Baked cauliflower mac and cheese is the perfect low-carb alternative to a classic dish! Par-boiled cauliflower is the perfect canvas for a quick and easy homemade cheese sauce that hits all the familiar notes without the pasta or carb counts. With a similar cook-time as traditional mac and cheese, it's a great way to get your kids to eat their veggies and enjoy this healthier WHOLE LOTTA YUM dinner side.
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This Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe is a healthier take on a classic dish!
Mac 'n cheese is the ultimate comfort food for all ages. There is something about the simplicity of the meal, the memories of the dish, and the flavor that has this dish being served for all occasions.
While the traditional method with pasta and cheese sauce is a good one, for low-carb eaters or those who need to avoid gluten, it's a no-go. Pasta dishes do not work if you are trying to limit carbs or avoid gluten.
Cauliflower, thankfully, is a perfect substitute for a variety of carbohydrates and gluten-containing items. This white-colored vegetable has been the star of many alternative recipes - macaroni and cheese included.
In this version, we are going to take the classic dish we know and love and create a healthier option. One that is low in carbs, gluten-free, and a great way to up your veggie intake.
To make a quick and easy complete meal, we love to serve cauliflower mac and cheese with low-carb baked pork chops or pan fried chicken tenders. And for dessert, we are going to finish it off with keto blondies for a truly delicious evening.
Why you'll love this Low Carb Mac and Cheese
- Closely resembling the taste and texture of patsa, cauliflower is the perfect non-pasta base for a homemade cheese sauce.
- You can easily swap the cheese either for variety or to match your own personal preferences.
- Made with vegetables instead of pasta, our cauliflower macaroni and cheese is a great dish for anyone trying to follow gluten-free, low-carb, or keto lifestyles. It's also a vegetarian dish!
- By adding meat, such as shredded chicken or precooked bacon, you can turn your cauliflower mac and cheese into a one-dish meal.
If you love low-carb veggie dishes that are big on flavor, be sure to check out our cauliflower au gratin, cheese green beans, and our creamy roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon.
What you'll need for Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Fresh cauliflower is the best way to go for this recipe. Frozen cauliflower tends to be overcooked and will result in a soggy dish. Using whipping cream instead of milk creates a much creamier cheese sauce! And the dijon mustard gives the final recipe a slight kick that is not overbearing and works well with the other flavors in this dish.
- cauliflower - cut into bite-sized pieces
- garlic - minced
- whipping cream
- cream cheese - at room temperature
- dijon mustard
- sharp cheddar - shredded
- gruyere cheese - shredded (1 cup) (or another white cheese like Monterey Jack, Gouda, Muenster)
- ground black pepper
- Broccoli - You can use broccoli as well, either mixed in with the cauliflower or in place of it.
- White Cheese - Monterey Jack, Gouda, or Muenster would also work as a white cheese.
- Toppings - Top with panko bread crumbs or crush pork rinds for keto and low-carb eaters.
- Spicy Mac and Cheese - Create a spicier version by adding cayenne or your favorite hot sauce to the cheese sauce.
- Low-Carb/Keto - To keep the carbs as low as possible in your vegetable mac and cheese, we do recomend you use block cheese and shred it yourself. Shredded cheese from the store is often coated in potato starch.
How to make Keto Mac and Cheese (Step by Step!)
Similar to a traditional mac and cheese dish, we are going to parboil our noodles (or cauliflower as it would be), make a cheese sauce, and then assemble it all in one pan. A few minutes in the oven and our delicious, healthy keto mac and cheese will be ready to go!
Preheat your oven to 425F.
On the stovetop, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the chopped cauliflower. Cook it until it just becomes fork-tender, which will take about 5-6 minutes.
Using a colander, drain the water and set the cauliflower aside while you make the cheese sauce.
2. Make the Cheese Sauce
In a large pan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.
Stir in the heavy whipping cream, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and dijon and whisk until smooth.
Stir in ½ of the sharp cheddar and white cheese and keep mixing until it's melted.
Place the cauliflower in a baking dish.
Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower in the baking dish and stir to combine. I
Alternately, if you have a cast-iron skillet like we're using, you can also just add the cauliflower to the skillet and combine it with the cheese sauce to make it a stovetop to oven recipe in one pan.
Top the cauliflower mac and cheese with the rest of the shredded cheeses.
Bake the keto mac and cheese until it starts bubbling and is browned, which will take about 25 minutes.
