cauliflower mac & cheese

cauliflower mac and cheese (vegan and gf options) / loveandlemons.com cauliflower mac and cheese (vegan and gf options) / loveandlemons.com

Stop what you’re doing right now and – wherever you live – go search out a CSA or local farm delivery in your area. Ok, that sounded pushy, but really, you’ll thank me later! Here are a few reasons why:

1. You will support small farmers in your community… and your vegetables will be tastier because everything is better in season.

2. You will learn how to become a creative cook, rather than a recipe cook, which means you’ll spend less time and money at the grocery store.

3. You’ll become super impressed with yourself when you first learn how to whip something up out of “nothing.”

4. It’ll feel like Christmas morning when you get something unexpected and amazing like this super bright orange cauliflower.

5. Your husband will be happy that this farm cauliflower inspired the idea for “cheesy” mac… something that wasn’t planned or editorially scheduled, yet somehow manifested itself onto our dinner table.

cauliflower mac and cheese (vegan and gf options) / loveandlemons.com cauliflower mac and cheese (vegan and gf options) / loveandlemons.com

We made a vegan and cheddar cheese version of this creamy cauliflower sauce… and even Jack admitted that they both turned out pretty darn similar (although don’t tell him I said that). Pictured above is the vegan version, which I slightly un-veganized by adding a little bit of parmesan cheese on top. Whichever way you go – this is a lighter healthier mac thanks to the cauliflower that’s the star of the sauce. (And, of course, you can use regular white cauliflower if that’s what you have).

This vibrant cauliflower comes from Farmhouse Delivery here in Austin.

orange cauliflower / @loveandlemons

cauliflower mac & cheese

Yield: serves 4

cauliflower mac & cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 big head of cauliflower (4 loose cups, chopped, plus extra small florets to leave whole)
  • 12 oz brown rice elbow pasta
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 - 1 cup cashew cream (see recipe below) or sharp cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • pasta water, as needed to thin
  • topping options:
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (or gf panko)
  • non-vegan option: sprinkle 1/4 - 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • super cheesy option: add an extra handful of cheddar under the panko
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • a few pinches of red pepper flakes
  • cashew cream: (this makes extra & can be made ahead)
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for a few hours (strain soaking water before using)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup water
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. If you're making the vegan option, start by making your cashew cream. (Strain the soaking water from the cashews). Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Scoop the cream out of the blender and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets and cook until tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to drain and scoop the cauliflower into a blender. When the cauliflower is out, bring your water back up to a boil and add the pasta.
  4. Back to your blender - add the dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, to the cauliflower, and puree well. Add about 3/4 cups of cashew cream (or cheddar cheese), sherry vinegar, and blend again. Add starchy pasta water, as needed, to thin the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Add more cashew cream if you want).
  5. When your pasta is al dente, set aside a cup or so of pasta water, then fully drain your pasta and the water out of the large pot. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and stir in the sauce. Add more reserved pasta water as needed to create a creamy sauce. Stir in the remainder of the cauliflower florets.
  6. Pour your pasta into a large baking dish (or a few individual sized dishes). Top with a sprinkling of panko, parmesan cheese (if using) and a drizzle of olive oil. (optional: make it extra cheesy by adding a layer of sharp cheddar underneath the panko and parmesan)
  7. Bake until the top is golden and crispy - about 12-20 minutes depending on the size of your dish.
  8. Remove from oven and top with chives and red pepper flakes.

Notes

It's up to you how light/healthy you want to make this - pile in the cashew cream and/or cheese to make it more indulgent, or hold back and make it a bit lighter.

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99 comments

  1. You always have the best vegan mac n’ cheese recipes! I made your one with peas not long ago but this looks even tastier so I have a feeling we’ll be having a pasta night this week…

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Thanks Shelly! So glad you liked that one – yep, I think this one is a new favorite for sure :)

    • Anna on said:

      Hi – how long does the cashew cream last in the fridge??

      • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

        Hi Anna – 4-5 days (if it separates, stir it. If it thickens in the fridge, add a little water and stir to loosen it)

  2. Yummm! This looks delicious! Definitely putting this on the menu for this week :) xx

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      thanks Gemma!

  3. This looks amazing! I’m so jealous of your orange cauliflower! I’ve been searching for romanesco, purple, or light green cauliflower, but no luck so far (I did find some great watermelon radishes at the farmer’s market, though!). I love that the color of the veggie inspired you to make something cheesy.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Thanks Becky! It’s rare for us to have these colors too, I was really excited to get this one :)

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Thanks Katrina!

  4. Thanks for the shout out to support local farmers! We grow that variety of cauliflower at our farm. “Cheddar” is the orange variety that we grow and I love it! Turning it into healthy cheese sauce sounds pretty darn good to me! I’ll definitely share this recipe with our customers!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Of course! How appropriately named since it made me think cheesy thoughts :)

  5. Karis from karisann.com on said:

    I totally agree about CSAs. I’ve been a member for 5 years now and it’s so great for all the reasons you mentioned. I’m still getting used to the new timeline though with my move from Wisconsin to Florida. Here in Miami the season runs from November to May, which still seems strange, but I’m loving the novelty of fresh local produce in winter.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Thanks Karis, so glad to hear! I hope you’re enjoying your winter produce and warm weather!

