I’ve really really been trying to curb my pasta dependency (addiction?) lately. One of the easiest ways to do that is to just swap vegetables for the pasta, but I’m not really into spiralizing or zoodles, so I’m exploring other ideas. (You may have noticed my Roasted Eggplant with Meat Sauce last week, same idea.) This week I was craving mac and cheese and I know a lot of people do cauliflower mac, but I decided to take it up a notch and roast my cauliflower with a spicy and smoky blend of spices first. OMG WIN. This Spicy Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce is the 💣.
Adjust the Heat
If you don’t want spicy, simply leave the cayenne pepper out of the spice mix and you’ll still have a deliciously smoky and garlicky cauliflower that will go really well with the cheese sauce. 👍
No-Roux Cheese Sauce
I made a “quick” cheese sauce for this, which uses evaporated milk to emulsify the cheese instead of a flour and butter roux. If you don’t want to go that route, you can make my 5-Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce instead. My only regret with this quick cheese sauce is that because I made such a small amount I have 2/3 of a can of evaporated milk leftover, which I now I have to find a use for. Any ideas??
Evaporated Milk is a MUST.
And no, sadly, you can not use almond, coconut, cashew, or even plain milk for this. Evaporated milk is needed to get the correct emulsification action. If you’re looking for a vegan cheese sauce, this one from Minimalist Baker looks good, although I haven’t tried it. She’s really good about testing, re-testing, and testing recipes again until they are 💯, though.
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower
- 1/2 Tbsp smoked paprika ($0.15)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.03)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.03)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
- Freshly cracked pepper ($0.03)
- 1 lb. frozen cauliflower florets ($1.59)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.13)
Quick Cheese Sauce
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk ($0.26)
- 1 Tbsp butter ($0.13)
- 4 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded ($0.90)
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a small bowl combine the smoked paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper.
- Spread the frozen cauliflower florets out onto a baking sheet (no need to thaw first), then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the spices over top. Toss the cauliflower in the oil and spices until they are fairly evenly coated.
- Transfer the seasoned cauliflower to the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once half way through.
- About half way through the roasting time, begin the cheese sauce. Add the evaporated milk and butter to a small sauce pot. Heat over medium, while stirring, until the butter has melted and the evaporated milk is hot. This should only take a couple of minutes.
- Turn the heat under the evaporated milk to LOW and begin whisking in the shredded cheddar, one handful at a time, making sure the cheese is fully melted before adding the next handful. Once all the cheese is melted into the evaporated milk the sauce will thicken. If it’s still very liquidy, keep the sauce over low heat and whisk constantly until it thickens. Often the cheese appears to be completely melted, but it has not yet totally emulsified. Remove the cheese sauce from the heat until ready to serve.*
- Once the cauliflower has finished roasting, divide it into bowls or place it in a serving platter, then pour the cheese sauce over top. Serve immediately.
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How to Make Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese – Step by Step Photos
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a small bowl combine 1/2 Tbsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper.
Place a pound of frozen cauliflower florets (no need to thaw) on a baking sheet and drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil over top. Sprinkle spices onto the cauliflower and then toss them until they are coated in oil and spices. Roast for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring once halfway through.
Toward the end of the roasting time, begin the cheese sauce. This sauce is SO FAST and easy, but it does get a little grainy as it cools, so make sure to make it just before serving. It does smooth out again if gently heated and whisked, though.
Add 1 Tbsp butter and 1/2 cup evaporated milk to a small sauce pot. Heat and stir over medium heat until the butter is melted and the evaporated milk is hot. Once hot, turn the heat down to low and whisk in 4 oz. shredded sharp cheddar, one handful at a time, making sure the cheese is fully melted before adding the next handful. Once all the cheese is melted in and the sauce is hot, it will thicken like the photo above. If the sauce gets too thick, simply whisk in another splash of the evaporated milk.
When the cauliflower is finished roasting, plate it up and pour the cheese sauce over top. Serve immediately. If the cheese sauce has cooled too much to pour before the cauliflower is finished, it can be smoothed out again by whisking over low heat.
DIG IN! Seriously so delish. Oh, and these servings are pretty big. If you are doing this as a side it would be more like 3 or 4 servings.
I did use coconut milk, also added some jalapeño jack to make up the creaminess. Came out delicious!
I plan to try because it looks so good. Regarding uses for leftover canned evaporated milk, I use it in my coffee, baking and cooking. I don’t like to drink it straight though.
You can freeze leftover evaporated milk! It can sometimes get a little grainy, but I use it in quiche and other heated dishes without any issue.
Love this recipe. I can only find 12 oz bags of frozen cauliflower, so I used two bags and we still ate it all lol. I don’t like dealing with a partially open can of evaporated milk, so I halved the “5 minute nacho cheese sauce” recipe and it worked great.
This is delicious! The flavor on the cauliflower is amazing. I absolutely love smoked paprika and it really adds great flavor to this dish. I didn’t have the evaporated milk to make the sauce so just shredded some cheddar cheese on top and let it melt. I will make this again and again!
#1 best recipe on your site ever. This cauliflower is even good without the sauce. The flavoring blend is just right, and the cauliflower is a whole different creation once it roasts. The touch of cayenne is a must. I made my sauce more like a regular white sauce with reduced amount of fat (used oil, too) but am sure the evaporated milk/butter/cheese mixture is very good.
Thank you for this. We have cut way back on our pasta consumption, but I am always looking for delicious substitutes for side dishes. This looks soooooooo good.
If you can’t do the evaporated milk, look up sodium citrate. It basically does the same thing. I use it for all of my cheese sauces.