Raw Mexican “Rice” Pilaf with Spicy “Cheese” Topping

raw mexican rice pilaf

Man. The funnest part of writing out raw recipe names is seeing how many things will go in quotation marks Smile

After two days of awesome conversation, I think it’s time to turn to something we can all agree on: our love of great, raw recipes. This one was the highlight of last week’s dinners.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that student life makes it a challenge to prepare proper, homemade dinners during the week. I do, though, have weekends on which to prepare soups and stews—like my butternut squash and split pea, which many of you have tried and love already—grain dishes, pastas, and more. What I’ve had less time for, in the end, is any significant array of raw entrees. Not raw meals, per se—I have plenty of nutrient dense salad dinners, plenty of collard wraps, and plenty of raw soups. But when it comes to more elaborate raw meals—“cookbook meals,” I call them—I’ve fallen short.

It’s partly a matter of creativity: I find that constructing a raw entrée that’s not a salad takes a fair bit of creativity, and I’m a little too zapped to offer up much of it in the kitchen these days. It’s partly scheduling: many raw entrees demand time in a dehydrator or other methods of prep, and it’s time I don’t have. And it’s partly a function of weekends with M, when I tend to focus more on cooked meals we enjoy together than on the raw meals I enjoy more than he does (an interesting mini-segway into the topic of dating, eating, and relationships, right?).

So one of my goals right now is to do what I originally set out to do as a blogger, before my blog expanded and became a lot more than a raw food recipe collection: I want to share raw entrée ideas that are simple, time-saving, and that don’t demand too much fancy equipment or prep. I’ve always had a knack for this, but that knack has been tested by the hustle and bustle of school, late night labs, and weekend commuting. It shouldn’t take much to revive it.

On the list of raw entrees that never demands too much time or planning is cauliflower rice. This is exactly what it sounds like: cauliflower that’s chopped up finely to resemble rice. In some recipes, the cauliflower is mixed with nuts or seeds. I kept it simple in this one, and just used cauliflower as a base, but I often chop in cashews or pine nuts (I will probably never be able to afford the latter again).

I made this version of “rice” on an unseasonably balmy February night last week. What better way to welcome a little gasp of spring, I thought, than with some avocado? And with that avocado, I thought to mix in some Mexican flavorings. The recipe that follows is what I came up with. It’s simple, quick, flavorful, and absolutely delicious—the best kind of raw entrée.

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Raw Mexican Rice Pilaf With Spicy “Cheese” Topping (Vegan, raw, gluten free if you use shoyu)

Serves 2-3

1 small head cauliflower (or 1/2 large one), loosely chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper (or 1 small), chopped
1/2 lb green string beans, raw or blanched or lightly steamed, then chopped
1/2 large avocado, chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
2-3 tsps agave (use your own taste here)
2 tsps nama shoyu or tamari
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Black pepper to taste (if you make the topping below, you may not need this)
1/2 tsp coriander

For the spicy “cheese topping”

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup cashews
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Cayenne pepper to taste

1) Place the cauliflower in a food processor…

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…and process till it resembles rice, like so:

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You should do this by pulsing it repeatedly, and not by turning the motor on, which may over-process the rice.

2) Empty the cauliflower into a bowl and toss it with the lime, agave, shoyu or tamari, spices, and the chopped veggies.

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3) To make the spicy topping (optional), process all ingredients in a food processor till well mixed.

4) Serve the cauliflower rice alongside other veggies, on top of a salad, or to accompany a grain, bean, or soy-based entree with similar flavors. Top it with the spicy topping, and enjoy!

My rice went over kale salad. Are we surprised?

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What a fabulous and easy dinner! Note that you could also throw in different vegetables: I think tomatoes, corn, and carrots would all be great.

Since it’s another goal of mine to talk about power foods lately, this is also a powerful meal: healthy fat from avocado, protein from the nutritional yeast, Vitamins C and K from the cauliflower, and any nutrient you can think of from the kale.

Like this recipe? You should also check out my chard leaves stuffed with Middle Eastern rice!

Happy almost Friday!


