Traditional flavor and savor without all the calories
Memorial Day is coming up soon here in the US. And that means the start of picnic and cookout season. Potato salad is a staple at these events. It’s easy to make, you can prepare it ahead of time, and most everyone loves it.
At least until they step on the scale the following morning. Because potatoes pack some calories.
So why not replace those potatoes with cauliflower? When steamed or blanched, cauliflower’s texture mimics that of boiled potatoes. Plus it combines well with onions, mayo, and the other ingredients in traditional potato salad. And cauliflower contains only about a third the calories of potatoes.
Best of all, cauliflower “potato” salad tastes really good. Who says there’s no (calorie) free lunch?
Recipe: Cauliflower Potato-Style Salad
To make this salad, you essentially follow the recipe for a classic American (Mayonnaise) Potato Salad, but substitute cauliflower for spuds.
Prep time for this dish is about half an hour. You can serve it immediately, or chill it in the fridge for a couple hours (or even overnight) before serving it.
One head of cauliflower makes a salad that will serve 6 to 8 as a side dish. It’s easy to double the recipe if you wish.
Leftovers keep for several days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1 large head of cauliflower (~2 pounds when trimmed)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt for the cauliflower cooking water (about half that if using regular table salt; see Notes)
- ½ red onion (or to taste; can substitute white or yellow onion)
- 2 ribs celery (or to taste)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (to taste; see Notes for substitutions)
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (or to taste; may substitute wine vinegar)
- additional kosher salt to taste (maybe a teaspoon; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (maybe 8 to 10 grinds)
- paprika to taste (maybe ½ teaspoon; optional)
- 3 to 4 Hard-Boiled Eggs, diced
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh parsley and/or dill, minced (see Notes for substitution ideas)
- ~¾ cup mayo, preferably Homemade (or to taste; may substitute low-fat mayo)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons yellow mustard (optional; may substitute Dijon)
- garnish of parsley, dill, or hard-boiled egg slices
- Place a large pan of water (at least 4 quarts) on the stovetop to boil.
- Wash the cauliflower, remove any leaves, and cut it in half through the poles. Remove the woody core. Cut the cauliflower into small florets.
- When the water is boiling, add salt to season it. Add the cauliflower and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the cauliflower is tender (although we like just a bit of crunch); 6 to 8 minutes. (If you prefer to steam the cauliflower, see Notes.)
- Meanwhile, peel the onion and dice it finely. Place the diced onion in a large mixing bowl.
- Wash the celery and, using a vegetable peeler, remove the outer strings. Cut the celery into fine dice, then add it to the mixing bowl.
- Measure out the pickle relish and add it to the mixing bowl.
- By this time, the cauliflower probably will be done. Pour the cooked cauliflower into a colander and rinse it quickly with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain the cauliflower, then add it to the mixing bowl. Add the cider vinegar, salt, black pepper, and paprika (if using). Toss all the ingredients, adding more vinegar if the initial amount has been absorbed (see Notes). Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes so the flavors can mingle.
- Meanwhile, peel and dice the hard-boiled eggs. Mince the parsley and/or dill.
- After the cauliflower mixture has rested for at least 10 minutes, add the diced hard-boiled eggs, the parsley or dill, the mayonnaise, and the mustard (if using). Toss the ingredients together, then taste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, and add more mayonnaise if you prefer. Serve immediately or place in an airtight container and refrigerate to chill. When serving, we like to add a garnish of parsley, dill, and/or hard-boiled egg slices.
- Homemade mayo tastes wonderful in this dish, but you can substitute store bought (and we often do). We favor the Hellman’s brand (sold as the Best brand in the western US), but use whatever brand you like. Many people like to use Miracle Whip.
- Reduced-fat mayo works well in this dish, too.
- You can also replace half the mayo with yogurt. Or sour cream.
- If you like a lot of mayo in your “potato” salad, by all means add more.
- We like the tang (and hint of sweetness) that sweet pickle relish adds to this dish. But you could substitute diced dill pickles if you prefer. If you go that route, we suggest adding a teaspoon or so of pickle juice to the mixture.
