Creamy, cheesy and delicious, this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese will satisfy your comfort food craving with some sneaky veggies. This recipe works beautifully as a vegetarian main or as a side.
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like mac and cheese. Have you? It’s one of those comfort foods that seem to pop up on my NEED-o-meter more often than I should probably entertain.
But the good news is, there so many variations of mac and cheese that one can bring the calories down…. or…..take them through the roof if you’re so inclined… which, I admit, I AM often inclined.
However, for this Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese, that lone head of cauliflower won me over and the calories were brought down. This time, anyway.
If you are feeling a little adventurous with your next Cauliflower Baked Mac and Cheese recipe, you will also love my Stovetop Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Kale and Crispy Shallots!
What You’ll Need For This Recipe
- Coconut Oil or Other Neutral Oil
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Pasta Shells or Elbows
- Unsalted Butter
- Whole Wheat White Flour or All Purpose
- Sourdough or Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
- Salt & Pepper
- Smoked Paprika
- Fresh Thyme
How to Make Roasted Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
There’s several steps to preparing this cauliflower macaroni & cheese, but it couldn’t be easier to pull together.
- First, roast the cauliflower and onions.
- Second, cook the pasta until tender, drain.
- Third, top the cauliflower and onions with cheese and continue roasting until the cheese is melted.
- Next, on the stove top, make the creamy sauce by warming the butter, garlic and flour, then whisking in the milk. Stir in the remaining cheese. Do this in a Dutch oven for easy baking and clean up (optional)!
- Last, add the roasted cauliflower to the sauce. Stir and top with toasty breadcrumbs.
Bake until the breadcrumbs are toasty and the macaroni and cheese is heated through. Your cauliflower baked mac and cheese is ready!
A Few Recipe Notes
- Roasting the cauliflower before adding it to the pasta and béchamel sauce brings out its best flavors and texture.
- Keep those little brown crunchies on the pan with the cauliflower and cheese. They taste fabulous!
- If you can, use a Dutch oven to boil the pasta, then to make the creamy sauce in, and later to bake the mac and cheese. It cuts down on clean up.
- Tip: Microplaned garlic is simply using your zester to get more mileage out of your garlic.
More Cauliflower Recipes to Love
- Cauliflower Tinga Tacos
- Chana Dal with Cauliflower and Coconut Milk
- Cauliflower Potato Red Lentil Curry
- Cauliflower Gnocchi – from Kitchen Confidante
- Cauliflower Bolognese
Roasted Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 2 Tbs + 1 tsp Vegetable Oil I like melted coconut oil or olive oil, divided
- 1 (1 3/4 lb / 800g) Head of Cauliflower trimmed and cut into small, bite-sized. You'll need 5-6 Cups (1lb 2 oz / 495g).
- 1 Cup (125g) Purple or Yellow Onion small diced, about 1 small onion
- 1/2 Cup (60g) Grated Parmesan
- 2 1/4 Cups (7 zo / 200g) Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 8 oz (225g) Pasta Shells or Elbows
- 2 Cups (480g) Whole Milk
- 1 Tbs Unsalted Butter
- 2 tsp Garlic microplaned (2-3 large cloves)
- 2 Tbs Whole Wheat White Flour or All Purpose
- 3/4 C (55g) Sourdough Bread Crumbs *see note to DIY, or use prepared bread crumbs
- Black Pepper to taste
- 1 tsp salt
- Smoked Paprika for sprinkling
- Fresh Thyme optional, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425F, with rack positioned in the center of the oven. Line a sheet pan with parchment and spread 1 Tbs of oil on the parchment.
Prepare the Cauliflower:
- Arrange the trimmed and cut cauliflower on the sheet pan with the diced onions distributed evenly and in one layer. Once the oven is preheated, put the sheet pan in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.
- Check on the cauliflower after 15 minutes. Give the pan a shake and gently, using a spatula, redistribute the cauliflower again in one layer. Set the timer for another 5 minutes then check again. The cauliflower should be turning a nice golden color with bits of dark brown. Cook for an additional 5 minutes if needed. Redistribute the cauliflower again, but this time to the center of the pan. It's ok if it's piled up. Add 1/4 C Parmesan and 1/2 C Cheddar and bake for an additional 8-13 minutes or until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
Cook the Pasta:
- Meanwhile, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta shells. Do this in a 3 1/2 - 4 quart (3.3 - 3.7 L) Dutch oven if you can (for fewer pots to clean). Add the pasta once the water is boiling and boil until tender (or as indicated package directions). Drain pasta and set aside. It's okay if it sticks together. If using a Dutch oven, there's no need to clean it, unless pasta has stuck to the bottom. You'll make the sauce in it too.
- Reduce the temperature of the oven to 350F.Spray the bottom and sides of a baker (8 1/2" x 11" or 8" x 8" / 21.6 x 28 cm or 20 x 20 cm) with pan spray. Set aside. Otherwise, continue making the recipe in the Dutch oven to go from stovetop to oven.
Make the Sauce:
- Warm the milk in the microwave in a heatproof, spouted bowl or measuring cup until steaming. Set aside. To the Dutch oven, or medium sauce pot add the remaining 1 Tbs oil and 1 Tbs butter. Melt and allow the butter to bubble. Turn the burner to low. Toss in the microplaned garlic and push it around the pan using a whisk for no more than 10 seconds. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk constantly until a loose paste is formed. Now you're ready to add the milk, a little at a time while whisking the entire time. Continue to add a little more milk at a time while the sauce begins to thicken slightly and become smooth. The goal is no lumps! Once all the milk is in the pot and your sauce is smooth (it won't be too thick at this time), add the salt, pepper, and the remaining cheese. Stir until completely smooth and thickened. Remove the pot from the heat.
Finish and Bake the Mac and Cheese:
- To the sauce, stir in the cooked pasta, the cauliflower, and the little bits of crunchies on the pan. If using a Dutch oven, continue with the breadcrumbs. If using a baker, transfer the mixture to the prepared baker. Cover the mixture with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle paprika, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper over the top, to taste. A little paprika goes a long way.
- Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are toasty and the mac and cheese is heated through.
- Garnish with fresh thyme. Serve.
To Store and Reheat:
- Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Freeze for up to two weeks. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Gently rewarm stovetop with a splash or two of milk to loosen and soften things up.
- Preheat oven to 300F.
- Place 2-3 slices of sourdough bread in a food processor. Process until crumbs are formed, chunky or smaller. If the bread is older and dry, you may need to remove the crust before processing.
- Transfer the crumbs to a parchment lined sheet pan arranging in a thin layer and bake for 5 minutes. Stir and rotate the pan. Bake for another 5 minutes and check to see if they're dry and lightly golden brown. Give the crumbs up to an additional 5 minutes as needed.
- Allow crumbs to cool on a sheet pan completely.