Keto Cauliflower “Mac” & Cheese {Simple Dinner or Side Dish}

Looking for an easy keto side or main dish or maybe just a way to get more veggies onto your family’s dinner plates? This keto cauliflower mac and cheese recipe fits the bill. My kids literally cheer when I serve this up, and I bet yours will too. 

A close up of a plate of keto cauliflower mac and cheese

Does it still count as mac and cheese without the macaroni?

On a continent where people eat between 15.5 and 19.8 pounds of pasta per person, per year (according to the National Pasta Association), it can be mighty tough to tackle a grain-free elimination diet meal plan or a keto diet.

Pasta is a staple of multiple meals per week for the average American, and vegetables rank on the opposite end of the spectrum.

It can be like hostage negotiation to get kids to eat their vegetables, on that same continent where over 25% of kids’ daily veggie intake is actually French fries. (Does THAT really count?)

“Just open your mouth, let a bite in!” parents plead. “Try some!”

My kids, who don’t eat steamed cauliflower if they can get away with it, go back for thirds and even take it cold in their lunches.

My mother-in-law, who would embrace pasta any day, also gave it her seal of approval.

Believe me when I say that “Cauli Mac” will be a hit in your house too!

It’s the cheesy, gooey, delicious solution to both an easy keto dinner recipe and getting kids to eat their vegetables.

Searching for a Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe

Several years ago, when I Googled “cauliflower mac and cheese,” I was hoping for a grain-free recipe with cauliflower in place of the pasta.

I found plenty of recipes, and before I lost patience, I viewed dozens that included cauliflower pureed in the sauce or tossed together with the noodles, but not one that had no pasta at all (and most added breadcrumbs on top).

Huh.

Thanks to the Keto diet, there are now tons of recipes available online, but this recipe, which is the veggie-rich, pasta-free version of my mac and cheese from Better Than a Boxis still my fave.

RELATED: Check out more 30 minute dinners and this 30 minute dinner meal plan! 

Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese – Keto Style!

Follow these four steps, and you can’t go wrong!

  1. Steam the cauliflower
  2. Squeeze the extra water from the cauliflower
  3. Mix the ingredients in the pan
  4. Bake!
Print
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Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

  • Author: Katie Kimball
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 mins
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: side dish

Description

Healthy, Low-Carb Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe: Perfect for grain-free or low-carb/Keto diets and busy working moms!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 medium heads cauliflower, chopped into 1″ pieces (about 10 cups)
  • 2 c. cottage cheese (all but 1/2 c. of a 20-oz tub)
  • 1 c. sour cream (half of a 16-oz. tub)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese


ship kroger


Instructions

  1. Steam the cauliflower at least 15 minutes (10 minutes for a half batch) until it’s soft. No al dente here, because you want to be able to squeeze some water out, so you don’t have mac and cheese soup.
  2. An alternate method for those who plan ahead: Use frozen cauliflower. Thaw on the counter for at least an hour, preferably 2-3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Tip the cauliflower into a tea towel or cheesecloth and twist the top to squeeze the excess water out of the vegetables. Don’t be afraid to just squish down with all your might; breaking up the cauliflower is no big deal. It won’t turn into a puree or anything. 😉 I pressed the water out right in the zippered bag when using the freezer method.
  4. Mix the cottage cheese, sour cream, egg, and spices in a 9×13 casserole dish to save dishes. If you’d rather mix quickly, use a deep bowl or even the pot you used to steam the cauliflower. (I like to save on dishes by simply rinsing a pot from steaming veggies and flipping it over on the stove to dry, immediately.)
  5. Stir in the squeezed cauliflower and shredded cheese. Optionally put some of the cheese right on top.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes in a preheated 350F oven. (Frozen version might need 40 minutes.) Optionally broil a few minutes to brown the top cheese.

Notes

Servings: A half batch in an 8×8 dish is a perfect side dish for four people, while a 2-cauliflower batch is just right as a main dish. Make it a meal with sliced sausages on top or mix a pound of cooked ground beef into the casserole.

Frozen or Steamed? The steamed version will be as soft or softer as you allow the steamed veggies to get. In 15 minutes, they are very soft. The frozen vegetables remain a bit more “al dente” after baking, not crunchy but reminiscent of a crunch. I liked both, but as leftovers, I preferred the steamed/softer version.

What if I don’t like cottage cheese? The cottage cheese doesn’t come through in this dish other than as a “creamy” factor, especially if you bake it longer than half an hour to let everything melt together.

Read the ingredients on the dairy! Many brands of cottage cheese and sour cream have unnecessary additives. I recommend Daisy brand (milk, cream, salt, enzymes) or Aldi brand sour cream (I think their cottage cheese has other junk in it). I’m sure there are others, but they’re not always easy to find.

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Problems with Cauliflower Mac and Cheese?

Keto Cauli Mac is a great recipe, but there are a few things to look out for. The first one is a soupy or liquidy final product.

This is a fairly common problem when including veggies with a sauce in the oven, but there is a pretty simple fix – don’t skip the squeezing process!

If you squeeze the cauliflower and very little water comes out, chances are the veggies need to be steamed for a few more minutes. You can also add a little bit of salt before steaming the cauliflower to help draw out the liquid.

The second issue you might encounter is kids (or maybe even adults) who don’t want to give this a try. You can go a long way in stopping these dinner battles before they even start by understanding your child’s eating style and then encouraging you kids in ways that work for them.

Another great tip? Kids who haven’t filled up on pasta or lots of processed snacks will have a much better chance of eating – and enjoying – their veggies at dinner, especially when presented in a familiar way.

