Tasty, creamy cauliflower mac and cheese is just the thing when you crave the old familiar comfort food, but prefer to minimize carbs.
This recipe is so good. It's tasty, creamy and comforting. A bowl of it really hits the spot when I crave the classic pasta dish but want to keep my carbs in check.
It's one of those magical recipes that help you avoid feeling deprived while on the low-carb or keto diet. It's so wonderfully cheesy and delicious! Unless you truly dislike cauliflower, I think you are going to love this keto mac and cheese.
The ingredients you'll need
These are the ingredients you'll need to make this tasty side dish. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Fresh cauliflower: Cut into small florets. I haven't tried making this recipe with frozen cauliflower, but I suspect that fresh is the way to go for the best flavor and texture.
Heavy cream: I tried to make this recipe with half-and-half. Nope. Heavy cream is definitely the way to go.
Dijon mustard: This traditional French mustard is creamier, thicker, and less vinegary than yellow mustard.
Spices: Garlic powder and cayenne pepper. The cayenne adds a very subtle kick. The dish is not spicy.
Shredded cheddar cheese: I prefer extra-sharp cheddar. I think it gives this dish a wonderful flavor.
Black pepper to finish the dish: freshly ground tastes best.
How to make cauliflower mac and cheese
It's such an easy recipe! It takes 5 minutes to trim the cauliflower and divide it into small florets. And you can make this step even easier by buying a bag of pre-cut and washed florets.
However, if the pre-cut florets are large, I do chop them into smaller florets, as shown in the video.
Then, it takes about 7 minutes to steam the cauliflower in the microwave until tender-crisp.
When the cauliflower is ready, place it in a serving dish, cover (or keep in the oven on "warm") and make the cheese sauce.
Making the cheese sauce is so easy! Simply heat some heavy cream with seasonings, then gradually mix in the cheese, stirring over low heat just until it melts and the sauce thickens.
Once you have the sauce, pour it over the cauliflower florets, and you've got yourself super tasty mac and cheese!
Can I make the cheese sauce without flour?
Yes! In my experience, the sauce thickens beautifully even without flour. I suspect that using store-bought pre-shredded cheese helps the sauce thicken, because of the anti-caking agent added to these cheeses (powdered cellulose in the Whole Foods brand).
If you're shredding your own cheese and you feel that the sauce is too thin, I suggest simply adding more cheese. Try ¼-1/2 cup.
Another thing you can do is mix a teaspoon of gluten-free cornstarch with a teaspoon of cold water, and add that to the sauce. Increase the heat to medium so that the sauce bubble gently, and mix until the sauce does thicken.
The small amount of cornstarch does not add any significant amount of carbs to this cauliflower mac and cheese recipe (it adds about 2 grams for the entire dish) and it does help to thicken the sauce. And unlike flour, you don't need to use a significant amount, so you won't taste the starch in the sauce.
Remember that the cheese sauce for the cauliflower doesn't need to be very thick. If it's too thick, it won't coat the cauliflower florets as well and it could also become stringy.
How much cheese should I use in the cheese sauce?
I recommend you start with one cup, then see if you need to add more. It's best to measure the cheese by weight (4 oz) and not by volume, to ensure you use enough cheese to thicken the sauce. If the sauce is not thick enough, try adding ½ cup more cheese (2 oz).
How to prevent the cheese sauce from becoming stringy
Unlike Swiss cheese or mozzarella, cheddar doesn't become stringy very easily.
But if you'd like to make sure that your cheese sauce won't become stringy, stir it over low heat just until the cheese is melted and no longer than that. You could also squeeze a little fresh lemon juice into the sauce.
I believe that the Dijon mustard, an acidic ingredient, also helps prevent stringiness. So use it! It adds flavor AND helps with the texture.
Is it tasty?
Yes! It doesn't taste like the real thing, but it's an excellent substitute. That is, assuming you like cauliflower, because the cauliflower flavor does come through.
What to serve with this dish?
Can I freeze cauliflower mac and cheese?
Absolutely! I usually keep leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. I reheat them, covered, in the microwave.
But you can also freeze this dish for up to three months. I recommend freezing it in microwave-safe containers, in individual portions, then microwaving those portions.
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Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets (6 cups, 20 oz florets)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Place the cauliflower florets in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add ¼ cup water. Cover and microwave on high until tender-crisp, about 7 minutes. Drain, then return to the bowl and cover to keep warm.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the heavy cream, Dijon, garlic powder, and cayenne. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally.
- When the cream mixture starts bubbling on the edges, add the grated cheese gradually, mixing it slowly and patiently in with a rubber spatula.
- Keep heating the cheese sauce over very low heat, stirring gently, until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower florets and gently toss to combine. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve.