This cheesy Cauliflower Au Gratin is the perfect side dish for any occasion, especially for the holidays! It’s made with tender cauliflower tossed with a Gruyere cheese sauce, and then baked with more cheese on top. It comes out melty, cheese, and so delicious!
This comforting Cauliflower Au Gratin is definitely going to be on my dinner table this holiday season. I really really like cauliflower, and this gratin method of preparation has become one of my absolute faves! I just posted a Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin recipe a few days ago, and I loved it so much that I decided to do a similar one with cauliflower.
Cauliflower au gratin is basically tender cauliflower tossed with a creamy cheese sauce and then baked with more cheese on top until bubbly and golden brown. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
In this recipe, I use a combination of freshly grated Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, but feel free to use other melty and savory cheeses, such as Fontina, White Cheddar, or Gouda.
To give you an idea of the ingredients needed for this cauliflower au gratin recipe, below is an overview of what each ingredient is for. You can find the specific quantities in the recipe card all the way below.
The most important things to keep in mind are, 1) use fresh, not frozen, cauliflower, and 2) grate your own cheese for extra melty cheese.
- Cauliflower: You’ll need 1 entire head of cauliflower, cut into florets. The cauliflower is pre-cooked before baking.
- Unsalted butter: For the cheese sauce base.
- Flour: To thicken the cheese sauce.
- Whole milk: For the cheese sauce. Don’t use skim milk since it can be too watery.
- Garlic powder: For flavor!
- Gruyere cheese and parmesan cheese: Both of these are savory and melt very well.
- Italian bread crumbs: For the topping. I use the pre-packaged ones for ease.
- Salt and pepper: To taste.
How to Make Cauliflower Gratin
Basically, there are 3 main parts to making cauliflower au gratin. Pre-cooking the cauliflower, preparing the cheese sauce and tossing the cauliflower with it, and assembling it. And then, of course, you bake it!
To give you an idea of the process, here’s a top-level overview. The specific steps on how to make this delicious recipe can be found in the recipe card all the way below.
- Cook the cauliflower: You can boil it until fork tender, and maybe even a little bit on the underdone side since you’ll bake it some more.
- Make the cheese sauce and toss: The cheese sauce is made with butter, flour, milk, and freshly grated Gruyere cheese. Once thickened and creamy, toss the cauliflower in the sauce until coated.
- Top with the remaining cheeses and Italian bread crumbs: I use more Gruyere, parmesan cheese, and Italian bread crumbs.
- Bake! At 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 18-20 minutes.
It will come out beautifully golden brown and bubbly. So much cheesy goodness!
Here’s a quick tip: To minimize clean-up, make the cheese sauce in a wide oven-proof pot or in a large deep oven-proof skillet. You can toss the pre-cooked cauliflower right in with the sauce, add the cheeses and bread crumbs on top, and bake it. This way, there’s no need to transfer everything to a baking pan.
Make Ahead Tips
Let’s face it…life gets busy. That’s why I love all the make-ahead tips I can get!
Especially for the upcoming holidays, make-ahead recipes always save the day. You can totally prep this cauliflower au gratin ahead of time.
Here are some prep-ahead ideas:
- Precut the cauliflower a few days before.
- You can also boil or steam the cauliflower the day before. Just remember to rinse it with cold water right after cooking to quickly stop the cooking process, and so that it remains crisp tender.
- Make the cheese sauce 1 day in advance, and reheat before baking.
- Grate all the cheese ahead of time.
Note: Don’t assemble it in advance. You don’t want the cauliflower to get soggy in the cheese sauce overnight. Always assemble it right before baking.
I am a huge fan of customizing recipes! That’s how I always put my own spin on my favorite recipes.
These are some of my favorite ways to customize cauliflower au gratin:
- Add chopped cooked bacon or cubed ham.
- Use other melty and savory cheeses, such as Fontina, White Cheddar, or Gouda.
- Instead of Italian bread crumbs, use panko. Or both!
- Add caramelized onions. Yum!
- Instead of boiling the cauliflower, roast it. So much extra flavor!
I can think of hundreds of ways to customize it! If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below!
Cauliflower au gratin is officially my favorite holiday side dish. I am a huge cauliflower lover, so this cheesy way of making it is just SO GOOD!
I like my cauliflower on the crunchier side, so I always undercook it a bit. I love the crunch of it so much!
Here are some main holiday dishes to pair it with:
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you like this recipe as much as I do. Happy cooking!
Tips for Success
- Grate your own cheese with a box grater or food processor. Pre-grated cheese usually comes with preservatives that make it harder to melt the cheese.
- If you want crunchier cauliflower, undercook it a bit when pre-cooking it.
- This is a prep-ahead friendly recipe. For tips, see the “Make Ahead” section below under Recipe notes.
Cauliflower Au Gratin
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets - (fresh, not frozen)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk - (plus more as needed)
- 1 ¾ cups freshly grated Gruyere cheese, divided
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup Italian bread crumbs
- ⅓ cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese - (plus more to taste)
- Parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook the cauliflower
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil, enough water to cover the cauliflower florets. Once boiling, cook the cauliflower for 10-12 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and run it through cold water. Pat it dry. Tip: I usually undercook the cauliflower a bit since it will need to be baked anyway.
Make the cheese sauce
- In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk constantly for about 3-4 minutes until thickened. It should be a bit pale in color and begin to smell nutty.
- Gradually add the milk, stirring and breaking up the roux with a wooden spoon. Simmer for a few minutes until thickened, stirring.
- Add 1 cup of the grated Gruyere cheese and stir until melted and creamy. If too thick, add more milk as needed and simmer for a few minutes. Mix in the garlic powder, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Assemble and bake
- Transfer the cooked cauliflower to a 9×13 inch baking dish and pour the prepared cheese sauce over it, stirring to combine. Note: I mixed the cauliflower right in the same Dutch oven casserole pot I used to make my sauce in order to minimize clean-up. My pot is oven-proof and the perfect size (not too deep and wide enough).
- Top with the remaining ¾ cup of gruyere cheese, the parmesan cheese, and the bread crumbs.
- Bake in the preheated 400 degrees F oven for 18-20 minutes, or until bubbly and slightly golden brown. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Make ahead tips: Pre-cut the cauliflower a few days ahead. The cauliflower can also be cooked (boiled) the day before and stored in the fridge, and be sure to rinse with cold water after cooking and pat it dry. The cheese sauce can be made the day before, and heated up in a pot the day of cooking. The cheeses can be grated the day before. Do NOT assemble until ready to bake or the cauliflower will get soggy.
- Cheeses: I’d recommend grating your own cheese. Often, pre-packaged grated cheeses come with preservatives that make cheeses harder to melt.
- Cheese choice: Other cheeses I like to use are Fontina, White Cheddar, and Gouda.
- Undercook the cauliflower: If desired, undercook the cauliflower a bit because you’ll need to bake it for 20 minutes later.