You’re familiar with low-carb pasta dishes — you tried spaghetti squash, made zoodles with your favorite pasta sauce, and even transformed zucchini into lasagna. But a low-carb mac and cheese recipe? Do tell.
Like many low-carb pasta alternatives, low-carb mac and cheese involves substituting veggies for macaroni noodles.
In this recipe for cauliflower mac and cheese, you’ll combine roasted cauliflower with a creamy cheese sauce for a keto-friendly, gluten-free twist on this comfort food classic. But unlike the original, this dish comes with only 6 grams of net carbs per serving.
The Secret to Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
The key to making delicious mac and cheese is the sauce. For this recipe, you’ll use three different kinds of cheese — plus heavy cream — to make a thick and gooey sauce that the cauliflower can absorb.
To make the cheese sauce, you’ll need 4 ounces of both fontina and sharp cheddar cheese, plus two ounces of cream cheese. Combine the cheeses with a cup of heavy cream, paprika, salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a large pot over medium heat.
While the sauce is simmering, chop your cauliflower into florets and boil until tender. When the sauce is smooth and the cauliflower florets are cooked, combine the two into a baking dish. Set the baking dish into an oven that’s been heated to 375ºF.
While your favorite mac and cheese recipes might include a crunchy topping like potato chips and breadcrumbs, these two additions are not low-carb friendly.
If you’d like some added texture, consider crumbling bacon bits or green onion on top. Or, you can also sprinkle shredded parmesan on top for a little extra cheesy crunch.
Is Dairy Allowed on the Keto Diet?
Cheese is a common keto comfort food, and it plays a main role in this recipe.
With four forms of dairy included in this mac and cheese, you’re probably wondering, “Is dairy keto-friendly?” The simple answer is yes — with a few caveats.
Keto-Friendly Dairy Options
Dairy, like other animal products, should be of the highest quality you can reasonably afford. Select organic, grass-fed dairy products whenever possible, avoiding low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
Dairy products such as butter, heavy whipping cream, heavy cream, and ghee are high in fat and contain zero carbs, making them ideal for the ketogenic diet.
Dairy Products to Avoid on Keto
Some forms of dairy are not keto-friendly. Milk, half-and-half, and condensed milk contain moderate-to-high amounts of carbs, primarily because of the sugar content. (A glass of whole milk contains over 12 grams of carbs).
When using dairy in keto recipes — such as this low-carb cauliflower mac — avoid dairy with high lactose content. Substitute heavy cream for milk or half-and-half whenever possible, or ghee for butter if you are overly sensitive to lactose.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Cauliflower is a common ingredient in keto recipes thanks to its versatility. It’s been made into mashed potatoes, pizza crusts, and rice, and now it’s the main ingredient in this cheesy cauliflower recipe.
Here are some other health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable:
#1 It’s Loaded With Vitamins
Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C and provides over 70% of the daily value in just one cup. The human body isn’t capable of producing vitamin C itself, so it’s important you add foods into your diet that are a strong source of this immune-boosting vitamin.
Cauliflower also contains vitamin K, which helps prevent blood clotting, helps to maintain brain function, bone-building, and a healthy metabolism. Vitamin K is also known to improve bone health and keep the skeletal muscle structures healthy[*].
#2 It Could Help Lower the Risk of Cancer
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower have been shown to slow cancerous tumor growth[*]. How? Cruciferous vegetables are rich in glucosinolates, a sulfur-containing compound that has been shown to slow the growth of tumors[*].
What’s more, a high intake of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower has been shown to reduce the risk of lung and colorectal cancer, in particular[*].
#3 It Helps Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is one of the root causes for many chronic diseases. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower have an abundant source of antioxidants. These antioxidants — particularly beta-carotene, and quercetin — help to reduce oxidative stress and boost the immune system[*].
Make This Recipe Your Own
One of the best things about cooking: You change things up so your food tastes exactly how you like it.
You can follow this recipe as suggested, or you can experiment and have fun with it. Here are a few ways you can start making this cauliflower mac and cheese recipe your own:
- Use different cheeses: Add parmesan cheese on top or substitute mozzarella for the fontina.
- Add some herbs and spices: Sprinkle in a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick, or add in some keto-friendly dried dill, parsley, or black pepper.
- Make the top crispy: Sprinkle pork rinds on top instead of breadcrumbs, or add some bacon bits for a smoky, savory finish.
- Create some complexity: Incorporate a small amount of Dijon mustard into the cheese sauce for a richer, more nuanced flavor.
- Use garlic powder: After you steam the cauliflower, sprinkle some garlic powder on the small florets for added taste and nutrients.
- Use other veggies: You don’t have to just use cauliflower. Try making it a cauliflower and broccoli mac and cheese.
Even if this is your first time trying to make a keto version of a childhood favorite, have fun in the kitchen and be creative.
Enjoy Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Aside from the nutritional value of this dish, the combination of three different types of cheeses and the addition of heavy cream gives it the richest and creamiest texture.
This is the ultimate comfort food that will allow you to stay in ketosis, satisfy your pasta cravings, and provide a wide variety of nutritional benefits you can feel good about.
This cauliflower mac is ready in a total time of just 40 minutes and won’t cause a blood sugar spike like traditional recipes. Enjoy it as a side dish or top with protein for a complete meal.Print
Low-Carb Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
This baked keto cauliflower mac and cheese casserole is filled to the brim with cheesy goodness but without all the carbs.
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 3 cups 1x
- Category: Sides
- Cuisine: American
- Preheat oven to 375ºF and coat an 8×8 baking dish with butter or non stick spray.
- Cut cauliflower into small 1/2″ to 1″ pieces. Steam for 4-5 minutes until barely tender. Remove from heat and drain well. Pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
- In a small pot, combine heavy cream, cheeses, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat under medium fire until smooth. Stir well.
- Add cauliflower to cheese mixture and toss to coat.
- Pour into baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
- Serving Size: 1/2 cup
- Calories: 393
- Fat: 33g
- Carbohydrates: 10g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein: 14g
Keywords: keto cauliflower mac and cheese