Published Nov 11, 2022, Updated Nov 07, 2023
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This cauliflower gratin features cauliflower florets baked to perfection in a creamy cheese sauce and topped with breadcrumbs. It’s vegetarian, low-carb and the perfect addition to your holiday menu.
I’m back with another holiday side dish with cauliflower as the star of the show! A few years ago I shared my mashed cauliflower recipe as a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes and today I’m sharing this cauliflower gratin recipe, which is a great low-carb alternative for au gratin potatoes.
This cauliflower gratin is a healthier way to enjoy a classic comfort food dish. And trust me, you won’t even miss the potatoes! It’s warm, cheesy and satisfying, but still light enough to leave room for all your other holiday dishes. It’s definitely one you’re going to want to add to your Thanksgiving menu this year!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s a healthier, low-carb version of a comfort food classic.
- It’s so cheesy and delicious, you won’t ever miss the potatoes!
- The perfect side dish for the holidays.
- Comes together quickly!
A Healthier Holiday Classic
Au gratin potatoes is a classic holiday dish, but it’s definitely not the healthiest side dish by any means so in true EBF fashion I decided to swap the potatoes for cauliflower to make this dish low-carb and add more nutrients. Cauliflower is lower in carbs and calories and packs in a lot more nutrition than potatoes such as fiber, potassium and vitamin C and K.
- cauliflower – the star of the show! I recommend using a full head of cauliflower but you can use cauliflower florets as well if that’s all you can find. When looking for cauliflower look for a head that is white and compact with no brown spots. The leaves should be green and crisp, and the stem should be firm. Avoid heads of cauliflower that are soft, have brown spots or are beginning to sprout.
- butter – for sautéing the onion and garlic and to add flavor. You can also use olive or avocado oil instead of butter if you prefer.
- yellow onion and garlic – adds delicious savory flavor to the dish.
- all-purpose flour – to help thicken the sauce. Gluten-free all-purpose flour, cornstarch or arrowroot flour will all work as substitutes.
- salt and pepper – essential seasonings to help bring all the flavors together.
- nutmeg – just a pinch to add a warm, nutty flavor. Feel free to skip this if you aren’t a nutmeg fan.
- unsweetened almond milk – for the sauce. I used almond milk, but any dairy-free or dairy milk works. I would avoid any milk that’s sweetened and coconut milk as that’ll change the flavor of this dish.
- gruyere cheese and parmesan cheese – I went with a combo of gruyere and parmesan cheese for this dish, but feel free to use gouda cheese, sharp cheddar cheese or jack cheese, which are all great options. I just recommend buying blocks of cheese and shredding shredded it yourself as that will result in the best flavor!
- panko breadcrumbs or almond meal – this adds a nice crispy, crunchy topping! I prefer using almond meal for some added nutrients, but panko breadcrumbs are also a great option.
- fresh parsley – totally optional, but I love adding fresh parsley to this dish when serving. It adds a nice freshness and definitely elevates the presentation.
How to Make
Boil cauliflower: Chop the cauliflower into florets and place in a large pot with enough water to cover the cauliflower. Heat until the water is boiling, then reduce to medium-low and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, but still firm (about 4-5 minutes). Drain and set aside for later use.
Make sauce: While the cauliflower is cooking add butter to a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic to sauté until tender and fragrant. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Slowly add the almond milk and bring the mixture to a boil, constantly whisking, until mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and add ¾ cup gruyere cheese and ¼ cup parmesan while mixing until fully melted and smooth.
Bake: Add the cauliflower florets to the prepared 8×11 casserole dish (9×13 works too) and pour the sauce evenly over the cauliflower. Top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375°F until bubbly and the top begins to brown. Broil for the final 2-3 mins for a crispy brown top.
- Don’t overcook cauliflower. If you end up overcooking the cauliflower before baking the texture may not be as crispy as you’d like it. To avoid this issue just keep an eye on the cauliflower as they are cooking. You should be able to poke a fork in one and easily lift it out without it falling back in. Avoid cooking them for any more than 5 minutes.
- Use freshly shredded cheese. There are a few reasons to use blocked cheese instead of pre-shredded cheese. First, pre-shredded cheese generally has added ingredients to keep it from clumping, which can change the flavor. Second, pre-shredded cheese is often drier than block cheese, so it doesn’t melt as well. Finally, you can control the size of the shreds when you shred your own cheese, which can be important for some recipes.
- Drain cauliflower well. Cauliflower is already high in water content, so drain the cauliflower well after cooking and pat the florets dry so you don’t end up with a watery sauce.
- Remove pan from heat before adding cheese. If you add your cheese to a pan that is still on the heat, the cheese will melt too quickly and can become clumpy, or possibly burn. By removing the pan from the heat before adding the cheese, you give the cheese time to melt slowly and evenly, resulting in a smooth, creamy texture.
What to Serve With Cauliflower Gratin
I know that I’ll be making a batch of this cauliflower gratin for Thanksgiving this year. Here are some ideas on what to serve it with:
- Main entree: lentil loaf
- Other sides: sweet potato casserole, mashed cauliflower, vegan cornbread, green bean casserole, butternut squash quinoa stuffing or cranberry sauce
- Salads: roasted butternut squash salad or kale and brussels sprout salad
- Roasted vegetables: maple roasted kabocha squash, apple cider vinegar brussels sprouts or roasted root vegetables
- Dessert: sweet potato pie, apple crisp, dutch apple pie, vegan chocolate pie, pecan pie brownies or vegan pumpkin pie
Can I Make This Dish Ahead of Time?
This cauliflower gratin is the perfect dish to make ahead of time! All you need to do is prepare the dish as instructed below, just don’t bake it. Once your dish is assembled cover and set in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. Once ready, cover it with the bread crumbs or almond meal and bake for 25-30 minutes.
How to Store Leftovers
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can reheat the cauliflower gratin on the stovetop, in the oven or microwave.
More Cauliflower Recipes to Try
- Turkey Cauliflower Baked Ziti
- Roasted Curried Cauliflower
- Cauliflower Soup
- Vegetarian Cauliflower Fried “Rice”
- Chocolate Cauliflower Smoothie
- Cauliflower Potato Salad
- Air Fryer Buffalo Cauliflower
- Roasted Cauliflower
- Curry Roasted Cauliflower
More Holiday Side Dishes to Try
- Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Green Beans Almondine
- Wild Rice Stuffing
- Healthy Mashed Potatoes
- Sourdough Stuffing
- Healthy Green Bean Casserole
- Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad
- Easy Pecan Pie
- Thanksgiving Salad
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into medium florets (about 8 cups)
- 2 Tablespoons butter, or olive oil
- ¼ cup yellow onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour, or gluten-free all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoons ground pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg, optional
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese, divided
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs or almond meal
- Fresh parsley, for serving
- Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a 8×11 or 9×13 casserole dish.
- Chop cauliflower into florets and place in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the cauliflower and heat until water is boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, but still firm (about 4-5 minutes). Drain, pat dry and set aside.
- While cauliflower is cooking, add butter to a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic and sauté until tender and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Slowly add almond milk and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly until mixture is smooth and thick,
- Remove from heat and add ¾ cup gruyere cheese and ¼ cup parmesan, mixing until fully melted and smooth.
- Add cauliflower to prepared baking dish then pour sauce evenly over cauliflower.
- Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs or almond meal.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbly and top begins to brown. Broil for 2-3 min to brown the top more.
- Let cool for a few minutes then serve warm topped with fresh parsley.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.