Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Gratin (GF)

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Cast iron skillet of creamy cauliflower gratin

Cauliflower isn’t winning quite as many popularity contests lately, but we aren’t over it, and we assure you this cauliflower gratin will reignite your inner cauli-lover too! Imagine perfectly tender cauliflower with a rich, salty, cheesy sauce. It’s worthy of a holiday feast yet wholesome enough for everyday!

Have a head of cauliflower laying around that you just haven’t used yet? (Guilty!) This creamy plant-based and gluten-free side is the solution! Just 10 ingredients required. Let us show you how it’s done! 

Cauliflower, onion, cornstarch, coconut milk, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, vegan parmesan cheese, and nutritional yeast

What is Au Gratin?

Gratin, also called au gratin, is a French cooking technique that involves creating a delicious browned crust over a dish (source). While the topping is usually made with breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg, and/or butter, the following is a plant-based and gluten-free version.

The golden crust is most commonly seen over potatoes or pasta, but it’s also delicious on zucchini and cauliflower!

How to Make Cauliflower Gratin

This cauliflower gratin begins with cauliflower being cut into small florets to maximize the creamy coating around each bite. Then we steam the florets until perfectly tender to give them a head start in the cooking process.

Chopping cauliflower into florets

Next we make the easy, creamy sauce by sautéing onion and garlic, then adding cornstarch or arrowroot to thicken and coconut milk for the liquid.

It’s best to cook it in an oven-safe skillet (like cast iron) so there’s no need to transfer it to another pan for creating the golden gratin top.

Pouring coconut milk into a skillet of sautéed onions, garlic, and cornstarch

For the spices, a little nutmeg provides warmth, nutritional yeast adds optional cheesiness, and salt and pepper balance it out.

Nutritional yeast, nutmeg, salt, and black pepper sprinkled over a creamy vegan white sauce

All that’s left to do is stir in the steamed cauliflower, sprinkle with vegan parmesan cheese, and put it in the oven to watch the magic happen.

Stirring steamed cauliflower with vegan sauce

In the oven, it develops a gorgeous golden brown crust. But if you find your oven isn’t doing a great job at browning, you can use the broiler to speed up the process. Just watch closely to avoid burning.

Crispy golden brown topping on our cauliflower gratin recipe

We hope you LOVE this cauliflower gratin! It’s:

Creamy
Cheesy
Rich
Wholesome
Elegant
& SO delicious!

It’s the perfect side for the holiday table or upping your cauliflower intake in an ultra-delicious way! Try it with our Kale Citrus Salad, Thyme & White Bean Pot Pies, and Butternut Pecan Sweet Potato Mash for a lovely holiday meal.

More Delicious Cauliflower Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Cast iron skillet of creamy cauliflower gratin

Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Gratin (GF)

Perfectly tender cauliflower tossed in a salty, rich, cheesy sauce that’s 100% plant-based. Wholesome enough for everyday and fancy enough for a holiday feast. Just 10 ingredients required!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Pan of cauliflower au gratin topped with fresh thyme
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 (Servings)
Course Side
Cuisine French-Inspired, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? 3-4 Days

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets (~7-8 cups florets)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil (or sub vegan butter // if oil-free, sub water and add more as needed)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion (~1/2 small onion)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • 1 (14-oz.) can light coconut milk
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup vegan parmesan cheese

