Cauliflower Gratin is the perfect side for a weeknight dinner or for your holiday table. Tender cauliflower florets coated in a creamy cheese sauce flavored with shallots and garlic, then topped with buttered breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that are good for you but is pretty much flavorless. Now that can be a good thing because you can make it taste however you’d like by adding spices or sauces. In this case, we’re going to coat it with a delicious bechamel flavored with shallots and garlic. Doesn’t that sound good?
I’ve seen many recipes that have you boil the cauliflower in a big pot of water. The thing about cauliflower is that it’s like a sponge. If you bowl it in water, that water will be absorbed into the florets and will leach out when it’s baked. Instead of being coated with that delicious thick cheesy sauce, you get a watered down version. That water has to go somewhere right? I mean if you have all the time in the world you can dry the cauliflower and hope for the best. But, are you that person? Ya, I don’t think so.
Rather than boiling, we’re going to steam the cauliflower. Steaming the florets keeps them tender without being waterlogged. Since there’s no excess water, you’ll have a perfect sauce. All you need is a steamer insert. It’s inexpensive and you’ll actually use it. If you have one of those pan sets that comes with a steamer insert then this is your lucky day. That’s perfect.
The cauliflower is only going to be steamed for 4 - 5 minutes. That time starts when the water begins boiling, so add a minute or two when starting. The best thing to do is to check after 4 minutes and see if it’s fork tender. If it is, it’s done. Now I don’t say to use a knife to check and it really gets me when recipes say to check with a knife. I mean, come on. A knife is sharp so it’s going through don’t you think? Please use a fork. Ok, rant over let’s move on.
This bechamel sauce was taught to me by uncle Tony when I started to learn how to cook. It’s a vital recipe to keep in your files, as it creates so many flavorful dishes and is the base for creating creamy soups, casseroles, and of course, cheese sauce.
To transform a bechamel into a silky, smooth, cheese sauce, simply add grated cheese off the heat. Of course, if it’s freshly grated it will taste better. I’m a realist and realize not everyone will freshly grate cheese when opening a bag of grated cheese is so much easier. Just note that if you use the pre-grated cheese, it’s coated in stuff to prevent clumping and that stuff will take away from the sauce being silky smooth. It will still taste great, but it won’t be optimal. If you can live with that then by all means use it.
You’ll see that I add lemon juice to the sauce. You may find it strange, but it adds a little tang to the sauce and brightens it up. I swear it keeps it smooth too but I’m not going to go into the science of it all just in case it’s my imagination. Regardless, use it.
You can use cheddar, Swiss, Gruyere, Emmental, or Jarlsberg. Parmesan or Romano cheese is used for the topping along with some buttered panko breadcrumbs which gives it a nice crust.
This dish can be prepared ahead and baked when you’re ready. You can also bake it and just heat it up when you’re ready to serve. Perfect for the holidays.
My cauliflower gratin will be a hit even for those people who don't like cauliflower. My kids ate the entire pan. Now, I'm not saying this dish is healthy, I'm just saying it's good. Enjoy.
Love cauliflower gratin? Try:
For more delicious sides, try:
- Silky smooth carrot puree
- Roasted asparagus with mozzarella
- Maple butternut squash
- Salty golden smashed potatoes
- Roasted spiced sweet potatoes
- Perfect rice pilaf
- Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon
- Perfect mashed potatoes
- Roasted spiced acorn squash
Life is too short for mediocre food.
Cauliflower GratinPRINT PIN SAVESaved!
- 1 3 pound head cauliflower trimmed and cut into florets
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 large shallot diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 1 cup shredded Swiss Gruyere, Emmental, OR Jarlsberg cheese
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Romano
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter melted
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients; set aside.
- Add the florets then cover and steam until the florets are fork tender - about 4 - 5 minutes. Scoop out cauliflower and transfer into a 2 quart gratin or casserole dish.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Whisk in the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and cook for another minute or two.
- Whisk in the milk, cream, and lemon juice and continue whisking until it starts to bubble.
- Remove from heat and whisk in cheeses until no longer stringy. It should be smooth and silky.
- Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top covering all the cauliflower. You can toss it right in the dish to make sure everything is covered. I don’t worry too much about it since the sauce will spread while cooking. You could also toss and coat everything in the pan prior to adding it to the casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top.
- Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
This also reheats well.
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