Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
13 Nov

Breadless Cauliflower and Mushroom Stuffing

The name says it all. Stuffing, when made with the traditional loaf of bread, is a heavy addition to the holiday table that can leave you feeling, well, stuffed. As if the table weren’t already collapsing under the weight of a giant bird and a half-dozen side-dishes, tradition demands that a big dish of what is essentially just a loaf of bread cut up into pieces, be included, too. Well, phooey on tradition. We’re not saying that stuffing shouldn’t be served at all, we’re just saying, why limit yourself to stuffing made with bread?

The attributes that make stuffing so popular – a mild, comforting flavor and rich, indulgent texture – can be achieved with all sorts of different ingredients. Our favorite combination this holiday season is a buttery blend of cauliflower, mushrooms and leeks baked until soft and caramelized and covered with an intensely nutty blend of hazelnuts and fresh herbs.

Just like all your friends and relatives will be showing up for Thanksgiving dinner barely recognizable in their best duds, the cauliflower in this dish undergoes a similar transformation. This is not the plain, crunchy cruciferous you’ve become accustomed to and even grown to love despite a slightly sulfuric aroma. For this stuffing, the long cooking time and co-mingling with other ingredients transforms the cauliflower into something extra special. We’re tempted to give hazelnuts all the credit. While roasting nuts for long periods of time is not recommended on a regular basis because of possible oxidation, roasting them for added flavor in the occasional holiday dish should be enjoyed, not over-analyzed. The roasted hazelnuts in this stuffing bring a rich texture and a depth of flavor that just can’t be achieved with raw nuts.

Along these same lines, but with a totally different flavor, Fruit and Nut Stuffing is another holiday option. In fact, these two types of stuffing are different enough that both can grace the table if you like. So go ahead, put two bowls of stuffings on your table this year and enjoy them both without any guilt.


  • 3/4 cup butter (or olive oil)
  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms, cut in half
  • 1 leek
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup of butter and sauté mushrooms, leek and celery for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms soften a bit. Combine with cauliflower florets in a 13×9 inch rimmed baking pan.

In a food processor, combine hazelnuts, juice of one lemon, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, parsley, salt and 1/4 cup of melted butter.

Pulse until the mixture is well-blended and the hazelnuts are in tiny pieces, but it’s not nearly as smooth as a paste.

Spoon the mixture on the top of the cauliflower and mushrooms and mix well.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally. Raise the heat to 375 degrees and bake another 35-45 minutes, stirring several times so the stuffing does not burn or stick to the pan. It is these last 35-45 minutes that are crucial to finishing the dish. The hazelnuts will brown and lose moisture, becoming caramelized and a bit crunchy again.

This stuffing can be baked a day ahead and then covered and re-heated before serving. Right before serving, squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon top and add more salt if needed.

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Excited!! I was hoping for a recipe like this one. One thing tho, I’m not a big fan of mushrooms. Also, I think I’d try chopping the cauliflower up into smaller bits.

    gilliebean wrote on November 13th, 2010
  2. Yowza! Sounds delicious–now I know what I’ll be contributing to Thanksgiving dinner. . .thanks!

    Catalina wrote on November 13th, 2010
  3. The recipe sounded amazing until… isn’t it supposed to go into the cavity of some sort of bird? That would add a lot to the flavour.

    Confused wrote on November 13th, 2010
  4. Sounds fantastic! Do you think this would work well with other nuts? I don’t have a good sources of hazelnuts. Pecans? Macadamias? Pinenuts?

    Joy wrote on November 13th, 2010
  5. Yum, sounds great! To the poster above, pine nuts sound like they would be fantastic in it.

    Anyone got any other ideas for primal Thanksgiving fare? I’m doing about half the cooking for my family’s Thanksgiving this year. So far I’ve got an alternate version of green bean casserole with a little bit of cream sauce instead of condensed soup (seriously, what is with that?!) and a crushed almond and pine nut topping, and roasted sweet potatoes and seared carrots with cinnamon and cayenne to replace the horrific marshmallow-covered monstrosity we usually have. I’ve test-driven both already, and they’ve worked out great, but I’m still working on the “mashed potatoes”. Since sweet potatoes are already done, I was considering maybe using cauliflower. Anyone ever tried that? Or have any suggestions?

    Cass wrote on November 13th, 2010
    • I haven’t tried it yet but I have been told that both mashed cauliflower and mashed parsnip make a good substitute. I think I’m going to try to try them (or at least one) before thanksgiving and I’ll probably make that if it comes out well.

      Because while I plan on ignoring the rules for the day in a few areas I am perfectly willing to sub out the potatoes. Its all about the gravy anyway!

