Cauliflower Fennel Feta Pesto Salad gives end-of-summer vegetables a chance to shine in an easy and versatile side dish! This low carb and keto-friendly cold salad features cauliflower rice, green beans, cucumbers, fennel, and feta in a tangy dill pesto.
Best Cauliflower Salad - Keto, LCHF, Low Carb, Gluten-free, Sugar-free
Our local produce market is starting to feature end of the summer vegetables on sale which is equal parts heart-breaking as it is exciting. But we are not quite there yet, so while I wait for that transition, I want to savor summer for as long as possible.
Cauliflower Fennel Feta Pesto Salad was inspired by an orzo salad I found in Bon Appetit some years ago. Since pasta is out of the question for my low carb diet, I’ve swapped it for cauliflower rice here and kept the other vegetable components identical to the original recipe. This summer salad features green beans, cucumber, and fennel.
The salad is mostly raw with the exception of the blanched green beans, so you have a wonderful fresh crunch. I’ve amped up the flavors in the pesto, which were a bit bland from what I remember, and added crumbled feta to provide a briney and tangy element to the salad with plays nicely with the dill. The salad is herbal, tangy, and a light low carb option for those hot days that often round out the summer months.
What is fennel?
If you’ve never used fennel before, you’re in for a treat. While the other ingredients in this recipe are fairly common, fennel might be unknown to you. Fennel actually comes from the carrot family and is sold as a bulb with wispy green fronds. Some grocery stores will put up signage that calls this flowering vegetable “anise” even though is should not be confused with aniseed (flowering plant) or star anise (comes from an evergreen). These are all totally different plants. These other plants share a chemical compound that produce a licorice flavor, but fennel is not nearly as intense. Even fennel seed, which looks almost identical to anise, is smaller and much more mellow.
When raw, fennel has a crunchy, sweet, celery-like texture. You can eat the bulb and the fronds. It is also delicious when cooked. Paleo author, Melissa Joulwan, has an incredible chicken thigh recipe that uses sauteed fennel, which is a great way to try cooked fennel if it is a foreign concept to you. Whether you plan to use fennel raw or cooked, you will want to cut out the tough core when using the bulb for recipes.
How to make Keto Cauliflower Salad
- Cauliflower Rice
- Green beans
- White wine vinegar
- Olive oil
Cold Cauliflower Pasta Salad Tips & Tricks
Cut all vegetable items to a similar size. Given that this salad features several different vegetables, you’ll get a better presentation and final taste by making sure that your beans, cucumbers, and fennel are similar in size. I shoot for about 1 inch green beans, and then dice my cucumber and fennel to something similar.
Blanching green beans. If you have never blanched a vegetable, it is a relatively easy process. Blanching is a great way to preserve the texture and color of fresh vegetables with a short cooking process. First, submerge your green beans in a large pot of salted water for about three minutes until tender. Next, remove the beans to “shock” in a bath of ice water. Make sure you really salt that water as it will help to flavor the beans. I’m talking about way more than a pinch here, friends. Shocking the beans in ice water stops the cooking process. You’ll get crisp but tender beans which are perfect for this salad.
Fresh cauliflower rice is best. I would not recommend thawed frozen cauliflower rice for this recipe. If you do have to go that route, make sure that you drain it and squeeze out as much moisture as possible otherwise you’ll have a soggy, runny salad. Cauliflower rice is not difficult to whip up.I cut the florets from the head and pulse in a food processor. If you don’t have one, you can actually use a large hand-held cheese grater to create the “rice”. It takes a bit longer than the food processor, but will create a similar result.
Other cauliflower side dish recipes to explore
- Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Sauce Verte
- Summer Squash Cauliflower Rice Salad
- Spinach Artichoke Cauliflower Casserole
This low carb and keto-friendly cold salad features cauliflower rice, green beans, cucumbers, fennel, and feta in a tangy dill pesto.
- 4 cups cauliflower rice
- 1 1/2 ups green beans, trimmed and cut to 1 inch
- 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 small bulb of fennel, diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, pressed/minced
- 1/2 cup dill, fresh
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp yellow stone-ground mustard
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 oz crumbled feta
- black pepper
- Heat a large sauce pan of salted water to a boil. Add green bean pieces to water and cook for 3 minutes until just tender. Remove beans from water with a slotted spoon into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
- Blend garlic, dill, lemon, mustard, vinegar, and oil until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add cauli rice, cucumber, and fennel to the mixing bowl with the green beans. Mix in the dressing. Add feta and mix gentle to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately or refrigerator until serving. Store leftovers in an air tight container for up to two days.
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