Alright. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS MAGICAL CAULIFLOWER CREAM.
I've been making this sauce on the regular for months now, and it's completely changed my meal prep game. It's also a hit with my staff, our recipe testers, and *GASP* no less than FIVE ACTUAL, REAL-LIFE CHILDREN whose parents let me trick their relatively picky offspring into eating cauliflower mac and cheese made with this cauli cream (AKA vegetables, HOLD THE PHONE).
But more on how to use this cauli cream (spoiler alert: mac and cheese) later! For now, let's dive into the basics of this game-changing (vegan!) "cream."
Alright. What is Cauliflower Cream Sauce?
This cauliflower sauce is essentially a plant-based swap for Béchamel sauce: it's very similar in texture to milk or cream-based sauces traditionally thickened with a flour-and-butter roux (like our creamy parmesan sauce).
This thick, creamy cauliflower purée makes a PERFECT substitute for thickened dairy sauces or cream-of-whatever soups in just about everything, from cauliflower fettuccine alfredo to cauliflower mashed potatoes to creamed cauliflower corn.
Also, a note: While I happen to love this cauli cream all by its lonesome, this sauce alone doesn't have a particularly strong flavor (it's definitely a little cauliflower-y, but it's not like WHOA, CAULIFLOWER. You know?). This is meant to be a base recipe - which is to say, it's best when it's doctored up and added to something else. We kept the flavor of this cauliflower cream purposefully mellow so that you can work it into a bunch of different dishes!
To amp up the flavor of this cauliflower sauce on its own, you can always add roasted garlic, sautéed garlic and onions, herbs, lemon juice, or your favorite spices when you first blend everything together.
We're sharing our FAVORITE ways to use this cauli cream all week long - but for now, let's hit some highlights about the sauce itself:
- THREE. INGREDIENTS. All you need for this cauliflower sauce is a head of cauliflower, some vegetable stock, and a bit of salt. That's it! (Because it's actually a cauliflower cream, ermmm, without cream)
- RIDICULOUSLY EASY. We simmer the cauliflower pieces in a bit of stock until they're ultra-ultra tender (you might even go so far as to call them, well, mushy) and then whir it all up in a blender or food processor until we have a nice, smooth "cream."
- USE IT IN EVERYTHING. SERIOUSLY. One batch of magic cauliflower cream usually turns into 2-4 different meals during my week. Current favorites: using cauli cream instead of milk or cream sauces in cauliflower macaroni and cheese, lightened up mashed potatoes, cauliflower fettuccine alfredo, or green bean casserole, or using it to thicken a soup or creamy mushroom sauce.
- MEAL PREP MAGIC. I love that this cauliflower sauce is lighter and healthier than a heavy Béchamel sauce, but my FAVORITE thing is that it reduces the cook time on some of our favorite comfort foods to basically zilch - no waiting for sauces or soups to thicken. I can have our favorite cauliflower rice risotto or a classic mac and cheese on the table in 15 minutes if I have this cauliflower cream prepped and ready to go!
How to make cauliflower cream sauce:
We're making this cauliflower cream using something I've been calling the 10-10-10 method. Is this a method I just made up? Yes. But does it make this recipe astoundingly easy to memorize? ALSO YES.
Here's the gist: All you have to do to perfectly cook your cauliflower and nail this cauli cream is set three consecutive ten-minute timers. Put the pot over medium-high heat, TEN MINUTE TIMER. Stir and keep cooking, TEN MINUTE TIMER. Turn off the heat and let rest, TEN MINUTE TIMER. Blend, cool, store, donezo.
No checking the cauliflower every few minutes or second-guessing how long it's been on the stove - just grab that trusty phone timer of yours and live your life while your cauliflower simmers away. All you have to remember is 10-10-10, and you've basically got this recipe memorized.
Looking for an Instant Pot version? Check out our Instant Pot Cauliflower Cream for full pressure cooker instructions!
Note: The 10-10-10 timing method works best with small (~1-inch) cauliflower pieces and medium-high heat that leans towards the high side.
You may need to add some cook time if you use frozen cauliflower or especially large florets - adding 2 minutes to each timer for a 12-12-12 sequence will usually do the trick! Cooked cauliflower should be falling apart and easily mashed for best results.
Cauliflower Sauce FAQ
We have put this recipe through a TON of testing to get it just right - here are some of the most common questions that came up with our testers!
YES! Magic Cauliflower Cream freezes very well. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for 3-4 months. Defrost in the fridge or pop it right into a saucepan bring it back to sauce form over medium heat (stir frequently for best results!)
Totally! If you double or triple the recipe, extend your cooking time (I add an extra 10 minutes of cooking time when doubling the recipe, so it becomes a 10-10-10-10 method) and blend in batches since there will be a lot of cauliflower to get through. For double- and triple-batches, we actually prefer using an immersion blender and blending right in the pot so you don't have to blend in batches!
Yes! A food processor (we like this one) works just as well as a blender here - see the photo below! You can definitely use an immersion blender if you need to, but be aware that you'll need to move it around quite a bit and blend for a long time to fully break down all the cauliflower. An immersion blender works best when you're making a double or triple batch, but for single batches I tend to prefer a blender or food processor.
Is cauliflower cream actually creamy?
TOTALLY CREAMY. The trick to an ultra-creamy cauliflower sauce is to make sure you cook the cauliflower until it's very, very tender (it should mash very easily with a fork, and should appear almost "mushy" <-- technical term) Blending the cauliflower cream for a relatively long time - like, ONE FULL MINUTE in the blender - also helps the sauce get extra-silky and smooth.
