Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

This flavorful lightened up cauliflower mac and cheese is just as cozy and comforting as its full-fat counterpart. It is utterly full of flavor and the leftovers are just as good! 

I love me a big bowl of creamy macaroni and cheese! If you’ve browsed through my recipe index that’s probably pretty evident. I’ve made my three cheese stovetop macaroni at least 10 times and my broccoli and white cheddar shells about 5 times. Give them all a try!

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese in a white bowl

“Lightened Up” Mac and Cheese

Gah! I just want a fork so I can dive right in! This mac and cheese is seriously soooo good! You’d never guess that it’s a “skinny” version. P.S. I didn’t dare name it that because I knew I’d get a million comments telling me how unhealthy 2 cups of cheese and half a pound of pasta is. Just know that it’s definitely a lot healthier than most recipes!

If you want to keep this recipe gluten-free, just omit the bread crumb topping and use gluten-free pasta. Those bread crumbs though, they really make the dish!

Have I convinced you to make this yet?! If not, I hope you’ll give it a try anyway… I think you’ll love it! Plus it’s a great way to sneak in some extra veggies without your picky eaters knowing it 🙂

Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese in a glass baking dish

Cooking with Cauliflower

Best way to cut cauliflower florets: Cut the cauliflower head into quarters, cut the core out of each section and then tear the head into florets. If the florets are too big for your liking you can cut/tear them into smaller pieces.

Do you fully cook the cauliflower before incorporating it? You will blanch your cauliflower florets for 5-7 minutes as you’re cooking the pasta. Just throw in your cut florets with the boiling pasta during the last 5 minutes of cook time. 

Use frozen cauliflower? If you use frozen cauliflower florets you would have to blanch them longer, so keep that in mind. After freezing the florets they may not be as “sturdy” as fresh cauliflower, which is why some people say that you shouldn’t use frozen cauliflower. 

Substitute broccoli: Broccoli is pretty similar to cauliflower in just about every aspect, so if you want to use broccoli instead, or do half and half, that is a great idea! Just make sure to follow the same steps that you would with the cauliflower heads

Bread crumb mixture for Cauliflower Mac and Cheese recipe

How to Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

PREP. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

BROWN. In a large skillet set over medium high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the Panko and continue stirring, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Stir in seasonings and parsley; set aside.

COOK. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. During the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add the cauliflower. Drain and set aside.

Note: Instead of using a full pound of pasta, I used a half pound of whole grain shells and a full head of cauliflower cut into tiny florets. 

SAUTE. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil in the pot. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for and additional minute or until fragrant.

STIR. Stir in pasta, cauliflower, sour cream, milk and cheeses (a generous handful at a time) until smooth, then add seasonings/spices. If the mixture is too thick, thin out with more milk.

BAKE. If your pot is oven-proof, you can pour the breadcrumbs over the top and place in the oven to bake. If it’s not or you are serving it for a special occasion, pour it into a 9×13-inch baking dish and bake for 15 minutes or until the pasta bubbles.

Tip: After baking the casserole you can choose to broil it for a little bit. This is done to give your casserole a little bit of a bite on top. You only have to broil it for 5 minutes to get that yummy golden brown topping!

Close up of Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

For more cauliflower recipes, try:

Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe

This flavorful lightened up cauliflower mac and cheese is just as cozy and comforting as its full-fat counterpart. It is utterly full of flavor and the leftovers are just as good!
5 from 2 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 352kcal
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil - divided
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley - chopped
For the Macaroni
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta - whole grain, regular, or gluten-free
  • 1 small head cauliflower - cut/broken into florets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1/4 yellow onion - minced
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a large skillet set over medium high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the Panko and continue stirring, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Stir in seasonings and parsley; set aside.
  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. During the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add the cauliflower. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil in the pot. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 4 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for and additional minute or until fragrant. Stir in pasta, cauliflower, sour cream, milk and cheeses, a generous handful at a time. Stir until smooth, then add seasonings/spices. If the mixture is too thick, thin out with more milk.
  • If your pot is oven-proof, you can pour the breadcrumbs over the top and place in the oven to bake. If it's not or you are serving it for a special occasion, pour it into a 9x13-inch baking dish and bake for 15 minutes or until the pasta bubbles.

Notes

-You can find Panko bread crumbs in the Asian section of most grocery stores. I found mine in the baking section.

Nutrition

Serving: 6g | Calories: 352kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 602mg | Potassium: 300mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 642IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 376mg | Iron: 1mg