      Ruth wrote on November 13th, 2010
    • one word: celeriac

      jennifer wrote on November 14th, 2010
    • I have tried it and it is awesome. Celeriac, parsnip, and turnip also work. A combination is best I think.

      Ely wrote on November 15th, 2010
    • my hubby makes the best “mashed potatoes” ever
      1 head cauliflower
      1 large potato
      1 onion
      all chopped and boiled then drain and mash w/
      1 stick butter
      salt n pepper to taste
      so yummy!
      gobble gobble!!

      Felicia wrote on November 16th, 2010
    • I love old fashioned southern cheese grits….but as I am diabetic and follow a modified Paleo diet, I found you can substitute cauliflower for the grits and it is yummy…it works with any kind of cheese but you could leave it out all together for a more mashed potato like dish.

      Gretchen wrote on November 17th, 2010
    • Adkins has a wonderful cauliflower recipe in place of mashed potatoes. My family loves them.

      gladd wrote on November 17th, 2010
    • I’ve mashed a whole head of cauliflower with one potato and it’s delicious. You can hardly tell the difference from 100% potatoes.

      Vic wrote on November 23rd, 2010
    • I made faux mashed potatoes with cauliflower and my guests loved it. I used only cauliflower, coconut oil, sea salt, and coconut milk. I cooked the cauli al dente then pulsed it in the blender with some coconut oil and a little coconut milk. Delicious.

      Ruth Shapovalov wrote on November 24th, 2010
    • Best sub for mashed potatoes is mashed celeriac root. You skin the root and then chop into cubes…about 3/4 inch works. You saute the cubes in oil..we use grass fed tallow for the added flavor but lard or butter would work. Once the cubes are soft place in blender or food processor with butter, sour cream or heavy cream and blend.. add liquids as needed until “mashed potato” consistency.This has proved so popular we do it at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

      Cynthia wrote on November 12th, 2015
  6. Yum! I love stuffing but I haven’t eaten any since going gluten free 3 years ago, and now this year primal. Maybe I’ll have to try this!

    Megan wrote on November 13th, 2010
  7. You could have posted this in October so Canucks could use it for their Thanksgiving too 😛

    unchatenfrance wrote on November 13th, 2010
    • October is a better month for Thanksgiving anyway, isn’t it!? 😉

      gilliebean wrote on November 14th, 2010
  8. Yaaaaay! Stuffing!!! ~happy dance!~

    heavv wrote on November 13th, 2010
  9. Right on, just as I was wondering how I was going to cook my cauliflower.

    Although, I’m not a big fan of hazelnuts. What are some alternatives?

    Jeff wrote on November 13th, 2010
    • I’m sure you could use any other nut.

      unchatenfrance wrote on November 13th, 2010
  10. This sounds SO delicious. We’re going to be in Cabo this year so we probably wont be having a traditional meal… however next year, I will definitely give this a shot! Or maybe for Christmas!

    Tara wrote on November 13th, 2010
  11. Awesome! Stuffing is always my weakness at Thanksgiving, but this is one I won’t feel bad about eating. Thanks!

    Sarah Due wrote on November 13th, 2010
  12. …yeah, this is DEFINITELY going on the menu. Wow! I can’t wait :)

    Nelly wrote on November 13th, 2010
  13. For a little hint of some traditional flavor, (here in New England, anyway) toss in some Sage, or some Bell’s seasoning…

    Julie Aguiar wrote on November 13th, 2010
  14. I’m hoping I can sneak this onto the dinner table at my parents house in about a week. thanks!

    Maggs wrote on November 14th, 2010
  15. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!! I could eat that just right away! 😀

    Kath (Eating for Living) wrote on November 14th, 2010
  16. @ Ruth. I use cauliflower as mashed potatoes all the time. I break the head into flowerets and either steam or microwave (no water) in a covered dish til tender. If you add water it makes the final product to wet. Add butter if using and a bit of cream, I use my emulsion blender and just blend til the consistency you want adding more cream as needed. Then just reheat as needed. I even make just enough for me at dinners where my none paleo family is eating regular potatoes. Works great. I also make cauli rice as well. Love the stuffing recipe could have used it at our Canadian Thanksgiving too. Oh well now I can have chicken and stuffing on Sundays.

    Debbie wrote on November 14th, 2010
  17. Erica wrote on November 14th, 2010
  18. Ohhhh Mark I love you! This is amazing – I always want stuffing at Turkey Day dinner. Now I can make an alternative and still get my fix! Thank you so much for sharing! Can’t wait to try this :)

    Jen wrote on November 15th, 2010
  19. I also add tabasky sauce. Get some!

