Get ready for a delicious and healthier twist on a classic comfort food dish: Keto Cauliflower Mac and Cheese! This recipe features tender cauliflower florets coated in a creamy sauce made with butter, cream cheese, and a blend of cheeses seasoned with savory herbs and spices, then baked to perfection.
My mom always makes her famous homemade mac and cheese recipe every holiday. I missed eating low-carb until my hairdresser Paul shared his recipe with me for Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese when I started eating low-carb.
Holy cow, was I blown away and could not wait to share you! Cauliflower has never been one of my favorite veggies, much less a substitute for pasta.
What are Cauliflower Mac and Cheese?
It’s a dish that replaces macaroni pasta typically used in traditional mac and cheese with cauliflower florets. The cauliflower is cooked until tender, combined with a creamy cheese sauce, and perfectly baked! The result is a low-carb version of mac and cheese that still provides the same creamy and cheesy goodness.
Ingredients you’ll need:
- Cauliflower – this versatile vegetable serves as the base for our recipe, replacing traditional macaroni noodles. While it doesn’t taste “just like pasta,” it’s a fabulous substitution when craving pasta.
- Butter – get ready for a burst of flavor and richness!
- Cream Cheese – the secret ingredient that takes our cheese sauce to the next level.
- Heavy Whipping Cream -adds richness to our keto Mac n cheese, making it extra indulgent.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese – brings bold and irresistible flavor to our cheesy sauce, making it mouthwatering.
- Mozzarella Cheese – adds a gooey texture you won’t be able to resist. It brings that classic cheese-pull factor we all love.
- Parmesan Cheese – adds a tangy and salty kick that elevates the overall taste of our dish.
- Seasonings (garlic powder, Italian seasoning, paprika, fresh parsley) -This combination of seasonings is the secret to enhancing the flavors of our deliciously seasoned mac n cheese.
How to Make Creamy Low-Carb Mac N Cheese
Below, you’ll find step-by-step pictures with easy tips. For the complete list of ingredients and detailed instructions, please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 375°F and grease your casserole dish to prevent any sticking.
Step 2: To get your cauliflower ready, cut it into small, bite-sized florets resembling tiny macaroni noodles. Give the florets a thorough wash to ensure they’re clean and ready to use in our tasty low-carb mac n cheese recipe.
Place the cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl, add a small amount of water, and microwave for approximately 10 min or until it reaches an al dente consistency. Once cooked, carefully drain the water from the cauliflower.
Pro Tip: Steaming cauliflower to “al dente” means cooking it until it’s tender but still has a little firmness when you bite into it, like a nice texture that’s not too soft. It should be easy to poke with a fork but still have a slight crunch.
Step 3: In a saucepan, Add some butter, heavy whipping cream, and garlic to the saucepan. Then, take your softened cream cheese, which is a creamy and spreadable cheese, and add it to the saucepan too. Grab a whisk, and give everything a good stir until it’s all mixed well.
Step 4: Now it’s time to add all the delicious cheese! Take your grated cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, and our cream cheese mixture. Keep stirring everything in the saucepan as you add the cheeses, ensuring they melt and blend nicely. Save about 1/4 cup of the cheddar cheese for later because we’ll use it as a yummy topping for our Cauliflower Mac n cheese casserole.
Tip: To ensure the cheese melts smoothly and blends well with the other ingredients, try adding it in smaller portions rather than all at once. Begin by gently stirring a handful of grated cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese into the saucepan. Repeat this process, gradually incorporating the remaining cheese.
Step 4: Time to get saucy! This is my favorite part of the recipe because it’s when the cauliflower truly shines. Using a big spoon, generously coat each floret with the delicious cheese sauce. Then, give the cauliflower a gentle toss, ensuring that every piece is fully immersed in the creamy goodness.
Step 5: Once the mixture is in the baking dish, I sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of cheese and add paprika, Italian seasoning, and parsley for an extra touch of flavor and color. Then, I bake for around 25 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly. My oven cooks hot, so you may need to adjust the baking time.
The way the cheese gets melted and gooey in the oven is one of my favorite things about this dish. It looks so much like my mom’s recipe. The paprika, Italian seasoning, and parsley add a nice touch of flavor that elevates the dish.
Here’s a tip: If you want to make this dish even more flavorful, add some cooked bacon or crumbled sausage to the mixture before baking.
Is cauliflower keto-friendly?
