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Comfort food that’s low-carb too? This time, you CAN have it all with creamy Cauliflower Mac and Cheese! The recipe replaces the macaroni noodles with tender cauliflower florets for a lightened-up remake of everyone’s favorite cheesy pasta dish.

a pan of cheesy cauliflower "mac" and cheese

Why You’ll Love This Healthy Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese Recipe

  • All The Best Parts of Mac and Cheese. Let’s be honest, the elbow noodles in traditional mac and cheese mainly serve as a vehicle for delivering cheesy goodness. Cauliflower brings some of its own flavor to the table, and all those nooks and crooks make it even better for holding cheese sauce. (Case in point? My Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac!)
  • It’s Extra Creamy. The addition of Greek yogurt to the cheese sauce gives it a richer, creamier texture, along with a little bit of tang that complements the flavor of sharp cheddar. Using yogurt instead of cream cheese or heavy cream makes this “mac” better for you too.
  • Cauliflower Makes Nutritious. Cauliflower is a great source of fiber and lower in carbs than elbow noodles. Win! For those who need a low-carb or keto diet, this cauliflower mac and cheese is a great option. Be sure to check out this Cauliflower Casserole and Buffalo Cauliflower Wings too!
  • The Flavor Will Wow You. Many mac and cheese recipes are kind of one note, but this cauliflower mac and cheese has some depth to it thanks to the Greek yogurt, sharp cheddar, umami Parmesan, and a toasty whole wheat panko breadcrumb topping.
a bowl of cheesy cauliflower mac

How to Make Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese

The Ingredients

For the Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese Sauce

  • Cauliflower Florets. You can cut them from two small heads of cauliflower, or save yourself some prep time and buy the ones that come in a bag.
  • Unsalted Butter. Even though this isn’t a traditional cheese sauce, it starts the traditional way: with a roux. That means beginning with butter!
  • All-Purpose Flour. The next component of our roux. Flour thickens the sauce.
  • Whole Milk. Whole milk is best, but you can use 2% if that’s what you have on hand, or substitute half-and-half for a richer sauce. 
  • Dijon Mustard. Mustard gives the cheese sauce a little bit of pep and its acidity balances the richness of the dish. Even if you’re not a mustard fan, it’s a must in this cauliflower mac and cheese recipe.
  • Kosher Salt. Kosher salt is always my choice for cooking.
  • Black Pepper. Just enough to enhance the flavor, without distracting from it.
  • Garlic Powder. There’s a time and a place for fresh garlic, and it’s not in mac and cheese! Garlic powder is garlicky without the pungency of fresh cloves.
  • Cayenne Pepper. Use less if you’re cooking for kids (and those who are heat averse) and more if you’re in the mood to spice things up.
  • Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Buy a block and shred it yourself. This is critical!

Substitution Tip

I used sharp cheddar for that classic mac and cheese flavor, but you can swap in another cheese instead (as long as it’s shredded from the block!) or use a combination of two or three different varieties. Just avoid very mild cheeses like mozzarella—you want to use something fairly assertive to get some flavor in your cheese sauce.

  • Full-Fat Greek Yogurt. Our secret weapon for a luxuriously creamy cheese sauce.

For the Topping

  • Unsalted Butter. For some buttery flavor in the topping.
  • Whole-Wheat Panko Breadcrumbs. Use regular panko if you can’t find whole wheat, or leave it out for a low carb option—it adds a nice crispy-crunch, but it’s not absolutely necessary in this recipe.
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese. Parm isn’t a good melter, but it has a lot of great flavor—that’s why we use it as a topping!

Dietary Note

To make this cauliflower mac and cheese gluten-free, use your go-to gluten-free all-purpose flour substitute in the sauce and swap in gluten-free panko or crushed Rice Chex cereal for the topping.