  6. This looks so delicious, I have been wanting to make a cauliflower mac and cheese for some time. I loved your sweet potato alfredo pasta recipe so I know this will be a winner as well. Can’t wait to make this!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Thanks Katie! So glad you liked the sweet potato alfredo! This one is pretty similar, a little lighter…

  7. Lisa from theveganpact.com on said:

    drooling…..

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      ha, thanks Lisa

  8. No, not pushy at all! I’d get some super cheap csa produce at the community college. I’m not taking classes this semester and I miss it so much. And yes, everything tasted much better than supermarket produce.
    This looks lovely. It’s drizzly here today – perfect for mac n’ cheese!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Annie, sounds like a good class :)

  9. Asha@FSK from forkspoonnknife.com on said:

    I have signed up for the CSA for a couple of years and realized that I love it and can leave it too :) I love the amazing produce and its seasonality. But, I don’t like the idea of the predetermined quantities and not having a choice of taking 1 of a veg I don’t particularly like and more of one I do. I get that choice from my farmer’s markets! I also found that, atleast in NYC, the farmers’ market is way cheaper than the CSA share for the same variety of produce.
    Nevertheless, I love the concept of supporting the farmer and managing demand and if there isn’t an accessible, vibrant farmers’ market in an area, CSA is an awesome idea to subscribe to.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Asha! I totally agree – I go through phases where put mine on hold… sometimes it’s easier to pick out exactly what I want. But every time I go back I realize I end up spending less money overall (I realize this probably varies by area – also, mine lets me sub in/out things I don’t like).

      Most of all, I love how it kicks me out of a rut of cooking the same things over and over. I’ve come to absolutely love some vegetables that I didn’t think I liked before. :)

  10. I’ve been searching for the perfect vegan mac and cheese recipe, so I think this might take the cake : )

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      thanks Abby, hope you like it as much as we did!

  11. Laura from themuseumscout.com on said:

    I just re-signed up for a CSA after a couple of months off because I wanted to become a more creative/better cook. I totally agree about how it feel like Christmas morning when you get something new in your box. Right now I’m enjoying the challenge of trying to figure out what to make, but that enthusiasm ebbs and flows for me, too.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Laura – it can definitely be challenging :) The longer I’ve been getting it, the easier it has gotten…

  12. Who would have thought cauliflower would become such a superstar food! I must try this – it’s a wonderful idea!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      thanks! Cauliflower is the new bacon right? :)

  13. Dang this looks so good! I just emailed it around the office and got people drooling big time! ;)

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      ha! thanks :)

  14. Amy from wrappedinnewspaper.wordpress.com on said:

    This recipe looks delicious! I’ve not seen a vegan mac and cheese recipe that has looked tempting enough for me to give it a try, until now :) I will definitely be trying it out the next time I get a cauliflower! Over here in the UK we have a similar veg scheme, getting seasonal produce from local farmers. I swear by it and I agree that it makes you an more inventive cook rather than just following recipes. I wrote a post about why I love me veg scheme so much :) http://wrappedinnewspaper.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/convenience-shopping/ Thanks for the mac and cheese inspiration!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Amy! Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed your post… my thoughts exactly!

  15. Sarah on said:

    Gorgeous! Thanks for the should out to local farmers and the fun of getting it delivered to your door. I agree! I’m a big fan of your site.

    • Sarah on said:

      shout out, that is. (autocorrect!)

  16. This sounds heavenly, and I’ve actually recently been looking for a cashew cream recipe. Also, I used to work for a CSA. The family operation was so inspiring, and taught me how much work it takes to farm and actually make a living. I’m all for supporting the local farmers for all their hard work!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Grace, thanks – yep, I can barely keep a garden going so I’m in awe of people who keep up entire farms! Hope you like the cauliflower cashew cream :)

  17. Pang from circahappy.com on said:

    what not to like about this healthy mac n’ cheese!!! You are such an inspiration, I swear!!! — I am still too scare to commit to local farm delivery as of now, though I do the next best thing by buying from Farmers Market every week. Once I am a better cook, CSA or local farm delivery will be on my to-do list. :)

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Pang, you are a fantastic cook – are you kidding me!?

  18. Wow, this is beautiful! I make a sweet potato version that is delicious too! Vegan mac and cheese is the way to be :)

  19. Norma | Allspice and nutmeg on said:

    This sounds incredible. I’ve been curious about CSA. I will be looking into it further.

  20. chelsea from thegirlwholovedtowrite.com on said:

    This looks amazing! Definitely trying this one out.

  21. oh my gosh this sounds absolutely fantastic!

    Molly {Dreams in HD}
    http://www.dreamsinhd.blogspot.com

  22. amanda from easylittletiger.com on said:

    these colors are so beautiful. yum!

  23. Leah from isabellefarm.com on said:

    thanks so much for the shout out to CSAs!! as an organic farmer and avid promoter of all things veg, its much appreciated to see folks getting excited and spreading the word about local veg – thanks!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Leah – thank YOU for all of the hard work you put in to grow real food!