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Categories: Main Dishes
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Raw

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  1. made this tonight ( eating it now ) and it’s absolutely amazing!! Like all you’re recipes Gena, the spices and the cashew topping really make it. In you’re photos I noticed that green leafy thang looks a lot like cilantro even though it’s not noted, I added it anyway. Also I incorporated the carrot and corn along with some purple cabbage for an extra crunch! Bravo! Highly recommended and super easy!! Thanks again for changing my life one amazing recipe after the next…..Cheers!!

  2. i just made this! DELICIOUS! i subbed a carrot for the beans and a yellow pepper for the red pepper, and added a little steamed tempeh in with it (defeats the purpose of “raw”, but i needed to use it up)… seriously, delicious! i will be making this again!

  3. I have tried and LOVED both of your “rice” recipes. Great alternatives to the usual packed salad for lunch. I’m not even a vegetarian but I love your thoughtful posts and wonderful recipes.

  4. While cauliflower is not one of my favorite vegetables, I knew a stand that had it at farmers market. Plus, I LOVED your sweet potato hummus and juice recipes so I just had to try another recipe. I fixed this today with some little tweaks ( no green beans but celery and tomatoes and a little less chili powder in the topping ) and it was pretty yummy. Amazingly fast to put together. Thanks Gena!


  5. Ahhh I love! I have tons of cauliflower, I am making this tonight! This is the first cauliflower rice recipe I have found that has a sauce recipe, keep it coming with the raw goodies!

  6. Woweee it looks like I missed some pretty interesting convos here the last few days. I never even considered that one’s eating habits might influence their dating life – but I can see how challenging it might be to date someone with totally different views. I guess I’ve been lucky to find a partner who shares my philosophies.

    I love cauliflower in the food processor! I was hesitant the first time I heard about it, but I eventually tried it as a ‘couscous’ and it was so good. And I always love a good faux cheese sauce too 😉

  7. Hi Jenna!
    Im Evelina, from Argentina.
    i found ur blog yesterday while i was colecting info bout raw vegan food and i loved it…. You posted awesome recipes, and i like your simple way to explain everything.
    Im super new in this raw vegan thing and theres not much info bout it in argentina, its kinda a new thing here…
    ive had a super lil anemia my whole life. Now i want to start with the master cleanse (lemon, cayanne n syrup) for 10 days and then start the vegan raw food life style…. everyone here says that i shouldnt cause both ( the cleanse n vegan diet) are bad for anemic people, that just gonna make my anemia go higher… Is that true?
    ive been eating meat and animal products my whole life and my anemia level hasnt change so i would think that not eating them wouldnt change either.
    Thanks a lot for your help and your post!!!
    Hugs from Argentina =0)

  8. I don’t think you need to apologize for less time and more simple recipes. I think that’s the boat more people are in. I tend to chose recipes now based on # of ingredients, used to be what I was craving.

  9. I feel all puffed up with adoration and excitement right now… this looks AMAZING! I went through a big cauliflower rice phase mid last year, before I was relaly seriously interested in raw food, and the funny thing is that now I am moving towards raw food I almost never make it anymore! I’ll be trying this asap.

    P.S. I hear you on the pine nuts. Pine nuts and pistachios… the nuts I can only dream of.

  10. Gena,

    I have been reading for a while, but this is my first time commenting. I am an undergradute student, and your recipes have helped my alter my diet from mostly burritos and french fries to mostly high-raw– and I feel much, much healther!

    I made your butternut squash smoothie the other day (with the Chai Vega protein green-drink powder that you recommended) and it was amazing! I also (along with the whole world, it seems) really enjoy your sweet potato hummus– the addition of curry powder is genious!

    It is also nice to hear you talk about fitting in cooking with studying and school, because I can totally relate.

    A quick question–

    Do you ever eat Gluten-free pasta? Could you reccomend a variety that is good? Pasta has always been one of my favorite foods, but I am experiementing with a GF diet.

    Also– maybe you could do a post about your thoughts on gluten for people who do not have a full-blown gluten allergy. There is a lot of information about Celiacs disease, but I suspect that I either have a minor gluten allergy or simply do not feel great after eating bready foods or pasta… even though I love the taste and texture of these foods! Is Gluten-Free just another trend, or is there something to be said for reducing or eliminating Gluten concuption? I would really value your thoughts on this topic.

    Anyway, thanks for all the great recipes.


  11. I have been in the quick dinner making department since I started massage therapy school back in September, and I’m extremely grateful for inspiration from you on raw wraps and various dips… story of my life but so quick and easy and still incredibly healthy… can’t go wrong with that!

  12. Looks really good! I don’t really like cauliflower, but I have a jicama…

    But am I missing something? You say, “gluten or soy free depending on whether you use tamari or shoyu”…but don’t they both have soy? I thought coconut aminos were the only soy free “soy sauce”…? Tell me if I’m wrong, please, I wouldn’t mind paying less!

    • Well, this is embarrassing. You are totally right, and I have bee totally mistaken! I knew tamari had wheat but for some reason had a brain eclipse and didn’t think it had soy.

      My bad.

      I modified the recipe! Thanks for your hawk eyes 🙂

      • Well, thanks for updating. Wish there were a cheaper soy-free option, but that is out of your control!

  13. My schedule seems to short on time for elaborate raw recipes too with work, training and everything in between. But this rice looks wonderful and I can’t wait to try it even though raw cauliflower can be tough on my insides. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Looks amazing. I love dishes that use raw cauliflower as a sub for rice or egg salad or something else. . . and the flavors here sound great!

  15. Hi..,

    Its a very nice raw food conversation and the recipes which you had give are really awesome.

    Thanks for sharing such a nice post.

  16. Gena, have you talked about nutrient absorption from kale on the blog before? I read in a sports nutrition book that while kale is PACKED with vitamins we are not able to fully absorb them in raw form and that kale should be blanched. I eat a LOT of kale, as do you, do you have any opinion on that? It was not a book focused on raw eating but did have a good amount of advice for vegans which was great to see!

    • Amanda,

      As far as my understanding goes, this is the deal: eating kale raw significantly blocks your absorption of the iron and calcium. That would be the bad news.

      The good news is that your absorption of the fat soluble vitamins and protein stays the same.

      I try to eat kale steamed or cooked when I can. But sadly, I strongly prefer dark leafy greens when they’re raw. So I sort of have to force that 🙂 I think it’s fine to eat them raw most of the time, so long as you get your iron and calcium in other places in your diet.


      • What happens when kale is dehydrated? I love to make kale chips massaged with roasted red pepper cashew cheese and then dehydrated. I hadn’t heard of the iron blocking. I need my iron!

  17. I think mexican flavors lend themselves really well to raw. Seems to just work right. I like your take on it here.

  18. Being a student totally hinders the time I have to make good meals! By the time the day is over, I want something quick & easy (and not too messy to clean up!) I’m going to buy some collard to try your wraps this week 🙂

  19. This is a great category of recipes to share. Do you ever prepare rice pilaf with parsnips? I like both parsnips and cauliflower for preparing raw rice. I’ve got parsnips in the fridge now. I’m preparing to make some of your cheesy dip with them soon. 🙂

    Boy, you aren’t just kidding about the pine nuts. I won’t be eating them either unless I figure a way to harvest my own. Recently, I glanced at them in the bulk food bins at my local Whole Foods and they were $36.00 a pound!! It about knocked the breath out of me. Not exactly bulk bin prices if you ask me. (: If we keep going like this, soon a pound of pine nuts will be as expensive as a barrel of oil. Bizarre. Maybe that’s what is going on. Someone, somewhere, is secretly creating a formula to use pine nuts as an alternative energy source. The speculators are busy driving the cost higher and higher.

  20. I laugh about the quotation marks issue all the time when writing post titles 🙂
    This looks great! I’ve made raw cauliflower rice dishes before, but never a pilaf. I tried a cooked cauliflower pilaf and it was meh. Raw is the way to go with cauliflower rice. I’ll be trying this!

  21. “But when it comes to more elaborate raw meals—“cookbook meals,” I call them—I’ve fallen short. “–

    Story of my life lately. FT job, FT mother & wife, FT blogger, and butt wiper 🙂 I barely have time to sleep, let alone get real ‘creative’ but I try!

    “share raw entrée ideas that are simple, time-saving, and that don’t demand too much fancy equipment or prep.”–

    AMEN to that! Add to it frugal/cheap and makes planned leftovers and you have the story of me.

    I love this rice recipe, Gena!

    But I really love the noochey cheeze you created. Cashews, nooch, chili, paprika…mmmm, delish!

    I hope you have a fantastic weekend and don’t study too hard 🙂