Creamy Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower

With cauliflower blended into its sauce, this cauliflower mac and cheese recipe is a lighter, but equally delicious, version of the classic comfort food.

Cauliflower mac and cheese cauliflower mac and cheese

Doesn’t this cauliflower mac and cheese look amazing? I made it with a bright orange cauliflower fromย Farmhouse Deliveryย in Austin. Its color reminded me so much of sharp cheddar cheese that I couldn’t resist using it in a cauliflower mac and cheese recipe.

If you’re someone who craves creamy pasta in the winter, you have to try this cauliflower mac and cheese. Unlike many mac and cheese recipes, it doesn’t call for heavy cream, cream cheese, or even whole milk. Instead, I make the creamy sauce with blended, steamed cauliflower pieces, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, garlic, shallot, and sherry vinegar. The final version still comes out luscious, tangy, and creamy, but it’s much lighter than your average mac n cheese. Serve it as a side dish with a winter salad or your favorite protein, or enjoy it as a meal on its own!


cauliflower mac and cheese cauliflower mac and cheese

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Variations

To add richness to the cauliflower sauce, you can use either cashew cream or cheddar cheese. Even Jack admitted that they turned out pretty darn similar (although don’t tell him I said that). Pictured above is the vegan cashew cream version, and its recipe is listed below. I slightly un-veganized it by adding a little bit of Parmesan cheese on top, and if you want to go further in that direction, a layer of cheddar would be great too. Whichever way you go, this is a lighter, healthier mac thanks to the cauliflower in the sauce. (And, of course, you can use regular white cauliflower if that’s what you have).

If you prefer to make a cheese sauce with cheddar cheese as well as cauliflower, omit the cashew cream in the recipe below, and replace it with 3/4 cup shredded cheddar.

orange cauliflower

If you love this cauliflower mac and cheese…

Try my creamy broccoli pasta, vegan mac and cheese, sun dried tomato pasta, or orecchiette next!

4.7 from 7 reviews

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cauliflower mac & cheese is a healthier, lighter version of the classic comfort food. Vegan and gluten-free options.
Recipe type: Main dish
Serves: 4
  • 1 big head of cauliflower, chopped (4 cups for the sauce, save the rest to add before baking)
  • 12 ounces brown rice elbow pasta
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¾ - 1 cup cashew cream (see recipe below) or sharp cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper
  • Pasta water, as needed to thin
Topping options:
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs (or gf panko)
  • Non-vegan option: sprinkle ¼ - ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Super cheesy option: add an extra handful of cheddar under the panko
  • ¼ 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)
  • ¼ - ½ cup water
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • ¼ cup minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt
  1. If you're making the vegan option, start by making your cashew cream. 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 the 4 cups of 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. Meanwhile, make the sauce. To your blender, add the Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper, and puree along with the 4 cups cauliflower florets. Add about ¾ cups of cashew cream (or cheddar cheese) and the sherry vinegar, and blend again. Add starchy pasta water, as needed, to thin the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. For a richer sauce, add more cashew cream or cheese.
  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 reserved pasta water, as needed, to create a creamy sauce.
  6. Pour your pasta into a large baking dish. Place the remainder of the cauliflower florets on top. 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.
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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  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

      Thanks Shelly! So glad you liked that one – yep, I think this one is a new favorite for sure ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Anna

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

      • jeanine

        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)

    • Megan

      New to eating more of a plant based diet, not GF or vegan just trying to incorporate more veggies into my BF and I’s diet. This was to dieeee for! I did add about half a sweet potato, mostly for color but also added nutrients. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

      • jeanine

        Thanks! Your comment just made my day :). Thanks for letting me know you liked it so much!

    • Jen

      This was so incredibly delicious! Thank you for the recipe! 10/10 would make again.

  2. Yummm! This looks delicious! Definitely putting this on the menu for this week ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  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

      Thanks Becky! It’s rare for us to have these colors too, I was really excited to get this one ๐Ÿ™‚

  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

      Of course! How appropriately named since it made me think cheesy thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Karis from

    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

      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

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

  7. 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

      Hi Annie, sounds like a good class ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Asha@FSK from

    I have signed up for the CSA for a couple of years and realized that I love it and can leave it too ๐Ÿ™‚ 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

      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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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

    • jeanine

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

  10. Laura from

    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

      Hi Laura – it can definitely be challenging ๐Ÿ™‚ The longer I’ve been getting it, the easier it has gotten…

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

    • jeanine

      thanks! Cauliflower is the new bacon right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Dang this looks so good! I just emailed it around the office and got people drooling big time! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • jeanine

      ha! thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Amy from

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the mac and cheese inspiration!

    • jeanine

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

  14. Sarah

    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

      shout out, that is. (autocorrect!)

  15. 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

      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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Pang from

    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. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jeanine

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

  17. Wow, this is beautiful! I make a sweet potato version that is delicious too! Vegan mac and cheese is the way to be ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Norma | Allspice and nutmeg

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

  19. chelsea from

    This looks amazing! Definitely trying this one out.

  20. amanda from

    these colors are so beautiful. yum!

  21. Leah from

    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

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

  22. Laura from

    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.

  23. Erin from

    UMMM, that looks so good!

  24. Lauren

    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:)

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

  26. 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

  27. Ernest L Sewell, IV

    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

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

  28. Linnea

    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.

  29. Michelle

    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

      Thanks Michelle! Definitely check out Farmhouse Delivery – I just love it ๐Ÿ™‚

      Ha, this sauce reminded me of Velveeta as well!

  30. Jessica

    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

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

  31. Jane

    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.

