Cauliflower Gratin is a delicious and cheesy side dish made with tender cauliflower that's coated in a cheese sauce, topped with buttery breadcrumbs, and baked until golden and bubbling. It's a quick and easy dish the whole family will love (especially that creamy cheese sauce!).
Cauliflower might be the most versatile ingredient out there. It can be turned into rice, pizza crust, mashed 'potatoes' and almost any other dish you want to make low-carb. And if you're looking for an alternative to potatoes au gratin (or cheesy scalloped potatoes), you've landed in the right place.
This delicious gratin dish is perfect for a holiday dinner (Thanksgiving!), but can also be great for a weeknight too. It doesn't take long to make and kids love it because it has a similar taste and texture to mac and cheese. Keep reading for all the tips, tricks, and tutorials to make this cauliflower gratin recipe.
What does Au Gratin Mean?
Au gratin is a French word to describe a dish coated in cheese sauce, sprinkled with breadcrumbs, and baked it until golden brown. We aren't limited to potatoes or cauliflower when it comes to this cooking method. It's also great for veggies like brussels sprouts and broccoli.
Here are the key ingredients to make cauliflower au gratin, including substitutions and brands. Jump down to the recipe card for exact measurements.
- Cauliflower: fresh cauliflower (not frozen) is important for this recipe! A head of cauliflower (more like 3-4) is what you need for this recipe, or buy a bag of cauliflower florets (that's what we did).
- Unsalted butter: this is going to be the base of the cheese sauce and breadcrumb topping.
- Garlic, salt, and pepper for flavor.
- Flour: all-purpose flour is what this recipe calls for, but we also tested this with a 1:1 gluten-free flour and it worked well.
- Parmesan cheese: I love the sharp and salty flavor the parmesan gives this recipe. If you aren't careful, it can be pretty bland, which is why we're using a salty cheese to help enhance the flavor.
- Gruyere cheese: buy a block of this and shred it yourself. It can be pricey and/or tricky to find, so use a mix of gruyere and sharp cheddar, or just white cheddar cheese if that's easier. We've seen recipes use swiss cheese as well.
- Breadcrumbs: panko breadcrumbs are our favorite, but you can also use crushed buttery Ritz crackers. You can use a gluten-free Panko too.
How to Make Cauliflower Gratin & Video Tutorial
Here are the simple steps to make this cheesy and delicious dish. Check out the step-by-step photos or watch the video tutorial to learn how to make this recipe with me.
- Par-boil the cauliflower: add the cauliflower florets to a large pot of boiling salted water and boil for 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked cauliflower to a bowl of ice to stop the cooking process. Drain the cauliflower through a colander and pat the cauliflower dry really well with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible.
- Make a roux: melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan (or the same stock pot for fewer dishes). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant then sprinkle the flour on top to create a paste, also known as a roux.
- Finish the cheese sauce: Slowly whisk the milk into the butter-flour mixture over medium-high heat and stir continuously for 3-4 minutes until thickened. Add the cheese: Remove it from the heat and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper then stir in the cheese until they're completely melted. Place a small
- Layer the cauliflower: put a small amount of cheese sauce in a greased square baking dish then add half of the cauliflower. Spoon half of the cheese sauce on top and repeat the process with the remaining cauliflower and cheese sauce.
- Breadcrumbs topping: melt butter in the same pan, or a separate small saucepan, then pour the breadcrumbs in and stir with a wooden spoon over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until golden brown and toasted. Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top of the dish.
- Bake: place the cauliflower gratin in the center rack of the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until it's bubbling around the edges.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cauliflower is made up of mostly water and it's released when you cook them. It's important to remove as much moisture as possible from the cauliflower before mixing it with the cheese or your au gratin recipe will be water (no one wants that). Pat the cauliflower really well with paper towels after you boil them.
One serving of cauliflower gratin contains 364 calories. Jump down to the recipe card below for the full nutrition label.
This au gratin cauliflower has 18 net carbs per serving mostly due to the flour in the cheese sauce and the breadcrumb topping. Swap the panko breadcrumbs for pork panko breadcrumbs (ie crushed pork rinds) for a low-carb option. This variation has 10 net carbs per serving.
- Use a block of cheese and shred it yourself (can be done in advance). Pre-shredded cheese contains cellulose, which prevents the cheese from melting as well.
- Remove as much moisture from the boiled cauliflower as possible before mixing it with the white sauce and baking or you'll end up with water cauliflower (thank you, next).
- Keep a close eye on the breadcrumbs while they're toasting because they can burn easily.
- Whisk the cheese sauce well over medium-high heat for a thick and smooth cheese sauce.
Storage and Make-Ahead Instructions
Make-Ahead: follow all of the steps to assemble this dish then cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Bake the cauliflower gratin as directed until warm and bubbling.
Storage: store leftover cauliflower au gratin in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. I don't recommend freezing this recipe because of the cheese sauce.
Reheat: warm individual servings in the microwave or place it in the oven at 350°F until warmed all the way through.
If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!
More Cheesy Casseroles
- Cheesy scalloped potatoes
- Dairy-free green bean casserole
- Scalloped sweet potatoes
- Baked vegan mac and cheese
- Butternut squash and spinach lasagna
- 32 ounces cauliflower florets about 2-3 heads or 1 1/2 pre-packed bags
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup flour or gluten-free flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk or heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 ounces parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs gluten-free if needed
- 1.5-2 quart casserole dish
- Large stock pot and skillet
- Preheat the oven to 425°D and spray a square (8x8-inch) baking dish with nonstick spray or butter and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan or stock pot. Carefully drop the cauliflower florets into the water and boil for 5 minutes. While it’s boiling, fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. When the cauliflower is done, drain the water off and transfer the cauliflower to the ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain it from the ice bath when it's cool enough to handle then pat it really well with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
- In the same stock pot or large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant and slightly caramelized. Sprinkle the flour on top of the melted butter and whisk well to create a paste.
- Slowly pour in the whole milk, whisking constantly, and continue to cook until smooth. Continue to simmer the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for 2-3, until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat and add the salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and 3/4 cup of the gruyere cheese. Continue to whisk until the cheese is completely melted. Place it back over low heat if the cheese isn’t fully melted.
- Add a small amount of the cheese sauce to the bottom of the prepared baking dish and spread it around to the edges. Add half of the partially cooked cauliflower on into the casserole dish then top it with half of the cheese sauce. Repeat the process with the remaining cauliflower and cheese and set aside.
- Quickly melt another 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan and add the bread crumbs and cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and toasted.
- Sprinkle the cauliflower with the remaining 3/4 cup of gruyere cheese and toasted breadcrumbs. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until it’s lightly browned and bubbling around the edges.