This cauliflower au gratin recipe is going to be your favorite cauliflower recipe ever. It’s cheesy, a little crispy, super creamy, and pretty easy to make. It really has it all!
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I first made this cauliflower au gratin when I needed a new side dish to serve with Thanksgiving dinner, alongside our mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole. You may not think of cauliflower as a Thanksgiving food, but this cheesy au gratin is so delicious next to roast turkey and cranberry sauce. It is pretty amazing!
Ever since that first Thanksgiving cauliflower au gratin, my family has been asking for this side dish nonstop. They just can’t get enough of that white cheddar cheese sauce that coats every bite of cauliflower. Lucky for them, I am happy to make this cauliflower side dish all the time. It is easy, healthy and big enough to feed the whole family.
Cheesy Cauliflower Au Gratin Recipe
Cauliflower is one of the healthiest veggies out there. It is high in fiber, a good source of antioxidants and has lots of nutrients. These are just a few of the reasons I try to feed my family cauliflower as often as possible. However, not everyone in my family readily eats cauliflower. It can have a strong taste that some people love and others find… well, less than enjoyable.
This cauliflower au gratin recipe will make everyone a cauliflower lover. I think it’s the homemade cheese sauce that no one can resist. The tender cauliflower is coated in a gruyere and white cheddar cheese sauce, then baked to get a crispy, golden-brown top.
It sounds pretty delicious, right? Well, it is! And I think it is going to become a side dish staple in your house, too.
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Cauliflower florets – Two large cauliflower heads will give you the two pounds of florets needed for this recipe.
- Flour – All-purpose flour is best. One tablespoon of cornstarch can be used to replace the flour if needed.
- Whole milk – Use skim milk if you want a lower fat version of this recipe. Keep in mind that the sauce won’t be quite as rich!
- Ground black pepper
- White cheddar cheese – Orange cheddar will work in place of white cheddar. Just be sure to get sharp cheddar which has the most assertive flavor.
- Gruyere cheese – Grated gruyere adds a subtle nutty, sweet taste to the cauliflower casserole.
- Bread crumbs – Italian seasoned breadcrumbs are my favorite.
Here are a few ways you can switch up this recipe. If you have any other great variations you love, send your ideas my way! I’d love to give them a try.
- Use a tablespoon of cornstarch in place of flour and omit the breadcrumbs to make a gluten-free cauliflower au gratin.
- Scoop the cauliflower cheese mixture into small 6-ounce ramekins before baking to create individual cauliflower gratins.
- Swap the cheddar cheese or gruyere for your favorite melting cheese. Monterey jack, gouda or colby cheese will all be delicious.
- Use broccoli in place of cauliflower to make a tasty broccoli au gratin recipe.
How to Make Cauliflower Au Gratin
- Preheat the oven: Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- Cook the cauliflower: Cook the cauliflower florets in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set the cooked florets aside.
- Make the cheese sauce: Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a medium-sized pot, then whisk in the flour. Pour in the milk and whisk until it starts to thicken. Remove the pot from the stove and whisk in half of the cheese.
- Pour and sprinkle: Pour half of the cheese sauce into an 8×11 baking dish, then add the cooked cauliflower florets. Top with the rest of the cheese sauce, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs and remaining cheese over the gratin. Drizzle the top with butter.
- Bake: Bake the cauliflower gratin for 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
- Enjoy: Serve the cauliflower au gratin while hot.
Use frozen, thawed cauliflower florets and you can skip step number 2. Frozen, thawed cauliflower will be nice, soft, and ready to bake!
How to Store Cauliflower au Gratin
Once the cauliflower au gratin is baked, it needs to be stored in the fridge. All leftovers should be wrapped tightly and kept refrigerated for up to 4 days. Microwave a portion of gratin for about 1 minute when you are ready to enjoy it again.
You can also freeze cauliflower au gratin. Wrap the entire casserole dish with plastic wrap and freeze for up to three months. Thaw the casserole overnight in the fridge, then pop it in a 350ºF degree oven for 10 minutes to reheat.
I mentioned at the beginning that I love to serve this cauliflower au gratin with Thanksgiving dinner. It is really tasty with any kind of meat, from garlicky steak bites to a simple baked chicken breast.
Cauliflower can become watery and grainy when it is overcooked. Only boil the fresh cauliflower florets for 5 minutes. You do not want them to be too soft, just par-cooked.
Boiling cauliflower will help dull some of the natural bitter taste. Cooking cauliflower with other, strong ingredients like garlic, onions, or cheese will also help mellow its taste.
Au gratin means to cover something in breadcrumbs and cheese and then brown it under a broiler or in a hot oven. Au gratin foods are golden brown on top and a little crispy.
Cauliflower au Gratin
- 2 pounds cauliflower florets
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¼ cup butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
- ½ cup grated gruyere cheese
- ¼ cup bread crumbs
- Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the tablespoon of salt.
- Add the cauliflower to the pot and boil for 5 minutes. The florets will be slightly soft. Drain in a colander and set aside.
- Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat.
- Add the flour to the pot and whisk, stirring constantly for one minute. The flour and butter mix may start to turn brown but this is okay—it’s flavor!
- Pour the milk into the pot and whisk until the milk begins to boil. Boil for one minute, whisking constantly.
- Remove the pot from the stovetop and add the pepper, ½ cup cheddar cheese and gruyere. Whisk until the cheese melts.
- Pour half of the cheese sauce in the bottom of a 8×11 baking dish and spread it across the whole dish.
- Add the cooked cauliflower florets to the pan, making an even layer across the bottom.
- Pour the rest of the cheese sauce over the cauliflower florets.
- In a small bowl, toss together the breadcrumbs and remaining ½ cup of cheddar cheese. Sprinkle this mix over the cauliflower in the pan.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle it over the top of the breadcrumbs.
- Bake the cauliflower gratin for 25 minutes in the oven. The top should be completely golden brown and the cheese sauce will be bubbling in the pan.
- Serve while hot!
- Use all gruyere in place of cheddar cheese or do a combination of gruyere and shredded parmesan. Get creative with your cheese!
- You can use frozen cauliflower florets if needed. Thaw the frozen florets and then skip the boiling process. Frozen florets will already be tender and do not need to be cooked.
- Make individual cauliflower gratin by baking this recipe in individual 6 ounce ramekins. It will make about 4 generous servings and look quite impressive when baked individually!