Feel free to add extra cheese if desired!
Serve and enjoy!
Keto Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe tips
- Don't overcook your cauliflower! If you do, your mac and cheese will be soggy.
- Be sure your cauliflower has drained fully before adding it to the cheese sauce.
- Mix ½ of the cheese in the sauce and sprinkle the remaining half on top prior to baking.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Keto storage
Can You Freeze Homemade Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese?
While you can store left-overs in the fridge and easily heat up your cauliflower mac and cheese, we don't recommend freezing it. Recipes that contain a lot of dairy don't freeze well because the dairy separates and your sauce can turn grainy.
- Fridge Storage: Completely cool the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese to cool completely before attempting to store it. Put leftovers in an air tight container and store it in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.
- Reheating: If reheating a single serving in a microwave, place the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese in a microwave-safe dish, cover it loosely, and heat on medium power for 2-3 minutes or until heated through, stirring once or twice. If you’re reheating a larger quantity, the oven is best. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Place the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese in an oven-safe dish, cover with aluminum foil to prevent drying out, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
- Freezer Storage: Cool the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese completely before putting it in the freezer. Add it to freezer safe containers or freezer bags. Store in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
Keto Cauliflower Mac and Cheese FAQs
Keep dinner super simple when you serve our vegetable mac and cheese alongside low-carb baked pork chops or pan fried chicken tenders.
Cauliflower mac and cheese is definitely a healthier version of mac and cheese - and anything homemade is going to be better than a boxed option. Using vegetables instead of pasta reduces both the overall calories of the dish as well as the carb count.
However, if you are trying to cut down on the amount of fat in your diet, this may not be the best option for you as the cheese sauce is high in both fat and protein (something low-carb and keto eaters both need a lot of).
Overall, because this is a homemade dish, one made with vegetables and real cheese, it is significantly better for you both a traditional recipe or a blue box.
If your cauliflower mac and cheese turns out watery, it could be because of a few reasons:
Overcooked Cauliflower: Cauliflower releases water as it cooks. If it's overcooked, it might release too much water, leading to a watery mac and cheese. Be sure to cook the cauliflower just until it's tender-crisp, not mushy.
Not Draining Cauliflower Well: After washing the cauliflower before cooking, let it sit in a colander to drain, or pat it dry with a kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.
Cheese Sauce Too Thin: If the cheese sauce is too thin to begin with, it won't thicken properly when combined with the cauliflower. Make sure your cheese sauce is thick and creamy before adding it to the cauliflower.
Excess Moisture in Cheese: Pre-shredded cheese often contains anti-caking agents and preservatives that can release excess moisture when melted. Consider grating your own cheese from a block for the best results.
Not Baking Long Enough: Baking the dish can help to evaporate any excess moisture. If your dish is too watery, try baking it a bit longer. Be careful not to over-bake, though, as this can lead to dry mac and cheese.
The number of carbohydrates in cauliflower mac and cheese can vary based on the specific recipe and ingredients used. However, cauliflower is a low-carb vegetable, and if you're replacing traditional pasta with cauliflower, the dish will be significantly lower in carbs. Our recipe has 9 g of carbohydrates per serving and 3 grams of fiber, which means it has 6 net carbs per serving.
A typical serving of cauliflower has about 5 grams of carbs, and the cheese sauce, depending on the ingredients used, may add a few more grams per serving.
Cauliflower cheese, or any cheese sauce for cauliflower, might curdle for a few reasons:
High Heat: Cheese can curdle if it's heated too quickly or to too high a temperature. It's best to melt cheese over low heat and to add it gradually to the sauce.
Acidic Ingredients: Acidic ingredients can cause cheese to curdle. If your recipe includes something acidic (like lemon juice or vinegar), add it after the cheese has melted and the sauce is off the heat.
Stirring Too Vigorously: Stirring the sauce too vigorously can cause the proteins in the cheese to coagulate and curdle. Stir gently and only as much as needed to combine the ingredients.
Low-Quality Cheese: Higher quality cheese tends to melt more smoothly. Pre-shredded cheeses often have additives to prevent clumping, and these can sometimes interfere with the melting process and cause curdling.
More Vegetable Side Dish Recipes
Looking for more vegetable side dish recipes?
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We made this tonight and it was absolutely amazing! I will be making this and taking it to my family Thanksgiving. Thanks for that recipe!