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Thanksgiving is just around the corner while I am getting ready for my spread. I thought I should share my absolute favorite “Creamy Cauliflower Gratin” for my holiday dinners.

Cheesy with a crispy layer, this cauliflower gratin is the best of both worlds! With scrumptious cheese sauce made with cream and fontina cheese, it’s a superb side dish worthy of your holiday spread.

Creamy Cauliflower Gratin

Au gratin has always been a part of our holiday dinner table. While traditionally made with potatoes I like this cauliflower version far more as this limits the carb counts as we prefer to eat a low carb diet as much as possible. And yes this cauliflower gratin will be loved by every family member kids and elders alike.

It pairs well with a glass of red wine, a cold beer, or a dry cider. Fancy enough for something like Thanksgiving dinner, you could cook this cauliflower gratin up for party. But best of all, you can just reheat it as a lazy couch dinner.

How to make Creamy Cauliflower Gratin…

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes Serves: 4

What you’ll need…

  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c fresh Italian leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Ingredients Notes

  1. Cauliflower – this recipe calls for a large head of cauliflower to produce 12-16 cups of florets. Be sure to cut them into even-sized florets of around 1.5- 2 inches in size.
  2. Cream – I use heavy cream in this recipe for an ultra rish sauce but you may also only 2% milk to keep the recipe a bit lighter.
  3. Fontina – Fontina is know for it’s melting properties and that’s perfect for a recipe like this, other alternative is Gruyere cheese which is nutty and creamy with a pungent flavor
  4. Parmesan – I prefer to load it with shredded parmesan to give it a bit of crunch and keep the fat count high as we follow borderline Keto diet but you may also use Panko instead. Because of their larger size, they really give the cauliflower gratin a crispy texture on top, you can use both parmesan and panko.
  5. Butter – I’ve used salted butter in this recipe; if you use unsalted, you may need to increase the salt a touch. (You may also use ghee)
  6. Milk – You may use ANY milk for this recipe, just make sure it’s unsweetened. Cashew milk is wonderful, almond milk keeps things light and right, for me I like cow’s milk.
  7. Flour – I have used all purpose flour in this recipe, as it is more easily available in the cabinet but you may use, gluten-free flour/ Arrowroot starch too

KETO NOTE: If you are counting your carbs and want to keep it strict keto then replace the flour with almond four. But then do not use milk, because almond flour and milk won’t thicken for some reason unknown to me. You must use cream as I have in this recipe. And use almond milk instead of cow milk.

What you need to do to make Creamy Cauliflower Gratin…

Creamy Cauliflower Gratin recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a large casserole dish with olive oil. 
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Par-boil the cauliflower for 3 minutes. Drain and return to the warm pot to let the steam dry some of the moisture from the cauliflower. Gently pat dry to remove any remaining moisture.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. This removes the raw taste from the flour. 
  4. Slowly pour in the milk and heavy cream and continue cooking 2-3 minutes or until the mixture thickens. 
  5. Turn off the heat and add fontina. Stir until the cheese is fully melted. 
  6. Place the cauliflower florets in the prepared casserole dish. Pour the fontina béchamel all over the cauliflower. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and place in oven to bake 20 minutes or until nicely browned and bubbly on top.
  7. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Enjoy!

Making it ahead

The great news is that you can do most of the work ahead of time for this recipe! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Steam the cauliflower, make the cheese sauce/fontina béchamel and add the shredded cheese.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  3. Remove from the fridge, uncover and let it stand at room temperature as the oven heats.
  4. Add the Panko and bake as directed in the recipe card; you may need to add a few extra minutes if placing in the oven from cold.

Ingredient Modifications

I personally love this combo that I have shown above, however if you want to add in some other flavors to the cheese sauce, here are some options:

  • nutmeg– gives it a slightly nutty flavor but be careful as a little goes a really long way and you don’t want to overpower the other flavors; do not exceed ⅛ of a teaspoon
  • thyme leaves– add 2 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried
  • sage– add some fresh sage leaves to the cheese sauce to infuse with flavor, pull them out before pouring over the cauliflower
  • broccoli– consider using a mix of broccoli and cauliflower, even Brussels sprouts can be used.
  • You can add chopped mushrooms for additional savory umami goodness.
  • You can sub your fave dairy free cheese and coconut cream to make this dairy free, it will still taste fantastic!
  • To mimic the look of scalloped potatoes, you are welcome to slice each cauliflower floret thinly on the vertical and lay in the pan in a scalloped pattern. But I’ve found cauliflower to crumble apart easily, so feel free to just chop into pieces and proceed with the recipe accordingly.
  • You can use Gruyere cheese instead of Fontina the results will be the same.

To be honest with you, making this dish with cauliflower is so much easier than making it with potatoes, and as such using cauliflower, it doesn’t have to be a holiday side dish. You can make it weeknights to go with any meat, preferably steak. The fam will think you’re a rockstar chef. It might have something to do with the copious amounts of cheese and cream.

[Recipe card – Use this to print the recipe]

Yield: Serves: 4

Creamy Cauliflower Gratin

Creamy Cauliflower Gratin

Decadent holiday-worthy side dish lot lower in carbs than a traditional au gratin.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 t. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 c fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c fresh Italian leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a large casserole dish with olive oil.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Par-boil the cauliflower for 3 minutes. Drain and return to the warm pot to let the steam dry some of the moisture from the cauliflower. Gently pat dry to remove any remaining moisture.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. This removes the raw taste from the flour.
  4. Slowly pour in the milk and heavy cream and continue cooking 2-3 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
  5. Turn off the heat and add fontina. Stir until the cheese is fully melted.
  6. Place the cauliflower florets in the prepared casserole dish. Pour the fontina béchamel all over the cauliflower. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and place in oven to bake 20 minutes or until nicely browned and bubble on top.
  7. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Enjoy!

Notes

Storage

Cool the gratin completely, and portion out into an air tight container. Store in the fridge; gratin is best consumed within 48 hours of cooking

Prepping ahead

  1. If you'd like to get a head start on the gratin, you may prep through step 4 of 'assembly'.
  2. Cover and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
  3. Let the casserole sit at room temperature while you bring the oven to 425°F. S

Half batch

You can cut this recipe in half and cook in a square 9 inch pan; the cheese sauce will thicken much faster so keep an eye on it!

Bake for the same amount of time.

Modifications

nutmeg– add ⅛ of a teaspoon to the cheese sauce (do not exceed)

thyme leaves– add 2 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried

sage– add 8-10 fresh sage leaves to the cheese sauce to infuse with flavor, pull them out before pouring over the cauliflower

panko– use panko over your casserole before baking for even more crispier results.

broccoli– consider using a mix of broccoli and cauliflower

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 466Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 792mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 23g

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