This delicious Baked Cauliflower Cheese is made with a classic béchamel sauce base with a mix of cheeses to make a smooth, creamy and perfectly cheesy side dish. With these full step-by-step instructions and photographs, you’ll be able to make the best cauliflower bake in town.
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Cauliflower cheese always seems like an odd addition to a roast dinner to me. Cheese sauce and meaty gravy? And yet it totally works! So it is a regular addition to my Sunday dinner.
There are many ways to make the cheesy sauce. Some involve just cream and cheeses, some use ricotta as a base and then there is a traditional cheese sauce made with a béchamel base. This classic sauce made with a butter and flour roux and milk is by far my favourite. Its also the base for my Baked Macaroni Cheese.
I use three different cheeses in the sauce plus my secret ingredient mustard. Don’t be daunted by this – there is nothing fancy. Cream cheese adds to the smoothness, double Gloucester provides colour and a hit of stronger cheese flavour. And mozzarella for more creaminess and that fabulous cheese pull we all know and love.
This combination gives the finished cauliflower bake enough cheese flavour to be distinctive without totally obscuring the flavour of the cauliflower itself. And without being so strongly flavoured that it overpowers everything else on the plate. Perfection.
How to Serve Cauliflower Cheese
I suspect it doesn’t need to be said but I will say it anyway. Please serve this hot! Once it cools, the cheese sauce is not great to eat.
I’ve written the suggested portion sizes of this dish to be served as a side dish along with other veggies and potatoes etc. It serves more than I usually try to write my recipes for but 90% of the time, you are most likely to use a whole cauliflower. I’ve specified the weight and it is easy to halve the recipe if needed.
I often serve cauliflower cheese as part of my Christmas dinner. It only seems appropriate when going all out. But you can also serve as the main vegetable side dish with other smaller weeknight type meals. Try some of these ideas:
- Make crispy air fried chicken thighs, carrots and parsnips and a heaping helping of the cauli cheese.
Christmas Feast: Menu & Recipes
Here you’ll find all of my recipes for the main Christmas Dinner event. There are air fried, oven cooked and stovetop recipes and everything from main event turkey recipes, to Christmas dinner side dishes with all the trimmings, sauces and classic puddings, plus a few alternative options and of course bonus mince pies.
Don’t miss the pigs in blankets, homemade paxo stuffing or packet stuffing balls with added sausage. It would be a travesty to not include simple sprouts. mashed carrot and swede, the best roast parsnips and crispy roast potatoes amongst lots of other delights. Round the meal off with bread and cranberry sauces then end with a classic sherry trifle or mix things up with my microwave mincemeat sponge and custard.
Creamy Cauliflower Cheese Ingredients
I’ve included detailed instructions for how to prepare a whole cauliflower will minimal mess and wastage. Saying this, some people may be unsure why I haven’t used any of the leaves in the recipe.
These are perfectly edible in theory and good to eat. But I just find that on 90% of the cauliflowers that are available to buy, the leaves are just not in a good enough condition to eat. If you want to include them please do, just note that they will need to be added to the cooking water near the end of the cooking time or that will overcook them.
If you don’t want to use a whole fresh cauliflower, you can buy packs of ready prepared florets. Or you can buy them frozen. Both are great to use for this recipe, especially if you want to make a smaller amount.
I’ve used a 1.1kg/2.5lb cauliflower which after being prepared, gives around 750g of ready to cook cauliflower florets.
As I mentioned, I’ve included a mix of three cheeses in the recipe; cream cheese, mozzarella and double Gloucester. To me this provide the perfect balance of flavour, colour and texture.
But you can be infinitely flexible – there is absolutely no need to stick to these exact cheeses. The double Gloucester can be swapped for red Leicester for any even stronger colour. Or you can use any semi hard cheese like cheddar, Lancashire, gruyere or similar. Just pick the strength for your personal preferences.
You can use another creamy cheese like ricotta or mascarpone. Or skip it entirely and use more of the other cheeses.
As for the mozzarella, I have used pre-grated. You can use fresh or cut up slices or whichever you prefer. Or again you can replace it with more of the harder cheese you are using.
Adding mustard to cheese sauces is really the trick to really rounding out the flavour. You don’t want to add so much that it is an overwhelming flavour but just enough that it does what it needs to do.
I use Dijon mustard because it has a mellow but pronounced flavour, no added texture like wholegrain and isn’t too in your face like English mustard. If however you do fancy using any of the other options because a kick or crunchy mustard seeds appeal, go for it.
I’ve written this recipe as a simple side dish. But I love to make a fully loaded cauliflower cheese as a main course. I add sautéed mushrooms, onion and bacon. And occasionally some leftover roast chicken. I highly recommend this option.
To change the cauliflower cheese more simply is mostly a case of changing the cheeses you use. You can make a really pungent option by using blue cheese. or actually reduce the cheese flavour and use all cream cheese and mozzarella. and every variation inbetween.
You can replace half the cauliflower with broccoli to make a Broccoli and Cauliflower Cheese. Boil the broccoli for about half the time of the cauliflower otherwise it will overcook.
In my life’s mission to add bacon to everything, I can absolutely confirm that adding crispy bit of bacon to the cheese sauce is divine.
The other fun option is to make individual cauliflower cheeses rather than one large to serve family style like this recipe. Use oven proof ramekins and you may need to reduce the cooking time slightly.
Vegetarian or Vegan Cauliflower Cheese
This baked cauliflower cheese recipe is suitable for vegetarians. Although saying this, you should make sure the cheeses you choose are suitable for vegetarians. Some like parmesan are made with an animal rennet and are not technically veggie. There are almost always alternatives available.