- We particularly like this salad when made with fresh parsley or dill, but other fresh green herbs would work well too. Chives, for example. Or tarragon. If it sounds good to you, it probably is.
- If you’d like a bit more color in this dish, try adding some diced canned pimentos. Or diced fresh red bell pepper.
- Crisply cooked bacon makes another nice addition.
- Cider vinegar adds great flavor to cauliflower. Feel free to add more than we suggest.
- You can also substitute wine vinegar (red or white) for cider vinegar if you prefer.
- If you decide to use mustard in this dish, we recommend the yellow (ballpark) variety. But Dijon would work well too.
- We use kosher salt in our kitchen (sea salt at table). Kosher salt has bigger flakes than table salt, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly.” Hence, it’s less salty by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, use only half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- Cauliflower, like other cruciferous vegetables, is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains loads of vitamins, has antioxidant properties, and contributes anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s also much lower in calories than potatoes, so (despite the mayonnaise) this dish is much lighter than a traditional potato salad.
- Our instructions for this recipe direct you to blanch the cauliflower, but you can steam it if you prefer: Prepare the cauliflower as instructed in Step 2, then place it in a steam basket over boiling water, and steam until done.
“Fun dish!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This tastes so much like potato salad.”
“Tons of flavor,” I agreed. “But much lighter.”
“A good thing in one of our cases,” said Mrs K R, glancing at my midriff. “No one ever accused you of not pulling your weight.”
“You’re never at a loss for words,” I said. “And they’re always weighty.”
“I do try to weigh my words carefully,” said Mrs K R.
“Yup, you’re pretty good at punching above your weight,” I said.
“Guess we should call a truce here,” said Mrs K R. “Don’t want to throw my weight around.”
At least she’s not calling me a lightweight.
You may also enjoy reading about:
American (Mayonnaise) Potato Salad
German Potato Salad with Bacon
French Potato Salad
Mustard Potato Salad
Horseradish Potato Salad
Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad
Or check out the index for more recipes
What a great idea! I've subbed cauliflower for a lot of things but never thought to use it in place of potatoes in a "potato" salad.
Hi Pamela, this really is a fun salad! Tons of flavor, and it is a bit lighter. And every bit as good as a "regular" potato salad! Thanks for the comment.
What a great idea John.
Cauliflower as pizza crust never appealed to me but this? A must try!
Hi Barb, the cauliflower pizza crust is interesting, but I haven't been tempted to try it. This makes total sense, though. Really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Well, they use cauliflower as rice-so why not potatoes? Sounds great! Can't believe Memorial Day is around the corner! The weather has made me feel that summer will never get here!I guess Mother Nature hasn't been pulling her weight!
Weight Watcher's did a cauliflower potato salad years ago, mustard style.
A scrumptious combination and potato salad. Two of my favorite vegetables...
Hi Abbe, this year has flown by, hasn't it? But yes, Memorial Day is almost here! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anonymous, thanks for the info! I think this recipe would be really good done with horseradish, too.
Hi Rosa, isn't this fun? And SO good! Thanks for the comment.
Wow this looks like a really healthy alternative
Awesome! I just printed this out as I want to try this. I am having cousins coming in from Florida on the Memorial Day weekend and I think this may be a big hit! Everyone loves cauliflower and in this salad it must be delicious. I have never made it in a salad before so this would be a wonderful way to serve without the calories. Love your notes....Thank you for sharing this. Have a great weekend...
What a fun and tasty twist on potato salad. It looks delicious, John.
Hi Raymund, tastes good, too, which is the important thing! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dottie, bet you'll love this! Really terrific flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, isn't this a need dish? And its flavor is wonderful! Thanks for the comment.
This is so smart and I bet it tastes wonderful. So creative and genius! Thank you so much for this one John :)
I've been reading a basque Cookbook lately and noticed several vegetables treated in the manner. Cauliflower treated this way would certainly wow them at the next pot luck. GREG
I always thought the problem wasn't so much in the potatoes, but in all the other ingredients. Nonetheless, I love cauliflower, and its lightness compared to potato can't be denied. This is such a wonderful idea!
