“Roux-less” Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese

By Sara Nicole Ansari, R.D.


Everyone loves the comfort of rich mac and cheese, but we all know how fattening it is! This recipe is a much lower calorie, lower fat, lower carb, version traditional versions. The cauliflower is high in vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber. This simple, creamy recipe gives the traditional fattening cheese sauce with a butter, flour, whole milk a run for it’s money! Now you can enjoy your favorite creamy comfort food without all the guilt. Recipe is: vegetarian, nut free, low sodium, low carb, low fat, diabetic and weight loss friendly. Made be modified to gluten free.



  • 1 cup dry (2.5 cups cooked) whole wheat elbow macaroni (may substitute with a gluten-free elbow macaroni pasta)
  • 1/2 cup starchy cooking water (reserved from cooking the pasta)
  • 8 cups cauliflower florets (1 large cauliflower head) chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup Cabot-50% reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese (reserve for topping)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup 0% (non-fat) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 Tbsp whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (eliminate for gluten-free)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped for garnish


1. To prepare the macaroni, in a large pot, bring about four quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook for about 6 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the pasta in a collander, reserving a cup of the starchy water, and set aside.

2. To prepare cauliflower, remove the leaves,  cut out and discard the stalk and core. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets and wash. Steam the cauliflower for 12 or microwave for 6 minutes until tender-crisp.

3. In a large pot over medium-low heat, add the macaroni and cauliflower. Add 1 cup 50% reduced-fat cheddar cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Stir until all ingredients are combined, cheddar melts, and the dish becomes creamy.

4. Season with sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper or paprika. Stir well over medium-low heat until all ingredients are melted and incorporated.

4. Spray a casserole baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour the creamy cauliflower-macaroni to the dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle with wheat germ or whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (eliminate for gluten-free), then sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. Garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley. Allow the macaroni to sit for ten minutes before serving.


Chef’s notes: To make recipe gluten-free, use quinoa or brown rice elbow pasta and eliminate the breadcrumbs or wheat germ. The goal is to cook cauliflower as little time as possible to preserve the nutrients and maintain a good texture. Steaming and microwaving are the preferred methods for cooking over boiling to help preserve more vitamin C. Over cooking will make the cauliflower too watery and may result in a cabbagey smell that lingers. Cabot-50% reduced fat cheddar melts much nicer than average reduced-fat cheddar brands. If unavailable, may substitute with part-skim mozzarella, which is naturally lower in fat than regular cheddar and melts much nicer. Consider adding extra veggies, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes for added color, fiber, and nutrition.


Makes 8 Servings

Nutrient Analysis:

Total recipe: 1,451 calories, 167 g carbs, 43 g fat, 105 g protein, 31 g fiber, 2586 mg sodium

Per serving (1/8 recipe): 180 calories, 21 g carbs, 5 g fat, 13 g protein, 4g fiber, 323 mg sodium


***Sara’s healthy make-over recipe has 409 calories less (69% less calories), 26 g less carbs (55% less carbs), 25g less fat (83% less fat), a good source of fiber, and 456 mg less sodium (58% less sodium) than Rachael Ray’s recipe.


Compared to Rachael Ray’s Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese:


Recipe total: 3,473 calories, 282 g carbs, 180 g fat, 165 g protein, 35 g fiber, 4,671 sodium

Per Serving (1/6 recipe): 589 calories, 47 g carbs, 30 g fat, 28 g protein, 6 g fiber, 779 mg sodium