bottom so you get some rice and some gravy with each serving.

Notes

  • If you don't have an air-fryer, bake the marinated tofu for 30 to 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven, flipping over the cubes halfway through. You can also just use the tofu in this recipe without air frying it first, but if you do that don't marinate it--just use the tofu as is.
  • To increase fat in this recipe, double the vegetable oil to 2 tablespoons or more.
  • You can sub the zucchini and bell peppers for other keto-friendly veggies like green beans, asparagus and mushrooms.
  • This biryani needs just a simple raita, like this vegan cucumber raita, to make a wholesome, amazing meal.
  • You can also serve this with a Mirch ka Salan, a spicy curry biryani is often served with in India, and which would work very well for a low-carb diet.
  • You can refrigerate the biryani for up to three days. It tastes even better the next day.
  • For longer storage freeze in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Thaw and reheat before eating.

Nutrition

Calories: 124kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Potassium: 458mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 450IU | Vitamin C: 52mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 2mg

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