Perfectly cooked cauliflower enveloped in a thick, velvety cheese sauce, topped with extra grated cheddar cheese and baked until beautifully browned – this Easy Peasy Cauliflower Cheese is quick and simple to make but will make your tastebuds very happy indeed. Perfect served as part of a roast dinner or as a vegetarian main course in its own right.
A roast dinner classic
Hands up if you just love cauliflower cheese (I have my hand up as far as it will go!) Cauliflower cheese is a wonderful classic comfort food dish – and also one of those rare unicorns of a dish that can work equally well as a side dish or as a main course in its own right.
It’s wonderful as part of a roast dinner (and is a mainstay of many Christmas dinner tables!) but it also makes a great vegetarian main course – either served with other traditional roast dinner vegetables, or served with a salad… or just a big hunk of crusty bread to mop up all that delicious cheese sauce!
A dish that can go very right (or very wrong!)
But also hands up if you have ever had a bad cauliflower cheese!?! It’s one of those dishes that can go very, very right… or very, very wrong. I’ve definitely had my fair share of bad cauliflower cheeses in my time… don’t worry, this version is the compete opposite of that!
My Easy Peasy Cauliflower Cheese features:
- Perfectly cooked cauliflower (no soggy cauliflower on my watch!)
- A thick and creamy… almost velvety sauce (no thin and watery sauce here!)
- A generous quantity of cheese sauce (no dry cauliflower cheese, thank you!)
- A good helping of cheddar cheese both in the sauce and on top (my cauliflower cheese most definitely tastes of cheese!)
- A touch of Dijon mustard in the sauce (for an extra umami pop – if you’ve never tried this trick you’ve been missing out!)
- A virtually foolproof recipe (so long as you follow it to the letter, it should turn out perfectly every time!)
A very easy recipe…
This dish is super simple to make – just steam the cauliflower and make a quick and simple cheese sauce (it’s much easier than you think and it won’t go lumpy if you follow my tips!) Then mix the two together, top with more cheese and bake in the oven for 20 minutes (or until brown on the top and just gently bubbling.)
The best cheese for cauliflower cheese
Without a doubt, the best cheese for cauliflower cheese is a well-flavoured cheddar cheese. You need a good melter, and cheddar is a very good melter, but you also want a cheese with enough sharpness to balance the slight sweetness of the cauliflower… and cheddar does that perfectly.
I recommend you go for a cheddar which is the same level of maturity as you like to eat. So, if you like a good strong mature (US – sharp) cheddar – like me, then that’s what you should use in this dish. If you prefer a milder cheddar to eat, then go with that.
Other cheeses will absolutely work in cauliflower cheese (blue cheese is also a good one!) – but for me, cheddar is hands down the best when it comes to cauliflower cheese!
Perfect cauliflower cheese secrets…
Cauliflower cheese is not difficult if you have the right recipe… Here are my top tips for the perfect cauliflower cheese:
- Steam your cauliflower (it’s less likely to go soggy / result in a watery sauce than if you boil it.)
- Steam your cauliflower until it’s almost (but not quite) done to your liking. It will cook a bit more in the oven and so achieve perfect ‘doneness’ by the time it’s baked.
- Make a decent amount of thick-ish cheese sauce (don’t be mean with the cheese sauce – especially as the amount of sauce will reduce in the oven)
- Follow the cheese sauce recipe to the letter and watch it like a hawk – this is not the moment to try and multi-task! If you give it your full attention it shouldn’t go wrong.
- Use a mature (US – sharp) cheddar cheese if you want the sauce to taste cheesy!
- Add a little Dijon mustard to your cheese sauce for an extra umami ‘pop’.
- Sprinkle a good amount of cheddar cheese on top of your cauliflower cheese for extra cheesy-ness and to ensure it will go nicely brown on top.
- Bake in a hot oven for a short amount of time (or else it is likely to dry out and the cauliflower will get overcooked and too soft) – see the recipe for temperature / timings.
- The cauliflower should fit quite snuggly in the dish you are using (or else it is likely to dry out.)
- Make plenty of it because it will be popular!!
What to serve with cauliflower cheese…
Cauliflower cheese works equally well as a main course or as a side dish. If you plan to serve cauliflower cheese as a side dish, then I recommend you serve it with a roast dinner (or as part of your Christmas dinner!) It’s wonderful with almost all roast meats (especially roast chicken, roast turkey, roast duck and roast beef.) And it also goes really well with roast salmon.
If you plan to serve cauliflower choose as a vegetarian main course, you could serve it with a simple side salad or all your favourite roast dinner vegetables… or simply a big chunk of crusty bread to mop up all that delicious cheese sauce!
What to drink with cauliflower cheese…
Cauliflower cheese goes surprisingly well with both red and white wines. If you are serving the cauliflower cheese as a side dish for roast meat or fish, then I recommend you pick something that goes with the main event. But if you are serving the cauliflower cheese as a main course in its own right, then I recommend serving it with a lightly oaked Chardonnay… something from France, Chile or California would be great here. If you prefer reds, then I recommend either a Valpolicella from Italy or a red from Bordeaux – especially a St Emilion.
Can you reheat cauliflower cheese?
Yes you can, and it will taste fine… But just be aware that it will dry out a little and the cauliflower will be a little bit softer… not a deal breaker, but definitely not as good as fresh!
Simply place any leftover cauliflower in a lidded container and refrigerate. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. To reheat, place in an oven-proof dish in an oven set to 220C (200C fan / gas mark 7 / 425F) for 15 minutes or until piping hot all the way through. (You may wish to cover the dish with foil for the first 10 minutes to prevent the cauliflower cheese from drying out too much.)
(I do not recommend reheating this in the microwave, however – it won’t be nearly as good!)
Can you freeze cauliflower cheese?
I definitely do not recommend this! Freezing will negatively affect both the consistency of the sauce AND the texture of the cauliflower (it will become much more mushy!) This is definitely a dish best eaten fresh.
If you like this recipe…
…you might also like:
Easy Peasy Cauliflower Cheese
- 1 large cauliflower (or 2 small cauliflowers), leaves and stalk removed and cut into florets
- 50 g butter
- 50 g plain flour (US – all purpose flour)
- 500 ml milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (less/none if you are not a fan of strong flavours)
- Black pepper to taste
- 100 g cheddar cheese grated (I love strong cheesy flavours, so I tend to use an extra mature one here - my favourite is Davidstow Classic Mature Cheddar. But if you prefer milder flavours, choose a milder cheddar.)
- Pre-heat your oven to 220C / 200C fan / gas mark 7 / 425F.
- Steam the cauliflower florets for 7 minutes or until almost – but not quite – done to your liking. Tip into an oven-proof dish. (The cauliflower should fit snuggly in the dish.)
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a wide saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and stir until it is mixed in fully. Continue to cook over a very low heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow it to burn!
- Add the milk VERY slowly – a little splash at a time, stirring constantly until you have a smooth sauce. If your sauce goes lumpy, use a whisk to beat out the lumps. (Keep an eye on your sauce the whole time… if you don’t, it can very quickly go wrong!)
- When you have a nice thick and velvety white sauce, turn the heat off and stir in first the mustard and the the black pepper, then 50g (1¾oz) of the grated cheddar cheese.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower in the oven-dish, then sprinkle with the remaining 50g (1¾oz) of grated cheddar cheese.
- Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until brown on top and bubbling.
- Not suitable for freezing.
- Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
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