To make a vegan cauliflower cheese is much more difficult. This really is a dairy heavy recipe. There are vegan suitable plant bases substitutes available for the butter, milk, cream cheese and other cheeses which you can use. I’ll be honest, I think vegan “cheese” is awful so this isn’t something I’d recommend. Perhaps try a roasted cauliflower recipe instead?
Make Allergy Friendly Baked Cauliflower Cheese
This recipe is free from egg and nuts.
Gluten Free Cauliflower Cheese: You can make this recipe gluten free in two ways. Firstly you can use a gluten free flour blend in place of the plain flour. This should be an easy straight swap.
Secondly, you can Melt the butter, add the milk and then thicken with a cornflour slurry. (Cornflour mixed with water). And then add the cheese as normal. Do make sure any pre-grated cheese is gluten free as it can have added wheat to stop it sticking to itself.
Dairy Free Cauliflower Cheese: As I mentioned with my vegan suggestions, it might be better to just swerve this recipe altogether unfortunately.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above and any variations suggested have not been tested unless otherwise stated. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
This is a great recipe to make ahead of time. You can start an stop the process at a few different points during the recipe.
I like to make the cheese sauce and store it. I’ve included instructions in the recipe for how to properly store it. I do then like to cook the cauliflower, add the cheese sauce and bake it fairly quickly. This removes some of the last minute work but results in a really fresh finished dish.
You can also make the whole thing, cover and keep it in the fridge before baking at some point in the next few days. This way takes much longer to cook in the oven as everything needs to heat all the way through.
You can also make up the dish and freeze it. I do find this a little riskier as it can split when defrosted and go watery so it isn’t really my recommendation.
Leftover Cauliflower Cheese
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. I like reheat in the microwave. If I want to revive the crispy top, I may pop it in the air fryer for a few minutes once heated through.
As for how to use leftovers in a different way, there are quite a few options. Try mixing with leftover mashed potatoes and using to top a cottage or shepherds pie.
Blend it, add chicken stock and make a delicious soup. Or, my absolutely favourite thing to do is use it as a pizza sauce…honestly it is so good!
Baked Cauliflower Cheese Tips
Go slowly making the roux. Adding the milk a little at a time and not adding more until the last lot is thoroughly absorbed will result in the smoothest sauce.
Make sure you drain the cauliflower extremely well. Water left in it will leach into the sauce and make the whole thing loose and watery.
I’ve written the recipe to mix the cauliflower with most of the sauce and then pour the rest of the sauce over the top. This gives the perfect coverage so do try it if you normally just pour the sauce over the top.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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More Cheesy Recipes
Baked Cauliflower Cheese Recipe with Béchamel
- 100 g Double Gloucester Cheese
- 35 g Grated Mozzarella
- 50 g Cream Cheese
- 30 g Salted Butter
- 30 g Plain Flour (All Purpose)
- 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 375 ml Milk
- 1 tbsp Sea Salt Flakes
- 750g g Cauliflower - prepared
- 2 tsp Fine Salt
Make the Cheese Sauce
- Note – If you are intending to make and bake this straight away, skip to the preparing the cauliflower stage and then make the cheese sauce while it's boiling.
- Prepare your cheeses. I used 100g Double Gloucester Cheese, 35g Grated Mozzarella and 50g Cream Cheese. If the hard cheeses are not already grated/shredded, do this now. Set aside roughly 50g of the hard cheeses for the topping
- Add 30g Salted Butter and 30g Plain Flour to a medium saucepan. Melt the butter and store in the flour over a medium heat.
- Add 2tsp Dijon Mustard and mix to a thick paste.
- Add 375ml Milk a small amount at a time.
- Give the milk a moment to warm in the pan before beating it into the butter/flour mix.
- Keep adding more milk once each addition is fully absorbed.
- Continue until all the milk is added and the sauce is smooth and lump free.
- Add the cheeses and stir until they are all melted and fully combined, (Don’t forget to reserve some of the cheese for the topping – it is easy to add by mistake).
- Add 1tbsp Sea Salt Flakes a little at a time. Keep tasting the sauce until the seasoning is to your taste. Remember that the flavour will be mellowed slightly by the addition of the cauliflower so over rather than under season.
- If you are making the sauce in advance, pour it into an airtight container and cover with clingfilm. Make sure that the clingfilm is touching the sauce to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool and then refrigerate.
Prepare and Cook the Cauliflower
- Put a full kettle onto boil.
- Prepare a roughly 1.1kg Cauliflower by using a sharp knife to slice off the root. Remove the outer leaves as you go.
- Continue slicing (at an angle if needed) and pull of the leaves until they’re all removed.
- Use the tip of the knife to cut the rest of the root out.
- You will now see the florets from the inside.
- Use your hands to tear the florets apart from the inside. By doing this, you won’t end up with lots of debris where you’ve ended up cutting through the flowers.
- For any larger chunks, you can use the knife to cut the stalk before finishing tearing the floret apart.
- Stop once all of the florets are small and roughly of equal size. You should have ended up with around 750g Prepared Cauliflower.
- Put the florets in a medium saucepan along with 2 tsp Fine Salt and cover with boiling water from the kettle.
- Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until a the cauliflower is tender all the way through. Test this with a sharp knife.
- Once cooked, drain the water from the pan and allow the cauliflower to sit and steam dry in the pan.
Assemble & Bake the Cauliflower Cheese
- Preheat the oven to 200c fan/200c/390f.
- Pour around ¾ of the warm cheese sauce over the drained cauliflower florets.
- Gently stir until all of the cauliflower is coated in the sauce,
- Transfer the mix into the baking dish.
- Spoon over the remaining sauce, trying to keep it even.
- Sprinkle over the reserved cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes until piping hot all the way through and the top is golden.
- If you have made this in advance and cooking from room temperature, cook at a slightly lower temperature for 25-30 minutes.
- Serve hot!