Chicken Pilaf with Cauliflower Rice

By Jess

5 from 1 ratings

Pilaf is a traditional Middle Eastern or Indian dish consisting of rice, vegetables, and meat that is cooked in a stock with added spices. This recipe for a spicy chicken pilaf adds a unique paleo twist to pilaf by making it suitable for anyone following a paleo diet. It replaces the rice with cauliflower florets that have been processed into small bits and pieces to add bulk and to simulate the taste and flavor of rice. The main protein sources are chicken thighs and drumsticks that have been coated with some fantastic use of spices that are uniquely Middle Eastern. The end result is a dish that has plenty of character without sacrificing a healthy and balanced macronutrient profile.

chicken pilaf dish

Chicken pilaf is a delicious meal that originated in the Middle East and parts of India. This recipe makes it completely paleo-friendly by replacing the rice that’s traditionally used with cauliflower florets. Processed cauliflower makes a great rice replacement and when combined with the dark meat chicken that’s been coated in a unique mixture of spices, you get one amazing chicken pilaf!

Cauliflower, the Paleo-Approved Alternative to Rice

There are so many great Asian and Middle Eastern meals out there that rely heavily on rice as a main ingredient. And honestly, before switching to a paleo lifestyle, I used to eat rice on a regular basis because it’s so easy to cook and can be remade into so many different dishes. Fortunately, like with most paleo meals, you can still recreate a paleo-approved version of your favorite dishes with a bit of creativity and resourcefulness. In this case, the perfect replacement for rice is actually cauliflower. It’s low in carbs, low in calories, and packed full of healthy phytochemicals and antioxidants. (1)

A Great Mixture of Healthy Spices 

This chicken pilaf recipe calls for dark meat chicken thighs and drumsticks, but you can opt to use white meat pieces if you prefer. I personally like dark meat as I find it has more flavor and fat content to keep me feeling full for longer. The chicken is coated in a mixture of ground ginger, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and cayenne pepper. This mixture adds quite a potent spicy flavor to the pilaf, so make sure you adjust the spice level to your tastebuds. It has been noted in many instances that a diet that features a high amount of spicy foods may help protect against many types of diseases and prolong your life. (2) They really help bring out the flavor of the chicken in this pilaf, while also adding an extra element of heat that foodies are sure to enjoy.
getting chicken ready

prepping pilaf

Optional: Side of Paleo Naan with ‘Hummus’

Finish off your meal with a side of chewy and fluffy paleo naan dipped in our signature paleo dip. Naan is usually paired with hummus dip which is commonly made with chickpeas, but since chickpeas are not considered paleo-approved, we’ve created a few paleo alternatives for you to try. This roasted cauliflower cashew hummus is a winner because of its creamy texture and rich tahini flavor. We also have several other paleo hummus dip recipes for you to try, but since this chicken pilaf recipe is already making use of cauliflower, why not kill two birds with one stone and find another use for it to simplify your dinner preparations.

grilled chicken pilaf

This dish was made for people who love spicy food. The mixture of spices is a perfect balance of heat and flavor, which can help warm you up during the colder months of the year. Pair this with some warm broth or a hearty soup and you’re in for a treat. This chicken pilaf combines the best of both worlds in a completely paleo-friendly way. By replacing the rice with cauliflower and using a terrific blend of healthy herbs and spices, you can still enjoy a deliciously spicy and authentic tasting chicken pilaf that’s full of flavor with just the right amount of kick.

chicken pilaf

P.S. – If you’re like me and you just can’t get enough of spicy meals, you’ve got to check out these great recipe compilations. They have a terrific mix of meals to choose from which should keep you (and your tastebuds) happy for quite a while: 

#1 – 30 Spicy Jalapeno Paleo Meals and Sides

#2 – 37 Spicy and Authentic Cajun Recipes

#3 – 14 Spicy Vietnamese Soups, Salads and Stir Fry



    • 1 ½ pound chicken thighs and drumsticks
    • 2 pounds cauliflower florets
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • ½ tsp ground ginger
    • ½ tsp ground cumin
    • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
    • ¼ tsp ground coriander
    • ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
    • salt, black pepper to taste


  1. Pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor to make grains the size of rice. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground ginger, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. Mix to combine.
  3. Take out 1/3 of spice mix and reserve for later.
  4. In the bowl, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and ¼ tsp salt and mix.
  5. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
  6. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook chicken, in batches, for 3 minutes or until browned.
  7. In the same skillet add the remaining olive oil and onion. Cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  9. Add the cauliflower rice, reserved spice mix and cook for 3-4 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
  10. Transfer to a baking tray.
  11. Add ¼ cup water and mix.
  12. Top with chicken.
  13. Bake in preheated oven at 400ºF for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  14. Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.


Serving Size




Print Recipe

Ask a Question/Comment

Facebook icon Twitter icon Instagram icon Pinterest icon Google+ icon YouTube icon LinkedIn icon Contact icon