Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked Gouda

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked Gouda

I don’t know about you, but I have never been a cauliflower fan. With cauliflower being one of the “it” foods now, I have been thinking that perhaps I should reassess my standing. After due consideration and tasting assessments, I have decided that out of 56 different vegetables that I know I have eaten, cauliflower comes in around #52. Or #53. Or maybe #54. But not 55 or 56. There are vegetables that are more unpleasant.

It’s not that cauliflower tastes bad, it’s just that it doesn’t really have much of a taste at all. There is a faint hint of the familiar cruciferous vegetable taste that accompanies broccoli and Brussels sprouts, but other than that, I can’t find any flavor of interest. It is definitely not a stand alone vegetable; it needs a lot more than salt to make it interesting.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked Gouda

As for nutritive value, raw cauliflower offers 77% of the recommended daily value (DV) for vitamin C and 20% of vitamin K, has 5.3g (2%) of the total daily value of carbs, and negligible amounts of fat. Cooked cauliflower offers 46% of the DV of vitamin C and 11% of vitamin K, and the carb value drops to 1%. I have to admit those are impressive amounts of vitamin C for cauliflower, raw or cooked, and if you are on a low carb diet, cauliflower is your best friend!

I also have to admit that I have felt perplexed by the cauliflower bandwagon in the past couple of years. I don’t want to eat mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. And I don’t want to use cauliflower pizza crust in place of my regular wheat flour pizza crust. Apparently, I am a bit of a purest.

On the other hand, I am really grateful for all of the wonderful ways that cauliflower can be prepared now. Because it has such a subtle taste of its own, it can be mixed and matched with a variety of cooking methods, herbs and spices and other foods. Cauliflower has become a lot more approachable as a viable vegetable choice and no longer has to carry the stigma of having to just “eat your cauliflower because it is good for you”.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked Gouda

My recipe offering of Cauliflower Au Gratin is a mixed bag of super duper healthy and somewhat less healthy. Nutritionally it gets a B-, which I find to be acceptable in light of it being filling, highly flavorful and satisfying. The beautiful smoky flavor comes from three sources–bacon, smoked gouda and smoked paprika. Extra virgin olive oil replaces half of the butter and the base of the sauce is 1% milk, instead of the more traditional whole milk, 1/2 and 1/2 or cream. There are generous amounts of aromatics in the form of a large onion and 4 large cloves of garlic and the crunchy panko topping adds the perfect finish.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked Gouda

Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked Gouda

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Smoky and cheesy, this Cauliflower Au Gratin is highly flavorful and very satisfying.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, medium dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large (3 pound) head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups very warm milk
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped (see notes)
  • 2 cups finely grated smoked Gouda, divided
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Special Equipment: Braiser or a large deep frying pan with a lid


  1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Butter a 9- x 9-inch casserole dish, set aside.
  2. Heat a braiser or large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter; swirl pan to coat bottom of pan well. Add the onion and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the cauliflower to the onions and garlic; stir to incorporate. Sprinkle with salt, paprika, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover braiser or frying pan, lower the heat to medium low and cook until cauliflower is crisp tender, stirring as needed.
  4. Sprinkle the all-purpose flour over the vegetables. Stir lightly until the flour is well incorporated. Pour the warm milk over the vegetables. Add the bacon. Raise heat to medium. Cook and stir until sauce has thickened.
  5. Turn off heat and move pan to a cool burner. Fold in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese (reserve the remaining half cup for the topping) until melted and sauce is smooth. Pour cauliflower mixture into prepared baking dish.
  6. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the panko bread crumbs to a small bowl. Pour melted butter over the bread crumbs and toss lightly to coat well. Add the reserved 1/2 cup cheese and toss lightly. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cauliflower mixture.
  7. Bake for approximately 25 minutes until hot and bubbly and topping is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley prior to serving.


