Cauliflower Fish Cake With Chili-Lime Yogurt Sauce

Fish cakes are pretty new to me. I started making them about a year ago with this combination of flaky fish and smooth and rich cauliflower being my favorite. I was introduced to fish cakes by a chef whose name I can't recall, but let's call him Juan. I worked with him in Virginia during mycollege years when I waited tables at a restaurant called Blue Water Grill during the summer. Juan was really good at preparing fish and seafood and according to him fish cakes and crab cakes were his specialty.

I was in Virginia on an inter-exchange program for students lucky and brave enough to fly across the ocean into the unknown to experience the American Dream. It was the summer of 2006, the second summer I spent in the U.S. I started my American journey that summer as a lifeguard, but soon after I decided to quit that job and start waiting tables instead. It was a good way to practice and improve my English and it also gave me the opportunity to interact with people. The most appealing part to me was that I got to be close to a professional kitchen where I could watch and learn from the line cooks and chefs. I loved working there even though it got pretty wild and rough sometimes.

If you’re not familiar with professional cooking, Anthony Bourdain describes his experience as a cook in Kitchen Confidential (I highly recommend reading this book) and his descriptions basically hold true in any restaurant kitchen in the U.S. Obscene and abusive language, salty chefs, waiters that screw up orders, drinking and eating at work are all part of your every day life in the restaurant industry. I fell in love with it after those few months and when I returned to Romania in the fall to continue my studies, I really missed all the people that I worked and bonded with.

In the past, fish cakes were seen as an easy way to incorporate leftover fish that otherwise would've been thrown away. The most common fish used is still cod, but other white flakey fish like haddock or pollock can be used to achieve similar flavor and texture. The potatoes and eggs are the binding elements, while also adding some texture and creaminess to the cakes in the process. I choose to add cauliflower as well, not only because cauliflower is delicious and nutritious, but also because of Roni's habit of sneaking a cauliflower in our cart while grocery shopping.

One thing that it's worth mentioning about this dish is that it will leave a stink in the house that would hang around for hours. The flavor and taste of the dish is in total contradiction with its smell, but, you know, I care for my readers and want them to return to my blog, not curse my cauliflower fish cakes for turning their house into a fart fort. So in case you were trying to find a dish to impress and cook for your date, maybe look for something else until you get a bit closer and more comfortable around each other. As my father used to say only cauliflower and farts smell like farts. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind when making fish cakes is that you have to place them in hot oil. Really hot oil. If you don't the fish cakes will be soggy and greasy instead of crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I usually serve them as a main dish with a salad or even on a bun as a fish burger, but you can make them smaller and serve them as appetizers. No matter how and when you serve them, this dish is going to be a definite conversation piece. As for the chili-lime yogurt sauce, it adds that tangy and refreshing element that the sweet and rich fish cake is lacking. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Fish Cake With Chili-Lime Yogurt Sauce

Yields 8-10 fish cakes
Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Inactive time: 10 minutes


Fish Cakes

  • 1 lb cauliflower florets (1 medium cauliflower)
  • 1/2 lb Yukon potatoes (1 large potato), peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 TBS salt (iodized, table or kosher)
  • 1 lb fish fillet (cod, haddock or sole)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup white wine (preferably white)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 eggs, pasture raised
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 TBS olive oil
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
  • 1 cup oil (peanut, canola or sunflower seed)

Chili-lime yogurt

  • 3/4 cup yogurt
  • 2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 medium jalapeño, finely chopped (about 1-2 TBS)
  • 1 large lime, juiced (2-3 TBS fresh lime juice)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground


  1. Fill a large pot halfway up with water. Add cauliflower, potato, and a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the cauliflower can be easily pierced with the tip of a pairing knife, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. While the cauliflower and potato are cooking poach the fish. In a large saucepan combine water, broth, wine, thyme, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add fish fillets, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the sauce pan and let the fish poach for no more than 5 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, in a small bowl mix all the ingredients under chili-lime sauce. Stir well until the ingredients are mixed well. Cover with a plastic wrap and place it the refrigerator.
  4. Remove fish from the pan using a sieve or a slotted spoon. Drain, discard the juice and let the fish cool. Once cold, break the fillets into small chunks.
  5. Drain the cauliflower and potato and let them cool for about 5 minutes. Place them in a food processor, pulse them a few times into small chunks. Do not overdo it, as you don't want them mashed, but chunky.
  6. Transfer the crushed cauliflower to a large mixing bowl. Add fish, eggs, shallots, salt, pepper, parsley and breadcrumbs. Using a spatula or wooden spoon stir well until you get a mixture that can easily molded. If the mixture is too sticky, add another tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs.
  7. Pour in olive oil, give it another stir and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. 
  8. Divide mixture into 8-10 equal parts. Shape and pat hockey puck-sized discs, about 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 inches in thickness. You can sprinkle more breadcrumbs on each patty if you like fish cakes to be extra crispy. 
  9. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is sizzling hot (easily slides across the pan) carefully place the fish cakes in the pan. Fry patties for 2 minutes, or until dark golden brown. Flip on the other side, cook for another 2 minutes. 
  10. Transfer fish cakes from the frying pan to a paper towel lined plate or a wire rack. 
  11. Serve fish cakes freshly fried and hot with a side of chili-lime sauce and a wedge of lemon or lime.


  • Before placing the fish cakes in the frying pan make sure the oil is really hot, otherwise the fishcakes will be greasy and soggy. To check if the oil is hot enough drop a few breadcrumbs in the pan. If the oil starts sizzling, you're good to go.
  • Don't overcrowd the pan with fish cakes. You risk reducing the heat in the pan to the point where the fish cakes will not brown and will become greasy. Instead, work in batches or 2-3 patties.
  • The fish cakes will keep in the refrigerator for no more than a couple of days. They also freeze well and keep for about a month in the freezer.
  • I recommend that you eat them right after frying them as they don't reheat well.