Roasted Cauliflower Gratin

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin on #healthy #comfort #food #recipe

You know those crispy bits of tasty baked cheese or sauce left around the edge of a casserole? We fight over them in my family. Who can resist scraping up that last bit of crunchy goodness? The French actually have a word for it – gratin. It was originally derived from another French word, the verb “gratter” meaning “to scrape.” In 16th century France, the bits were scraped (graté) from the pan so that no amount of food was wasted. The term “le gratin” has also been used in France as a unique term describing the “upper crust” of society.

Since the 19th century, the meaning of the word has changed somewhat. Now we associate gratin or au gratin with dishes that have a crispy, baked top layer. This is usually created by placing the dish under direct heat. In the past, the cooking tool used for achieving a brown, crisp crust was called a salamander. The salamander, a rod with an attached iron disc, was heated in coals. When the disc became red hot, it was passed back and forth over the top of the dish until the top layer was brown and crisp. Nowadays we can achieve a similar result with the help of a broiler.

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin on #healthy #comfort #food #recipe

An antique Parisian salamander, ca. 1920

Cheese or breadcrumbs are often thought to be an essential component of gratin dishes. While they certainly help to create the desired top layer, one of the original gratin dishes, the gratin dauphinois, was made simply with thinly sliced potatoes and heavy cream and baked in a pan rubbed with butter and garlic. The dish is native to the former Dauphiné region of France, the same area responsible for creating the puff-like dauphine potatoes or “pommes dauphine.”

Gratins aren’t limited to potatoes; they can be made with anything from pasta to asparagus. And they don’t always have to be served as a savory dish. When prepared with fruit and cream and topped with sugar, a delicious crispy dessert can be made. Just like torching the sugar on top of a crème brulée, the broiler will melt and harden sugar on top of your gratin.

Gratins have been around for a few centuries, and most of us have tried them in some form. What makes the dish so fun is that it has very little restrictions in terms of ingredients. It can be re-invented over and over. Simply choose any of your favorite vegetables or fruits, add butter or cream, and turn up the heat. Or, you can make it with roasted cauliflower and cheese sauce, like I did!

I created this Roasted Cauliflower Gratin over the weekend. I’ve been on a roasted cauliflower kick lately—roasting the veggie caramelizes it, giving it a sweet and smoky flavor. I blame The Pioneer Woman and the mouthwatering Cauliflower Soup that she posted earlier this week for getting me into a cauliflower frame of mind. On Sunday I was in the mood for macaroni and cheese, but I wanted something healthier—something I could indulge in without feeling super guilty. I roasted up some cauliflower, then thought about topping it with grated cheddar cheese. I suddenly remembered a potato gratin my mom used to make for Thanksgiving—cheesy potatoes with rich cheese sauce and a brown, crispy top. Totally decadent. I started with her gratin sauce recipe and modified it a bit. Then I put the roasted cauliflower into a small baking dish, topped it with breadcrumbs (I used panko, but any type of crumbs will do), and baked it. I broiled it for the last minute or two to brown the top.

The result? Cheesy, creamy, amazing. The cheese sauce was perfection, the browned crumbly top created a lovely texture and crunch. The secret here is roasting the cauliflower, which gives it so much flavor. That, combined with the cheese sauce, makes for one heck of a delicious recipe—and the best part is, it’s much lighter than gratins made with heavy cream. Plus, you’ve got the added benefit of this being a vegetable dish, which takes some of the guilt out of indulging in all this cheesy deliciousness.

I also posted a tested gluten free modification below, I tried it out and it works great. Enjoy!

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Roasted Cauliflower Gratin on #healthy #comfort #food #recipe

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin


  • 2 1/2 lbs cauliflower florets (about one large 3 lb cauliflower head)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups lowfat milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tightly packed
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs (I used Panko)

Gluten Free/Passover Modification Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp potato starch
  • 3 tbsp parmesan cheese

