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.

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76 thoughts on “Breadless Cauliflower and Mushroom Stuffing”

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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.

  2. Yowza! Sounds delicious–now I know what I’ll be contributing to Thanksgiving dinner. . .thanks!

  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.

  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?

  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?

    1. 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!

    2. I have tried it and it is awesome. Celeriac, parsnip, and turnip also work. A combination is best I think.

    3. 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!!

    4. 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.

    5. Adkins has a wonderful cauliflower recipe in place of mashed potatoes. My family loves them.

    6. I’ve mashed a whole head of cauliflower with one potato and it’s delicious. You can hardly tell the difference from 100% potatoes.

    7. 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.

    8. 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.

  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!

  7. You could have posted this in October so Canucks could use it for their Thanksgiving too 😛

  8. 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?

  9. 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!

  10. Awesome! Stuffing is always my weakness at Thanksgiving, but this is one I won’t feel bad about eating. Thanks!

  11. For a little hint of some traditional flavor, (here in New England, anyway) toss in some Sage, or some Bell’s seasoning…

  12. I’m hoping I can sneak this onto the dinner table at my parents house in about a week. thanks!

  13. @ 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.

  14. 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 🙂

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. Sounds great, but is there an option for those allergic to mushrooms?

  19. 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).

  20. 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.

  21. 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 . . .

  22. 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!!!

  23. 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.

    1. 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.

  24. Thyme covered by snow;
    Sharp knife,breath clouds,crunching ice;
    Snip, homemade stuffing.

  25. Had this with roast pork for dinner. Turned out to be really flavorful and everyone enjoyed it.

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. 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!

  29. I made a trial run a few days ago and then another batch today. I noticed that not all the butter was accounted for and added the other 1/4 cup dotted on top at the end and it seemed to be great. I used a fresh thyme, sage and smidge of rosemary.

  30. I made this for Thanksgiving. It’s an awesome way to prepare cauliflower but it in no way resembles stuffing/ dressing. Truthfully I was really hoping for something that would approximate that hearty, chewy mouth-feel.

  31. Yep, I added sage too, and it was awesome. I also didn’t have a lemon so I just added more (!) butter. It turned out great and I really think it was barely discernible from the bread stuffing.

  32. yummy! this was deee-lish!
    I was thankful to be the only “primal” at the table – didn’t have to share 😉
    And, it was good with the giblet gravy on it too!!
    I’m making this every yr. I bet it’s good in the bird too, but I stuffed mine with onions, garlic, celery, sage, thyme, and BACON & then reused all that with the carcass for soup stock.

  33. This went over well at Thanksgiving dinner. And for the leftovers, I’ve found it makes a good omelet filler, possibly with leftover ham or turkey added to the mix.

    1. After making my pre-Christmas test batch, I’m replying to myself incase anyone else is curious about the servings as well!

      I think it serves about 5 or so people.

      It was delicious! The only thing I may change next time is to decrease the amount of lemon by half. (Maybe do 1/2 a lemon in the hazelnut mixture and then the other 1/2 to drizzle over when it’s done.) Very glad to have this recipe, thank you!

      1. Thanks, I just came on to look up number of servings! My family loves this and I make it every Thanksgiving. I’m going to make 1.5 recipe for my family of 4 because they want leftovers.

  34. Breadless Cauliflower and Mushroom Stuffing | Mark's Daily Apple I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You are incredible! Thanks! your article about Breadless Cauliflower and Mushroom Stuffing | Mark's Daily AppleBest Regards Cindy

  35. Going to rush into the kitchen and stuff some peppers with this mixture. Thanks for a great recipe.

  36. This was delicious. I mixed some sour cream and ground beef in with it, along with some extra garlic granules and a little salt. Amazingly good!

  37. Had this for Thanksgiving tonight. It was delicious. We only used 1/2 c butter as described in the recipe and went light on the lemon at the end. It tasted great with my flourless gravy.

  38. We do the cauliflower stuffing ALL THE TIME!!! My sisters, not very adventurous with foods, absolutely love the stuffing and always ask for it for family functions. It’s amazing.

  39. The second lemon isn’t accounted for anywhere.
    We are still doing it, we’ll still make it work, but revising the lemon and butter issues in the posted recipe would be quite helpful.

    Happy thanksgiving, all

    1. Cindy, the second lemon is squeezed over the mixture right before serving – this statement is in the very last sentence of the post. The final 1/4 c butter… can’t answer that one. 🙂 I’ve got this recipe in the oven right now; making it ahead for tomorrow. I’ve made it for several dinners now and it’s always a hit no matter the individual dietary preference.

      Happy Thanksgiving to all my primal/paleo friends!

  40. This was amazing! A few tips:

    1. chop the cauliflower small. half-inch square pieces are good. I want to try it diced in the processor too, I bet that would be really good.

    2. reduce lemon by half, as another commenter mentioned. the too-lemony-ness was the only drawback of this dish.

    3. we added a big caramelized diced onion. delish.

    4. I’d like to try this with something sweet added, perhaps some cranberries, raisins, or maybe some diced sweet chicken sausage.

  41. I started making this when I was very strict paleo. I am not so much anymore, and I often eat regular stuffing at my Thanksgiving dinner. However this has made itself a permanent part of every one of our holiday meals since 2010. My children demand that I make it. It is even better the next day. Such a wonderful recipe.

  42. What happened to the last 1/4 cup of butter?? The ingredient list calls for 3/4 cup but we only use 2- 1/4 cup portions…

  43. Allergy to nuts (not seeds though!) What role does the hazelnut play? Can it be omitted or subbed?

    1. I have omitted it before because my SIL is allergic to nuts. The hazelnuts really make the dressing thicker and more flavorful, but you can leave it out. The stuffing just might be a little watery.

      My family loves this recipe and I make it every Thanksgiving without fail!

      1. You mentioned seeds. I’ve never tried it, but I bet sunflower seeds would replace the texture of the hazelnuts nicely.

  44. This is my favorite part of Thanksgiving, and this recipe has been a hit at every Thanksgiving dinner we have been to for the last 7 years. I lost my printed copy of it, and was very disappointed today to find that Mark’s original recipe is now on the 4th page of a google search for “paleo cauliflower stuffing”. There are so many people now with a hacked version of this recipe on their website claiming it as their own.

  45. Just made this – tasty! Kind of a lot of cook time for a random weekend in February, but mainly it was a lot of coming back and stirring, which wasn’t a big deal. Cook time for me was a little less than listed here (maybe because my pan was a bit bigger than the size suggested?). All-in-all good Thanksgivingy flavors and worth the wait. I liked it paired with some crispy smoked Gouda sprinkled on top. Would definitely make this again!