Cauliflower mac and cheese is a cheesy cauliflower bake. It’s gluten free and low carb, with a vegan recipe option. The perfect healthy side for your holiday meal!
Is there anything cauliflower can’t do? Well, yes, but when it comes to gluten free pasta and low carb rice substitutes, this veggie is KING! In my healthy humble opinion.
Speaking of healthy….
HEALTHY HOLIDAY COMFORT FOODS
Do you know what you’ll be serving for the holidays yet? They are going to be here before you know it, so there is no time like the present! Even if you won’t be enjoying a traditional holiday gathering, it’s important to include healthier options for anyone who needs them.
But, there is no reason to give up the traditional holiday comfort foods that everyone loves, right? I mean, one of my primary goals here is to provide you with healthier versions of your favorites.
This year, you can make a dairy free and vegan green bean casserole. The vegan condensed mushroom soup makes a creamy casserole just like the original version! Or, instead of traditional mashed potatoes, you can serve white bean mashed potatoes. They have additional nutrients and protein that you can’t get from potatoes.
Plus, you can save oven room by making the recipe in a slow cooker!
And of course, nobody can resist mac and cheese. But, instead of making the carb-loaded original, I have a low carb mac and cheese recipe that you make with cauliflower instead of pasta. Even better than that that, this is a cheesy cauliflower casserole, so it’s easy to make ahead. All you’ll have to do is pop it into the oven to warm it through on the day you serve it.
Easy holiday meal prep for the BIG win!
Cauliflower mac and cheese bake
NOTE: As written, this recipe is gluten free and low carb. To help those of you who need to avoid dairy products, I have a vegan recipe option for you.
This is just a partial ingredient list. You can find the full list (with amounts) and the vegan substitutions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
INGREDIENT NOTES + SUBSTITUTIONS
- raw cauliflower, broken into florets (or cut the head in half)
- olive oil or another neutral flavor cooking oil of your choice
For the mac and cheese sauce
- butter – to prevent the sauce from being too salty, I suggest using unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter, make the recipe without additional salt. After tasting the sauce, if you feel it needs more salt, then you can add it.
- cream cheese – any variety of plain cream cheese will be fine.
- Non dairy milk and heavy cream – you can use dairy free cream if you need to.
- salsa or tomato sauce – this ingredient is completely optional. I love the flavor it adds to the dish.
- cheeses – I use 3 different cheeses (sharp cheddar, parmesan, and cream cheese) for the sauce because, well… cheesy cauliflower mac = winning.
- blanched almond flour – This combined with parmesan makes for a great crispy topping, almost like bread crust topping, minus the gluten. Almond flour also makes for a great thickener, since we’re not using real macaroni pasta.
Vegan ingredient substitutions
- vegan butter for unsalted butter
- hummus or non dairy cream cheese for the cream cheese
- non-dairy milk for milk
- cashew cream or coconut cream for heavy cream
- shredded vegan cheese for the shredded cheddar
- nutritional yeast flakes for parmesan cheese. I also tested this with Daiya cheese, and it works well!
Recipe Video: Making Low Carb Mac and Cheese
To see how easy this healthy side is to make, take a peek at my recipe video!
- Optional add-ins:
This is a great dish to add to holiday gatherings or dinner table because it’s very customizable! Of course, you can make it vegan. Or, you can bulk the dish up by adding in more ingredients if you want to. Cooked chicken, turkey, any cooked veggies or healthy greens, etc. Just stir them in at the end!
- Meal prep option:
For an easy meal prep option, temper 2 whisked eggs into the cauliflower mac. Then, scoop it into a muffin pan to make baked cauliflower mac and cheese cups. SO good, and EASY!
- Storage and freezing instructions
Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers within a couple of hours after serving. You can freeze the casserole, but be aware that the sauce may separate a bit as it thaws. It’ll still be safe to eat, and it will recombine if you stir it while it reheats. But, the consistency may not be as creamy.Print
Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese (Vegan Option)
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 4–5 servings 1x
- Diet: Gluten Free
Baked cauliflower mac and cheese is a comfort food casserole that’s gluten free and low carb, with a vegan recipe option. Perfect holiday side dish!
*See notes for vegan ingredient substitutions
- 800g (2 small heads) raw cauliflower, cut into florets (3 cups florets)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
For the pan
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter or vegan butter
- 6 oz (½ cup) cream cheese *
- 1/ 2 cup cream + ⅓ cup non dairy milk
- ½ teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
- ½ cup salsa (optional)
- 6 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese *
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese *
- ¼ cup blanched almond flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Toss the raw cauliflower florets in oil, garlic powder, and pepper. Bake on a sheet pan for 15 minutes. Once baked, cut each floret into smaller pieces, about the size of a quarter. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring the cream and milk to a soft boil. Then, whisk in the butter and cream cheese together and reduce to medium heat. Add the cheddar and stir until combined. Stir in the paprika and optional tomato sauce or salsa. Stir until combined.
- Next, add the cauliflower to the cheese roux and mix evenly with cheese sauce on medium heat, about 3 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the grated parmesan and almond flour.
Add ½ of the parmesan and almond flour mixture (reserve other half for topping), and salt/pepper to the pot with the cheese and cauliflower. Mix again. Feel free to add in any cooked veggies or raw spinach or kale here.
- Spoon into an 8×11 inch casserole dish, then top with remaining almond flour and parmesan mixture. If you’re using a large oven-safe skillet to coat the cauliflower, you can bake in the same pan.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden and batter is cooked through. To create a crispy topping, place the pan under a broiler for the final minute.
- Remove pan from oven and allow the dish to cool for 5 minutes, then serve with topping of choice.
1:1 Vegan ingredient substitutions
- Soy free vegan butter to substitute unsalted butter
- Hummus or non dairy cream cheese to substitute the cream cheese
- Coconut cream or unsweetened non dairy creamer to substitute heavy cream
- Shredded vegan cheese to substitute shredded cheddar
- Nutritional yeast flakes to substitute parmesan cheese
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: sides
- Method: oven
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 342
- Sugar: 4.3 g
- Sodium: 660.9 mg
- Fat: 24.5 g
- Saturated Fat: 13.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 11.5 g
- Fiber: 2.5 g
- Protein: 16.5 g
- Cholesterol: 69.5 mg
Keywords: cauliflower mac and cheese, low carb mac and cheese, cheesy cauliflower, healthy sides, vegan, low carb
Alright my friends, let me know if you have questions about the recipe. Happy to help with ingredient substitutes if needed! We got you covered!
Have a wonderful cozy comforting day.
Could I substitute a different flour instead of the almond flour?
You can use bread crumbs/panko that’s GF. Or maybe coconut flour. It’s just to create a crispy topping.
Thank you for your reply!
It was amazing and too fascinating. I love your food. I will cook it for my family this weekend
Great! Hope y’all enjoy it!
great use of cauliflower, love a good mac and cheese too
Oh my goodness, this stuff is amazing! I have been looking for recipes to help my husband adjust to a low carb diet, this was a huge hit! We all loved it and I already have the ingredients on the shopping list so I can make it again soon!
So glad this was a huge hit! Thanks for letting me know!
This is such a delicious healthy option for my favorite mac and cheese! So amazing!
Glad you liked it! Thanks, Toni!
dixya @food, pleasure, and health
cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetable so this will be fantastic!
Oh my gosh this was amazeballs…like wow. It was perfect.
So glad to hear that!
I swear you don’t miss the pasta AT ALL!! Holy cow this is so good!
Thanks, Lauren! So glad you loved it!