You will also need

  • 2 qt gratin dish or 8x8 inch square baking dish
Servings: 6
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Gluten Free/Passover Modification: Substitute 1 tbsp potato starch for flour, substitute 3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese for breadcrumbs
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread out the florets on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat (I usually use clean hands to make sure the cauliflower is evenly coated). Place them in the oven to roast for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, stir the florets with a wooden spoon. Return to the oven and roast for about 15 minutes longer till the edges brown/caramelize and the cauliflower is tender.
  • While the cauliflower roasts, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper. Stir to form a thick paste.
  • Slowly whisk in the milk, ¼ cup at a time. Heat the milk mixture over medium heat for a few minutes, whisking frequently, till it thickens and begins to bubble around the edges. Do not let the sauce boil.
  • Whisk in the grated cheddar cheese and stir till melted. Reduce heat to lowest setting, stirring frequently, until ready to assemble the gratin.
  • Remove roasted cauliflower florets from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Place the roasted florets in an even layer in a 2 qt gratin dish or 8x8 inch baking dish.
  • Pour the cheese sauce evenly across the top of the cauliflower florets.
  • Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly across the top of the cheese sauce.
  • Place the assembled gratin into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes till edges begin to brown and the cheese sauce is bubbly.
  • Remove the gratin from the oven and turn on your broiler. When broiler is hot, place the gratin back in the oven and let it brown under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, watching it carefully, till the top is browned to your liking.
  • Serve hot. If you're like to try a spicy modification on this recipe, substitute cayenne pepper for the black pepper, and add another pinch of cayenne to the sauce.

Research Sources

Davidson, Alan (1999). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press, USA.

Herbst, Ron and Sharon Tyler (2009). The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion. Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, NY.

Saint-Ange, Madame E. (1927). La Bonne Cuisine. Translation copyright 2005, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.

Comments (97)Post a Comment

    1. Hey Amanda! Yes this is a great Shabbat dish, and it reheats very well. Just pop it in the oven at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes or so till heated through. You can also microwave it to reheat. Enjoy!

  1. How do you do that!!! How do you seem to know what is going to be in my Organic Veggie Coop bags!!! This time… four heads of cauliflower! rofl… Guess what I am making tonight.

  2. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    This looks amazing! Can’t believe I never thought of this one on my own. I will be making this very soon – perhaps with salmon and asparagus…

  3. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Shiksa, It’s so great to see one of your recipes at another site. I’m going to try this w/ broccoli instead. Hope all is well w/ you and yours, Tracy

  4. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    So many great things to do w/ cauliflower. Just roasted then a mixture of lemon juice, hot pepper flakes and olive oil stirred onto it is great. It makes a nice kugel w/ an almond-herb crust or cooked well, pureed, then shredded cheddar+sour cream or ricotta+grated parm stirred in. Yummm…

  5. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    im first gen. american of British parents that came to America after WWII …Cauliflower Au gratin was a staple in my home as a child it was a common side with the sunday roast and was eaten thru the week as a leftover… favorite was with a sunny up fried egg and a dash of hot sauce on toast for breakfast…..
    a great alternative to the Cauliflower is to use Leeks instead of roasting them off saute them til just starting to brown up i also like to add Cottage Cheese and Feta to the sauce mix for a bit of extra cheesyness….

  6. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori – so neat to see that antique salamander. The only ones I’ve ever seen are the modern type, in restaurant kitchens.

    I was roasting cauliflower this week too.
    Your dish sounds delicious (as always).

    1. Kosher_girl, absolutely– but you won’t be able to roast the cauliflower. Roasting frozen vegetables can turn them into a mushy disaster because they have too much moisture in them. Instead, skip the roasting step. Steam the frozen cauliflower on the stovetop till just tender, but not soft (tender-crisp). Then proceed with the recipe by placing the cauliflower into the gratin or baking dish and covering with sauce. Good luck!

  7. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This looks amazing. Do you think it would be as tasty if I roasted the cauliflower ahead of time? Would it work to make the sauce too, ahead of time, and then assemble right before guests arrive? I would like to prep as much in advance as possible.

    1. Hi Sarah, you can definitely roast the cauliflower ahead of time, but I would make the sauce just before you assemble it… it’s the type of sauce that will get thick and lumpy if you make it ahead. It only takes a few minutes to make the sauce, it’s super easy. Good luck! Let me know how you like it. :)

  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi, I am new to your site and love it! I love cauliflower as well and I do mine a little different, this comes from my father who is a Hungarian Jew. I put the slightly cooked CF in a baking dish and smother it in butter, sour cream (or yogurt/kefir if you are trying to be healthy) and the top it with bread crumbs then I bake it till the top gets brown. It is amazing and so not healthy but very addictive!!!

