This cauliflower gratin is one of my favorite side dish recipes! It’s loaded with fresh cauliflower, gruyere cheese, and a golden breadcrumb topping. Nothing is better than a vegetable bathed in a delicious butter and cheese sauce!
Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable. I love a simple roasted cauliflower recipe, but cauliflower is also delicious as a meat substitute. My kung pao cauliflower, roasted cauliflower tacos, and Indian butter cauliflower are all main dishes traditionally made with meat but with cauliflower instead! It’s a great way to adapt meat recipes to be vegetarian.
Why This Recipe Works
- Easy vegetarian side dish. Not only is this recipe delicious, it is also vegetarian! It’s a great twist on a traditional gratin and a definite upgrade to steamed vegetables.
- The cream sauce is bursting with flavor. Thanks to the gruyere and parmesan cheese, this sauce is packed with flavor! The sauce is thick, cheesy, creamy, and delicious. It’s the perfect pairing with the cauliflower.
- Par-cooked cauliflower makes the bake time less! To reduce the bake time in the oven, we boil the cauliflower for a few minutes on the stove. We get the perfect texture of cauliflower in less time 😀
- Gruyere Cheese: Not only is the flavor super delicious, but gruyere cheese is also a great melting cheese! It’s often used for fondues. The gruyere cheese in this dish is melted into the sauce adding flavor and a delicious melted cheese texture.
- Nutmeg: Nutmeg is a spice that is frequently used in cheese and cream sauces. Bechamel is another cream sauce that uses nutmeg.
- Flour: Flour acts as a base to thicken the cream sauce.
- Place the cauliflower florets in a pot of boiling water and let cook for 5 minutes. The cauliflower should be tender but still firm. Drain and transfer the cauliflower to a 2-quart baking dish.
- Make the white sauce. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Cook the flour for 1 minute then slowly stream in the milk while constantly whisking. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and stir for 1 minute until thickened.
- Stir in the freshly grated gruyere cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Remove from heat and pour the sauce over the cauliflower. Sprinkle freshly grated parmesan over the sauce then top with the breadcrumb mixture.
- To make the breadcrumb mixture, combine the panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs) with melted butter. Mix to combine and then sprinkle overtop of the cauliflower gratin prior to baking.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
Be sure to partially cook the cauliflower on the stove. Adding raw cauliflower to the baking dish will result in an overcooked crust and undercooked vegetable.
Use gluten free breadcrumbs to make a gluten free cauliflower gratin.
Use freshly grated parmesan cheese. The parmesan cheese in the plastic shaker containers you buy at the store will make the texture and flavor of this dish different.
Storing and Freezing
Storing: Store the cauliflower gratin covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Freezing: Since this dish contains dairy products, it won’t freeze well. Dairy products, when frozen and then thawed, tend to separate.
Au gratin refers to the way something is prepared and cooked — specially it is topped with breadcrumbs and cheese and browned.
A gratin is a type of cream sauce. Au gratin is when a dish is topped with breadcrumbs and cheese and browned in the oven or broiler.
Cauliflower is a great source of vitamins and minerals. It is high in fiber and in vitamin B. It can help digestion and is high in antioxidants.
More Delicious Side Dishes
- Homemade Mashed Potatoes
- Crispy Baked Potato Wedges
- Garlic Parmesan Roasted Carrots
- Easy Hasselback Potatoes
- 1 large head of cauliflower - cut into florets (will need at least 3-4 cups worth)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 1/4 cups gruyere cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons butter - melted
- 1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs - or regular breadcrumbs
- fresh parsley for garnish - optional
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook the cauliflower flowerets until tender but still firm. About 5 minutes. Drain and transfer the cauliflower to a 2 qt casserole dish.
- In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute or until you can smell a slightly nutty aroma. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, once boiling, reduce heat and continue stirring until thickened about 1 minute. Stir in the gruyere cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat.
- Pour the cheese sauce overtop of the cauliflower. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese overtop.
- To make the topping: In a small bowl combine the melted butter and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle this mixture overtop the parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
- Remove from oven, top with fresh parsley if you'd like, and serve.
This recipe was originally published on Nov. 18, 2019. It was republished on Nov. 15, 2021, to include additional information and photos.