I love potato salad but rarely have it anymore. I like the idea of using cauliflower instead. Not only is it better for you but it adds that extra crunch to the salad. Love this idea!
This is such a great idea! I always love the sides best of all at picnics and cookouts. This would be at the center of my plate.
Hi Tricia, it's really a good dish. Quite similar to potato salad, but has its own character. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Greg, this is a great pot luck dish! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jeff, this certainly isn't a really low calorie dish because of the mayo (although using low cal mayo helps a lot). But the cauliflower does reduce the amount of calories quite a bit. Thanks for the ocmment.
Hi VIcki, this is really worth trying. Truly good stuff. And we like just a little crunch in this salad, too. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lisa, we're big fans of the sides too. Less of the charred meat that seems to happen at so many cookouts. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lizzy, this is fun, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a brilliant concept John this looks amazing and how lovely to replace potatoes - a truly overrated vegetable with cauliflower. Sensational!
(palm-smacks-forehead) Of course, if smashed cauliflower subs for mashed taters, why not use it for potato salad. I can't wait to try this idea - with chopped sweet pickles and dill pickle juice, of course.
Hi Merryn, this really tastes great! Although we like potatoes, don't miss them at all in this dish. Thanks for the comment.
Hi SeattleDee, love sweet pickles/relish in this dish! The extra zing really works well with cauliflower. Thanks for the comment.
I can't believe it's time to "pull out the barbie" again- time sure does fly! I love homemade mayo- I could eat it straight out of the jar. Using cauliflower instead of potatoes- GAME ON!
I'm speechless, John! and you know that doesn't happen often, lol...I LOVE this recipe! I haven't jumped on the cauliflower band wagon until recently. As a matter of fact, I actually bought frozen riced cauliflower at Trader Joe's yesterday because I was curious:)
I'm hesitant to try this only because I do LOVE potatoes but, I am also a huge fan of cauliflower and am really curious as to how this would work. We aren't having company for Memorial Day but I will be saving this recipe for when company comes. What a surprise it will be for all of us! (I can't trust myself to make it for just me and Marion, I may eat the whole thing!)
Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring recipe, John...I will be pinning!
Hi Fran, homemade mayo is wonderful, isn't it? The commercial stuff is a pale imitation. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louise, you probably will eat the whole thing if you make this for just you and Marion! Easy enough to use just half a head of cauliflower, though, and adjust the recipe down. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is a genius idea to subsitute cauliflower for potates. I am going to try it, I enjoy reading your blog.
THIS IS GOING TO BE A SUMMERTIME STAPLEEE! OMG IT SOUNDS AMAZING and I can EAT IT!! I was sent a whole bunch of avocado oil based mayos - BOOM! I mean, I gotta USE EM, right?! ;)
As it happened, half a head of cauliflower was in my fridge when I read this post yesterday. I didn't go the whole mayo route, but you did inspire me to put it in a salad. In this case, it was chopped salad -- small cubish pieces of cuke, tomato, avocado. etc. with cooked cauliflowerets (I use the microwave to get it soft but not mushy) and lots of chopped parsley and cilantro. Lemon-olive oil dressing.
Thanks for the idea: yes, cauliflower is good in salad!
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
I'm a big fan of healthy potato salads but it never occurred to me to use cauliflower. Love this! I bet the flavors are fantastic. It drives me a little crazy that everyone celebrates a holiday with junky food. Let's hope this helps change that. :) Great recipe.
I think this is a great idea since I'm a big fan of cauliflower. Thanks for sharing John.
Firstly, your fun antics at the end with your wife always make me giggle and always look forward to it. It is funny how we get in a groove and we would miss it if it was not there. At first I thought at a quick glance this was just your regular run of the mill potato salad but you did a delightful and diabetic friendly makeover. Love this recipe. I was thinking about even adding a little curry powder to make it a curried cauliflower salad.
I love how popular cauliflower has become. It wasn't a vegetable I would gravitate to in the vegetable at the store in the past, but it sure is now. It's always affordable and so versatile. Fantastic calorie-friendly salad for Memorial Day!
