Inspired by the classic British comfort food dish Cauliflower Cheese, this Cauliflower Gratin recipe features cauliflower in a rich, creamy savory cheese sauce with a buttery crunchy Ritz cracker topping.
I’ve had two encounters with Cauliflower Cheese.
The first time I had it was when I was a teenager up in Buffalo. One of my dad’s customers gifted him what they said was a family recipe for Cauliflower Cheese.
It was a Canadian family, and my dad told me that when he went to their house for a service call on their washer, they shared some of the dish with him. He loved it, and then they shared the recipe (which unfortunately, my dad lost before we even made it)!
My second encounter with Cauliflower Cheese was in London. My ex-husband and I were there on vacation one year and we had it at a pub as part of a roast beef dinner along with Yorkshire pudding and potatoes. It was delicious, and pure comfort food!
That served as the inspiration for this recipe.
What is Cauliflower Cheese?
Cauliflower Cheese is a traditional British recipe of cauliflower that’s boiled briefly until tender, and then topped with cheese sauce and baked. Although I can’t speak to the authenticity of my Cauliflower Gratin recipe, it was inspired by the classic dish I had in London a few years ago.
It's a great side dish paired with a hearty main course, such as a pot roast or roast chicken. I’ve also heard of it being served as a vegetarian main course. And it’s delicious stuffed inside a baked potato!
What Does Gratin Mean?
The term “gratin” originally comes from the French word “gratter", which means “to scrape” or “to grate”.
These days, a gratin usually has either a cheese or breadcrumb topping, which is browned in the oven or under a broiler.
The Best Easy Cauliflower Gratin Recipe
This easy side dish features tender cauliflower in a rich cheesy sauce with a crunchy buttery topping.
But don’t let the sauce intimidate you! It whips up in about 5 minutes and has a ton of delicious savory flavor.
Easy Cauliflower Cheese Recipe Without Flour
This dish typically has a milk-based cheese sauce that’s thickened with flour.
Traditionally, you melt butter in a saucepan, and then you stir in flour to form a “roux”. Then you whisk milk into the roux to make a milky sauce that’s called “béchamel”. At this point, you can stir cheese into the béchamel to turn it into “Mornay” sauce.
However, I wanted to make a gluten free version! Here I used cream cheese as the thickener instead of flour. This cheese sauce is every bit as thick and rich as a regular Mornay sauce, no flour needed!
Pro Tip: If you let this gratin sit for 10 to 15 minutes after baking before you serve it, the sauce will thicken up perfectly.
Cauliflower Cheese Gratin:
- Olive oil spray
- Cauliflower florets
- Cream cheese
- Whole milk
- Hot sauce
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Worcestershire sauce
- Dijon mustard
- Black pepper
- Mac and Cheese Shredded Cheese Blend, such as Cabot
Buttery Ritz Topping:
- Ritz crackers
- Fresh thyme
- Black pepper
- Unsalted butter
How to Make Cauliflower Gratin
Start by cutting your cauliflower into florets (or you can buy pre-cut cauliflower florets). Cook the cauliflower florets in boiling water for about 3 minutes, and then drain well.
Make a quick cheese sauce – no flour needed here! Heat together cream cheese and milk and add a few seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce. Once the cream cheese and milk mixture forms a creamy sauce, whisk in shredded cheese.
Stir the cauliflower into the cheese sauce and pour it into a gratin dish.
Crush Ritz crackers to make this buttery Ritz topping. Sprinkle the crushed Ritz on top. (Or to keep it keto, skip the cracker topping and sprinkle on a little grated Parmesan cheese.)
Bake until the topping is golden, and then enjoy!
To Make This Keto
For the keto version of this recipe, omit the buttery Ritz topping. Bake it as-is without a topping, or you can sprinkle on a little more cheese, such as grated Parmesan if desired.
What Do You Serve with Cauliflower Gratin?
This side dish is perfect to serve with anything you’d serve with potatoes gratin or broccoli and cheese.
Here are a few suggestions:
Cauliflower Gratin Recipe with Buttery Ritz Topping
Cauliflower Cheese Gratin:
- Olive oil spray
- 5 cups chopped cauliflower florets
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon Frank’s RedHot sauce or any hot sauce you like
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces Mac and Cheese Shredded Cheese Blend such as Cabot
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray the inside of a 1.5-quart casserole dish with olive oil spray.
- Cook the cauliflower florets in boiling water for 3 minutes, and then drain well.
- Whisk together the cream cheese, milk, Frank’s RedHot sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and black pepper in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the sauce is smooth, whisk in the shredded cheese a handful at a time until the sauce is smooth.
- Add the Ritz crackers to a zip-top plastic bag and crush. Add the thyme, black pepper, and butter, seal the bag, and shake it around to mix.
- Stir together the cauliflower and cheese sauce. Pour it into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the cracker topping evenly on top.
- Bake until the casserole is bubbling outside and the topping is golden, about 15 minutes.
- Make Ahead: To make this ahead of time, you can make the cauliflower and cheese sauce up to 5 days in advance. Just hold off on adding the Ritz topping and baking it until the day you want to eat it.
- To Make This Keto: For the keto version of this recipe, omit the buttery Ritz topping. Bake it as-is without a topping, or you can sprinkle on a little more cheese, such as grated Parmesan if desired. If you omit the topping, the macros are as follows for each serving: 196kcals, 7g total carbs, 1g fiber, 6g net carbs, 15g fat, 10g protein.
- Serving Tip: If you let this gratin sit for 10 to 15 minutes after baking before you serve it, the sauce will thicken up perfectly.
- Substitute for Pre-Shredded Mac and Cheese Blend: If you prefer, use 4 ounces of shredded gruyere and 4 ounces of shredded white cheddar instead of the shredded cheese blend.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on November 18, 2020. I updated it with more information and new photos on November 3, 2022.