Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is a creamy cheesy meal that is similar to the classic recipe but with less carbs since I swap half the macaroni for cauliflower!
Mac and Cheese is one of those ultimate comfort dishes not just for kids these days, but adults as well! So a lot of mac and cheese recipes on my site are more geared towards the grown-ups like the Baked Macaroni and Cheese or the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. This Cauliflower Mac and Cheese though is an-all around crowd pleaser!
What is Cauliflower Mac and Cheese?
This term can mean one of three different things, but all playing off of the classic macaroni and cheese.
- Instead of using macaroni, you substitute pasta with cauliflower and make the sauce the same classic way. This is a keto-friendly recipe you can try because it’s very low in carbs.
- Instead of making a roux for the sauce, you make a creamy sauce using cauliflower, similar to what I did with my Cauliflower Alfredo.
- Keep the macaroni, keep the sauce, but substitute half the macaroni for cauliflower – that’s my recipe – this cauliflower mac and cheese. Use 8 ounces of pasta and about 16 ounces of cauliflower cut into small florets. It’s not necessarily about hiding vegetables, but it’s about adding them to boost the nutrition in a recipe, wherever it makes sense.
How Do You Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese?
Start by boiling the pasta with the cauliflower florets. The cool thing is both need the same time to be cooked and tender. You might as well cook them in the same pot. I recommend cooking the pasta al dente.
Next, make a roux, which is a French word for thickening agent made from equal parts fat and starch. In this case, we’re using butter and all-purpose flour. I also like to add mustard powder at this point. If you’re using garlic powder, white pepper or other seasoning, this is the time to add them.
When the flour is well incorporated into the butter, slowly add warm milk and whisk thoroughly until there are no more flour streaks. Then allow the sauce to thicken until it sticks to a wooden spoon.
Next, add the shredded cheese and blend with the roux mixture until well combined. Now you’ve got the sauce for your cauliflower mac and cheese!
Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and cauliflower. Mix it around so that sauce is evenly distributed. Then bake it in the oven at 400°F just for 10 minutes. This allows the sauce to set and stick to the pasta, so it’s not separated.
When it comes out of the oven, it will be ultra creamy and cheesy and you can hardly tell the cauliflower from the cavatappi pasta! If you’d like, you can also added panko breadcrumbs or regular breadcrumbs on top. I decided to leave it out of this cauliflower mac and cheese recipe though.
Tips For Making Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- Cook the pasta al dente, or two minutes shy of the recommended cooking time. You want the pasta to be slightly under cooked because it’s going to continue to bake in the sauce in the oven. If you overcook it on the stovetop, it may get mushy and break apart while baking.
- Cool the pasta before tossing it in the sauce. Normally we want to coat the warm pasta in whatever sauce we’re making immediately. But doing so for a baked cauliflower mac and cheese recipe can cause the elbow macaroni to absorb too much of the sauce and make it soggy after baking. Instead, transfer it to a baking dish with the cauliflower and a little pasta water and let it rest while you make the sauce.
- Use warm milk to make the sauce. You can warm it in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pouring warm milk into the roux will help make the sauce faster and prevent lumpy cheese sauce.
- Grate your own cheese for the cheese sauce. Store-bought shredded cheese has anti-caking agents which can prevent the cheese from melting efficiently and sticking together in the sauce. Also, it can sometimes have a powder residue or grainy texture from those caking agents.
This Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is a great way to add more heart-healthy vegetables to your meal without it affecting the taste or texture. The cauliflower becomes very tender when boiled, and the color is a seamless transition with the pasta color.
This is a great way to bulk up your meal and eat less carbs without sacrificing taste or texture. It’s easy enough to make for a weeknight meal with a side of chicken or a salad, but also wonderful to add to a holiday spread with turkey or a roast. Everyone loves classic mac and cheese, and I haven’t found anyone who isn’t pleasantly surprised by this cauliflower mac and cheese version!
For more recipes with cauliflower:
For more pasta recipes:
If you’ve tried this feel good Cauliflower Mac and Cheese recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 8 ounces cavatappi pasta or elbow macaroni
- ½ head cauliflower cut into small florets
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
- 2 cups milk
- 8 ounces shredded white cheddar cheese
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan.
- Fill a large saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Stir in the macaroni and the cauliflower together; cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well, and transfer the macaroni and cauliflower into prepared 9x13 pan.
- Wipe the saucepan, then melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, ground mustard, salt and garlic powder; and stir to combine. Add milk and whisk with the flour mixture until smooth and thick, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add the cheese and stir to combine.
- Pour the sauce over the macaroni and cauliflower and stir to combine. Bake, uncovered until it sets, about 10 minutes.
- Use other types of shredded cheese in place of white cheddar if you'd prefer.
- Instead of milk, you can use dairy-free milk like unsweetened almond milk.
- Instead of butter, you can use olive oil
- To make it gluten-free, you can use almond flour or a GF 1:1 mix. Here's an excellent post on how to make gluten-free roux. You can also make this with gluten-free pasta.