This Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower is the perfect easy veggie-loaded comfort meal! Coming together in just 15 minutes, this homemade mac and cheese is loaded with 1.5 cups of riced cauliflower that almost disappears into the easy homemade cheese sauce and requires no blending. Made in one pot, naturally vegetarian, and easily gluten free!

A wooden spoon holding up a scoop of cauliflower mac & cheese over the pot.

I do what I do for you, TNNers. And this recipe is an example of that!

After sharing my beloved Spinach Mac & Cheese on Instagram, I had a reader reach out to me.

“Can you make a veggie-loaded mac & cheese that looks like regular mac & cheese? I love the idea of adding veggies and my kids are on board with trying new things, but they can’t get past the green color. Help!”

From that reader request comes this easy peasy, but oh-so delicious and creamy homemade Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower. I used a cup and a half of frozen riced cauliflower that I cooked WITH the pasta to make this recipe simple, quick, and one pot. Because the cauliflower is so small, I find that it almost melts into the easy homemade cheese sauce without any blending required. Since it takes just 15 minutes, it is the perfect veggie-loaded dinner to make for the family when you need an easy win but not a lot of time. It is also vegetarian, can easily be gluten free and is a delicious way to help your family eat more veggies….even if they aren’t ready for all the green smoothies, muffins and mac quite yet.

Ingredients for cauliflower mac and cheese in bowls on a table before cooking.

How to make the cauliflower mac & cheese: step-by-step visual guide

Pasta and riced cauliflower in a pot of water
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and riced cauliflower to the water and cook according to pasta’s package directions. If your pasta needs to cook for longer than 5 minutes, add the riced cauliflower to the pot for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Cooked elbow pasta and riced cauliflower in a strainer.
Once cooked, drain cooked pasta and cauliflower in a colander that has small holes. This is so that the rice cauliflower does not slip through the hole. Set cooked pasta and riced cauliflower aside.
Butter being melted in a large white pot
Place the empty pot back on the stove. Add the butter to the pot and melt over medium heat.
Flour in a pot with melted butter.
Once melted, add in the flour.
A wooden spoon stirring together flour and butter together in a pot into a roux.
Cook for 30 seconds, while stirring.
Milk being poured into a large white pot with a flour roux.
Slowly pour the milk into the pot…
Milk and roux being whisked together in a large white pot.
…while whisking to prevent lumps.
Grated white cheddar , salt and garlic powder in a pot with milk roux mixture with a wooden spoon.
Bring the pot up to a simmer to thicken, then stir in the grated cheese, garlic powder, and salt.
Cheese sauce stirred together in a a pot with a wooden spoon.
Stir until cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth and thick.
Cooked pasta and riced cauliflower in a white pot with cheese sauce and wooden spoon.
Turn off the heat. Add the cooked pasta and riced cauliflower to the pot and stir until pasta is fully coated with the sauce. Taste and add more salt or cheese as needed.

What kind of pasta should I use for this mac and cheese?

You can make this with any kind of pasta you want—whole wheat, gluten free, or bean-based. Just make sure to cook according to the package instructions and then add the riced cauliflower for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Can I use cauliflower florets instead of riced cauliflower in this recipe?

I haven’t tested this mac and cheese recipe with florets, but you likely could do it. If your family doesn’t mind larger chunks of cauliflower in their mac, then simply use about 2 cups of small-sized cauliflower florets in place of the riced cauliflower….cooking with the pasta as instructed until fork tender. If you would like to use florets but would like the cauliflower to be less obvious, simply cook the cauliflower until fork tender and then add to a blender with the milk. Blend until smooth and then use the cauliflower milk mixture to make the cheese sauce.

A pot of cauliflower mac and cheese with a wooden spoon in it.

Suggested Adaptations

  • Make it gluten free by using your favorite gluten free pasta.
  • Adjust the amount of cauliflower to fit your needs. Start with half the amount of riced cauliflower and then work your way up to using more if you feel that will be best for you and/or your family. Or, up it to 2 cups of riced cauliflower if you are super jazzed about veggie-loaded mac and cheese and think your family will be open to it.
  • Add more cheese. If you like a super cheesy mac and cheese, toss in more grated cheddar to make this veggie-loaded meal something you will love a little extra.

Other veggie-packed pasta recipes to try

Did you try this veggie-loaded mac and cheese recipe and now you’re hungry for more? 

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Two bowls of cauliflower mac and cheese on a table with a little chopped parsley on top. One bowl has a fork in it.
5 from 5 votes

15-Minute Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower Rice

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Cuisine: American
Course: Main Course
This Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower is the perfect easy veggie-loaded comfort meal! Coming together in just 15 minutes, this homemade mac and cheese is loaded with 1.5 cups of riced cauliflower that almost disappears into the easy homemade cheese sauce and requires no blending. Made in one pot, naturally vegetarian, and easily gluten free!

Ingredients
 

  • 8 ounces small shaped pasta, ½ pound. I used whole wheat.
  • cups frozen rice cauliflower
  • 1 cup milk, I used 2%, but whole or fat free will also work.
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and rice cauliflower to the water and cook according to pasta's package directions. If your pasta needs to cook for longer than 5 minutes, add the riced cauliflower to the pot for the last 5 minutes.
    Once cooked, drain cooked pasta and cauliflower in a fine strainer colander and set aside.
  • Place the empty pot back on the stove. Add the butter to the pot and melt over medium heat. Once melted, add in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, while stirring.
  • Grab a whisk and slowly pour the milk into the pot while whisking to prevent lumps.
  • Bring the pot up to a simmer to thicken, then stir in the grated cheese, garlic powder, and salt. Stir until cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth and thick.
  • Turn off the heat. Add the cooked pasta and riced cauliflower to the pot and stir until pasta is fully coated with the sauce. Taste and add more salt or cheese as needed.
  • Enjoy warm or let leftovers cool and store in an air-tight container in your fridge for up to 4 days.
Serving: 1.5cups, Calories: 388kcal, Carbohydrates: 50g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 40mg, Sodium: 524mg, Potassium: 307mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 2924IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 322mg, Iron: 3mg