This cauliflower macaroni and cheese is a healthy, low-carb riff on the rich and creamy classic. Even kids are clamoring for more.
This grown-up cauliflower macaroni and cheese swaps cauliflower in for pasta. Before you grimace, hold on. The luxuriously creamy cheese sauce makes it every bit as comforting as a bowl of warm cheesy noodles. And while it’s not quite the same as mac and cheese made with pasta, it’s still going to disappear in minutes. With requests for more.–Angie Zoobkoff
☞ Table of Contents
Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
- 2 pounds cauliflower cut into florets
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 (1/2-ounce) tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander.
- In the same pot over medium heat, mix together the cream, cream cheese, butter, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Stir in the cauliflower until completely coated in the sauce.
- Transfer to a large dish, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
Top It With Bread CrumbsTo give this creamy cauliflower dish a little extra crunch, top the finished casserole with about 1/2 cup of seasoned bread crumbs or panko and slip it under the broiler until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This was different from my usual cauliflower and cheese and we enjoyed it. It didn’t feel very heavy for having a cheese sauce. The mustard flavor was a little forward, but I love mustard. On the other hand, my husband isn’t a huge mustard fan, and it didn’t bother him.
With the cream cheese and heavy cream, I expected the sauce to be somewhat thicker than it was, though. The paprika wasn’t that noticeable, but I used sweet and not a stronger-flavored variety.
My cauliflower was pretty large but not enormous and there was more sauce than cauliflower.
This is a tasty side dish that goes together in under 30 minutes. The dish is well seasoned. For an even greater depth of flavor, I recommend using a full-flavored sharp NY cheddar that you grate yourself. The sauce does get a little watery, most likely related to the residual water in the boiled cauliflower, so next time instead of boiling the cauliflower I will roast it. I also think the dish benefited from a little time under the broiler just before serving. I like those crusty brown spots and enhanced flavor that the broiler offers.
This was so easy and quite good. We enjoyed it as a side but with leftovers it made a great grilled cheese alternative. (We spooned it onto the bread and spooned on more as needed.)
The first couple steps took me longer because I wanted to get more flavor out of the dry spices. I melted the butter and added the spices and let them cook a little bit and then I added everything else. It did take about 5 minutes to get the cream cheese to meld but it may not have been warm enough. Next time I’d cut them into smaller cubes.
This was so good and I could see increasing the cheese part and adding some pasta.
There are many kinds of paprika—I used Hungarian, but I also have smoked, dolce, and hot. This probably works with any kind, but will change the final flavor, so maybe helpful to indicate this.
• Step 2 – I turned off the heat after the cauliflower cooked, put the pot back on the burner (that was off) and I added the 1st cheese sauce ingredients into the pot immediately. It melted without putting the heat on at all. I was a little concerned that it would separate with the heat on, and it worked perfectly with the residual heat. Once melted, I added the cheeses, put heat on low (I felt medium would be too high heat) and with stirring, it came together within a minute, and was creamy.
I enjoyed it and I really like the idea of changing up cauliflower, as I don’t often make it with cheese! I don’t think it’s a particularly attractive dish. Some olive oil sautéed breadcrumbs on top along with the parsley would add eye appeal and crunch.
My family really liked it and gave positive feedback with comments like “this is better than regular mac and cheese.” I make homemade mac and farmers cheese that we all love, so that means a lot. There was plenty of sauce, and it was satisfying, so nothing lacking without the pasta. I would make this over regular mac and cheese—easier and who needs extra carbs!
Overall, it was easy, flavorful, quick to prepare, and felt (relatively) healthy.
Super slick adult version to satisfy the kid in any grownup for a Mac and Cheese fix. Actually for me, even more, it satisfied a comfort food memory as well. Cauliflower in cheese sauce is a dish my favorite Aunt Helen always made for family gatherings. This works great stovetop, though it doesn’t mind if you want to pop it in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes to get really hot and maybe add a tiny bit of extra cheese, or prepare it ahead. I made the entire dish in a 4.5 qt enamelled cast iron pot so I could pop it in the oven after serving a small portion, to try both ideas.
I added a bit of bacon cut, crisped and stirred in at the end in place of the suggestion for diced ham, and we called it dinner. The spices step up the flavour and make this more adult friendly,and since I only had pepper jack, it definitely had a nice kick. Dial back a little if you’re serving to more tender tastes, but definitely put this into rotation as a vegetable-forward weeknight pleasing dinner.
I served a half portion of leftovers for each of us, and popped it into a preheated oven (375℉) so we could also sample a small amount that had an oven finish. It really heated up nicely in 12 to 14 minutes. If you wanted a crunchy topping, you might add a bit extra cheese and give it a little longer. Since the title of the recipe implies “bake,” it seemed worthwhile trying. I used pepper jack, because that was what my quarantine kitchen had on hand. This recipe isn’t just an easy one for what people are likely to have on hand—it’s easier than many gratin dishes and doesn’t involve flour, so it works gluten-free as well.
Originally published May 26, 2020