For ease, the bacon can be cooked in a microwave oven. Place several layers of paper towels on a microwave-safe plate. Place the bacon on top of the paper towels and lay another paper towel or two on top of the bacon to catch grease spatters. Cook in the microwave for 1 minute on high per slice of bacon. In microwave ovens that are under 1000 watts, the bacon will probably require a little more cooking time. Cook at 15-30 second intervals until bacon is well cooked.

This recipe can work well for a variety of vegetables; mix or match as desired for 5-6 cups of vegetables. Suggestions: carrots, broccoli, potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and/or turnips.

Inspired by Ina Garten's Cauliflower Gratin

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked GoudaBreak the rinsed cauliflower down into bite-sized florets. I had started to use my big chef’s knife, but I ended up switching to a paring knife for ease in handling.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked GoudaUse a big, fat onion and large cloves of fresh garlic. Medium dice the onion and rough dice the garlic cloves. Heat a braiser or a deep frying pan that has a lid, over medium heat until hot. Add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. Add the onions to the pan and saute for about 2 minutes. No, you don’t have to time it! Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute or so.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked GoudaGet those beautiful cauliflower florets and dump them in the pan. Tell them that you are going to bring real meaning to their lives over the next few minutes. Give them a few stirs to blend them the onions and garlic. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes over the cauliflower mixture and stir to blend evenly. Put the lid on the braiser or frying pan and lower the heat to medium low. Cook until cauliflower is crisp tender or shows slight resistance when pierced with a fork.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked GoudaThings are about to start getting really fun. Sprinkle the flour over the cauliflower mixture and fold the ingredients together until the flour is well distributed among the vegetables. Turn the heat up to medium. Pour warm milk (I warmed it in the microwave) over the cauliflower mixture. Add the bacon and stir to combine. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and move the braiser or frying pan to a cool burner.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked GoudaSprinkle the cheese over the cauliflower mixture. In the picture on the left, you can see that I added the smoked paprika along with the cheese. I had forgotten to add it earlier along with the other spices. These kinds of things happen when I’m doing too many things at once–cooking, photographing, trying to keep from touching something hot barehanded–you know, stuff like that. Anyway, Stir or fold the cheese into the cauliflower mixture. I’m warning you, all of the smoky goodness is almost unbearable. You’ll want to start picking at this au gratin right away. Try to hold yourself to two bites. That’s it; two bites. If you go to three bites, the whole dish is liable to vanish right before your glazed-over eyes.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked GoudaIf you held yourself to the two bite limit, good for you; you have enough cauliflower au gratin left to continue with the finishing touches. Transfer the au gratin to the prepared 9- x 9-inch casserole dish. Put the panko bread crumbs in a small mixing bowl. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and pour it over the bread crumbs. Toss together until well blended. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese to the bread crumbs and toss lightly. Sprinkle evenly over the au gratin. Bake at 375° F for about 25 minutes or until au gratin is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked GoudaFresh from the oven. Look at how bubbly and golden this is! Let it cool for a few minutes and then top with chopped parsley.

  Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked GoudaDig in!

 Cauliflower Au Gratin with Smoked Gouda

You may also like:

Roasted Butternut, Red Potatoes and Onions with Fresh Herbs
Roasted Butternut, Red Potatoes and Onions with Fresh Herbs
Steamed Broccoli with Cheese Sauce and Pancetta
Steamed Broccoli with Cheese Sauce and Pancetta
Smoked Gouda, Bacon, and White Truffle Butter Mac and Cheese
Smoked Gouda, Bacon, and White Truffle Butter Mac and Cheese


  1. Cordelia (DeDee) Roberts says

    This looks wonderful! I think I could “gluten-free it” with another flour and some gluten-free bread crumbs…..yucky but doable. We get Bountiful Baskets and often there is a beautiful big cauliflower head in the veggie part.

