This recipe for Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is like a mashup between cauliflower au gratin and the best mac n cheese. It's a gooey and cheesy macaroni and cheese with a buttery, crunchy top, but also has an entire head of cauliflower inside! This vegetarian cauliflower bake is a major crowd pleaser that can feed up to 12 people so it's great for entertaining!
I wouldn't exactly call my Cauliflower Mac and Cheese healthy or low cal, but it's a few steps better than the traditional version because it replaces half of the pasta with cauliflower. If you're looking for a 100% cauliflower recipe, check out my Cauliflower Gratin instead!
Why this recipe works
- Replaces HALF of the pasta with low carb cauliflower but you can barely even tell.
- Extra saucy, insanely cheesy and has a buttery, crunchy breadcrumb topping.
- Can be made up to 48 hours in advance.
- Feeds a crowd with 12 servings and only ½ lb of pasta!
- Adapted from Martha Stewart's iconic Macaroni and Cheese.
- Pasta or Macaroni - You can opt for a traditional shape like elbow macaroni or pasta shells. I love Cavatappi for cauliflower Mac n cheese, but there are many other shapes that would work well. Just stick to a short shape and avoid long pastas like linguini or fettuccini.
- Cheese - You'll need plenty of good sharp cheddar (white or yellow), aged Gruyere and Pecorino Romano for this recipe. It's important to make sure that each cheese is good quality and fresh. If Gruyere is hard to find or out of your price range, use Emmental, Jarlsberg or good quality Swiss cheese.
- Cauliflower - This recipe calls for using a whole head of fresh cauliflower, but frozen cauliflower can be used as well. Substitute about 2 lbs or 5 heaping cups of frozen cauliflower florets.
- Milk - Use only whole milk only here. For best results, don't use low fat milk or non dairy milk.
Step by step instructions
Make the Topping
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and stir around for about 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs and continuously stir and toss around until evenly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
- Once cool, stir in the pecorino Romano and parsley and set aside.
For the Mac and Cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and butter a 9x13 inch (3 quart) casserole dish.
- Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Heat the milk either in the microwave or on the stove.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the flour and stir for about 1 minute.
- Slowly pour in the hot milk while vigorously whisking. Continue whisking until the mixture bubbles and thickens, about 2 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and all but 2 cups of cheese (a mixture of all 3).
- When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook for exactly 6 minutes (set a timer).
- Add the cauliflower to the boiling water with the pasta, stir, and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and cauliflower well, then combine with the cheese sauce and pour it into the prepared casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups of cheese, then scatter the breadcrumbs on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling on top. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Tips for success
- Read the recipe all the way through and prep all ingredients before starting.
- Make sure the milk is hot before adding it to the roux or it will cause the sauce to be lumpy.
Yes! Cauliflower Mac and Cheese can be made up to 2 days. Prepare but don't bake, then cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. Bring to room temperature for at least 30 minute before baking. Baking in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until bubbling and browned on top.
This is a rich dish, so I suggest serving it as an entree with a simple green salad on the side. It can also be part of a larger buffet or be served as a side dish.
Sure, but I highly recommend grating the cheese yourself from a block for best results. For one, block cheeses tend to be of higher quality, but pre grated cheeses are packaged with anti caking agents, starches and other additives, which prevent it from melting as well and can give the Mac and cheese an off flavor or texture.
Yes, just use 2 ½ heads instead of 1. You will need extra cauliflower to make up for the pasta's expansion. You can also try my Cauliflower Gratin recipe for something a little bit lighter.
Did you make this recipe and LOVE it? Please leave a star ⭐️ rating and/or comment to help other readers. I absolutely love hearing from you and do my best to answer all questions and comments. I love seeing when you make my recipes, so please tag me @ColeyCooks on Instagram and I will repost!Print