A recipe dropped into my in-box recently, just begging for investigation.  It looked like a way to combine cauliflower and cheese that didn’t result in a watery mess (and not a lick of Cheez Whiz anywhere).  Not quite a quiche, not quite some kind of weird soufflé, it looked like it had great scope for a one-dish dinner, with wiggle room for flavor variations.  And I needed another recipe for the next Cauliflower Class at the school.

Just about everyone can remember watery, soft-to-slushy boiled cauliflower alongside the Sunday roast.  Ick.  The whole house smelled of sulphur.  In my enlightened family, my mom let us eat caluiflower raw, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be eaten any other way.  It was still sulphury, but you could dip it in something salty and creamy (like Cheez Whiz or Ranch Dressing) to make it palatable.  I don’t think I was ever able to convince my kids – in fact I don’t even remember trying.

I read a good article (Cook’s Illustrated, of course ) that explained how the unpleasant compounds in cauliflower (they called them “grassy” – I call them “gassy”) tend to disappear if it’s cooked for 30 minutes, leaving the sweet, nutty flavors intact.  In light of this information, now I understand the suggestion that cooked cauliflower puree could be added to other casseroles to increase the vegetable content without adversely affecting the flavor. The combination of steaming and baking in this little casserole results in a dish that even a die-hard cauliflower hater might appreciate.

Leery of cauliflower memories past, I started testing with a Tex-Mex flavor profile.  It turned out quite successfully, meeting the tasting approval a professed non-cauliflower-eating (but Dorito-loving) volunteer (thanks, Anne!).  I thought the texture was a tad heavy, so I went a little lateral when testing the gluten-free version, using my blender and adding a couple of tablespoons of milk, along with old cheddar cheese.  To my great delight, the second attempt was even tastier than the first – a low-carb version of macaroni and cheese, with a nice crunchy top and an almost creamy interior.

Here’s my recipe.  It dances back and forth between the two attempts, so please indulge me with your patience, and then try this out – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Cauliflower Cheese Casserole

This is a great toaster-oven recipe.  You can do multiples if you need to feed more folks than just you – it would make a nice side-dish.  Next time I’m adding some spinach to round out the color palate.  Because cauliflower is the new kale, I didn’t feel compelled to add it to the mixture.


  • 1 cup fairly finely chopped cooked cauliflower*
  • One good-sized shallot, finely chopped (or use onion), about 3 Tbsp
  • 2 tsp olive oil or butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp flour (Gluten free works very well)
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Pinch black pepper
No weird ingredients in this recipe.
  • Flavoring ingredients of choice (Tex-Mex option:  ¼ tsp each dried oregano, cumin, chives, or to taste.  Cheddar option:  Squirt of mustard (your choice of kind), dash of hot sauce, chives or green onions)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (more or less), divided (Pepper Jack for Tex-Mex; otherwise Cheddar, or any strongly-flavored cheese – if you use Parmesan or blue cheese, you could use about half a cup.  Romano? Smoked Gouda?)
  • Crunchy Crumbs, about a tablespoon and a half or so… (Dorito chips for Tex-Mex, Ritz for Cheddar – you could use Panko or anything else that you have in your pantry)

Just a side note about the cauliflower — The original recipe suggested you grate the cauliflower and microwave it until tender, and I’m sure you could do just that.  I simply rough-chopped some fresh cauliflower, microwave-steamed it until tender (8 minutes full power), chopped it a bit more and it was good to go.  If you were using frozen cauliflower, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t, thaw it, chop it, and drain it a little.  I thought the cauliflower had to be really dry, but I was wrong.

Measure after chopping.

Really fresh cauliflower is a thing of beauty, but a whole head can be pretty daunting to the solo diner. Sometimes I am lucky, and the store will be selling halves.  Consider sharing with a friend.  This photo, with the lovely morning sunlight, shows a small whole head weighing about 13 ounces, or 375gm. I made two casseroles from it.


Sweat the shallots in oil or butter until soft and translucent.  You can do this in a small frying pan, or in the microwave (covered with a paper towel to prevent the shallots from jumping all over the place:  one minute, stir, one minute more on half power).

The “Make it by Hand” method:  Combine the egg, flour, milk and seasoning in a bowl, whisking until smooth.  Tip in the onions, cauliflower and about two-thirds of the cheese, stirring to combine.

The “Blender” Method:  Blend the cauliflower with the egg and milk, (and mustard and hot sauce, if using) processing until the cauliflower is finely chopped.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt, pulsing to combine.  Stir in the onions and 2/3 of the cheese by hand. 

Pour into a lightly greased small casserole or a good-sized ovenproof soup bowl, smoothing the top.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese, and crumbs.

Bake at 350°F until puffed and set, 20 to 30 minutes depending on the depth of the baking dish.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before diving in.

The Tex-Mex was tasty, but the Cheddar was my personal favorite.  Normally, I wouldn’t list cauliflower among the vegetables I actively seek out, but this casserole changed my mind.

Choose the cheese you love, and give it a whirl!

This casserole re-heats very well in the microwave (on half power), so you could make some for the freezer (maybe in silicone muffin cups, eh?).  Use some of that cauliflower to make the soup I blogged about – it freezes well too.