FOR GARNISH optional

  • Fresh thyme leaves

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C).
  • Cut cauliflower into small, even florets and steam in a large pot with a steamer basket (covered) until tender when pierced with a fork — about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside uncovered to cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large oven-safe skillet (we like cast iron) over medium heat. Add the olive oil (or vegan butter) and onion and sauté until the onion becomes tender and translucent — about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant, being careful not to let it burn.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Add the cornstarch or arrowroot and whisk to incorporate. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Pour in the coconut milk a little at a time, whisking constantly to incorporate. Go slowly to prevent clumps from forming. Continue until all of the milk has been added. Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until thickened, whisking frequently.
  • Add the nutmeg, nutritional yeast (optional), salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more nutmeg for warmth, nutritional yeast for cheesiness, or salt or pepper to taste. Mixture should be very cheesy and savory to season the cauliflower well.
  • Add the steamed cauliflower to the sauce and toss thoroughly to coat. Taste once more and add more salt if needed. (Note: If you didn’t use an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the mixture to an 8 x 8-inch baking dish now.)
  • Sprinkle the top with vegan parmesan cheese and bake uncovered for 12-15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and crisp. If using a cast iron pan, you can broil on high for the last 1-2 minutes (watching closely) for a crispier top. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with thyme leaves (optional) and serve hot.
  • Best when fresh. Leftovers will keep stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Not freezer friendly. Reheat leftovers in a 350 F (176 C) oven until warmed through.

Video

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without optional ingredients.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 1 serving Calories: 234 Carbohydrates: 21.2 g Protein: 6.1 g Fat: 15.3 g Saturated Fat: 6.9 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.2 g Monounsaturated Fat: 5.7 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 485 mg Potassium: 618 mg Fiber: 4.5 g Sugar: 6.9 g Vitamin A: 2 IU Vitamin C: 75 mg Calcium: 55 mg Iron: 1.4 mg

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  1. Amy says

    Delicious! I made this a main dish by adding gnocchi. Followed recipe exactly as written, except used 1/2 head cauliflower, and at the step where it says to simmer the sauce for 8-10 min I brought it to a solid simmer, added 2 tablespoons water and then the cauliflower and a package of gnocchi (uncooked). Topped with the Parmesan and put in the oven for 14 min. It was perfect.

  2. Katherine says

    If I wanted to add pasta to this, would I cook the pasta before hand al dente and then mix it in before it goes in oven? cook it al dente?

    Thank you!

  3. James says

    I made this for dinner tonight, but I doubled the sauce recipe and added mostly cooked pasta along with the cauliflower which I roasted to get some more flavor into it. It was really like eating an elevated mac and cheese which, honestly, makes my cholesterol levels much happier since this is a purely plant-based version of the old standby.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, James! Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications!

  4. Janice says

    This was easy and delicious! Love the use of coconut milk here, really helped make this rich and creamy. I did not precook the cauliflower. I cooked everything stovetop in my iron skillet and then placed in the oven when ready. I did use the broil setting on my oven for about 5 minutes at the end to achieve a brown, crusty texture. Lastly, I added 2 chopped field sausage links and subbed real Gouda cheese for the vegan parmesan.

  5. Janice says

    This was easy and delicious! Love the use of coconut milk here, really helped make this rich and creamy. I did not precook the cauliflower. I cooked everything stovetop in my iron skillet and then placed in the oven when ready. I did use the broil setting on my oven for about 5 minutes at the end to achieve a brown, crusty texture. Lastly, I added 2 chopped field sausage links and subbed real Gouda cheese for the vegan parmesan.

  6. Ana Soares says

    Very easy and tasty recipes always. I will do this vegan version I use to do it with eggs and cow milk… I’m vegetarian trying to go vegan and I come here often to get easy and tasty recipes and I always find something! Thanks!

  7. Elaina says

    Thanks for the great recipe, really excited to make it for the whole fam! Just a question, what could be used as a substitute for nutritional yeast if you don’t have it on hand?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Naty! Some type of all-purpose flour (gluten-free or regular) could work, or another starch like tapioca or potato. Hope this helps!

  8. JoAnna says

    This was delicious and so easy to make. I steamed the cauliflower in the microwave and omitted the vegan parm, but followed the rest of the directions as written. Felt like a decadent dish, but secretly healthy! We had this with a Field Roast Italian sausage to round out the meal.

  9. Kelly Goedicke says

    Everyone loves it! (Including my husband and 19 yr old son!) Soooooo delicious. I never knew cauliflower could taste to good. I didn’t have lite coconut milk so I used full-fat. It is now a staple in my house.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Tracy! We didn’t find the coconut flavor too noticeable ourselves, but if you don’t like coconut you could try cashew cream instead.

