Bulgogi Chicken Bowls with Coconut Cauliflower Rice

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I like to be trendy. I don’t like that I like to be trendy, but I can’t help it.

This applies to my clothes, hair (dear God, does anyone remember my “sassy” 2014 lob?!), and skincare, sure, but I mostly like to be on the cutting edge when it comes to food. You know this.

As you may also know, most trends are fleeting, and my desire to stay on fleek (as the kids used to say) in the kitchen often ends badly for me. Perhaps you recall the avocado rose? Yours truly really bought into the hysteria on that one, and I’m mildly ashamed to admit that I spent several months obsessively crafting avocado roses at every possible opportunity. I watched tutorials. I greased my knife. And when I finally nailed my technique? The Internets had abruptly dropped the fruit flower! Blergh.

(If you don’t think I had a meltdown when I realized avo roses were officially “over,” I appreciate your elevated opinion of me…I made a perfect avocado rose, Derek!! What did you do??! NOTHING!!)

However, for every ten (twenty?) failed food trends, there’s one that sticks. And I appreciate these trends turned nutritious staples that much more. Especially when they don’t involve superhuman manual dexterity or an absurd time commitment. Think chia pudding, zucchini noodles, nut milk, massaged kale, and my personal favorite, cauliflower rice.

Just in case you’re not familiar with cauliflower rice, it’s simply cauliflower florets pulsed in a food processor until they become coarse granules that resemble, you guessed it, RICE. I fell in love with the stuff years ago when it exploded on the paleo scene, and it’s something I’ve continued to make on the reg ever since. I’m talking once a week, people. I have nothing against real rice, but I’m always down to sneak more vegetables into a meal when I can, and swapping cauliflower for the grain is one of the most painless ways to do it. Plus, it requires a fraction of the time it takes to make traditional rice, is far less finicky, and my roommate happens to love it. Yassss, etc.

You can season cauliflower rice six ways to Sunday (cilantro-lime! ginger-soy! Buffalo! turmeric!), but I’m currently obsessed with a simple coconut-laced version, which is just the tiniest bit sweet and provides the perfect base for these Bulgogi Chicken Bowls.

I’m not even going to hit you with the hard sell on this recipe, folks, since I’m hoping the name and the photos will do most of the heavy lifting. But I do feel the need to gush briefly about the bulgogi chicken. This magical bulgogi is far from authentic, but it is inspired by the flavors of the Korean bbq dish. (For more information on bulgogi, check out Sue’s post on My Korean Kitchen.) I love how the ground chicken absorbs the flavor of the soy-based sauce, which is equal parts sweet, savory and tangy. Combined with the coconut cauliflower rice, crunchy fresh veggies, and a dollop of gochujang or sambal oelek for heat, these bowls are a satisfying, nutrient-packed feast that you’ll want to keep in regular rotation. Dude Dieters, I’m looking at you.

I know this bowl seems to have a lot going on, but it’s actually pretty easy to pull off. I’m talking 30 minutes from start to finish if you’re committed. As always, feel free to customize your bowls based on what you have on hand. Ground chicken could just as easily be 93% lean ground turkey, pork, lean beef, or firm tofu. Sub shredded or grated coconut for flaked. Throw in whatever fresh veggies happen to be hanging out in your fridge. Bowls are an excellent format to do you.

With that said, I know that some days your fridge is bare and 30 minutes in the kitchen is daunting. You’re tired, you’re starving, and the thought of shopping and cooking dinner is just unacceptable. (Trust me, I get it.) On those occasions, here’s a cutting edge tip from your weird blog lady: try the new line of frozen meals from SmartMade. I’m not typically a proponent of frozen meals, but I love and respect the SmartMade philosophy. Their real food recipes are made with minimal ingredients (all of which you can pronounce) and incorporate smart swaps like cauliflower rice that I make in my own kitchen, so you can eat well even when you’re short on time and energy. Grab a few at your local grocery store when you go to pick up the ingredients for these Bulgogi Chicken Bowls, and you’ll be well prepared for nights when you’re feeling slightly less ambitious. Virtual chest bump. 

“Bulgogi” Chicken Bowls with Coconut Cauliflower Rice: (Serves 4)

5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 large garlic clove, grated or finely minced
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
¼ cup grated yellow onion (about ½ small yellow onion)
1 pound ground chicken (You can also sub 93% lean ground turkey if you prefer.)
1 medium head cauliflower, florets removed
1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1½ cups shredded carrots
½ English cucumber, very thinly sliced
4 baby radishes, very thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Gochujang or sambal oelek for serving

Preparing your “Bulgogi” Chicken Bowls with Coconut Cauliflower Rice:

-In a mixing bowl, whisk the soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, sesame oil and garlic. Briefly set this delicious sauce aside.

-Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken to the pan and cook, breaking up the meat into very small pieces with a spatula, until no longer pink. (About 5 minutes.) Add the sauce to the skillet, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

-Moving on to the cauliflower rice! Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse until they become coarse granules. (This is your “rice,” people.) Be very careful not to over-process the cauliflower, or you’ll end up with mush. Briefly set aside.

-Heat a large non-stick skillet (or wok) over medium heat. When hot, add the flaked coconut to the pan and cook, shaking the pan regularly, until the flakes are very lightly browned. This should take 1-2 minutes, max. Transfer the coconut to a small bowl.

-Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the cauliflower rice and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 3-4 minutes just until the rice is tender. (Don’t overcook it, friends. You want this on the al dente side.) Stir in the toasted coconut.

-Time to assemble your bowls. Divide the coconut cauliflower rice and chicken between 4 bowls. Garnish each with carrots, sliced cucumber and radishes, and scallions. Serve immediately with gochujang or sambal oelek to spice things up.

SmartMade wants to hear from you as they create new meals inspired by you. If you like this smart swap and would like to see a similar meal in your freezer aisle, please pin this post to your Pinterest board. The recipe with the most love from YOU will be used as inspiration in a future meal!

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  1. Meredith Eng on March 23, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Delish and super fast to make! I skipped the coconut because I didn’t feel like buying any, but it was really flavorful regardless.

  2. Dixya Bhattarai RD on March 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    yes..you are talking my language – i want meals that are healthyish within 30 mins or less…bonus points if i can eat straight out of a bowl!

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