Whole Cauliflower with Homemade Cheese Sauce ♥
How to Cook a Whole Head of Cauliflower

Whole Cauliflower with Homemade Cheese Sauce | low carb & Weight Watchers PointsPlus 3 | A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 How to cook a whole head of cauliflower, it's surprisingly unfussy! I like to drape mine in homemade cheese sauce, it makes for dramatic presentation, yes? graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated & republished for a little weekend cooking inspiration 2015~
~more recently updated recipes~

2010: The sheer beauty of the vegetables arriving in the markets — that would be arriving from California and Mexico; that would be arriving in supermarkets, given that I write from Missouri, where gardeners worry whether there's still time to get cool-weather lettuces, peas too, into soggy gardens — some times stops me in my tracks. If I close my eyes, I can conjure them again, even many weeks later. Last winter, purple-topped turnips glistened in the mist. (Does your supermarket announce the start of the produce misters with a lively rendition of "Singin' in the Rain"? Mine does!) A couple of weeks back, the eggplants were baby-bottom smooth, there was no not running a hand along their smoky curves. This week's vegetable miracle was a bin overflowing with perfect white heads of cauliflower, unblemished, taut with life.

When a beautiful head of cauliflower presents itself, I'm tempted to cook it whole, like my mother did, but the idea always seemed a touch fussy. Hardly! All it took was trimming the cauliflower (which has to happen anyway) and then cooking it in shallow boiling water for 20 minutes. Yes, that easy. And isn't it pretty?!!

UPDATE No cheese in the house? No problem, try this dramatic-looking cauliflower, the head is roasted whole! You definitely want to try this Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Vinaigrette.

2015: The world' gone cauliflower-crazy, for good reason! I grew up with cauliflower florets tossed in cheese sauce, a sort of cauliflower mac 'n' cheese. Cooking the cauliflower whole seems slightly more grown-up yet remains comfort food.


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 30 minutes
Serves about 8

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk (see TIPS)
4 ounces good melting cheese (see TIPS), in small pieces

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on MEDIUM HEAT, add the onion and let cook til just soft. Stir in the flour and combine well until any possible floury clumps are worked out. Let the flour cook for a minute or two (see TIPS). Slowly add the milk (see TIPS), a tablespoon at a time at first, incorporating each spoonful completely before adding another. Add the cheese and let melt, stirring often with a wooden spoon (see TIPS) until fully melted. Do not allow to boil. Cheese sauce may be made in advance and gently rewarmed to serve.

Two inches water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 whole head of cauliflower, rinsed well under running water

Warm cheese sauce
Smoked paprika, fresh herbs, fresh chives, other garnish, optional but pretty

Fill a large pot (see TIPS) with about two inches of water and salt and bring to a boil.

Trim off the cauliflower leaves. Working carefully, use a knife to cut a shallow V in the core, cutting away the very center but without severing any florets, this might take one or two tries. Insert the tip of the knife into the center of the visible florets a half inch or so, this lets the heat more easily penetrate the inner core without overcooking the outer areas.

Core-side down, place the cauliflower in the pot, cover and cook with the water simmering happily away for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower's core is fully cooked. Gently remove from the pot and let drain, core side down, in a colander or on a double layer of paper towels for a minute. Gently lift into a serving bowl.

Immediately, top with a warm layer of cheese sauce and sprinkle with paprika or another garnish. Serve immediately with remaining cheese sauce on the side.

MILK Skim milk and other low-fat milks can be used but can, some times, turn out a little bit grainy so I usually use whole milk, despite the added calories.
MELTING CHEESE My mother was partial to Kraft American cheese for melting, Velveeta too. I tell myself that I'm honoring her by continuing the tradition but the truth is, I'm partial to their melting qualities too. Anyone unemcumbered by such plebian taste might use use Gruyere, Fontina, Monterey Jack. I see notes that advise against using low-fat cheeses but don't have that personal experience.
WOODEN SPOON To avoid stringy cheese sauce, stir with a wooden spoon rather than using a whisk.
POT Make sure your pot is deep enough to hold the cauliflower after it's cored. If there's room for a steamer basket, you might use it.
KITCHEN PARADE by SHIRLEY (2010) I'm publishing this recipe today, especially, because serving a whole head of cauliflower was one of my mother's very favorite recipes for "company dinners" and today would have been one of celebration, her 80th birthday. More of my mother's recipes are collected in one place at Kitchen Parade by Shirley, memories through recipes.

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Still Hungry?


~ One-Skillet Cauliflower with Cheese ~
~ Cauliflower Mac 'n' Cheese ~
~ Creamy Cauliflower Gratin ~
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Cauliflower Salad with Fresh Herbs ~
~ Lighter Mashed 'Potatoes' ~
~ Cauliflower Risotto ~
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2010, 2015
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. That looks so good! I love that fresh cauliflowers are available all year round, it is my favorite go-to veg.

    In India, we make something called gobi musallam which is whole cauliflower bathed in a spicy tomato sauce.

  2. So great that you are spreading the word of eating veggies. Keep up the good work. The more people you influence the healthier we will all be!

  3. I have never thought of cooking and presenting cauliflower this way. Do you cut pieces out with a knife when you serve it? My kids love cheese sauce with their broccoli and cauliflower so this could be a hit. Love your tip about not using a whisk but rather a wooden spoon when stirring the cheese sauce. That may explain why my sauces are sometimes a bit stringy. Thanks!

  4. What an interesting way to cook cauliflower. It's so beautiful to present it on the table. Thanks for sharing.

  5. For some reason, it has never occurred to me to cook a whole head of cauliflower this way. How easy and beautiful!

  6. This looks amazing!!! I love cauliflower and this is such a great way to cook it. And the possibilities with what you can top it with seem virtually endless.

  7. a whole cauliflower is such a great idea! brilliant!

  8. It looks kind of royal on the plate :)
    I love a sprinkling of fried breadcrumbs on my cauliflower. Gives a nice crunch!

  9. Surprised! Use organic cauliflower and KEEP THE LEAVES (after cutting away any damaged parts), these will boost the flavour of your veg. considerably. Cut a deep cross at the base core of the veg to ensure it cooks right through. Use a small amount of sea salt or shoyu or tamari or even ume-su. Salt more to taste towards the end when veg is nearly cooked. My nutritionist taught that vegetables need to be cooked over a vigorous flame. 2 inches of water won't hack it, check water levels several times during boiling process to ensure there is enough liquid at the base of the pot to prevent burning. Use mineral water for cooking fine vegetables this is ALWAYS BEST! Use a sharp pointed slim knife to see if cauli is properly cooked.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna