Swap noodles for cooked cauliflower with this baked cauliflower mac and cheese! It’s low-carb and gluten-free while still being cheesy and delicious.
Cauliflower has done it again! This amazingly versatile veggie is a healthy eater’s best friend, especially when you’re looking for a better way to indulge in “carby” things like bread, rice, pizza, potatoes and pasta. It surprises me sometimes with how well it can transform from a simple veggie into something like cauliflower pizza crust, cauliflower rice or a cauliflower alfredo sauce. And now, into this creamy, indulgent baked cauliflower mac and cheese!
This cauliflower mac and cheese recipe is perfect for anyone who is looking for a low-carb, healthier alternative to traditional macaroni and cheese or for parents who are trying to get their kiddos to eat more veggies. No matter the reason, this recipe is sure to become a new family favorite!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
It’s a healthier, low-carb version of a comfort food classic!
This dish comes together quickly with just 7 ingredients.
It’s so cheesy and delicious, you won’t ever miss the noodles!
It’s sure to be a hit with kiddos and adults alike.
cauliflower – the star of the show! You’ll need one large or two smaller heads of cauliflower, chopped into florets.
olive or avocado oil – for sautéing the onion. You can also use melted butter instead of oil if you prefer.
yellow onion – adds a more delicious savory flavor to the dish.
arrowroot powder – this will help make a thick and creamy cheese sauce.
salt and pepper – to bring all the flavors together.
unsweetened non-dairy milk – I used almond milk, but any dairy-free or dairy milk works. I would just avoid any milk that’s sweetened and coconut milk as that’ll change the flavor of this dish.
sharp cheddar cheese – adds the tasty, cheesy goodness you’d expect from mac and cheese! I used a block of organic sharp cheddar cheese and shredded it myself, which I highly recommend! I prefer shredding my own cheese to buying it already shredded.
How to Make
Cook cauliflower: Place cauliflower florets in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10-12 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
Make sauce: In a large saucepan, sauté chopped onions until tender. Add arrowroot powder and salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Slowly whisk in almond milk and bring mixture to a boil. Whisk constantly until thick and creamy. Remove from heat and add cheese a little at a time, whisking in between, until it melts.
Mix together: Add cooked cauliflower to cheese sauce and coat completely.
Bake: Place mixture in a 9×13 baking dish and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and top starts to brown. Broil for 3-4 minutes to crisp up and brown the top more!
Serve: Remove from oven and let cool slightly before digging in (even though it may be tempting … you don’t want to burn your mouth!). Enjoy!
Skip the store-bought pre-shredded cheese and use hand-shredded cheese! I definitely recommend buying a block of cheese and grating it yourself. Fresh is always better and shredding the cheese takes no time at all. The pre-shredded store-bought cheeses typically contain preservatives like potato starch, natamycin and/or cellulose to prevent the shreds from clumping together in the bag. This will prevent your cheese from melting properly in the roux mixture and will likely lead to more of a grainy taste texture.
To prevent watery cauliflower mac and cheese, you can pat the cauliflower dry with a paper towel or dishcloth after draining it before adding it to the sauce.
Make sure you have removed your roux from the heat before adding in your shredded cheese! You don’t want to add your cheese to the sauce mixture if it’s still bubbling otherwise it could burn the cheese or result in a grainy texture.
Substitutions & Variations
Don’t have arrowroot powder? Use cornstarch! Both are gluten-free and will give the same results to this dish. You could also use 1:1 all-purpose gluten-free flour or all-purpose flour if you don’t need this recipe to be gluten-free.
Spice it up – If you want to spice this dish up a bit (literally!) you can sprinkle some cayenne or crushed red pepper before diving in.
Amp up the veggie count – Looking to add more veggies to this dish? Add some broccoli to the mixture before baking!
Crisp it up – Want more of a crispy crunchy topping? Sprinkle on panko breadcrumbs or almond meal before baking.
Swap the cheese – sharp cheddar cheese is my favorite for this recipe, but here are some other options that would work well in this dish as a substitute or in addition to the cheddar: white cheddar, gouda, monterey jack, pepper jack and gruyere. I also like mixing in parmesan cheese with the cheddar for some variety and added flavor!
Amp up the flavor – add some additional spices to the mixture before baking. Some ideas: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder and dried herbs like thyme and/or oregano.
Looking for a vegan and/or dairy-free option? Try my vegan mac and cheese instead! I bet this sauce would be delicious poured over the cauliflower if you’re looking for a low-carb option.
What to Serve With Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
This cauliflower mac and cheese makes a great light “meatless Monday” dinner or lunch option, but I also think it would be amazing served alongside some protein for a more filling meal. Here are some ideas:
I recommend pairing it with an easy protein option like grass-fed beef hot dogs (hot dogs + mac and cheese = a kid’s favorite!), shrimp or chicken. It pairs perfectly with my grilled apple cider vinegar chicken.
If you make it vegan-friendly, try pairing it with tempeh hot dogs, tofu crumbles, roasted chickpeas or this lentil loaf.
This baked cauliflower mac and cheese will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, add cauliflower mac and cheese to a saucepan and heat over medium-low, until warmed, stirring often to prevent burning. If needed, add a little bit of milk or water to thin out the sauce. Alternatively, you can reheat this in the microwave if you’re short on time.
Chop cauliflower into florets and place in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the cauliflower and heat until water is boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While cauliflower is cooking, add oil to a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until tender and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
Add arrowroot powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine for 3-4 minutes. Slowly add almond milk and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly until mixture is smooth and thick.
Remove from heat and add shredded cheese a little at a time, whisking in between, until fully melted.
Once all the cheese is melted add chopped cauliflower to sauce and stir to coat the cauliflower.
Once cauliflower is fully coated, transfer mixture to 9×13 baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbly and top begins to brown. Broil for 3-4 min to brown the top more.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.