Absolutely! That’s why cauliflower is a popular ingredient in keto recipes! It only has 3 grams of net carbs in each serving, which means it’s very low in carbs. This makes cauliflower a fantastic substitute for pasta or noodles in traditional recipes. This specific recipe is even better, with just four net carbs per serving.
Tips for cooking cauliflower:
Cauliflower comes in many different forms, frozen, raw, in steam bags, riced, etc., so HOW you prepare your cauliflower will make a huge difference in this recipe.
Since grocery prices are through the roof, a good way to save money is to use a whole head of cauliflower, the cheapest option, then cut it down into small florets. When using raw cauliflower, you have a few different options for cooking it.
- Microwave steam it – Place chopped cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl, add a few tablespoons of water, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, leaving a vent, and microwave on high for 5-7 minutes until tender.
- Stovetop steam it – Place chopped cauliflower in a steamer basket over a pot with water, cover, and steam for 8-10 minutes until tender. Remove the steamer basket carefully to let the excess water drain thoroughly to avoid watery cheese sauce.
- Boil it – Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot, add chopped cauliflower, and cook for 5-7 minutes until tender. Drain cauliflower in a colander, shaking off excess water. If you boil your florets on the stove or in your microwave, it is important to let your cauliflower FULLY COOL before adding it to your cheese sauce. This will prevent your sauce from being watery or runny. The best way is to lay the cooked and drained cauliflower onto a sheet pan. Then allow the steam to evaporate fully. You can continue with the recipe once it’s cooled and the steam is gone.
- Roast it – Roasting the cauliflower will give it a nice added flavor! Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C), spread chopped cauliflower on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway, until golden brown and tender. Let cool slightly before serving. Just take note that fresh cauliflower is dry, so you will need to add some fat like butter or oil to your cauliflower so it browns nicely.
I find it easiest to microwave my mini florets for 10 minutes in a water bowl. This will allow the cauliflower to boil and soften up enough without wasting too much time!
How to Make a Low-Carb Cheese Sauce
You’ve got to have a little patience with this step. If you are like me, I tend to try and hurry along the cooking process, which doesn’t usually work to my advantage.
This keto cheese sauce is easy to whip up, resulting in a creamy, thick, and decadent sauce. Just be careful not to boil your cheese. This will cause the fat to separate from the cheese affecting the texture. Also, make sure you do not add your cheese to boiling cream. Adding the cheeses while the cream is warm rather than boiling will allow it to melt slowly, creating a creamy and, more importantly, smooth sauce.
Other Keto Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Add-ins:
- I love adding crumbled bacon on top! It adds incredible flavor and a nice crunch!
- Add shredded, sliced, or diced chicken to your sauce and the cauliflower if serving this as a meal.
- Diced ham would also be a great addition!
- Try adding some pork panko to the top to mimic “breadcrumbs.” (Pork panko is crushed pork rinds.)
- Diced jalapenos or green chilies for a hint of spice.
- Add sautéed mushrooms or spinach for extra veggies.
Can I use different types of cheese?
Absolutely! To create different flavors and textures, you can experiment with varying varieties of cheese, such as Gouda, Monterey Jack, or Swiss.
Can I add other vegetables to cauliflower Mac n cheese?
Sure you can! Adding other vegetables to keto cauliflower Mac n cheese is a fantastic way to incorporate more nutrients and flavors. You can add vegetables like sautéed mushrooms, diced bell peppers, spinach, broccoli florets, or roasted zucchini. Just make sure to cook or sauté the other vegetables beforehand to ensure they are tender and blend well with the cauliflower and cheese sauce.
Can I add protein to cauliflower Mac n cheese?
Add cooked chicken, bacon, sausage, ground beef, or other favorite meat to make it more filling and boost protein. My personal favorite is crispy bacon crumbled on top of it!
Why is My Sauce Gritty and Not Smooth?
If your cauliflower Mac n cheese sauce turns out gritty instead of smooth, it could be due to several reasons. I have found out the hard way that the cheese should be fully melted before combining it with other ingredients. If there are small chunks of unmelted cheese, they can contribute to the grittiness. You also want to avoid overcooking or overheating the sauce because it can cause the cheese to separate and become grainy. To prevent this, try cooking the sauce over low to medium heat and stir continuously until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth.
Can I Make Cauliflower Mac N Cheese Bake Ahead of Time?
Absolutely! One great thing about this recipe is that you can prepare it beforehand. After assembling the dish, cover it tightly and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake it. When you’re ready to enjoy it, sit it on the counter to come to room temperature, follow the recipe instructions, and bake it until it’s hot and bubbly. If you don’t have time to come to room temperature, you’ll need to bake it a bit longer since it will be cold going into the oven.
