Cheesy Cauliflower Bake

This Cheesy Cauliflower Bake is the best kind of side dish! Cauliflower bakes, then is topped with a creamy, spicy cheddar cheese sauce. All you need are a handful of ingredients and an hour to make this side dish that is loved by kids and adults alike. Makes 4 servings.

Love baked side dishes? Check out Spinach Madeline and Bacon Wrapped Green Bean Bundles!

A spoon holds a serving of cheesy cauliflower bake over a casserole dish

This Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole recipe originally appeared at My Cooking Spot, where I was a contributor.

You know those comfort foods that remind you of your childhood that you occasionally make for old time’s sake?

You know the dishes that are so simple, yet so satisfying?

This Cheesy Cauliflower Bake is one of those dishes for me.

Why I love this recipe:

We ate a ton of cauliflower (and broccoli!) sprinkled with cheddar cheese when I was a kid.

I recently updated the recipe to include a decadent, silky smooth and absolutely tasty cheddar cheese sauce.

It’s basically like macaroni and cheese without the pasta… on top of cauliflower.

I love this Cheesy Cauliflower recipe because it’s pretty hands-off, and it cooks up in less than an hour.

You also need just a few ingredients, which you might already have on hand.

This recipe would be excellent to serve alongside a weeknight dinner. It would also be fabulous as a holiday side dish, too.

More awesome side dishes for anytime: Hatch Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese | Hasselback Sweet Potatoes | Oven Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple and Cranberries | Homemade Mashed Potatoes | Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic

Need more inspiration? Head on over to my Side Dish Recipe Index for more ideas.

Ingredients to make a cheesy cauliflower casserole in bowls and dishes on a pink countertop

What you need to make this recipe:

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Let’s talk ingredients!

In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

Here’s what you need:

  • Cauliflower—I used a fresh cauliflower, but you could easily use frozen, too. You’ll need around 5 cups total.
  • Unsalted butter—this forms the base of our roux. While you could swap it out with a neutral oil, I love the creaminess the butter adds to the dish.
  • All-purpose flour—I keep unbleached AP flour in my house, but the regular kind works, too. I have not attempted to make this roux with a gluten free flour, so I do not recommend it at this time.
  • Milk—this is the liquid element to our cheese sauce. You can use whatever milk you’ve got on hand. While I like to use at least 2% or whole milk, you could get away with 1% or skim, too.
  • Extra sharp cheddar cheese—grate your own and enjoy! You can use yellow or white cheddar.
  • Grainy dijon mustard—this adds flavor, as well as cuts through the richness of the cheese sauce to balance it out. Don’t skip it. You could use a regular dijon if you don’t have grainy.
  • Spices—we’re using a combination of kosher salt (medium grain, please and thank you), black pepper (freshly ground!), garlic powder and cayenne pepper to season this cheesy sauce. We’ll also add a little sweet paprika on the top for color.
Collage showing how to make a spicy cheese sauce to go on top of a cauliflower bake

How to make Cheesy Cauliflower

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a baking dish with nonstick baking spray.

Add the cauliflower florets to the baking dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Roast the cauliflower for 25 minutes.

Alternately, you could steam the cauliflower in the microwave or on the stovetop for a faster dish. I like to bake mine, though, for the added flavor.

How to make the cheese sauce

While the cauliflower bakes, make the cheese sauce.

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or a nonstick skillet.

Whisk in the flour, continuing to whisk as it heats and darkens into a blonde roux.

Slowly pour in the milk, whisking vigorously as you pour so the mixture doesn’t have lumps.

When the milk has been added, measure in the mustard.

Turn off the heat, and add the grated cheese. Stir vigorously until combined.

Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower, and toss to combine. Sprinkle the paprika on top.

Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly and delicious.

Serve warm!

Collage showing the spicy cheese sauce and it on top of the cauliflower

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does cauliflower cheese go watery in the oven?

Overcooked cauliflower will release water, so if your cauliflower is overcooked, it could make the cheese sauce watery.

Can I just cut the brown spots off cauliflower?

Yes. You can remove the brown spots from a cauliflower so long as they are not mold spots.

How can I make this recipe faster?

Instead of baking the cauliflower, you can steam it in the microwave or on the stovetop. This will eliminate the need to bake the cauliflower for 3o(ish) minutes before adding the cheese sauce on top of it.

Close up of cheesy cauliflower in a white casserole dish

Quick tips and tricks to the best Cheesy Cauliflower

  • Use fresh or frozen cauliflower. The frozen cauliflower will need to cook for longer.
  • Recipe shortcut: Instead of baking the cauliflower, steam it in the microwave. This will eliminate the need to bake it before adding the cheese sauce on top of it. Be careful not to overcook it.
  • How to store: Let the cauliflower cool, then transfer to an airtight food storage container. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
A pink bowl holds a serving of cheesy cauliflower bake in a white napkin

More awesome side dishes to try:

Now who wants this cauliflower recipe?

Scroll on down to get all the details…

A spoon holds a serving of cheesy cauliflower bake over a casserole dish
Yield: 4 servings

Cheesy Cauliflower

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

This Cheesy Cauliflower Bake is the best kind of side dish! Cauliflower bakes, then is topped with a creamy, spicy cheddar cheese sauce. All you need are a handful of ingredients and an hour to make this side dish that is loved by kids and adults alike.

Ingredients

  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets (5 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (skim OK)
  • 4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese (about ½ cup, packed)
  • 1 tablespoon grainy dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Paprika, for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a baking dish with nonstick baking spray.
  2. Add the cauliflower to the prepared baking dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Bake the cauliflower for 25 minutes.
  4. While the cauliflower bakes, make the cheese sauce.
  5. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  6. Whisk in the flour, continuing to whisk as it heats and darkens (just slightly!) into a blonde roux.
  7. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring vigorously as you pour so the mixture doesn't have lumps.
  8. When the milk has been added, measure in the mustard.
  9. Turn off the heat, and add the cheese, stirring vigorously until combined.
  10. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.
  11. Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower. Toss to combine. Sprinkle the top of the cheese with paprika.
  12. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly and delicious.
  13. Serve warm!

Notes

How to make this recipe faster: Instead of baking the cauliflower, you can steam it in the microwave or on the stovetop. This will eliminate the need to bake the cauliflower for 3o(ish) minutes before adding the cheese sauce on top of it.

How to store: Let the cauliflower cool, then transfer to an airtight food storage container. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.

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As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 265Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 503mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 5gSugar: 8gProtein: 13g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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