Cauliflower Ground Meat Replacement

Last June I started exploring, probably a lot later than most who know me might think, the whole plant-based thing, starting , mainly with trying to give up beef products because of both health and environmental reasons. Since then I have had mixed results. Since the beginning of the year I have actually been trying to be as plant-based as I can, not full-on Vegan, but probably the closest definition is flexitarian.

My chili cauli with veg ready
for beans& sauce
In giving up meat, I am really trying to not use supermarket plant-based but highly processed meat replacements. A fake burger or sausage is just not going to be the same as meat, plus they still are processed foods and even if 'vegan' still unhealthy. Instead I try new recipes that aren't based on meat-centric ones with meat replacements. Lots of non-Euro, non-American recipes

But sometimes you get the craving for an old standby, a comfort food selection maybe. So how do you do that and still have it taste good? For me, I have found a pretty good option: roasted cauliflower. When 'riced' it can turn into something close to ground meat whether beef or chicken or whatever., it all depends on the preparation. At the end you can find my recipe for Cauli Chili.

I'll save for another post where I am at with nutrition currently, there are few things that annoy me more than a recipe post with 3 pages of text and photos before you get to the actual recipe. But, I will talk a little bit about the uses of cauliflower and why I chose my method. Cauliflower is a popular veg currently used for nutritional replacement include wheat and meat. I have been using caulflower crusts (my favorite is Caulipower) for a while now. You can roast the whole head, cut it into 'steaks', break up into florets, or rice it. Each has different uses and and products. But my favorite way to use it to replace meat is ricing it (or buying pre-riced cauliflower). The reason is that once riced, it can be pretty close to ground meat. Now you could cook it first and then rice, or use other means to rice the cauliflower. But one way I save time is buying it pre-riced already. You can find it in the produce aisle riced raw, or frozen which is usually pre-cooked a little. For this purpose I like the frozen kind.

Before and after of
roasted riced cauliflower
Thaw the quantity you want. I cook for just me and my wife, so I took half of a 1 pound package and put the rest back in the freezer. Then I toss it in oil and seasoning in preparation to roast it. This is where you can get creative. If you start with seasoning the cauliflower for your recipe from the beginning, it will carry through the entire recipe even better and be more like the meat it's replacing. I put it in an oiled cast iron pan and roasted at 400 for about 20 minutes. Its really up to you for the color and consistency you want. The longer you roast the darker and drier it will be. Since it was going into a beef chili I roasted it til nice and brown, even black on the edges, so that it would be darker and drier, like browned beef.

You can skip the roasting and just use it as is, fry it, mix it in to baking or whatever. But I strongly recommend this extra step for better taste and consistency closer to the meat. I also recommend, other than oil, using dry seasonings when roasting, to keep it from getting soggy. And finally, you can use whatever pan you want to roast it on - sheet pan, fry pan, anything you want - I just prefer cats iron, especially for beef or pork mimicking.

The final chili result
Here are some general seasonings to keep on hand. One seasoning type you will want to have around is something smokey: liquid smoke, smoke salt, etc. to amp up the charred meat flavor. Tomato powder may sound strange but it has many uses and is chock full of nutrition, if you are out of any tomato based sauce/paste/etc. you can add water, oil, vinegar - and liquid or comibination - to rehydrate it and make paste, ketchup, sauce, juice, and more; adding color, flavor, even thickening. Dried soup base in powder, boullion or whatever form - of course since replacing meat skip a meat soup leaving you pretty much with vegetable or mushroom. Mushroom soup powder can add a great umami and color. Just like with oil, a dash if different vinegar types can add different ethnic flavors from cider vinegar to rice or malt vinegar.

Below are some seasoning ideas for different recipe uses, for each start with your choice of oil then add the seasoning. The oil is up to you based on your general preference, diet, and taste for the recipe.

General Beef replacement

(Cottage pie, stroganoff, sloppy joe, any hamburger type meal)

  • Smoke salt/liquid smoke
  • Liquid seasoning/liquid smoke/soy for brown/dark color
  • Mushroom soup or dried mushroom powder
  • Garlic and onion powder
  • Dried herbs/herb mixes

Beef Chili

  • Smoke salt/liquid smoke
  • chili powder
  • Garlic and onion powder
  • tomato powder

General Chicken

  • Any poultry seasoning herb starting with thyme, sage and marjoram and others  
  • Garlic and onion powder

Barbeque Pork

  • Smoke salt/Liquid smoke
  • Sweetener like maple syrup or brown sugar
  • cider vinegar and/or splash of bourbon (remember don't add too much liquid)


  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Soy sauce
  • rice vinegar

Really, the possibilities are endless. Take the spice ingredients in your recipe and sprinkle some on the cauliflower when roasting or use any existing seasoning blend like curry, taco seasoning, adobo, jerk, hoisin for 'pork' buns or spring rolls, all are fair game and great seasonings.

I hope this inspires you and gives you base to trying our cauliflower as a replacement for ground meat in any of your dishes.

For the record, here is my full recipe for Cauli Chili

Cauli Chili Recipe

1 lb. package riced cauliflower
1 tsp. Smoke salt or liquid smoke
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. tomato powder or tube paste
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk diced
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground chipotle
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 8-ounce can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 8-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed

1. Thaw package of cauliflower if frozen. Preheat oven to 400 on Roast setting, Bake if not available. Toss riced cauliflower in choice of oil and smoke seasoning, chili powder, garlic salt, onion powder and tomato. Roast for 20 minutes.
2. In a large pot, cook onion, carrot and celery in oil choice over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add in cauliflower and remaining spiced (chili powder, cumin, salt, chipotle) and cook another five minutes. Reduce heat to low and add in tomato sauce, water, and beans. Simmer for at least 10 minutes.


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