Cauliflower au Gratin

Cauliflower Au Gratin

So I always wonder how the winter is going for everyone – we’re going to be up to 58 tomorrow (and this in December in Minnesota) but I’m bummed because it’s supposed to rain. But it was supposed to snow, so we’re lucky for this heatwave. Then we’re down to a more seasonal 15 degrees by the end of the week. It seems the perfect time to tuck into some comfort, like this Cauliflower Au Gratin.

Cauliflower au Gratin

Cauliflower au Gratin – simple enough and oh so scrumptious!


Cauliflower Au Gratin is a cozy little side casserole that’s perfect comfort food if you’re facing that big scary snow thing coming up. (The forecast isn’t looking good.) We had the Cauliflower Au Gratin at Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit at our house, but it would be great for Christmas or Easter or just any old day, maybe as a side for ham or pork chops. And why not serve as a lower carb option as a side when you’re making a steak dinner?

About Cauliflower Au Gratin:

For some reason, I almost always think of dishes that are creamy and cheesy like this Cauliflower Au Gratin as holiday fare. I don’t know why in particular. Maybe it’s because I don’t always give side dishes like veggies a lot of love during our every day in and day out dinners. Too often, it’s a veggie that’s steamed or microwaved, and it’s all just about getting dinner on the table. That’s a bit of a shame, because super delish recipes like this are a great way to get those that normally shun cauliflower to try it, and actually like it.

This simple recipe gives your old standard cauliflower some love, for sure. And while it looks (and tastes) absolutely decadent and is perfect for a holiday or special occasion, it’s not too over the top for a weekday. It’s not too complicated, either, and it’s a great lower carb option at the dinner table.

And while I’m presenting Cauliflower Au Gratin as a side dish, if you have any leftover ham, cube some up and toss it in for a quickie leftover ham meal. It’s a great alternative to Scalloped Potatoes & Ham. And of course, if you’d like another variation, you can add a little of America’s favorite condiment, bacon. Just sayin!

Making Cauliflower Au Gratin:

Everyone at our house loved this Cauliflower Au Gratin although I admittedly overcooked the cauliflower. Yep, even food bloggers mess up – and maybe even more than normal people (coz I’ve never met a food blogger that’s normal, lol!) because we’re always trying and/or developing new recipes. Watch your cauliflower closely and be sure to remove it from the water while it’s only just cooked through and not totally soft already. If you give a couple of the florets a poke with a knife, there should be just a little resistance. Then it will cook just a bit more as it bakes and be perfect out of the oven.

Cauliflower Au Gratin relies on a white sauce, and that’s something I’ve been making since I was a kid, in one form or another. It’s pretty simple but the key is to make sure the flour loses it’s “raw” taste as it cooks for a minute or two in the butter and then the milk needs to be added in small additions at first, whisking like mad, until the sauce is liquidy enough to dump in the rest of the milk. I have a whole page dedicated to White Sauces & What to Do with them if this is new to you. And there are troubleshooting hints at the bottom of that page if you need any.

Cauliflower Au Gratin is pretty riffable. It’s easy to double if you need more. And yes, you can add more cheese if you want. IMHO more cheese is just never wrong! As I mentioned above, turn it into a main meal with a little ham. If you want to dress it up more, sprinkle with a little cooked bacon. You can also top Cauliflower Au Gratin with an herby Breadcrumb Topping, too, although I think it is perfect just as is.


Saving Money on Cauliflower Au Gratin:

We’re paying through the nose, it seems, for cauliflower these days. When something gets popular and demand increases, the cost often rises. And cauliflower has been so popular, lately. Boy, I wouldn’t have predicted that 20 years ago! Anyway, if you have an Aldi, you’ll find it at the best price there. If cauliflower is on sale, be sure to figure out if the cost is by the head and buy the largest. If priced by the pound, weigh it on a scale so there won’t be a huge surprise at the checkout.

Shop well for that cheese. Watch the grocery store specials and coupon deals; grocery store cheeses keep for weeks, unopened and can be frozen. Once it’s frozen, though, it gets crumbly and not so good for just eating or snacking on, but works fine in casseroles like this. Buy it when it’s cheap and use it as needed.

