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This Creamy Cauliflower Gratin transforms cauliflower into a cheesy, irresistible side dish that people of all ages will love. This special dish is an excellent choice for your holiday menu.
It’s my feeling that cauliflower is one of the most underrated vegetables around. It is, in fact, super versatile and and so tasty. Especially, when it’s smothered in a creamy, delicious cheese sauce and topped with bread crumbs and Parmesan. As an example of the versatility of this magic veggie take a look at my Coconut Curry Chicken, Marinated Vegetable Salad, and Roasted Cauliflower Corn Chowder.
This is my take on Ina Garten’s Cauliflower Gratin. This cauliflower casserole is a lovely addition to any holiday menu through the year – from Easter to Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Save Time and Buy Bagged Cauliflower Florets
When cooking for a holiday menu it is often-times worth any additional cost to buy pre-prepped ingredients. Costco has a 2-pound bag of cauliflower florets that are washed and ready to go. Every minute counts when you’ve got a big menu planned. Most major grocery stores carry bagged, prepped veggies as well but it’s hard to beat those Costco prices.
A large 3-pound head of cauliflower should yield enough florets for this recipe if you’d like to cut and prep them yourself.
Let’s get in close here and take a look at the best thing about any type of gratin, that golden, crispy edge. Think mac and cheese meets cauliflower and you’ve got the basic idea.
It’s an easy recipe to put together and it can be prepared ahead of time and baked when you’re ready; a great time saver when you’re cooking a big meal.
Let’s get our gratin on.
How to Make Creamy Cauliflower Gratin
Cut any large florets into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Drop the florets into a pot of boiling water and allow them to cook for only 5 to 6 minutes at the most. The cauliflower should still have some firmness to it and be just barely fork tender so be vigilant and watch it closely.
Drain the water from the pot and set the cauliflower aside.
How to Make the Cheese Sauce for the Gratin
The luscious cheese sauce starts with a basic white sauce. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring, for a minute or two to cook-off the flour taste. Gradually whisk in warmed milk. Cook and whisk until you have a nicely thickened white sauce. Add some salt, freshly ground pepper, and a touch of nutmeg and stir to combine.
Remove the pan from the heat and add shredded sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. Stir the cheese into the sauce until melted and smooth.
What Kind of Milk Should I Use to Make Cauliflower Gratin?
I use 2% reduced fat milk for this recipe, which is what I always have in my fridge. Reduced fat milk does a fabulous job but I wouldn’t recommend going below 2% milk fat for the best result. For a richer result, go with whole milk.
Add the cooked cauliflower to the cheese sauce and stir it well to combine.
Transfer the whole kit and kaboodle to a large baking dish that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with a mixture of Italian style Panko bread crumbs and shredded Parmesan.
Pop the dish in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
Can Cauliflower Gratin Be Made Ahead?
Follow the recipe as directed but do not add the bread crumb/Parmesan mixture to the top. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. When ready to bake, remove the dish from the refrigerator and allow to sit on the kitchen counter for 20 to 30 minutes to take the chill off. Top with the breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture and bake as directed, increasing the cooking time a little, if necessary.
Think your kids won’t touch cauliflower? Try this one on them.
This post was originally published on April 12, 2014. It has been updated with new images.
Creamy Cauliflower Gratin
- 2 pounds cauliflower florets or 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk 2% reduced fat or whole, warmed in microwave for approximately 1 minute
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
- 1/3 cup Italian style Panko bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the cauliflower florets and cook until just barely tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, for about two minutes. Gradually whisk in the warm milk. Continue to cook, whisking, until thickened. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheddar and jack cheese.
- Pour the sauce over the the cooked cauliflower and mix well to combine. Pour cauliflower mixture into prepared baking dish.
- Combine the Italian style Panko bread crumbs with the Parmesan and sprinkle evenly over the top. Sprinkle with additional fresh ground pepper, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
Adapted from Ina Garten