  9. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I just made this recipe, and it was so yummy that my husband actually had to push the dish away so that he would stop eating it! The only change I made was to separately roast a pint of grape tomatoes, mixing them in with the roasted cauliflower right before adding the cheese sauce. Between the golden top and the red tomatoes, it was a very pretty dish.

    1. Not silly at all, in fact I appreciate that you noticed! A lot of research goes into these historical posts, and I always site my sources in case readers want to learn more on their own. It’s always best to give credit where credit is due. :)

  10. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    ROASTED CAULIFLOWER GRATIN—- I have a family reunion shortly & plan to take this yummy recipe. . In order to save time, is it possible to roast & brown the cauliflower the day before, chill it over night for safety,then make the roux & finish it the next day? I need to get as much done the day before as possible. Thanks for any help…

    1. Hi Patricia– yes, you can definitely roast the cauliflower ahead of time. The gratin may take slightly longer to bake through if the cauliflower is chilled straight from the fridge.

  11. Made this for Shabbat dinner tonight – FABULOUS main dish! I think this does an even better job than baked mac and cheese for the ooey gooey cheesy factor…everyone was very impressed. Thanks so much for posting this – it warmed us all up on this chilly Alaskan evening!

  12. My Granddaughter Karla made this for Thanksgiving. I was so impressed with the dish I begged her for the recipe.She added broccoli . I plan to try it today.
    Thanks Karla. nana

  13. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    What a delicious recipe! I’m so glad I found it while searching for a wintery cauliflower recipe! I did make a couple changes that I think put it over the top: I added some roasted grape tomatoes (as one reviewer suggested, more just to use up some I had in the fridge) and then the real kicker was some mushrooms sauted in butter — so delicious. Thanks Karla!

  14. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Just made this tonight for my family and it went over really well.I had been serving it roasted for a while but the kids were getting bored with it that way so this was a great way to get them eating cauliflower again. They loved it and so did I!Thank you!

  15. This is by far the best cauliflower recipe I’ve ever made. I do not like cauliflower but thought i would give this a try because I am doing low-carb. OMG. This is so good. I will make this again and again.

  16. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I just made this and actually it’s the first time I’ve even bought a head of cauliflower (hence me going on line and finding this recipe). I didn’t have quite enough so I added some broccoli and I used cayenne pepper. OH MY GOODNESS! This is soooo delicious and I actually think it’s better the next day. Bye bye mac n cheese. This is the ultimate comfort food dish and was very easy to make. Thanks!

  17. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Just made this…wow!! Never had such delicious cauliflower. I stumbled on your site via the tutorial on how to shred cabbage. So many great recipes! Because I am a garlic lover I added two cloves to the cheese sauce and it pumped up the already great flavor.

    Next up I am going to try the cheese stuffed red peppers and your shakshuka. Thanks for posting!

  18. Thank you! My pickiest boy ate this with out me begging!!!! I’ve added this to my Zip List and plan to make it again and again!

  19. It’s in the oven now! I needed no grain, so I modified a little by adding less milk, some cream and no flour. And a touch of nutmeg. Thank you for the recipe!!!

  20. I found a really nice cauliflower, and used half for another recipe. I just found this recipe and decided to use the other half of the cauliflower. I used to make this all the time many years ago. I hadn’t bought real cows milk for a long time, I’ve been using soy for years. I bought some full fat organic cow milk specially. I made the recipe using half the ingredients, and it came out so good, I scoffed the lot myself! Thanks for the recipe, I’ll definately be making it again.

    1. Hey Amber! I’ve never tried it with almond milk. I think it should be fine subbing the same amount, though almond milk is a bit thinner than lowfat. You might try starting with 1 cup of almond milk, making the sauce, and adding an additional 1/4 if needed for texture. It should be creamy and thick, but pourable (see recipe pics for the proper texture). Let me know how you like it!

  21. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This is absolutely delicious, my family love it, even if you don’t like cauliflower you will love this recipe. Thanks Tori

    1. Hi Nichele– what is the source? Is it your personal recipe, or does it come from another blog or a cookbook? If it’s from a blog please post the link! If it’s your own please feel free to share. Cookbooks are protected by copyright but let us know the source so we can check it out! :)

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