Others, like Alix Turoff, a registered dietitian in New York, say they like cauliflower because it absorbs the flavors of other ingredients. She tells her clients to pair riced cauliflower with dishes that have a lot of sauce and flavors, like curries, stir fries and chili. Some people even use riced cauliflower to replace the rice in sushi, stuffed peppers and taco bowls.
“It opens up the door for people to get more creative,” she said. “It’s just a great way to get more vegetables in your diet.”
Food industry experts say that the cauliflower trend is growing because it appeals to a broad spectrum of consumers following a variety of diets, from plant-based to Paleo. Many of them are drawn to vegetables and are seeking out so-called clean labels, or foods that limit additives such as sugar, salt, artificial sweeteners and heavily refined, synthetic or genetically modified ingredients.
According to Nielsen, there are 36 different categories across the grocery store that feature cauliflower as an ingredient. The company found that sales of “cauliflower centric” refrigerated dishes rose 108 percent in the past year, and that cauliflower baby foods increased 34 percent. Green Giant, the century-old national food brand, says that cauliflower is among the hottest vegetables it sells today.
“The cauliflower trend is pervasive,” said Jordan Rost, the vice president of consumer insights for Nielsen. “We’re seeing it in everything from cream cheese to baby food. Products that contain cauliflower are experiencing faster growth in sales than their overall categories. It’s driving growth across all foods.”
Some national pizza chains, like California Pizza and Pie Five Pizza, have made cauliflower-crust pizza a standard item on their menus. There are also multiple brands of cauliflower pizza sold in supermarkets, including Caulipower and a brand called Cali’Flour, which sells plain cauliflower crusts and flat breads (including a vegan variety) for consumers who want to add their own sauce and toppings.
Many vegetable substitutes can be made at home with simple kitchen appliances. Riced cauliflower can be made with a food processor or a hand-held tool called a ricer. Another gadget called a spiralizer turns zucchini, peppers and squash into noodles. But the process can be messy and time-consuming, leading some brands to offer more convenient, packaged varieties.