    Jzoe wrote on November 15th, 2010
  20. You are a genius! I was all sad this year since I’ve started this primal lifestyle but this gives me a Thanksgiving hope! Haha.

    Jenice wrote on November 15th, 2010
  21. This sounds fabulous. I’m roasting organic free range Peking Duck on a rotisserie so I might add some of the duck fat in the last cooking time for the same flavor that you’d get if you cooked it in the bird.

    One thing I’m concerned about. . . if I use cauliflower for the stuffing I won’t want a repeat with cauliflower mash potatoes . . . and GRAVY! anyone know a really good recipe for gravy that tastes just as good with a substitute for flour. Traditionally I used my grandmother’s recipe that called for roasting flour in a dry pan until it was very brown–then adding the butter/drippings and stock. Now that I’m Paleo I can’t use flour at all-let alone roasted!

    cee wrote on November 15th, 2010
  22. The smashed cauliflower is really good! Boil it in chicken stock, drain it really really well. Then mash. Once mashed, alternate olive oil and coconut milk until you get the consistency you’re looking for. Takes quite a bit of oil but it is so good! I’ve learned around my house not to try to use “stuffing” or “potatoes” in the title. Call it what it is and everyone loves it!

    Amber wrote on November 16th, 2010
  23. Sounds great, but is there an option for those allergic to mushrooms?

    griffin wrote on November 18th, 2010
  24. I made this last night as a trial run before Thanksgiving. Both my non-primal husband and myself thought it was delicious. However, any idea on the best way to reheat it? It takes too long in the oven to be able to make on Thanksgiving Day (not enough oven space with the turkey).

    Clarissa wrote on November 20th, 2010
  25. We had this tonight as a trial run. It was wonderful!!!! I added some fresh cranberries & chesnuts while it was cooking and some crumbled bacon to finish it. My (non primal) husband devoured it!!
    I’m absolutly making this on Thanksgiving.

    lisa wrote on November 20th, 2010
    • I added fresh bacon bits, too. Perfect!

      Sarah E wrote on November 28th, 2013
  26. Seriously one of the best things I have ever tasted. I used goat milk butter. Alot of it :) I’ve never used chestnuts before, glad I looked up that they’re supposed to be peeled first . . .

    Christine wrote on November 22nd, 2010
  27. wow, i just made this and am eating it, and it’s delicious!! i used almonds instead of hazelnuts, just because i didn’t have hazelnuts, i put some cumin in it (i put cumin in everything) and also some goji berries. oh, and 1 question – no biggie, but i don’t think all the butter is accounted for in the recipe? i just see 1/2 cup used in the recipe. i didn’t really measure the butter anyway.. :-) thanks!!!

    hyesun wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  28. I am making this, and yes, there is only half cup of butter accounted for in the recipe. I used 1/4 cup with the mushrooms/leeks, and about 1/3 cup with hazelnuts/garlic/parsley. It smells wonderful, but it is a MESS to make. I’m making it in my big lasagna pan, and every time I stir it I get stuff in the oven. I think next time I’ll try to make it in the roaster. It’s deeper than the 13 in baking pan.

    synger wrote on November 23rd, 2010
    • When I have to stir and overful pan of something, I find it works better to take it out of the oven and put it on a hot pad or trivet on the counter to stir. It’s easier to wipe off the counter than the oven.

      Laura wrote on November 24th, 2010
  29. Thyme covered by snow;
    Sharp knife,breath clouds,crunching ice;
    Snip, homemade stuffing.

    Clarissa wrote on November 24th, 2010
    • Lovely Haiku.
      Thank you.

      Samantha wrote on November 26th, 2013
  30. Had this with roast pork for dinner. Turned out to be really flavorful and everyone enjoyed it.

    Pokey wrote on November 24th, 2010
  31. I am currently baking this. I made a bit more than the recipe, so we’ll see how it goes. I don’t use butter; only coconut oil. That’s what is in there. My food processor is a weakling, and didn’t really chop the hazelnuts too well. It smells amazing. I will re-heat it tomorrow. I’ll maybe let you know.

    Ruth Shapovalov wrote on November 24th, 2010
  32. This recipe was a hit with my family. My sister has a severe nut allergy, so the hazelnuts were out, as were most obvious substitutes I could think of. Finally, I used raw peanuts, and the recipe came out fine.

    I had one problem, though. The ingredients list includes 3/4 cup of butter, but the step-by-step instructions only use 1/2 cup, which, believe me, was more than enough!

    aqf wrote on November 25th, 2010
  33. We had this for Thanksgiving today. We actually made it the night before and I had to resist eating the entire dish of it right after it came out of the oven, WOW this stuff is delicious!

    Squatchy wrote on November 25th, 2010

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