    I am curious what vegetables you dislike more than cauliflower. I used to dislike cooked green peppers (stuffed types) and eggplant, but now I tolerate c-gr-peppers and positively love properly-prepared eggplant (as in moussaka or baba ganoush)

    We made it to the SLC (West Jordan) area for the birth of our granddaughter, Naomi Jane, a couple of weeks ago and made a visit to the spice souks you recommended: 90th South by the freeway and 21st South and Redwood Road. The smells brought back so many memories……star anise, cardamom, and curries galore! Thanks for the information.

    Do you have any special eateries that you would recommend when we visit the area again?……especially ethnic? My daughter got some delicious take-out from an Indian restaurant near 90th S. and Redwood Road and it just made me realize how little we have in Northern Wyoming!! Lots of wildlife and beautiful scenery but little else….and I am down on wildlife right now since hit a deer on the freeway coming back from Billings, MT last night!!!

    Glad you are feeling better. I look forward to your recipes and commentaries as do my family members.

    Best to you all!

    • says

      Hi DeDee. It’s so nice to hear from you. Congratulations on your new granddaughter! Grandchildren are such a remarkable blessing.

      As for which vegetables I like less than cauliflower, that would be jicama (tastes like dirt to me) and radicchio (too bitter). I’m on the fence about parsnips, but that could be part psychological. An old boyfriend’s mother made me eat the first, and only, time I had dinner with his family. Despite the fact that I declined to want them, his mother put them on my plate anyway and told me to eat them. She went on to lecture me about their nutritional benefits, etc. I ate them, but was seething inside the whole time. I don’t know, maybe it had been rude on my part to decline any part of the meal, but she definitely didn’t win any points by putting them on my plate–and on all of her adult children’s plates–and making us all eat them. I’m thinking that she would have made a nightmare of a mother in-law. Lucky me to have escaped that one! hahaha

      You asked about places to eat the next time you are in the Salt Lake area. Here are a few of my favorites:
      ***The Red Iguana–this has delicious both traditional and unique Mexican foods. Be sure to ask for their mole plate before ordering your meal. They will bring you a sampler plate of all of their moles. It is SO GOOD and will help you decide what you want to order. The Red Iguana has a sister restaurant, The Red Iguana 2, which has the same menu items, but has a larger dining space. The original Red Iguana is a bit of a dive and is absolutely full of bright, colorful character. Get there at least an hour before popular lunch and dinner times in order to avoid the crowds. The waiting area is outside and there is almost always a line, rain or shine. Oh, and I almost forgot; Red Iguana was on an episode of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri!

      ***Settebello–excellent authentic Neopolitan pizza and salads. Even my Italian friends love this place. Setebellos has a large wood burning brick oven where they cook their pizzas. The pizza crusts are thin and crispy and the pizzas have a bit of a smoky taste from the fire, with the perfect amount of charring on the crust. Be sure to order a pizza per person because they are not heavily laden with toppings as American pizzas tend to be (ie Dominos and Pizza Hut). There is a gelato store right next door, so save some room for dessert!

      ***Bruges–famed for their Belgian-style waffles, frites and sandwiches. This is another quaint downtown diner. A bit pricey, but the waffles are authentic, right down to the crunchy pearl sugar scattered throughout the cooked waffle. There are tables both inside the diner and outside on the sidewalk. It’s fun to sit outside when the weather is nice in the late Spring, all through the Summer, and in the early Fall.

      ***Caputos Market and Deli–This place is actually right next door to Bruges and has Italian deli meats, all kinds of cheeses, a deli that serves soups, sandwiches, and salads, plus there is a separate restaurant with finer style dining. Caputos has their own cheese cave and makes many of their own cheeses. At the deli counter you can ask for samples of any of their meats and cheeses and learn the story or history behind each item. I like exploring the little market and always find a few food items that I simply can’t live without. The market generally has samples of their various vinegars and olive oils, so you can try them before you buy them. I learned something interesting on one of my tasting adventures: the most expensive olive oil is not necessarily the best tasting olive oil. 🙂

