This cauliflower mac and cheese recipe is a perfect fit for your healthy eating routine.
Don’t get too hung up on the name – there’s actually no macaroni and only a small, healthy amount of cheese. Instead, we smothered the cauliflower with a rich, flavorful sauce, topped everything with cheddar, then baked it all to perfection.
Is Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Healthy?
Our version of mac and cheese is truly a healthy one.
Healthy eating is all about balance — getting a sufficient amount of nutrients while being cautious of some dietary components. Things like calories, sodium, and saturated fats tend to load down the average mac and cheese.
The culprit lies in the large amounts of dairy and salt used to make the sauce. Not to worry, we’ve found a solution. Our recipe calls for a perfect amount of these ingredients, leaving each serving with just 3.6 g saturated fats and around 300 mg sodium.
It’s also important to consume just enough calories for the day. Assuming this cauliflower mac and cheese to be a side dish, we limited each serving to just 143 calories.
The Healthy Cheese Sauce for Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
We get that you’re expecting a sauce full of cheese and cream so let’s not dance around the issue: This sauce doesn’t contain cheese. Instead, we made a cream sauce using cream, milk, and broth thickened with a roux and thoroughly seasoned.
If you’re not familiar, roux is a thick paste made by constantly stirring butter and flour over heat until the flour is cooked. Some recipes ask for a white roux while others (like gumbo) require a darker roux — a white roux that’s cooked for a bit longer.
Today’s recipe calls for a white roux, and it comes together in a matter of seconds. As soon as it’s formed, the liquids are gradually stirred in so the two combine to make a rich white sauce.
The liquid is typically just milk, but we also added chicken stock to make the cauliflower even more flavorful.
Once a silky sauce is achieved, it’s time for seasonings. We kept things simple and only used salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Finally, stir in some heavy cream to take the richness up a level, and the delicious cream sauce is complete. All that’s left to do is toss it with the cauliflower, top everything with cheese, and wait for the oven to do its job.
How to Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
To save some cooking time, you’ll need to partially cook the cauliflower before baking it with the sauce. You can do this in a traditional boiling pot or use a microwave instead.
Here’s a summary of what you need to do:
Preheat the oven to 480°F
Microwave (or boil/steam) the cauliflower
Make the roux
Add the liquids and seasonings
Toss the sauce with the cauliflower in a baking dish
Top it with cheese and breadcrumbs and bake
Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy
Retrieve the ingredients list as well as a more detailed guide in the cauliflower mac and cheese recipe card located at the bottom of this recipe.
1. What Is the Best Cheese to Use?
The best option is usually to stick with the traditional choice — sharp cheddar. Some recipes call for American cheese slices instead since the result is visually similar to cheddar, but taste-wise, we think cheddar is still the clear winner.
But again, the culinary world is vast and full of surprises. You can try using gouda, gruyère, cream cheese, brie, or even mozzarella instead, and maybe you’ll find a happy little surprise of your own.
2. Can You Use Frozen Cauliflower for This Recipe?
Not only can you use it but it’s also a more convenient option that helps you skip the cutting and the cleaning. It only requires 2 minutes in the microwave (or in the pot) to thaw, and then it’s as easy to cook as fresh cauliflower.
How Long Does Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Last in the Fridge?
Properly stored, it’ll last about 5 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.
You can transfer the leftovers to a smaller container (to save fridge space), cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. To save even more space, portion the leftovers into Ziploc bags, flatten them out on the counter, seal them, then stack them in the fridge.
The leftovers can be reheated in one of two ways:
- If you own a microwave, make sure your mac and cheese is in a microwave-friendly container first. It’ll need about 3 minutes if refrigerated, and 5 minutes if frozen.
- Barring that, you can place everything in a saucepan with just a little water (1 tbsp per serving) and heat it until it bubbles. The process usually takes around 5 minutes for a refrigerated batch and 7 minutes for a frozen one.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 18 oz cauliflower cut into florets
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsalted chicken broth
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp heavy cream
- 1/4 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
- 1 oz cheddar shredded
- 2 tbsp parsley finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 480°F.
- Add 18 oz worth of chopped cauliflower to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 7 minutes. Alternatively, you can boil or steam it instead.
- Meanwhile, heat a non-stick pan or skillet over medium heat. Stir together 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, and 3 tbsp all-purpose flour for about 30 seconds.
- Add 1 cup chicken broth gradually and constantly (but gently) stir as you go to incorporate the flour. Add 1/4 cup whole milk and mix everything together. Season it with 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt, and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Once it does, turn off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp heavy cream.
- Wait for the cauliflower to finish cooking, then transfer it to a baking dish. Pour in the sauce and give everything a gentle toss to coat.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1 oz shredded cheddar on top, and slide the baking dish into the preheated oven to cook for 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle 2 tbsp chopped parsley on top and serve.