The Directions

cutting cauliflower for the best cauliflower mac and cheese
  1. Pre-Cook the Cauliflower. Steam the cauliflower in the microwave. Pat dry.
making cauliflower mac and cheese on the stove
  1. Make the Roux. Add the milk and let the sauce thicken.
  2. Season. Lower the heat and whisk in all of the seasonings.
adding cheese to cauliflower mac and cheese in a pot
  1. Add the Cheese. Add a little bit at a time to make sure it’s smooth.
adding flour to cheese in a pot for cauliflower mac and cheese
  1. Stir in the Yogurt. Remove the pot from the heat first.
mixing cauliflower into cheese in a pot
  1. Fold in the Cauliflower. Transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish.
breading mixture for baked cauliflower mac and cheese
  1. Make the Topping. Sprinkle this over the cauliflower mac and cheese.
cauliflower and breading in a baking dish
  1. Bake. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake until the cauliflower is fork tender and the sauce is bubbling up along the edges. Broil if desired, then rest 5 minutes before serving. ENJOY!

Recipe Variations

  • Tex-Mex Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. Use pepper jack cheese instead of cheddar and replace the panko topping with crumbled tortilla chips. Serve with pico de gallo and sliced green onions.
  • French Onion Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. Swap the cheddar for gruyere and fold caramelized onions into the cauliflower mixture before adding it to the baking dish. Sprinkle some fresh parsley or thyme on top when serving.
  • Smoky Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. Instead of making the cheese sauce with cheddar, use smoked gouda.
  • Loaded Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. Add cooked, crumbled Baked Bacon or Air Fryer Bacon for some protein and bacon-y flavor and serve your cauli mac with an extra dollop of Greek yogurt and chives or green onions on top.

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you have a lot of leftovers, you can keep them in the casserole dish and tightly cover it with foil.
  • To Reheat. Reheat leftovers in a 350 degrees F oven or microwave until warmed through. 
  • To Freeze. Place leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.

Meal Prep Tip

Prep and steam the cauliflower up to a day in advance to get a head start on the recipe. Simply store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the cheese sauce.

the best low carb cauliflower mac and cheese

What to Serve with Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

  • Chicken. Round out your dinner by serving cauliflower mac and cheese alongside Grilled Chicken Breast or kid-friendly Chicken Tenders.
  • PorkBreaded Pork Chops are a fabulous accompaniment to cauli mac, or make meal bowls with Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.
  • Beef. If you don’t have room in your oven for another recipe, make Air Fryer Steak on the countertop instead!
  • Veggie Sides. Use cauliflower mac and cheese as your main dish and serve it with an easy side like Roasted Asparagus or Air Fryer Green Beans. (Pro-tip: Make extra panko topping and toss it with your vegetable side for some extra flavor and texture. It’s my go-to when I roast a big baking sheet of veggies!)
  • Bread. You’re saving all those carbohydrates by eliminating the noodles, so now you have room for Rosemary Olive Oil Bread or Beer Bread with your cauliflower mac and cheese!
  • Casserole Dish. A quality casserole dish will last for decades, which is why I like simple, classic white. It will never go out of style!
  • Cheese Grater. It’s so important to shred your own cheese for this cauliflower mac and cheese recipe.
  • Sharp Chef’s Knife. For cutting off all those cauliflower florets!

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t Use Pre-Shredded Cheese. Yes, store-bought bagged cheese is super convenient, but the white powdery stuff that coats the cheese to keep it from sticking is bad news for your mac and cheese. It’s an anti-caking agent that will keep the cheese from melting smoothly, resulting in a gritty sauce. It’s why I shred my own cheese for Gourmet Mac and Cheese, Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, and Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese.
  • Steam the Cauliflower First. Roasted Cauliflower is delicious, but its flavor will make the cauliflower the star instead of the cheese sauce. You also can’t add it raw or it won’t cook through. Steaming it first is essential!
  • Dry the Cauliflower Too. It will release some liquid into the creamy cheese sauce—just enough to give it the perfect consistency. If there’s too much water clinging to the cauliflower when you add it to the sauce, it will end up thin and bland.
  • Use a Large Pot. You’ll need to accommodate not only the cheese sauce, but also 8 cups of cauliflower—and you’ll have to be able to stir it without it spilling over the edges and making a mess on your stovetop!
  • Pour the Milk in Slowly. If you dump it all in at once, you’ll end up with lumps of flour in your cheese sauce. Not good! (While we’re on the subject of the sauce, don’t let it come to a boil either. After adding the milk, you’ll need to cook the sauce over low heat.)
  • Let It Rest. The sauce will thicken after a quick rest once you pull your cauliflower mac n’ cheese out of the oven. 

Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese

4.84 from 6 votes
Cauliflower "mac" and cheese replaces the pasta with cauliflower florets for a healthy, low-carb version of everyone’s favorite cheesy dish!

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour

Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients
  

For the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese:

  • 8 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets about 2 small heads or 28 ounces florets
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk 2% also works; use part half-and-half for a richer flavor
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 ounces FRESHLY SHREDDED extra sharp cheddar cheese about 1 1/2 cups (Do not use pre-shredded! It won’t melt smoothly.)
  • 1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt

For the Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs or regular panko
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions
 

  • Set the Greek yogurt out to come to room temperature. Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 375°F. Generously coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  • Place the cauliflower in a large microwave-safe bowl and add 1 inch of water. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave on high power for 4 minutes. Stir, then recover and microwave for 4 minutes more, until the cauliflower is slightly softened but still definitely fairly al dente. Drain into a colander, then spread into a single layer on paper or kitchen towels and pat dry. Let air dry while you make the sauce.
  • In a Dutch oven or large, deep stockpot, heat the butter over medium heat.
  • As soon as the butter melts, sprinkle the flour over the top and cook, whisking constantly, until flour turns light golden brown and smells lightly nutty, about 1 minute. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring continuously to make sure the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom, until the sauce thickens, 3-5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Whisk in the mustard, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.
  • Next, stir in the cheddar by small handfuls, adding it gradually and stirring all the while to ensure it melts smoothly. Make sure each addition of cheese melts before adding the next.
  • Remove from the heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt.
  • Add the cauliflower, stirring gently to combine. The sauce will seem very thick, but will thin out as water is released from the cauliflower when it cooks. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer.
  • Make the topping: In a small bowl, melt the butter. Add the Panko and Parmesan. Stir to combine, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the cauliflower mac.
  • Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and the cauliflower is just fork tender. If you’d like to crisp the top, turn the oven to broil for a few minutes until golden in spots. Let rest 5 minutes, then serve.

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate cauliflower mac and cheese in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Reheat leftovers in a 350°F oven or microwave until warmed through.
  • TO FREEZE: Place leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 (of 6)Calories: 355kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 17gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 69mgPotassium: 577mgFiber: 3gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 766IUVitamin C: 64mgCalcium: 415mgIron: 1mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is My Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Watery?

The most likely culprit is that your steamed cauliflower wasn’t dried thoroughly. It’s important to dry it well so it doesn’t water down the cheese sauce. Note that the sauce will also thicken as the mac and cheese cools.

What Does Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Taste Like?

Cauliflower mac and cheese tastes very similar to traditional mac and cheese, but it has a slightly nutty, sweet flavor thanks to the cauliflower.

Can I Use Broccoli as a Substitute for Macaroni Instead of Cauliflower?

While you can substitute lightly steamed broccoli for the cauliflower, broccoli has a MUCH more assertive flavor to it and the bright green color means it’s not a good swap visually either. If you want a cheesy broccoli dish, try this Broccoli Bake.

Related Recipes

 Cauliflower does it all! If you can’t get enough of this healthy multitasking ingredient, here are some more cauliflower recipes to try.

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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4.84 from 6 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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4 Comments

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  1. This is healthy alternative to Mac and cheese. The flavor is wonderful and the crunchy topping really adds to the flavor. I did make one change by using white and yellow cheddar cheese and it worked well. My husband loved loved it and said it’s a keeper! Thanks for the awesome recipe Erin!5 stars

  2. I followed the recipe exactly except I did use pre shredded cheddar ( Tillamook ) and it was delicious and great the next day too.5 stars