Hi Gerlinde, isn't this nice? And SO tasty! Thanks for the comment.
Hi GiGi, avocado oil is good stuff -- haven't had mayo made with it, though. Should be great! As is this salad. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, I used mayo for this because when most of us think potato salad, that's what we're thinking. In truth, a "French" -- oil and vinegar -- potato salad is our favorite, and although we have yet to try it, cauliflower probably works well in that. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Robyn, you'll like this! Really good flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, we're big cauliflower lovers too. And were before it got so trendy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, haven't tried curry powder in this -- yet. That's an awesome idea! Definitely need to give that a try. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, yup, I'm loving all the cauliflower recipes I see! Hated it when I was a kid, but then I learned how to cook cauliflower properly (in other words, don't overcook it!) and love it. Thanks for the comment.
What a great idea: A low-carb "potato" salad! I am saving this recipe to make on a hot summer day to accompany bbq!
Low calorie mayo reduces (some of) the calories, but a whole lot of carbs are cut down if you use cauliflower, instead of potatoes! If you season this dish well, you'll love it!
Hi Denise, this is dynamite with BBQ! A favorite combo of ours. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anonymous, really good point regarding the carbs! Thanks for the comment.
cauliflower rice, pizza crust...now potato salad. That is pretty ingenious actually and a tasty idea. It really looks very good John! On the summer recipe roster.
This is genius John!! Sharing now on my FB page.
A great twist on potato salad, John! You've made a believer out of me so it's a go to try it. Take care
I really love cauliflower and trying new ways to use it. Such a great swap for potatoes ... though I would argue most of the calories come from the add ins and dressing not the potatoes which can be healthy.
Hi Evelyne, cauliflower gets a lot of love, doesn't it? Well deserved, too! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Alyssa, this is good stuff -- you'll like. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, this is a fun dish! Tons of flavor. Really a nice twist on potato salad. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, the mayo and such probably do add most of the calories (although low fat mayo isn't too bad). But the cauliflower does have about a third the calories (and fewer carbs), so that's a help, at least. Thanks for the comment.
Great idea, so creative. I love cauliflower mash, bet I would love this too!
Cauliflower's texture is so similar to potato, especially when mashed or pureed, that this is pure genius. A great way to enjoy potato salad's deliciousness with less carbs.
I may just do that John. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this recipe:) I'll go with low fat mayo...
Wow John, that
Looks delicious!!! My mother makes a similar one but hers has fresh pineapple in it.
Hi Cheri, bet you'd love this, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, we don't worry that much about carbs (although we probably should!), but that's a really nice bonus of this recipe. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Julie, gotta try pineapple! Great idea. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louise, although we love the full fat mayo, the low fat is by far the more sensible choice. And what we often use. :-)
Yum!! I'm not a huge fan of potatoes, so this is going to be added to my recipe shopping list soon. Thanks for sharing, John.
Hi Kiran, although we do like potatoes, this might be even better! Nice, clean flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
We need to get as many healthy veggies in our diet as we can and your salad is a winner.
This is a great idea... I need this salad as my scale keeps going up :). Thanks for sharing.
Hi Karen, this is really good! Definitely a winner. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, those scales are kinda annoying, aren't they? Must be defective. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I wouldn't miss the potatoes at all! I love all these flavors without all the calories---what a terrific recipe. Have a wonderful weekend!
Hi Liz, isn't this nice? Really full flavor, too. Thanks for the comment.
It just so happens that I bought 2 heads of cauliflower this week, looks like it's cauliflower time!
Hi Pamela, cauliflower time is good times, don't you think? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow!!It is an awesome idea. Lovely flavors and beautiful dish. I will try it out soon. Yum Yum :)
Hi Ritu, it's a really fun dish -- so flavorful. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Ouch! The zingers are really flying! This looks like a terrific way to serve cauliflower.
This looks really good, John! I love potato salad, but I also love cutting calories and still having a dish taste great :) I will definitely be trying this cauliflower salad over the summer. Wonderful idea!