  10. Ana Guadalupe says

    Hi!
    I’m making this as I type and the sauce isn’t thickening at all. It’s very watery still, I even added an extra tbs of corn starch.
    Any suggestions?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Ana! So sorry this recipe was giving you trouble, how long did you cook it, and how high was the heat on your stove?

  11. Lara says

    Hi,
    What could I place some of the cauliflower with? Perhaps pumpkin? I need the lower the histamine foods as I have histamine issues. So I cant add broccoli as a replacement.
    I am also wondering if we can make the parmesan cheese with a nut other than cashew, walnut or pecan? Perhaps sunflower seeds? Or do you have any other suggestions for toppings?

    Thanks so much!
    Lara

  12. Renee says

    This is a keeper, thank you! Made it tonight with cashew milk so I’m sure not as decadent, but the cashew milk needed to go and to us it was just fine – still nice and creamy and had good flavor. Would have used nutritional yeast but was out so put in a Tbsp of Bacun seasoning, which is made from Tortula yeast so maybe that was close? Or not. Husband loved it.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you both enjoyed it, Renee! Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications! xo

  13. Cindy R says

    Amazing French onion soup..this is going to be a new addition to my Christmas dinner table. Thank you for sharing
    Cindy
    Wpg,Mb

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Cindy, did you mean to comment on a different recipe? Either way, so glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  14. The Vegan Goddess says

    Ooh, this looks delicious! I bet it would be great with potatoes in lieu of cauliflower but I will try this as is.

  15. Carla Sokol says

    I would LOVE tomake this but the vegan parm is made with nuts and/or seeds and I can’t have either. Do you have another suggestion to replace them or should I just leave the parm out?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Carla, The vegan parm adds a pleasant salty finish, so you’ll definitely want something a little salty replacing it. You could try topping with breadcrumbs, or a little extra nutritional yeast plus salt. Hope that helps!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Siobhan, A thick homemade cashew milk would be the next best option. Otherwise, almond milk or oat milk might work, but won’t be as rich. Let us know if you try it!

  16. Tracy says

    I’m on a roasted vegetable kick, I feel it brings out a much better flavor than steaming, would that be an option here?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Ooo yes, we think so! We think that would be delicious as long as you get the cauliflower tender enough. You could possibly steam just a couple minutes to soften, then roast? Let us know if you try it out!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Lisa, we haven’t tried it with oat milk and don’t think it would be as creamy, but it might work! Let us know if you try it!

  17. Emilie says

    Hi! This looks delicious but it is made with coconut milk (as are quite a few of your other yummy-looking recipes). I’m allergic to coconut. What do you recommend as a non-dairy substitute? Would oat milk work?

    Thanks!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Emilie, A thick homemade cashew milk would be the next best option. Otherwise, almond milk or oat milk might work, but won’t be as rich. Let us know if you try it!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Eleanor, we found coconut milk provided the most richness. A thick homemade cashew milk would be the next best option. Almond milk would probably work too. Let us know if you try it!

      • Abi says

        I made this last night. I was skeptical as I have made cheese sauce before with alternate milks and they don’t get that creaminess that I miss. So coconut milk with corn starch is the answer! Who knew! And with just nutmeg, salt and pepper it was yummy and delicious. Nutritional yeast works well. I used regular Parmesan as it has no lactose so it is ok for me. Only problem was my head of cauliflower was so small and there are no leftovers🙁 Thanks Dana for another great recipe!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Paige, the vegan parmesan adds saltiness, so if you want to try substituting with nutritional yeast, we’d suggest using less nutritional yeast and sprinkling some extra salt on top. Let us know how it goes!

  18. Michelle says

    I want to make this ASAP! Do you think frozen cauliflower would work? I have a bunch of it in my freezer already and have been looking for a way to use it up.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We haven’t tried it, but it might work! You may want to thaw and drain it slightly, though, to remove excess liquid!