If you have kids I’m sure you already know the best place to buy milk in your area. I remember sometimes I’d just stop in at a gas station when I needed a carton mid-week and was on my way home from work; that’s before I really started watching the price and realized it was about twice as much as it was at the store! That stopped me in my tracks. If you have an Aldi, they have the advantage of not just great prices but they are easy to get in and out of.

Cauliflower au Gratin

Cauliflower au Gratin; this was a hit at Thanksgiving with our ham.


Cauliflower Au Gratin

  • Author: mollie
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 - 6 1x
  • Category: Sides
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1 head cauliflower, in small bite-sized florets
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon thyme, use most in the sauce but sprinkle a bit on top
  • salt and pepper to taste (suggest 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper)
  • 3/4 cup good quality Cheddar, white or standard plus two or three tablespoons to top the casserole, if desired.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook cauliflower until just barely tender, about four minutes. Drain thoroughly and place into a medium-sized casserole.

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk a minute or two until flour starts to look a little dry but hasn’t picked up any color. Whisk in milk, bring to a boil and stir until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and not fill in the line when a finger is run across it.

Remove from heat and add cheese, in small handfuls, stirring after each until incorporated. Add most of the thyme, salt, and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the cauliflower, using a spoon to nudge between florets, if necessary, so all are coated. If desired, top with a little additional cheese and sprinkle the top with a pinch of the thyme.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned in spots.

Keywords: au gratin, Cauliflower, cheddar, Cheese, hearty sides, milk, Side, Vegetable Side, White sauce

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41 thoughts on “Cauliflower Au Gratin

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Kristen, sorry to reply late. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It’s a fave of my son’s, especially! And one of the few ways he’ll eat cauliflower!


    • Thanks Carlee! 🙂 If you want another endorsement, My son follows my blog but his phone was messed up, so showed him my latest pics – when we got down to this one, he was like “Oh that was so good, Mom!!” I think it was the hit of our ham dinner! And I love that of all my family, my son follows me!! L)

  1. 15 degrees!! I can’t even! You are intrepid Mollie! And–this dish looks amazing! All I have to pick up is the cauliflower– not fancy ingredients. And we ALMOST have an Aldi– They’ve been building on it for months and months. But now the sign is up on the wall, it can’t be to much longer!! OK, love the dish, love you!! xox

  2. Love this recipe Mollie and it could be a contender for my first vegetarian Christmas Day lunch. Luckily I’ve found cauliflowers to be great value all year here in Sydney – I always buy them with the leaves in intact as they taste delicious slow roasted 😄

  3. It’s the off season for cauliflower just like it is for so many veggies. Can’t wait for those “huge” heads of Michigan cauliflower next summer when the locals are growing their own. Cauliflower and cheese – always yes 🙂

    • Cauliflower & Cheese – a match made in heaven! But off season doesn’t really explain the price…Cauliflower has always been one of those veggies that was pretty cheap all year long. I did some checking and it seems that the demand is actually a little lower for cauliflower right now and areas of Texas and Arizona are holding back harvests. Anyway, I still love it! And yes, I miss the summer markets!

  4. Sandhya

    I am so glad that I am not the only one waiting to see if the cauliflower prices drop. It is crazy. But your au gratin looks so comforting and yummy that I want to make it soon 🙂

  5. I actually bought a cauliflower yesterday while grocery shopping I was not sure what to do with it, so this looks ideal. Kind of the same method I used to make homemade mac and cheese so I’m sure it’s going to taste delicious. Thanks for the inspiration and another great recipe. This would actually be really good with your Italian stuffed meatloaf from an earlier post. I think I might try and make them together. I’ll report back.

  6. Kyla Matton Osborne

    It looks tasty! I still haven’t tried cauliflower as a replacement for potato or rice. I really must!

  7. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s realized how expensive cauliflower has gotten. It used to be a cheapo veggie that nobody wanted! My jaw about hit the floor when I bought a head of it a couple of weeks ago, and it cost almost five bucks!!! 😮 However, I do love cauliflower and cheese together, I make a version with a mushroom cheese sauce with a wee bit of mustard to pour over it. This looks simple and quite delicious!

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