Hi Beth, we love those zinger! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcelle, you'll love this! No, it's not exactly the same as potato salad, but very close. And in some ways, better. Thanks for the comment.
What a great idea to use cauliflower! Would love to try this out for lunch.
I was seriously just thinking about adding a potato salad to my "Salad-a-Day" theme. Then I landed on this. The least I can do is give you a shout out during my event (such as it is). I love this idea! It is perfect to shake things up at the Memorial Day picnic.
Hi Caroline, this would make a dandy lunch! SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Debra, we're eating tons of salads at the moment, so your salad-a-day theme is really well timed! Going to be hot this week, so we'll be trying to finish off most of the lettuce in our garden before it all bolts. Thanks for the comment.
Well this is pretty darn creative!!!! I'm not a big cauliflower person but am a huge potato salad person, but I also know too much potato salad makes a person huge. :) So this is a way to have you cake and eat too. Will have to give this one a try. Thanks John!
Not only is this recipe genius, but it looks like something I would make over and over. I will definitely be trying this recipe this summer. Can't wait!
Hi MJ, we originally made this just to see if cauliflower would make a good substitute for potatoes (mainly because of all the love cauliflower is getting at the moment), and discovered this is really good. And the fact that it has fewer calories is really nice! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, make this once, you'll definitely make it again. And again. And then start playing with it -- it takes to so many flavor variations. Thanks for the comment.
This is such a good idea! I've never been much of a fan of potato salad, but with cauliflower it sounds so much more robust and interesting!
Hi Mary, this is such an interesting salad! Really nice combo of flavors and textures. Thanks for the comment.
I love the idea of substituting carbohydrates to cauliflower! I am a big fan of potato salad!
This is such a creative twist on classic potato salad! Very intriguing!
Hi Katerina, this is a fun swap of ingredients, isn't it? And it tastes great! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amy, isn't this nice? And it tastes SO much like traditional potato salad! Thanks for the comment.
WOW! This is innovative. They look so beautiful and delicious too
Who knew Cauliflower could turn into such a fun-filled, glamorous and fulfilling meal!
Thank you so very much for the innovative, tasty recipe :)
Yummy pictures indeed!
Hi Kushi, this is a fun dish! And really tasty. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nusrat, this is a great dish -- I'll bet you'd like. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I am all about saving calories, especially with the way I normally eat at picnics! Love this!
Hi Ashley, yeah, it's easy to eat more than one intends at picnics, isn't it? So many tempting choices! Thanks for the comment.
I have done the cauliflower pizza crust (quite a few times) with great success. (Really, you add those toppings and you're set). And I do have quite a bit of extra weight to throw around (nothing fits) so I will be doing this. With Hellmans. Never Miracle Whip. And with all the accoutrements.
Hi Claudia, Hellman's rules! Miracle Whip? Well, we just say no. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a terrific recipe John! You know, I've had cauliflower 'mashed potatoes' before and just loved it. Never thought to substitute them again in a dish like this, but it makes sense! And like all 'potato' salads, I've gotta have my sweet pickle relish in there! Looks really good! Thanks so much! : )
Hi Anne, we rather like sweet pickle relish in potato salads, too. Adds a nice flavor note, don't you think? Thanks for the comment.
I love the idea of substituting cauliflower for potatoes, not that i do not like potatoes, but it is a great idea for the ones that want to shed weight...I love it!
Hi Juliana, we love potatoes in potato salad, but this is such a fun (and tasty!) change. Thanks for the comment.
This is super awesome!!!!! I love cauliflower (not sure why many people dislike this vegetable - more for me! :D ) and this is a fun way to eat cauliflower. From the quick look, I can barely see it as cauliflower. I love potatoes too but I love this alternative very much.
I am loving the myriad of uses for cauliflower these days - I haven't thought to use it in place of potatoes for a salad!
Hi Nami, we really like potatoes, but this is such a fun variation. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amanda, cauliflower works really well as a potato substitute in dishes like this. Really a nice change of pace. Thanks for the comment.
What an awesome idea! Thanks for sharing.
Hi Claire, this is a wonderful dish -- SO full of flavor. Thanks for the comment.
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