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.
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).
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 Box, is still my fave.
Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese – Keto Style!
Follow these four steps, and you can’t go wrong!
- Steam the cauliflower
- Squeeze the extra water from the cauliflower
- Mix the ingredients in the pan
Healthy, Low-Carb Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe: Perfect for grain-free or low-carb/Keto diets and busy working moms!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Stir in the squeezed cauliflower and shredded cheese. Optionally put some of the cheese right on top.
- 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.
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.
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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:
Some More Great Cauliflower and Keto Recipes
- Easy BBQ Chicken in the Instant Pot (or slow cooker!)
- Instant Pot Cauli Rice
- Make Keto Easy with Wildy Organic
- Instant Pot Spicy Chicken Curry
- Italian Inspired Keto Tortillas Recipe
- Make a salad bar for dinner
- Spicy Tahini Roasted Cauliflower