In general, we've found this cauliflower sauce comes together very smoothly in a variety of blenders and food processors so long as the cauliflower is cooked until very soft. If your cauliflower cream isn't as creamy as you'd like, though, there are a few ways to help it smooth out:
- Return the cauliflower cream to the stove and cook an additional 5-10 minutes to soften any remaining cauliflower pieces, then re-blend.
- Add a splash of vegetable stock, coconut milk, heavy cream, or butter (if you're not vegan) and blend until smooth.
How should I use my Magic Cauliflower Cream?
There are SO MANY uses for this cauliflower cream. Here are some of our favorites:
- Use cauliflower cream in place of the cream sauce (usually butter and flour with cream or milk) in Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese.
- Add a dollop of magic cauli cream to thicken sauces and soups. I've been using it in place of the cornstarch slurry in this one pan chicken and potatoes recipe and instead of flour and cream in this barramundi corn chowder!
- Use in place of cream-of-whatever canned soups for cauliflower creamed corn, green bean casserole, or creamed spinach.
- Use in place of butter and cream in cauliflower fettuccine alfredo (bonus points if you swap the fettuccine for zoodle alfredo! SO GOOD. Just don't skimp on the cheese).
- Make Vegan Mashed Potatoes with cauliflower cream instead of cream and butter.
Video: How to Make Magic Cauliflower Cream Sauce
This simple cauliflower puree is the perfect base for your favorite pasta, soup, sauce, pizza, risotto, and more!
- 1 large head cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (we love Diamond Crystal)
- Add cauliflower florets, stock, and salt to a medium saucepan. Cover and place on the stove over medium-high heat. Cook for ten minutes.
- After ten minutes, give cauliflower a stir. Re - cover and cook for ten minutes more or until cauliflower is very easily pierced with a fork.
- Turn off the heat and leave the covered pot on the stove for an additional ten minutes.
- Use a large spoon or ladle to carefully transfer cauliflower and any remaining stock to a blender or food processor. Cover and blend for at least thirty full seconds until cauliflower has formed a smooth, thick cream.
- Use cauliflower cream immediately or let cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
FYI: Most of the notes for this recipe are in the post itself - make sure you read through everything above to get all of our best tips and advice!
Choosing your cauliflower: Cauliflower heads vary in size. For best results, look for a cauliflower head that weighs roughly 1.5 to 2 pounds. After cutting your cauliflower, you should have about 5 cups of 1-inch cauliflower pieces (weighing in at 1 to 1.5 pounds). The good news, though? We developed this recipe to be ultra-forgiving, so don’t worry too much about the weight and measurements of the cauliflower!
Substitutions: You can use chicken or turkey stock instead of vegetable stock with no real difference in flavor. You can also use water instead of stock in a pinch, but we like the extra bit of flavor you get from stock. Use 1 pound frozen cauliflower florets in place of fresh cauliflower if you like. Add two minutes to the cooking time for best results when using frozen cauliflower!
Additions: We kept the flavor of this cauliflower cream purposefully mellow so that you can work it into all kinds of dishes! To amp up the flavor of this cauliflower sauce on its own, you can add roasted garlic, sautéed garlic and onions, herbs, lemon juice, or your favorite spices when you blend everything together.
Equipment: We tested this recipe with a variety of blenders, immersion blenders, and food processors. For best results, use a strong blender (we love our older KitchenAid blender - similar model here, Cuisinart Food Processors, and Cuisinart hand blenders) If you know that your blender doesn’t always like to get things ultra-smooth, plan to scrape down the sides and blend for an additional 30 seconds to get this sauce ultra creamy (when we tested with an especially old store-brand blender, it was helpful to scrape the sides down or shake the blender to redistribute cauliflower and blend an extra minute or so). If you use an immersion blender, know that you’ll have to move the hand blender around quite a bit to move the liquid around and help the cauliflower turn into a smooth sauce! You can also make Instant Pot Cauliflower Cream if you prefer.
Adjusting the consistency: If you’d like a thinner cauliflower cream, add a splash of vegetable stock or water and blend until you’ve reached your desired consistency. To thicken, bring cauliflower cream to a low simmer in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened. We generally don't need to adjust the consistency, though.
Storage and Freezing: This cauliflower cream freezes SO well! Store in an airtight container in the freezer for 3-4 months (you can store it longer, but I find the flavor is sharpest and cleanest within just a few months). Give it a zap in the blender or with an immersion blender once defrosted to bring it back to a smooth consistency if need be.
Uses: Use cauliflower cream in place of milk-based sauces in Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese or Cauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo (just don’t skimp on the cheese!). Use to thicken sauces and soups in lieu of a roux or cornstarch slurry (like our favorite one-pot creamy chicken!), in place of butter or cream in cauliflower mashed potatoes, or as a substitute for canned soup or cream sauces in cauliflower creamed corn, creamed spinach, or your favorite casserole.
Adapting recipes to use cauliflower cream: We like to substitute ¾ cup of cauliflower cream for every 1 cup of milk or cream called for in a recipe (while also omitting any roux, cornstarch slurry, or other thickening agents).
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Calories: 16
- Sugar: 1.5 g
- Sodium: 265.5 mg
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 3.4 g
- Protein: 1.1 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: easy, blender, vegan