This Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is rich, creamy, and it’s full of flavor. Pair with a side of salad or any leafy green for a weeknight supper.
If you are looking to indulge but not feel overwhelmed by the number of cheesy calories in the classic Mac and Cheese, then this creamy cauliflower Mac and Cheese recipe is the right balance for you. The rich taste and creamy texture of the cauliflower retain its ranking as comfort food.
This recipe doesn’t call for the classic bechamel method, where you make use of butter, milk, and flour. Instead of the milk and flour sauce, we will be using cauliflower sauce as the base for this Mac and Cheese. Trust, you won’t go back to the classic once you’ve tried this method, plus it cuts down some of the carbs- Did you say touchdown? Lol.
Before we delve into the recipe, there are a few things you need to know, so you can grab the right ingredients while you are out grocery shopping.
Tips for the best Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
When selecting the head of cauliflower, go for the ones with densely packed heads, steer clear of the curds with blemishes, spots, or awful odor as it’s a sign of decay. The white or yellow cauliflower head is perfectly fine for this recipe.
What Cheese should I use for Mac and Cheese?
The cheese is essential when making Mac and Cheese recipe, so you must use the right one.
Choose a block of cheese with high moisture and a good melting point — cheese like Fontina, mozzarella, sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, gruyere, parmesan. I used apple smoked gruyere to add a nutty and sweet flavor to the cauliflower sauce. I also used a hand full of five cheese blend to get the perfect melting point.
READ: Please DO NOT use pre-shredded cheese as it has been coated and doesn’t yield a creamy result; neither does it melt quickly.
Use block cheese and grate it yourself, thank me later. While preparing this recipe, I ran out of blocked cheese and used a tiny portion of melted cheese I had in the fridge. See the picture below for the outcome. The crunch was the bomb tho 🙂
What type of Pasta should I use for Mac and Cheese:
Use a pasta-like macaroni (straight or elbow) with a good surface area to catch all the creamy sauce. Pasta’s such as shells, penne, orecchiette, ziti, rigatoni, rotelle e.t.c
Great toppings for Mac and Cheese:
Some people like their Mac n Cheese without any topping while others swear by the crunchy toppings. I like mine with Italian style panko bread crumbs, and some crispy bacon or lobster tail. Other toppings that might give your cauliflower Mac and Cheese an extra oomph are chopped ham, crab meat, scallions, broccoli, more cheese-like grated Parmigiano Reggiano e.t.c
This creamy cauliflower Mac and Cheese will please adults and kids alike. I do hope you give it a try. Click on the recipe card to get the detailed recipe.
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Cauliflower Mac and Cheese (with Cauliflower sauce)
- 8 oz. elbow pasta (about 2 cups)
- 1 medium head Cauliflower (about 1lb 5oz)
- 4 Cups vegetable Broth
- 5 bacon strips
- 2 Shallots
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup Heavy cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup shredded smoked Gruyère
- 1 cup Cheese blend
(Cheddar, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fontina or Gouda) + more for topping
- ½ cup Panko bread crumbs (Italian style, recommended).
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray 3 mini cast iron pans or casserole dish with cooking spray.
PREPARE THE CAULIFLOWER SAUCE
- Pour the vegetable broth into a medium pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Core, Wash and Cut the cauliflower into florets and add to the broth. Reduce heat to medium, cover with a tight lid, and cook for 8 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain the cauliflower and reserve the broth for later. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Layout the bacon strips without overlapping in a cold skillet. Cook over medium heat for 6 mins (3 mins on each side). Turn the strips as needed until they reach the desired crispness.
Drain well on a paper-towel-lined plate. Chop into bits. Set aside
- Meanwhile, place the chopped shallots, in the bacon grease and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Add garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika to the shallot mixture and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Remove from the heat.
(optional) Toast the bread crumbs in the bacon grease for 2 minutes and set aside for later.
- Using a heavy-duty blender, puree the cauliflower, shallot mixture, heavy cream, milk, nutmeg, and gruyere. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
COOK THE PASTA
- Bring the remaining vegetable broth to a boil and cook the elbow pasta according to package instructions. Drain and return to saucepan.
- Ladle the cauliflower sauce into the pan with pasta, add the cheese blend, bacon bits and combine. At this point, you can add more milk if it’s not as creamy as you would like. Adjust to taste
Spoon the pasta into individual cast iron pan or casserole dish. Top with more cheese (parmesan), bacon, and toasted breadcrumbs. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden. Remove from oven and serve.