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Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese


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This Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese is creamy, cheesy and perfectly seasoned. Nutritious cauliflower takes the place of pasta in this delicious low carb mac and cheese recipe.

Baked cauliflower mac and cheese in a casserole dish with serving spoon.

My family loves mac and cheese. What’s not to love? It’s creamy, rich and cheesy, an undeniable comfort food. Case in point, I’ve already shared five macaroni and cheese recipes on Kristine’s Kitchen. Our favorites include Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Panera Mac and Cheese and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese.

We make those recipes often, but when we want a healthier, low carb option we turn to this cauliflower “mac” and cheese recipe. In this recipe, cauliflower stands in for the pasta. I thought we might miss the pasta, but we truly didn’t! The cauliflower is quickly cooked in boiling water (you could roast the cauliflower for even more depth of flavor). Then it’s tossed with a quick homemade cheese sauce and baked until the casserole is hot, bubbly and golden brown on top. What we have here is easy, cheesy comfort food!

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Easy: It takes about 20 minutes to prep the cauliflower mac and cheese for the oven and that’s it! The oven does the rest.
  • Low Carb: If you’re looking for low carb recipes for health reasons or otherwise, this recipe is one you’ll want to have in your collection.
  • Comforting Casserole: I said it above but it’s worth repeating. If you’re craving cheesy, creamy comfort food, this recipe is sure to satisfy.
  • Side Dish or Main Dish: You can make this healthier mac and cheese recipe as a main course and serve a salad on the side, or serve it as a side dish with chicken, fish or steak.

Ingredients for Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe. You’ll love the short and simple ingredient list!

Ingredients for cauliflower mac and cheese recipe.

  • Cauliflower: You’ll need a large head of cauliflower for this recipe. 
  • Butter: The butter combines with flour to thicken the creamy sauce.
  • All-Purpose Flour: Flour acts as a thickening agent for the cheese sauce.
  • Milk: I recommend using whole milk for richness. You can use 2% if you prefer. 
  • Garlic: You can’t beat the flavor of fresh garlic and it’s lovely in this recipe.
  • Paprika, Salt and Pepper: These simple seasonings bring the best flavor to the cauliflower mac. Don’t skip the paprika – it’s so good in this recipe.
  • Cheddar Cheese: Use sharp cheddar cheese for maximum flavor. A combination of sharp cheddar and sharp white cheddar is also delicious!

How to Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Making this recipe is as simple as boiling the cauliflower, making the cheese sauce, stirring the two together and then baking it in the oven. Here’s a closer look at the recipe steps:

First, cook the cauliflower florets in boiling water until just tender. Then drain well in a colander and set aside.

Boiled cauliflower florets in a pot.

While the cauliflower cooks, make the cheese sauce. Start by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to cook off the raw flour taste.

Melted butter, flour and garlic in saucepan.

Then whisk in the milk and seasonings. Bring the pot to a low simmer, whisking often, until the sauce starts to thicken. Then remove the pan from the heat.

Creamy sauce with whisk in saucepan.

Stir the shredded cheddar cheese into the sauce, a little bit at a time, until it melts smoothly into the sauce. 

Whisking shredded cheddar into sauce.

Stir the cauliflower and cheese sauce together and then transfer it to a greased baking dish. 

Cheese sauce poured over cauliflower in pot.

Bake at 375° F for 25-30 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbly and the casserole is golden brown on top. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then serve and enjoy!

Close up of cauliflower mac and cheese in baking dish with serving spoon.

Recipe Tips

  • Cut the cauliflower into small bite-size pieces. It will be more similar to pasta if the pieces aren’t too big.
  • When making mac and cheese I always recommend buying a block of cheese and shredding it yourself. The pre-shredded cheese from the grocery store won’t melt as smoothly into the cheese sauce.
  • For even more cheesy flavor, sprinkle the casserole with grated Parmesan cheese after the first 15 minutes of baking time and then continue baking.
  • Bake the casserole until it starts to brown in spots on top. The brown spots are extra delish!
  • To make this recipe gluten-free, use a 1:1 gluten-free baking flour such as Bob’s Red Mill.

Serving Suggestions

This cauliflower mac and cheese can be served as a main dish with a salad on the side. Try it with this Italian Salad, Arugula Salad or Kale Salad

Or, enjoy it as a side dish with your favorite proteins. It goes well with chicken, such as Baked Chicken Breast, Air Fryer Chicken Thighs or Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks. It’s also lovely served alongside a Grilled Steak or Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin.

Cauliflower mac and cheese served in a small bowl.

More Cauliflower Recipes

Cauliflower fans will also love these easy cauliflower recipes!

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword cauliflower mac and cheese
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Servings 6 servings
Calories 181kcal
This Cauliflower "Mac" and Cheese is so creamy, cheesy and flavorful that you won't miss the pasta one bit. Nutritious cauliflower plays a starring role in this delicious low carb mac and cheese recipe. The best comfort food!

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese* (or half sharp cheddar and half sharp white cheddar)

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly grease an 8x8 or 9x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, quarter the cauliflower and cut out the core and discard. Chop the cauliflower into bite-size pieces. Add cauliflower pieces to the boiling water and cook for 5-6 minutes, until just tender. Drain well into a colander and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and flour and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Whisk in the milk, followed by the salt, paprika and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a low simmer, whisking often, until the sauce starts to thicken. Then remove the pot from the heat.
  • Stir the cheese into the sauce, a little bit at a time, until completely melted. Add the cauliflower to the cheese sauce and stir gently to coat. Transfer the cauliflower and cheese sauce to the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbly and the top of casserole is golden brown in spots. Let rest for 5 minutes and then serve.

Notes

  • For this recipe it's best to buy a block of cheese and shred it using a box grater. The pre-shredded cheese that you buy at the store will not melt as smoothly into the cheese sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 181kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 376mg | Potassium: 505mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 413IU | Vitamin C: 68mg | Calcium: 218mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition information is an estimate.
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