Low Carb Paella Using Cauli Rice

When I worked in Gran Canaria I used to eat paella a lot. In fact I made friends with a local chef who used to make a special batch for me minus the peas (my pet food hate!) This rice-based delicacy was served with half a baguette, plenty of alioli, or ai oli (or garlic mayo) and perhaps a sangria on the side. At that time I had never even heard of a low carb paella using cauli rice because I was enjoying the real thing too much to deviate.

Try as I might, I could never tire of this wonderful Spanish dish. Fast forward a decade and I still love that flavor but my husband is diabetic and rice is a no-no. So I wondered at this point whether cauli rice would work, since it is great for making other cauliflower rice recipes like egg fried cauli rice and lots of other cauli rice recipes.

This is why I tried my hand at a low carb paella using cauli rice a couple of evenings ago. I thought I would add chicken and seafood, along with chicken broth, smoked paprika and saffron to get that authentic flavor, and considering the main ingredient was swapped for a paella rice substitute I have to say it worked really well!

Low Carb Paella RecipeLiving in Holland I knew I wouldn’t be able to get all the proteins I wanted. I couldn’t get clams or mussels in my local supermarket but I did manage to get chicken thighs and tiger prawns. And some nice chorizo.

The chorizo can be crumbled and removed from its casings then cooked with the chicken if you get that type, but I prefer the readymade, ready-to-eat kind in slices, so I can just throw it in near the end.

I am writing the recipe with various options but of course you could omit the seafood for a chicken paella, omit the chicken for a seafood paella, or use your own favorite proteins – maybe some squid or crab?

The chicken stock gave a nice flavor to the dish. If you like, you could add some clam stock to the dish instead of some of the chicken stock, or else in addition. I didn’t have any (don’t think you can buy it here!) but it would be nice if you are adding plenty of seafood to the paella. Don’t add it if you’re making a meat-only version though.

How to Rice Cauliflower for Low Carb Paella

If you have a food processor, it’s easiest to use that to ‘rice’ the cauliflower, else you’ll find yourself having to use the wider holes on a box grater.

I tend to put all the cauliflower florets in the food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is like rice in texture, then pour it out, leaving any un-riced florets in there, and pulse again. Else if you just keep processing you’ll get a very small texture which doesn’t offer a similar-to-rice consistency. If you want to make a low carb paella using cauli rice is a great way to get all the flavor without the carbs.

Low Carb Paella Using Cauli Rice
Paella is delicious but not the best choice for a low carb diet, so we have swapped the rice for cauli rice and added chicken, seafood, garlic, paprika, saffron and more, for that typical and wonderful result.
Cuisine: Spanish
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 4
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1½ cups (375ml) chicken broth or stock
  • 1 cauliflower broken into florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 chopped boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 2 chopped Roma tomatoes (plum tomatoes)
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Large handful of cooked seafood (perhaps 6 littleneck clams in their shells, 6 mussels in their shells and ½ lb (225g) peeled jumbo shrimp (tiger prawns) or else you could consider squid or fish
  • 4 oz (115g) cooked thinly sliced chorizo
  • Small handful of chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 4 lemon wedges, for garnish
  1. Rice the cauliflower in a food processor or using a box grater.
  2. Put the cauliflower 'rice' in a big wok or pot.
  3. Put the chicken broth in a pan over a medium heat and keep it warm.
  4. Heat half the oil in a pan and add the chicken.
  5. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  6. Now add the rest of the oil, then add the onion, tomatoes, garlic, paprika, salt, saffron and pepper.
  7. Cook for a further 7 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the onion is tender.
  8. Pour the hot broth into the cauli rice.
  9. Cooking, stirring often with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula until the cauli rice is tender (but not soggy, it should have some 'bite' to it) - this will take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.
  10. Stir the seafood, chorizo and cooked chicken mixture into the cauli rice.
  11. Serve with the parsley sprinkled on top and with some lemon wedges on the side.
I didn't have smoked paprika so I used regular paprika and a couple of drops of liquid smoke (seemed to work fine!) You can buy authentic Spanish smoked paprika here.

If you want to add peas, add a small handful to the paella.


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