Cauliflower Cheese

Source: Leanne Brown, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day

Recipe Type: | Seasons: ,

This is a classic side dish in Great Britain: creamy, cheesy sauce over cauliflower, baked in the oven until the edges get crunchy and bubbly. It’s like a healthier and more flavorful version of macaroni and cheese. Try substituting broccoli or cooked winter squash for the cauliflower—everyone will love it. With broccoli , this dish becomes an interpretation of the classic sleazy broccoli with cheese sauce—but a little less sleazy. You can also add some breadcrumbs to the top of the dish before baking if you like extra crunch. Enjoy with a green salad. 

Serves 4


2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for the baking dish
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chile flakes
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk
6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated  pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 scallions, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Sprinkling of finely chopped fresh basil


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the salt and the cauliflower, then leave it for 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, butter a baking dish large enough to comfortably accommodate all the cauliflower. I usually use a pie dish. Drain the cauliflower and add it to the dish.

Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, chile flakes, and bay leaf and cook for about 1 minute. Add the flour and stir quickly. The flour-butter mixture is called a roux. You want the roux to get just a little brown—this will probably take another minute. Slowly add the milk to the pot, stirring all the while to incorporate the roux and make a creamy sauce.

Continue cooking the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it just comes to a boil, about 5 to 7 minutes. Once a couple of bubbles appear, turn off the heat and stir the cheese into the sauce. Include any additions at this point (except breadcrumbs). Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed. Remove the bay leaf. The sauce should be creamy, smooth, and savory. 

Pour the sauce over the cauliflower, sprinkling with breadcrumbs if desired. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the top is brown and bubbly, about 40 minutes.

Reprinted with permission from Workman Publishing. Learn more and download the free e-book at

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