  24. Laura from thefirstmess.com on said:

    Such a beautiful cauliflower! And it totally loans itself to some spontaneous mac ‘n’ cheese action. I’ve tried a few versions of non-cheese mac, but have never actually seen cauliflower used. Brilliant. Love the lemon, shallot, dijon and smoked paprika additions too.

  25. Erin from clevergirlreviews.com on said:

    UMMM, that looks so good!

  26. Lauren on said:

    This was fabulous! Both my husband and 10 month old daughter loved it. Your blog has been a huge help to me over the last year as we have made the switch to a more plant based diet. Thanks for all the great inspiration and yummy recipes:)

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  28. It looks as if the leaves are hugging the cauliflower. Maybe it’s just me being crazy. Making this tonight.

  29. I made this last week – with cheese rather than the cashew cream. It’s a lot lighter than the usual macaroni cheese sauce so not quite as comforting but nonetheless delicious. It pleased my veggie teen as she felt she could tuck in with relish. Thanks for the recipe

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  31. Ernest L Sewell, IV on said:

    re: Cashew cream: When you blend all ingredients for the cream – do you include the 1/4-1/2 cup water that the cashews soaked in, as well?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Ernest – nope, I strain out the soaking water first.

  32. Linnea on said:

    Thanks for this awesome dish! Even my boyfriend who hates cauliflower loved it. Now I know what to do with this veg when it turns up in my csa box.

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  35. Michelle on said:

    Awesome! I live in Georgetown and have been researching where I can get local produce, so thanks for recommending Farmhouse Delivery.

    Also, a few months ago my mom made a soup with cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage. My son’s teeth weren’t in at the time so she pureed the veggies from the soup. When she gave it to me to test I could’ve sworn it was Velveeta cheese! We could not stop laughing about it. Whelp, that’s just what this recipe reminded me of.

    I just found your blog today. I’m already loving it!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Thanks Michelle! Definitely check out Farmhouse Delivery – I just love it :)

      Ha, this sauce reminded me of Velveeta as well!

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  40. Jessica on said:

    Hi this recipe looks delicious and I really want to try it but I can’t find any sherry vinegar. I was wondering what would be a good substitute for it?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      balsamic, a squeeze of lemon or you could even skip it…

  41. Buddhadev on said:

    good

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  45. Jane on said:

    I’ve made this with a recent recipe from Veg. Times. This one looks a lot better.
    I’ll try it. When I have some lobster I may add some of that too for the ultimate. I had Mac and cheese w lobster in Sonoma at the Mission Inn. Nice to be pampered sometimes; a day at the spa, some wine tasting and this before a tub for two and a roaring fire.

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  49. Lisa Marie B. on said:

    Because of this post I’m signing up for Farmhouse Delivery! I like that it was started by 2 women in Austin, it seems to spread the CSA love out to multiple farms, and they deliver (which I’m very grateful for as a new mama)– I’ll also be checking out this yummy recipe next soon, so happy I found your blog!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Lisa, this makes me so happy to hear! It’s such a wonderful company, they do such great things for the local farm community. Stephanie, the owner, is so inspiring to me.

  50. Heather on said:

    Another great recipe! Thank you for your call to action about supporting local farms. While I am happy to hear you support local farmers, I have to clarify that Farmhouse Delivery is not a CSA. Those who sign up for this aggregating service are not committing to one farm for an entire season and sharing in both the risks (crop failure, pest damage, etc) and rewards (bumper crops! relationship w/ farmer) of their farm. The ability to put your box “on hold” does not fit with the CSA model. Crop planning for a season on a CSA farm is methodical and calculated and the farmer does not have the luxury of putting veggies that are ready to be harvested in the field “on hold”. They are forced to find another outlet for those crops that they may not have initially planned for during the busiest time of the year. I think Farmhouse Delivery is a great business idea for aggregating local food and probably works well for farms that sell most of their veg as wholesale already, but it certainly is not CSA. The reason I bring this up is that I am a CSA farmer and this isn’t the first aggregating business that is compromising the integrity and definition of the CSA model. Farmhouse Delivery is not intentionally doing this; they don’t call themselves a CSA on the website and even have a blurb about how they’re different from a CSA (thank you for that!), but not all are that transparent. I do believe that reshaping the food system to be more sustainable will require several models/methods for creating more economically viable markets for local food, and companies like Farmhouse Delivery are definitely a part of that. However, CSA is a more intimate relationship with a single farm and the understanding of that relationship between farm and members is vital to the success of all CSA farms. We must protect that integral part of the CSA model in order for it to continue to be one of the viable models. Please continue to support your local farmers through whatever avenue works best for you, but don’t call something a CSA if it truly is not. Thank you for continuing to openly share your life and love of food with all of us! You are doing a great job!

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  58. Jenny Black from dragonflyhome.wordpress.com on said:

    I made the cauliflower mac and cheese for my family. We loved it! It tasted great, and I loved the fact that there was cauliflower in it. Thanks for the recipe.

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