Cauliflower Gratin


Cheesy cauliflower gratin with nutty Gruyere cheese, sautéed leeks, and butter toasted breadcrumb topping!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Cauliflower gratin. How to transform the simplest of vegetables into a creamy cheesy rock star side dish? Cook it into a gratin.

I love cauliflower. I love it raw as a crunchy healthy snack. I love it roasted with crispy browned edges. I love it in a cheddary soup. Or puréed into fake mashed potatoes. Cauliflower has to be one of the world’s most adaptable and dress-up-able vegetables.

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No where is cauliflower’s haute capabilities more clear than in a gratin. Honestly it’s hard to go wrong given that we are smothering lightly steamed cauliflower in a cheesy Gruyere and leek béchamel, and baking it topped with butter toasted fresh breadcrumbs.

Cauliflower Gratin

It’s as if the vegetable wanted to remind us of what she is capable of.

A worthy side to glazed ham, roast beef, brisket, or roast chicken.

Cauliflower Gratin Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6


  • 1 head cauliflower, cored, broken into bite-sized florets (see How to Cut and Core Cauliflower)
  • 2 medium-small leeks, cleaned, halved lengthwise, sliced into 1/4-in thick slices, white and light green parts only, about 2 cups
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper


  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (3 slices of sandwich bread or rustic bread, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper


1 Cook the leeks: Melt butter on medium heat in a medium sized saucepan. Add the sliced leeks and gently cook until completely softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.

2 Lightly steam the cauliflower: While the leeks are cooking, place cauliflower florets in a steamer basket in a saucepan over an inch of water. Bring water to a boil, cover, and steam the cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes.

The steaming should just take the rawness out of the cauliflower, but not cook it so much that it is tender. You want the cauliflower at this stage to be al dente. Remove strainer and cauliflower from hot pan and set aside.

3 Make roux with butter, leeks, flour, add milk: Add 2 Tbsp of flour to the leeks and butter. Stir and let cook for a minute or two. Slowly add the milk, stirring as you add it to break up any lumps. Bring to a low simmer and continue to stir as the sauce thickens.

4 Stir in cheese, thyme, nutmeg, salt: Once the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stir in 3 ounces of the shredded cheese (reserving the rest of the cheese for the topping), the thyme, nutmeg, and salt.

5 Preheat oven to 400°F.

6 Pour sauce over cauliflower in gratin dish: Spread a teaspoon of butter over the insides of a 2-quart gratin dish. Place the lightly steamed cauliflower florets in an even layer in the dish. Pour the leek and cheese sauce over the cauliflower. Top with remaining cheese.

7 Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes.

8 Toast breadcrumbs: While the gratin is baking, melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a small sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the fresh breadcrumbs and toast in the melted butter for 4 to 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a sprinkling of pepper. Remove from heat.

9 Top gratin with toasted breadcrumbs and bake: After the gratin has baked for 25 minutes, remove it from the oven. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs over the top and return to the oven. Bake for 5 more minutes.

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How to Cut and Core Cauliflower

Cauliflower Gratin

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

24 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Mary

    Can I use frozen cauliflower

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  2. Kim

    Can you use non dairy milk

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  3. Emily

    This worked great as a potluck side on Mother’s Day. Cauliflower doesn’t lose its color waiting in a hot dish for the family to sit down. To make it lower carb, we substituted half and half for the milk, chickpea flour for the flour, and almond meal for the breadcrumbs. It looked fabulous and got lots of compliments.


  4. Neh

    Made this for Christmas together with friends. It was great !
    Wondering if the cauliflower can be replaced by sweet corn next time


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  5. Pauline

    Is there a way to make this a few hours ahead of serving time and bake it right before dinner?

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