I may be risking a bolt of lightning from my Irish ancestors for this Mashed Cauliflower Colcannon with kale, but it turned out so deliciously that it’s a chance I am willing to take. A healthy, low-carb, and (gasp!) vegan twist on colcannon, a classic Irish potato-based dish, this mashed cauliflower ditches the spuds and butter in favor of lighter ingredients. It has all the creamy, soulful comfort of the traditional recipe that inspired it, but it is gloriously guilt free.
This post is sponsored by Almond Breeze.
Like many classic Irish foods, traditional colcannon is of the “stick-to-your-ribs” variety. A textbook recipe for it would include mashed potatoes, kale (or cabbage), cream and butter, and a mix of leeks, green onions, and/or chives. It’s starchy and warming, but it’s a lot heavier than what I’m looking for in my vegetables most nights.
Because colcannon, while heavy, is yummy, and because St. Patrick’s Day is coming up this week, I decided to see if I could employ a popular culinary trick—swapping low-calorie, low-carb mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes—to make a healthy version of Irish colcannon that will still be creamy and satisfying.
Not only did the swap work, this “Irish Mashed Cauliflower” turned out to be one of my favorite side dishes in a long, long time.
Whether you are looking to please picky eaters, sneak a few extra vegetables into your diet, or freshen up your side-dish routine, this mashed cauliflower with kale does not disappoint.
I didn’t originally intend for this mashed cauliflower to be vegan or dairy free. In fact, I didn’t think I’d be able to create the comforting vibe I was after without the help of at least a liiiiiittle bit of butter and heavy cream.
Or could I?
The Trick to Making Mashed Cauliflower Colcannon Dairy Free
Midway through making it, I felt the pull of experimentation. I decided to see what would happen if I replaced the butter with olive oil and the heavy cream with Almond Breeze Almondmilk Unsweetened Original. It’s only 30 calories per serving but is so creamy that I can use it to create dishes that taste decadent but are significantly lighter than their originals (this Healthy Chicken Pot Pie is another prime example).
In addition to the almondmilk, I used a traditional colcannon trio of kale, leeks, and green onion. I love the texture of the hearty kale contrasted with the creamy mashed cauliflower, as well as its green color for St. Patrick’s Day. The leeks and green onions give the mashed cauliflower a bright spring flavor, and the extra hit of green makes this colcannon even more festive.
My final trick to making this vegan mashed cauliflower taste rich despite being dairy free is nutritional yeast. I’d seen it used in vegan recipes for ages but only recently tried it for myself. I love it! In addition to offering a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and protein, nutritional yeast provides a lightly salty, “cheesy” flavor to dishes. I found that two tablespoons were just the somethin’ somethin’ this low-carb cauliflower mash needed to taste a little naughty, despite being nothing but nice.
For those of you wondering about what looks like a pat butter in the photos, it’s actually a bit of vegan buttery spread that I added for the sake of taste testing and to help convey visually the comfort food feeling this recipe offers. In the end, I loved it just as much without.
More Healthy Cauliflower Recipes
Behind the Ingredient – My Almond Orchard Trip
Developing recipes gives me the opportunity to thoughtfully consider each ingredient and how what I add to a recipe impacts the recipe as a whole. Food nerd that I am, I also love diving into the components of the individual ingredients themselves.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a firsthand look at an ingredient I use every single day, Almond Breeze Almondmilk. In addition to using it in recipes such as today’s mashed cauliflower, I reach for almondmilk for my cereal and smoothies. When Almond Breeze invited me to California to visit the almond orchards where almondmilk begins, I couldn’t jump on the plane fast enough.
One of the first things I learned is that Almond Breeze is a part of the Blue Diamond Grower’s co-op, which was founded in 1910. The co-op is owned by more than half of California’s almond growers, who produce a whopping 80+ percent of the world almond supply. All of the almonds that go into Blue Diamond products, be they for Almond Breeze almondmilk or for use in snack-style products like this addictive little number, are grown in California, and the majority of orchards are family operated. We visited a family orchard outside of Sacramento and were lucky to be there right as the almond trees were blooming. It was stunning.
So many elements of this trip struck me, including just how complex growing almonds truly is. To have a healthy crop, growers need to be conscious of so many nuances that I never would have imagined. Everything from location and temperature of the bees that pollinate the blooms (bees don’t like weather that’s too hot, too cold, or too windy), to the types of plants that are allowed to grow as ground cover around the trees (I thought it was just plain old clover—wrong!), to pest prevention must be carefully monitored and continually adjusted.Throughout the orchard tour, I couldn’t help but remark at the growers’ dedication to their crop and their land. Producing the highest-quality almonds in the most sustainable way possible was a clear, deep passion that each of them held. The growers were committed to ensuring that the best possible almonds made it into my almondmilk and saw themselves as stewards of the land itself.
To complement the beauty of the fields, the growers served us a fresh, almond-centric meal in a setting I can only describe as straight out of Instagram. All of the dishes were delicious, but my favorite had to be the almond pear tart. I took a slice thinking I’d just have a piece but…I think you know how that ended.Thanks to my orchard tour, when I open my refrigerator and see almondmilk sitting quietly on my shelf, I will no longer view it as simply a carton. It’s the end of a long line of efforts by many individuals and by nature as well.
Thanks so much to Almond Breeze for this unique experience…and for making my Irish mashed cauliflower colcannon so wonderfully creamy too!
Creamy Mashed Cauliflower Colcannon
- 6 cups cauliflower florets about 1 large head
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1/3 cup Almond Breeze Almondmilk Original Unsweetened
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or melted and cooled coconut oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast*
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 leeks white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 4 cups finely chopped kale leaves about 1 bunch; be sure to remove the tough stems
- 4 medium green onions finely chopped
- Optional: vegan buttery spread such as Earth Balance, for serving (or butter if the recipe being vegan is not a concern)
- Place the cauliflower florets in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, then bring to a boil. Let boil until fork-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a food processor fitted with a steel blade or a blender. Add an additional 1/2 teaspoon salt, almondmilk, 1 tablespoon olive oil, nutritional yeast, and black pepper. Blend until smooth.
- Meanwhile, in the same pot you used to cook the cauliflower (or a large nonstick skillet if you prefer to save time and cook the veggies simultaneously), heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, then add the kale, remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/3 cup water. Cover the pot and let cook over medium, lifting up the lid and stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted and tender, about 4 additional minutes.
- Stir in the reserved cauliflower puree and half of the green onions. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired. Serve warm, topped with the remaining green onions and butter.
- If you do not have or wish to purchase nutritional yeast, you can swap finely grated Parmesan or simply omit it.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water with a bit of extra almondmilk splashed in to keep the mixture from becoming dry. I have not yet tried freezing this recipe but think that the texture might be negatively affected.
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I am sharing this post in partnership with Almond Breeze. As always, all opinions are my own, and thanks for supporting the brands and companies that make it possible for me to continue creating quality content for you!