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Mashed cauliflower is a common substitution for mashed potatoes on many diets, including keto, Whole30, and other low-carb diets. It provides a similar flavor profile and texture to mashed potatoes with a fraction of the carbs and fattening effects that spuds have.
Cauliflower is an incredibly versatile vegetable that can be prepared in many formats from roasted to salads to mashed. It is low in carbohydrates but high in many beneficial nutrients, including fiber, B-vitamins, and choline.
Although cauliflower can mimic the texture of potatoes, it is not the same. It is all too easy to make your cauliflower mash too runny because cauliflower absorbs more water than potatoes do while cooking.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid the pitfalls that come with mashed cauliflower that is too thin. Here are some ways to thicken your mashed cauliflower, whether you have just begun preparing it or are already getting ready to serve.
Where to Use Mashed Cauliflower
To understand what texture your mashed cauliflower should be at, you should understand where you will use this preparation.
Most people serve mashed cauliflower as a side dish, replacing mashed potatoes. You can add any flavorings to mashed cauliflower that you would to potatoes, such as butter, garlic, chives, and more.
You can also use mashed cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes in many traditional recipes such as potato bakes, shepherd’s pies, and more. There are even methods of making mac and cheese healthier by adding mashed cauliflower.
Some people turn their mashed cauliflower into a puree for soup. If that’s what you are planning on doing as well, then runny mashed cauliflower is your goal. However, most people prefer a thicker side dish.
Best Preparation Tips
When you are preparing mashed cauliflower, there are a few things that you can do during the process to save yourself from the headache of thickening the mixture later.
If you have been boiling your cauliflower so far, try to switch to steaming it. Steaming uses less water, which means that the final product is much less runny. If it is too thick, then you can always add more liquid later.
Other ways to prep your cauliflower beforehand that reduces the moisture content include baking it, roasting it, microwaving it, or even grating it using a cheese grater. The goal of each method is to create as thick a mixture as possible because it is much easier to add more liquid than it is to take it away.
Since liquid evaporates when it is heated, you can also increase your preparation time. By boiling or steaming the cauliflower for a long amount of time with the lid off, you will naturally get rid of more of the liquids, although you may spend more time over the stove than you would have liked.
No matter how you prepare your cauliflower, be sure to drain it properly before mashing it. If previous draining methods have still left you with a runny mash, try using cheesecloth as that allows you to squeeze the maximum amount of moisture out.
Sometimes it is not your method that is causing your cauliflower mash to be too runny, but your ratios. You need to have the precise balance of cauliflower to liquid to prepare a perfect mash.
To make a thicker mixture, simply add more cauliflower when you are boiling or steaming the mixture. If you are not trying to cut out potatoes completely from your diet, you can even add a little bit of potato.
Potatoes are not the only vegetable that you can add to cauliflower to thicken it up. Any dense vegetable with a mild flavor that won’t overpower the mash will do, such as parsnips or even zucchini.
You can even add broccoli to the mash as long as you don’t mind staining it green.
Rescuing Runny Mashed Cauliflower
Although it is easier to prep your cauliflower using a method that reduces the liquid content, this does not mean that all is lost if your mash does turn out runny. Here are a few mixtures that will help you thicken up mashed cauliflower even once it has already been prepared.
You can add cream cheese or any type of creamy cheese, such as goat cheese, to your mashed cauliflower to thicken the mixture up.
You can stir in the cheese after you puree the cauliflower if you notice that it is too runny. Just add it to the mixture, although you can reheat it if you want to combine the ingredients better.
The best part is that cream cheese is keto-friendly, which means that you can salvage your cauliflower mash and add some flavor without breaking your diet.
If you do not like cream cheese or any other cheese, you can substitute another fat here, such as butter. The point is to add more fat, which will thicken up the mixture, but you can adjust which fat it is according to your preferences.
A slurry is a mixture of cornstarch or flour with water. Usually, the ratio is one part flour or cornstarch to four parts water.
First, mix the slurry in a separate mixing bowl or cup. Then, slowly add the slurry to the pot full of mashed cauliflower while you continue to cook it.
It is important not to add too much slurry at once. You can’t tell how much you will need and it is always easier to add more than to try and salvage it after adding too much.
Xanthan gum is a fermented sugar additive that is used to thicken food products. It is used in gluten-free baking, but it can also be used to thicken mashed cauliflower.
When cooking with xanthan gum, all you need are a couple of teaspoons in the mixture, and it will thicken it up nicely. Just add it after you drain the cauliflower and are mashing it.
Reimagining the Dish
Sometimes no matter what you add to your mashed cauliflower, it will still be too runny to serve as a side. In that case, you can turn your mashed cauliflower into a soup and still serve it.
To make mashed cauliflower into cauliflower soup, just add broth, more vegetables of your choice, and seasoning. Here is one recipe that you can follow for inspiration.
You can still serve it to your family or your guests and nobody will be the wiser.
Mashed cauliflower can be a great substitution for mashed potatoes if you are looking to cut down on your calories or just want to switch up your dinner repertoire. However, because cauliflowers absorb more water while cooking, mashed cauliflower tends to become very runny.
There are ways that you can prevent runny mashed cauliflower while cooking by adjusting your ratios, adding other vegetables, or adjusting your cooking method. Steaming the cauliflower instead of boiling or roasting it beforehand cuts down on your moisture content.
You can salvage runny cauliflower mash even after you are done cooking. Try adding more fat or a slurry, or turn it into a different dish where the texture will not matter.
It may take a few attempts and trial and error to perfect your cauliflower mash texture, but it is worth the effort.