  32. Alyce from

    I am no longer positive where you’re getting your info, however great topic.
    I needs to spend a while learning more or figuring out more.
    Thank you for wonderful info I was searching for this
    information for my mission.

  33. Lisa Marie B.

    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

      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.

  34. Jenny Black from

    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.

  35. A delicious sounding variation of one of my all time fave dishes. This one will certainly get a test drive.

  36. Crystal from

    Wow, wonderful weblog structure! How lengthy
    have you ever been running a blog for? you made running a blog look easy.
    The whole look of your web site is wonderful, as
    well as the content material!

  37. christine

    thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I adapted from it for dinner and really really loved it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. Paul


    I am an ok chef and a young guy who doesn’t subscribe to any particular diet. However, I recently began seeing a vegan and I made this for our first date. She was quite impressed and I enjoyed it as well. Thanks for sharing this recipe!


    • jeanine

      aw, so glad she liked it – thanks for sharing!

  39. Keely from

    Made for dinner tonight and was a hit! Even with my picky 10 year old! Thank you Love & Lemons!

  40. Shelly

    It’s not very often I make a recipe more than once. But my CSA delivered an orange cauliflower & this was the first thing that came to mind! This week I’m challenging myself to not grocery shop in order to up what I have. So instead of shallot (because I’m all out!) I used regular ol yellow onion but added an extra clove of garlic to the sauce. Before baking I also added diced homegrown red & orange bell pepper, frozen peas & chopped kale- cause why the kale not!
    I loved this recipe just as you have it and adding more colorful veggies made it all the more fun. My parents were both very impressed so I consider it a major win!
    Thank you for always providing such solid recipes!

  41. Naomi

    Hi! I just found this recipe posted on Nylon and I can’t wait to make it. This might be a novice question, but should the whole florets that are added at the end be raw or cooked? I would imagine that they need to be cooked since 20 mins in the oven might leave them crunchy, but I wouldn’t want them to get too soft either! Thanks!

    • jeanine

      Hi Naomi,

      If you break the florets into pretty small pieces, 20-ish minutes should be enough. I didn’t pre-cook my cauliflower – I placed them on top and they roasted nicely.

  42. Alex

    So, I just made this. It was so good!!! This may just be the best Mac n “cheese” ever. My four year old son even loved it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I only had regular white cauliflower but I’d love to try it again with the yellow/orange variety. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome recipes!!

  43. Ozzie

    I am going to make this this week! I was wondering if you thought roasting the cauliflowers instead of steaming would add anything to or detract from the recipe? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Ozzie, cooking the cauliflower in the water helps the sauce blend better and become more creamy. I’ve tried it both ways, and roasting takes too much of the moisture out of the cauliflower. Hope that helps!

  44. Meghan from

    Absolutely delicious with gluten-free pasta! I broiled the dish of mac n cheese to brown the cheese on top (white cheddar and parm) for 4 minutes at the end. Thank you for the inspiration!

  45. Laura

    Hi. Iโ€™m so glad to run across this recipe. My 14-year-old decided she wanted to go Vegan this past year, so Iโ€™m always looking for new recipes. My question is whether you use raw cashews or dry roasted to make the cashew cream? Iโ€™m guessing raw but can either work? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Laura, they need to be raw cashews so that the sauce tastes neutral (and cheesy-like), and not too cashew-ey. I updated that in the recipe – thank you!

  46. Jan

    I made this with a few modifications because I wasnโ€™t planning to bake it, and it came out amazing! I didnโ€™t have mustard so I used Worcestershire, and sautรฉed the garlic and onion (subbed for shallot) before blending everything. I finished the pasta in the sauce and added peas and carrots. Will definitely be trying the baked version soon, thank you!

  47. Marlies

    This was so delicious! I used 1/2 cup if Cheddar and added about a half a tablespoon of miso and some nutritional yeast to amp up the flavor even more ๐Ÿ™‚ my boyfriend and I absolutely loved it

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Marlies, I’m so glad you both loved it!

  48. Geri

    Decided to give this recipe a try with the last of some ingredients in my kitchen. I used a regular white cauliflower and found the paprika gave the sauce a lovely golden colour so thankfully a coloured cauliflower isn’t essential. The garlic (and maybe shallot) is quite intense since the sauce isn’t cooked long enough for the garlic to mellow out – or maybe I had particularly large cloves? Also I opted to use the last of my cheese on top only and didn’t have any cashews and suspect using either in the sauce probably helps cut the garlicky bite. Had to tinker with it a bit to tame it. Will consider making again but suggest to others to start with 1/2 tsp and no more than 1 tsp of garlic. Next time I might roast the garlic and shallot in advance so they’re not as harsh.

  49. Nora

    I love love love your website and recipes. Iโ€™ve make about 5 at this point and none have disappointed!
    This recipe is a great and healthy alternative to the Mac and cheese Iโ€™ve been craving all week (lol)
    I wonder if the pasta can be replaced with spaghetti squash and how thatโ€™d turn out. Iโ€™ll try it sometime
    Thanks for putting out great content!!!

  50. Nora

    I love love love your website and recipes. Iโ€™ve make about 5 at this point and none have disappointed!
    This recipe is a great and healthy alternative to the Mac and cheese Iโ€™ve been craving all week (lol)
    I wonder if the pasta can be replaced with spaghetti squash and how thatโ€™d turn out. Iโ€™ll try it sometime
    Thanks for putting out great content!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Nora, I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying the recipes! I’d make the sauce and pour it over roasted spaghetti squash. I probably wouldn’t bake it all together, it might get watery. Let me know if you give it a try!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.