Can I freeze it?
Yes, but keep in mind that freezing cheeses and cream may affect the consistency and texture of your sauce. I suggest laying a piece of plastic wrap directly over the top of your casserole, then following that with tin foil and a lid. Allow it to defrost fully in the fridge overnight before baking, then place it in the oven while it is preheating so that it heats slowly. You may notice that the sauce is a bit grainy.
Can I Use Frozen Cauliflower?
Yes, you can use frozen cauliflower instead of fresh for making cauliflower Mac n cheese. Just thaw the frozen cauliflower first and drain any excess moisture before using it in the recipe. This will help prevent the dish from becoming too watery. Frozen cauliflower has more moisture, so it will not have the same “bite” as fresh cauliflower. Make sure not to overcook the cauliflower. You do not want mashed mac n’ cheese!
How to Store and Reheat Low carb Cauliflower Mac n Cheese
Allow it to cool first, then place it in an airtight container. It should keep fresh in the fridge for 3-4 days. When I make this for my family, sometimes I rewarm it for lunch the next day and crumble crispy bacon on top for a quick and easy low-carb meal.
How to Reheat
- Microwave – Place a serving in a microwave-safe dish, cover it with a microwave-safe lid, or wrap it loosely with a microwave-safe plastic wrap, and heat it on high power for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on the portion size. You’ll want to make sure to stir between until heated through. The cooking time will vary depending on your portion size. If you are rewarding bigger portions, I’d start with 1-minute intervals.
- Oven – You can also reheat the entire dish in the oven. Make sure you use an oven-safe container and cover it with aluminum foil. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 350°F or until it is heated.
Can I freeze Cauliflower Mac N Cheese?
Technically, you can; although freezing and thawing may slightly change the dish’s texture, it should still be delicious.
To freeze, allow the dish to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe container or individual freezer bags. Make sure to remove any excess air to prevent freezer burn. It can be stored in the freezer for 2-3 months.
When you’re ready to enjoy the frozen cauliflower Mac n cheese, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Then, you can reheat it following the instructions for reheating mentioned earlier. It’s important to note that
More Keto Casserole recipes:
- Cheesy Ground Beef & Cauliflower Casserole (Keto)
- Low-Carb Chicken Pot Pie
- Keto Chicken & Cauliflower Rice Casserole
- Low-Carb Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole
Keto Cauliflower Mac and Cheese (Rich & Creamy)
- 8 cups chopped fresh cauliflower (approx two heads) (approx 8 cups chopped)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 12 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
- 4 oz parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp parsley
- salt/pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Cut your fresh cauliflower into small, bite-sized florets resembling tiny macaroni noodles. Give the florets a thorough wash to ensure they're clean and ready to use in our tasty low-carb mac n cheese recipe.
- Place the cauliflower pieces in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/4 cup of water. Microwave for 10 minutes, then drain the water.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the heavy whipping cream and garlic powder, stirring to combine.
- Add the cream cheese to the saucepan and continue stirring until it melts and blends smoothly.
- Add the grated sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese (except for 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese) to the saucepan. Stir until the cheeses melt and form a creamy sauce.
- In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower with the cheesy sauce, ensuring all the pieces are coated.
- Transfer the cauliflower mixture to a greased 9" x 13" casserole dish, spreading it evenly.
- Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese, paprika, Italian seasoning, and parsley on top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the top is golden brown.
- Carefully remove the casserole dish from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.
- Enjoy your homemade cauliflower Mac n cheese, a creamy and delicious dish!
- I love adding crumbled bacon on top! It adds incredible flavor and a nice crunch!
- If serving this as a meal, you can add shredded, sliced, or diced chicken to your sauce along with the cauliflower.
- Diced ham would also be a great addition!
- Try adding some pork panko to the top to mimic "breadcrumbs."
- If your cream was too hot when you added your cheese, it could affect the consistency of the cheese.
- Make this ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you are ready to reheat it. It may just take a bit longer to bake since it is colder.
- You can freeze this, but keep in mind that freezing cheeses and cream may affect the consistency and texture of your sauce. I suggest laying a piece of plastic wrap directly over top of your casserole then follow that with tin foil and a lid. Allow to defrost fully in the fridge overnight before baking and put in the oven while preheating so that it heats slowly.
- You can use frozen cauliflower: however, the texture may be different.