Eggplant Cauliflower Dirty Rice satisfies cravings for both carb and zest, while actually being a low-carb, plant-based meal!
What Makes Dirty Rice Dirty?
Dirty Rice is a traditional Cajun/Creole dish that takes white rice and combines it with sautéed vegetables, spices, and chicken livers or giblets (Yuck! Even when I wasn’t eating a plant-based diet, organ meat never sounded enticing). The latter is the part that brings the “dirty” look to the rice dish and how it gets its name.
The Difference Between Cajun and Creole
I am aware that Cajun and Creole are different: Cajun is considered to be country food, Creole is considered city food. I am way out of my depth in terms of understanding the characteristics that differentiate one from the other. And apparently so are a lot of other people!
I spent a lot of time trying to research the difference between the two just to identify the proper label for my dish. But it was really a zero-sum gain. So Cajun/Creole it is! That is until I can find someone who lived/lives in that area. Someone who can give me a legit education on the fundamentals of this fabulous cuisine!
Vegan and Gluten-free Dirty Rice
It’s winter in my parts. With winter comes cravings for comfort food–like carbs and spices! Well, that’s what comforts me when the temperatures are reaching the single digits and I have no escape plan. Really, I just want to feel like I am carb loading. I don’t actually want to fill my body with too much carbohydrate and suffer the inevitable consequences.
I have discovered that cauliflower is a great substitute for white rice. Not only is it a great match-up in terms of flavor and texture but also kaboom: a nutrient explosion! (To see all of the great benefits of this new rock star in the world of nutrition hop on over to my post for vegan Cauliflower “Egg” Salad.)
Eggplant Cauliflower Dirty Rice
I roasted eggplant with some of the seasonings that are traditionally present in most sausages and it makes a great plant-based substitute for the “dirty” or meat-based part of the dish.
Roast your eggplant while you are chopping and sautéing your veggies, mix it all together and dig in to a meal that won’t fail to satisfy. One of my favorite things about this dish is the flexibility it offers in terms of heat or spiciness. I know many people who either don’t like spicy hot food, or they simply can’t eat it. Because many of the seasonings are not zesty, you can add less of the spicy ones and still be true to the flavor of the dish. Either way, you are gonna love this. Let’s get cookin’!
Eggplant Cauliflower Dirty Rice
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Eggplant Cauliflower Dirty "Rice" satisfies cravings for both carb and zest, while actually being a low-carb, plant-based meal. A Cajun/Creole delight!
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound diced into 1/2" cubes)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less, for a less spicy option)
- 1/4 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon sea salt finely ground (divided)
- 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon black pepper finely ground (divided)
- 1 large head cauliflower
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- 1 cup white onion diced
- 2 stalks celery
- 1/2 cup green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (less, for a milder option)
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper (less, for a milder option, but replace with equal parts cumin)
- 1) After removing both ends of the eggplant, cut it into 1/2" cubes. In a large bowl combine 1/4 cup olive oil with granulated garlic, red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt , and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix eggplant in seasoned oil mixture and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, then flip eggplant to opposite side and continue baking for another 20 minutes (40 minutes total). When complete leave on baking sheet until ready to add to vegetable mixture.
- 2) While eggplant is roasting, cut cauliflower into florets and remove the thick core. Pulse in small batches in food processor to make "rice". See picture in post for proper consistency. Empty into large bowl and repeat. If there are uncut pieces of the core, remove them and discard. A box grater can be used as an alternative to a food processor. You will need about 3 full cups of cauliflower "rice". Set aside.
- 3) Mince garlic cloves and dice onion, celery, green pepper and red pepper. In a large skillet warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic to olive oil first. When garlic and oil begin to sizzle, add onion, celery, and green and red pepper. Saute vegetables until they begin to turn translucent. Leave skillet with sauted vegetables on heat and add 3 cups of cauliflower "rice" to the vegetables. Mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and stir. Add dried thyme to mixture by rubbing it between your fingers or palms when adding. Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon chipotle. Stir mixture well.
- 4) Continue sautéing vegetables until cauliflower turns translucent. Add eggplant to mixture and mix well. Leave on heat just long enough to warm eggplant if it has begun to cool. Serve immediately as a side dish or an entrée. Keeps well in refrigerator in an airtight container and can easily be reheated.
If a milder dish is desired, the amounts of cayenne and chipotle peppers can be reduced. If the ground chipotle pepper is reduced, I recommend replacing it with an equal amount of cumin.
Loretta Rinaldi says
Hi. Can this dish be frozen?
I have not tried freezing this dish. I think you could give a go though. Let me know how it goes! 🙂
I am planning on making this tonight for dinner. My husband is vegan so he was thrilled when we found this recipe 🙂
Is it necessary to “sweat” ( laying it out and sprinkling it with salt) the eggplant before cooking it? I have always heard you needed to do that before cooking eggplant or it has a bitter taste?
Hi Sanni! I’m so glad you found the recipe too!! 🙂 Some dishes do require the salting of the eggplant but I have not found it necessary when roasting it for this recipe. Actually, as it turns out, it’s only ever the female eggplant that need that pre-salting. I recently discovered that there are male and female eggplant. The males have fewer seeds and do not tend to get tough or bitter. I talk about it in my post for Baked Vegan Eggplant Arrabiata as well as what to look for in how to select a male or female eggplant https://www.nutritionicity.com/recipes/baked-vegan-eggplant-arrabiata/ I hope this helps and I hope you both enjoy the dish!! 🙂 -Jana
Egg plant has not had a place at our table before. But this was a welcome introduction. Delicious!
Hi Steve, That’s great to hear! I’m so glad this recipe found a place in your home 🙂
One of my new favorite recipes! I roasted some cauliflower and added it with a little quinoa! OMG super selfish and guilt free!!
That should be added roasted broccoli 😅
Hi Rosemarie! I am so happy to hear how much you liked it!! I love the idea of the quinoa and broccoli. Great way to add even more plant-based protein to the dish. 🙂
OMGosh, I just made this dish and it was excellent! So many great flavors. I love that is was made from all veggies. I will definitely make again and again! Thank you for sharing.
Hi Cenessia, Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipe. This is one of my favorites too. This is in the regular rotation in our house too. 🙂
I made this and it is delicious! I did cut back on the heat some for the first try. For the second try, I added grilled chicken to make a full meal. Either way, this is SO good. My mom even looked forward to the leftovers, which is unusual! We already like cauli-rice, so this was a great way to use it! Oh, and here’s a tip for a head start… You can rice the cauliflower in the processor and put it in an airtight container in the fridge. It’ll keep nearly a week. Just get it out when you’re ready to cook it. You can also cut up all the other veggies except the eggplant, and keep them in a jar in the fridge just ready to scoop out when you’re ready to cook. Quicker supper prep, and less mess! Thanks for the recipe!
Hi Heather, I’m so glad you (and your mom!) liked it!! It has become a staple in our house as well. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your time saving tips. All great ideas! 🙂 -Jana
Bethany @ Athletic Avocado says
Holy yum! This “rice dish looks incredible! I love using cauliflower rice in place of the regular stuff, its so much more filling!
Thanks, Bethany! And much more nutritious too!!