And a lotta cheese never hurts, either. Smile

4 steps to make Keto Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe
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Making Low Carb “Mac” and Cheese a Meal

Traditional mac and cheese comes to my mind as mostly a side dish, but it’s easy to make this vegetarian recipe the main component of your meal.

The protein and fat in the dairy make this recipe pretty filling on its own. How about keeping it meatless and adding a nice side salad? Some fresh garden veggies and a boost of acid from a homemade salad dressing would do wonders for balancing out the richness of the dairy in the cauli mac.

You could also add a pound of ground beef to the casserole to satisfy any meat-lovers in your house. Try adding a little Mexican flavor twist by seasoning the ground beef with some cumin and chili powder (or taco seasoning).

We like to have a super easy meal by grabbing some semi-compromise-but-not-so-bad sausages from Costco (see what else I buy there), slicing and frying them and serving like this:

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Grain free

Some More Great Cauliflower and Keto Recipes

Are you going to make Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese? Let me know what you think!

23 thoughts on “Keto Cauliflower “Mac” & Cheese {Simple Dinner or Side Dish}”

  1. In the process of baking this right now… it smells amazing and licking the spatula even tasted amazing!!! I used about 1/2 C shredded sharp white cheddar just to use it up. I know this will taste delicious especially with the cottage cheese to add a creamy texture!!! Thank you so much for all your hard work into tweeking this to be just right 🙂 Love it!

  2. Unfortunately, none of my vegetable haters went for this one, including my husband. 🙁 I liked it, which is good because I will be eating the whole pan that is left over.

  3. So thrilled to have just found your site. I am curious how you might modify this recipe for use with the Instant Pot? Just steam or use “manual” for one minute, then proceed as directed? Would it still be necessary to squeeze extra moisture out? Could you possibly do the bake time as “pot in pot” in the Ipot? Thanks for posting this recipe!

      1. I would also love to know your suggestions on how to modify this recipe for the Instant Pot, thanks!

        1. Hey kirjamm – so sorry I lost track of this question! I answered above – ultimately not sure I could do the whole thing in the IP but you could certainly steam in it. 🙂 Katie

    1. Whoops, sorry I lost track of this question! Not sure how that happened, but as far as using the IP, certainly you could steam for 1 minute and move on with the recipe (although I don’t find that that’s ANY faster – and may be slower – than just steaming in a regular pot on the stovetop). I’m really not sure if the baking part could be done in the IP. I’d worry about the cheeses not being moist enough for the pressure cooker to get to pressure, and I wouldn’t want to add any water. “Pot in pot” isn’t something I’ve experimented with yet, so sorry! 🙂 Katie

  4. Cecilia Marie Evans

    I’m planning on making this with some baked brined chicken thighs. My question is would cream cheese work instead of cottage cheese and sour cream? I’m not a fan of either and I don’t have them but I do have 8oz of cream cheese. How about greek yogurt?

    1. Hi Cecilia,
      I’m probably far too late to help your dinner but wanted to answer anyway – I think Greek yogurt can almost always replace sour cream, and I would guess cream cheese would be yummy in place of cottage cheese. It won’t be the same result, of course, but it should still be creamy and yummy! 🙂 Katie

      PS – if you tried these substitutions, I’d love to hear how it went!

  5. I’ve made this many times and we love it! For some reason I absolutely hate squeezing the water out of cauliflower, so I tried mixing all the cheese sauce ingredients in a saucepan and cooking until it was thickened and cheese was melted. Then I poured it over the veggies and mixed it up and served. Worked perfectly! You have to be ok with a few cottage cheese lumps, but if it saves me from squeezing out that cauliflower it’s a win! Faster too since you don’t have to do the extra steps of baking or squeezing the water out. Have I mentioned I hate doing that? 😉

  6. I absolutely love this recipe! It is definitely a serious contender against the pasta version of mac n cheese. We’ve recently gone grain-free so my kids still request some of our old staples, but they actually ask for cauli-mac by name (ages 3 and 6, though the toddler would ask for it too, if he could talk). I’ve made it multiple times with various accidental tweaks (forgotten sour cream, extra eggs from extra helpers, etc) and it is always delicious. It’s a good hands-on recipe for little helpers as well. Even the non-veggie eating hubby enjoys it – score!

  7. I made this tonight! I added chopped ham, fresh spinach and kale mix, and used shredded mozzarella instead of cheddar. Very yummy!

  8. Teresa Mazzarella

    Very good, simple recipe! I made mine with half the ingredients, and I used fat free everything (fat free cottage cheese, fat free greek yogurt to sub for sour cream, and fat free mozzarella). It made two good sized portions that I used for lunch.

    I think it would be creamier if I used regular cheese (cheddar would be better than mozzarella obviously :)), but still cheesy and tasty! I will definitely make this again.

  9. Thanks for the tip on squeezing out the water! My wife made a similar dish a couple of months ago and it was too soupy. I ate it for several days but squeezing the water out would have made all the difference in the world!

  10. I made this yesterday, and it was absolutely delicious ans so easy to make! I am looking forward to eating leftovers! Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

  11. Do yiu think this recipe would work if I browned the cauliflower in butter instead of steaming it?
    I love the taste of browned cauliflower… thank you!
    Diana

    1. Christine,
      Hmmm, I don’t know if the sour cream/cottage cheese mixture would freeze well – I think you’d end up with watery problems on baking. But it’s really easy to mix up, so not sure if it warrants being a freezer meal? 🙂 Katie

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