      ***Les Madeleines Patisserie Cafe–This place is best known for its kouing amans. Those have to be the most amazing pastries I have ever eaten! As a matter of fact, Les Madeleines became famous following an episode of Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. The Neely’s were on the that particular episode and raved about Les Madeleines’ kouing amans. The next day, my husband and I decided to drive downtown and try some for ourselves—along with about half the population of Salt Lake! We got there at 10:00 AM and were told that they were sold out and that we could put our names on the waiting list for 1:00 when the next batch would be ready. We could reserve up to four kouing amans. Things have slowed down a little bit since a few years ago, but the kouing amans are still wildly popular and it is best to call ahead to reserve them. You can now reserve up to six. lol. Oh dang! I just remembered, you guys have gluten issues. grrr. Oh well, maybe your daughter would like to know about Les Madeleines. Sorry about that.

      ***Pat’s Barbecue–good barbecue and lodes of atmosphere. It’s a little hard to find; you’ll think that you have made a wrong a turn for sure because it is located in a sort of older warehouse-ish area by the freeway. Anyway, Pat’s has some great barbecue choices. Visit their website and take a look at their home page. There is a video at the bottom of the page from when, you guessed it, Guy Fieri from “Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives” shot an episode there. I just watched it and got SO HUNGRY for the smoked meatloaf plate. If you go there for dinner, but sure to look up the closing time because Pat’s closes at 8:00 PM on some days and 9:00 PM on other days.

      So, there are a few of the local places that are unique to Salt Lake. Maybe you’ll get to visit one or more of them on your trip(s) back to SLC. Merry Christmas and thanks for leaving me a message here on the blog! ~Terri

  2. says

    I a big cauliflower fan… especially since it fits in a low carb diet. Love this au gratin! Hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday with your beautiful family. 🙂

  3. Dalila G. says

    I am one of the odd ones, I happen to enjoy eating cauliflower. 🙂
    You can cook it lots of different ways. I’m sure you’ll find one that you’ll keep going back to.
    I have made some of these recipes and looking forward to sampling the others.
    My friends are always giving me recipes so I’m not really sure where they are all from.

    Cauliflower Gratin with Endive, Mahi Mahi With Cauliflower, Sicilian Cauliflower Pasta, Watercress-Cauliflower Soup, Shepherd’s Pie, No-Bake Macaroni and Cheese, Silky Cauliflower Soup With Parmesan Crisps, Oven-Roasted Cauliflower With Turmeric and Ginger, Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli, Roasted and Pureed Cauliflower, Cauliflower With Tomatoes, Roasted Cauliflower With Capers and Chile, Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce.

    There are lots more, but I’ll stop for now. 🙂

    Have a wonderful day Terri!

    P.S. I really like seeing your step-by-step pictures, great job!

  4. Michelle L. says

    Hi, do you think this could be made ahead and heated the next day? I would like to make it for Christmas dinner but I need to do as much as possible ahead of time. Thanks!

    • says

      Hello, Michelle. My only concern with making this ahead of time is that the cauliflower may release water as it sits and make the this au gratin watery. You could do much of the prep the day before and save the actual cooking for Christmas day. Cut up the vegetables and store them in individual plastic bags or containers; measure out the spices and store them together in one bag or container; grate the cheese and store it covered or in a bag–sure sure that the cheese is stored loosely, not packed together; cook the bacon and chop it, then store it in bag. I do know that the Cauliflower Au Gratin can be made at least several hours ahead of time and reheated before serving. Allow it to cool to room temperature before covering in order to keep moisture from collecting under the cover and drip down onto the casserole.

      Best wishes on your Christmas day cooking adventure. Let me know how things turn out. ~Terri

  5. Becca Tucker says

    This worked out perfectly, since we had some gouda in the fridge that needed a little love. After mixing it all together, I was afraid that the gouda would be too strong, but it ended up just right. We loved it! The only change I made–mostly to save on dishes–was to cook the bacon in the pan before sauteing the veggies, and using some of the grease instead of the olive oil.

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