Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping

Mac and cheese gets a healthy makeover with pureed cauliflower, tangy yogurt and crispy panko. This is comfort food you can feel good about enjoying regularly!
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Panko Topping - The Lemon BowlThe only thing more comforting than a bowl of creamy mac and cheese is a bowl of creamy mac and cheese that won’t land on your hips. Don’t worry, where this dish lacks in fat and calories it far than makes up for in flavor. My secret? An entire head of cauliflower is steamed then pureed with tangy dijon, fresh garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano and extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Before you ask, let me calm your fears: no, you do not taste the cauliflower. Trust me, my husband would have been the first to tell me. In fact, he doesn’t even like mac and cheese but he loved this version.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese - The Lemon BowlBy using whole wheat shells, the dish gets an added dose or protein and fiber that will help keep you satisfied on a smaller portion. In fact, with over 14 grams of protein per serving this pasta would be a perfect meatless entree served with a side salad.

Your fork is waiting.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Panko Topping
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Mac and cheese gets a healthy makeover with pureed cauliflower, tangy yogurt and crispy panko. This is comfort food you can feel good about enjoying regularly!
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 6
  • 4 cups cooked whole wheat pasta shells (or short pasta of choice)
  • 1 head cauliflower - cut into florets
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2.5 ounces sharp cheddar
  • 1 clove garlic - grated
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Steam cauliflower until tender, about 8-10 minutes then remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Whisk together milk and flour in a sauce pot over medium heat until mixture starts to thicken, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add grated cheddar, garlic, dijon, nutmeg, salt and cayenne and whisk until cheese is melted. Stir in the steamed cauliflower and yogurt then puree until smooth with an immersion blender or pulse until smooth in a blender or food processor.
  5. Add noodles and check for seasoning before pouring into a casserole baking dish.
  6. In a small bowl, mix together panko, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the noodles then bake for 15-20 minutes or until topping turns golden brown.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cup Calories: 300 Fat: 7.8 g Saturated fat: 2.8 g Unsaturated fat: 5 g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 42.5 g Sugar: 8.5 g Sodium: 464 mg Fiber: 5.3 g Protein: 14.6 g Cholesterol: 16 mg

Want more?? Check out the INCREDIBLE list of food bloggers participating in Mac and Cheese Mania at Rachel Cooks and Nutmeg Nanny sponsored by Door to Door Organics and OXO – Win prizes!

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  1. says

    You can’t taste the cauliflower?! Maybe I need to try this version, then. :) Or do you suppose the mustard plays a part in hiding the taste? I can’t do mustard. I have something of an, um, mustard phobia. I don’t even want it in my fridge! 😉

  2. says

    Yes Please!!! That sounds incredible! I love stuff with a crunch, so this makes mac and cheese even better!! I think I may make that this week. As I am in my intense part of my training for the half marathon, running 75 miles a week, I need to keep my carbs up, but I can enjoy some delicious meals. This is coming to my belly very soon!!! Thanks!

  3. says

    I have been in LOVE with cauliflower sauce lately. It’s so smooth and creamy. Cannot get enough! Thank you so much for helping us kick off the event, you’re the best!

  4. says

    I am always up for healthifying my favorite comfort foods! This way it’s like a double win when you eat it…you satisfy your cravings WITHOUT breaking the calorie bank. I bet I could fool the.boy with this creamy cauliflower sauce!

  5. says

    One of my favorite ways to serve cauliflower is just by topping it with a cheese and mustard mixture…so I thought this sounded great. But you say you can’t even taste it? Am I the only one just a bit disappointed; I actually LIKE cauliflower! Still it seems to be taking the place of other higher caloric foods all over the place. I’m good with that! :)

  6. says

    Made this for dinner tonight. It took our leftover pork tenderloin to new heights! The sauce was wonderfully creamy and the addition of the mustard and nutmeg gave great flaver. The panko, Parmesan crumbs were delicious!
    Thanks! Found you through Pinterest.

  7. Judie says

    Hubby and I both need low sodium. How would this be without adding the sea salt? or any salt? Any other suggetions for lowering the sodium content? Love the cauliflower and would love to try this. Please help!! Thanks.

    • says

      Your best bet to lower the sodium would be to pick a lower sodium cheese or to skip the sea salt. The flavor will be lacking, however, especially if you’re looking to mimic the classic flavor of mac and cheese.

  8. Susan says

    I love mac & cheese, and it’s nice that this one has a veggie in it, so the meal is complete. If you are like me and want more protein, you can use Barilla Plus pasta, which is a high protein version.


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