Cauliflower Gratin

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

  • 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.

cauliflower-gratin-method-3 cauliflower-gratin-method-4

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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  • 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.


  • Neh

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


    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Neh! Emma here, managing editor. Sure! You could do this with sweet corn. Why not?! I’d cook the sweet corn first and cut the kernels off the cob. I’m not sure how many cups of kernels you’d need. Maybe three or four cups? Just keep adding until the pan looks as filled as it did when you made it with cauliflower. Give it a try and let us now how it works out!

  • Pauline

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

  • Hermien Braitsch

    Exactly what I was looking for today! Will cook it tonight. Love your blog. It’s my go-to when I need ideas or advice. Thank you Elise.

  • SYates

    I tried this tonight and I followed the recipe to the letter and it came out great. I can see using different cheeses to mix it up a bit, and I may try it with Panko bread crumbs next time, but man! This was really good!


  • Ann Cromwell

    I’d like to make all or part of this ahead for tomorrow’s Easter dinner. Can I and how?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Ann, if I were to make this ahead, I would go all the way through to assembly before baking. Then the day of I would bake the gratin, toast the breadcrumbs, then finish the gratin with toasted breadcrumbs.

  • Arcey

    Would using regular Swiss, or maybe a mixture of Swiss and Gruyere (or Gruyere and Parmesan?), make a pale imitation of the dish? I’m sure all Gruyere would be nutty and deep in flavor, but not sure how much would change using a different, but similar, cheese. Thanks. Love cauliflower and this sound and looks wonderful!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Arcey, I think as long as you are using a cheese whose flavor you love, it will work. Gruyere is such a wonderful cheese, but it is on the expensive side. I could see mixing it with Swiss or with Parm. You could probably also make this with cheddar.

      • Arcey

        I was trying not to sound too cheap, but yes, my reason for the question is that Gruyere is so pricey! :)

  • eugeniakukla

    Again an awesome recipe. Before my family was home my neighbor came by……..she took half of this dish. Said it was awesome. SO, I suppose I should make more!


    • eugenia

      Elsie: I made this dish for Easter dinner for a family member who has Autism. For years I have prepared meals and unless I ask “how was dinner”? he doesn’t make comments. However, this dish, your creation, my cooking, caused the biggest conversation. Simply put, he said, “This is excellent” My son looked at me immediately and smiled. Our relative has never expressed enjoyment about a meal. Today almost made me cry at the table. This says volumes …..thank you for your time with all the recipes. I have a bit of hope that maybe the next meal will cause this person to say more remarkable comments.

  • Brooklyn Girl

    Thanks for all the great recipes. I enjoy your blog so keep them coming. The banana bread really is the best. I used another recipe for years and since I tried yours I’ve switched for good. It’s great. Thanks again.

  • Arlene

    I, too, adore cauliflower and only yesterday made a gratin (without leeks), using cheddar cheese. Unfortunately, the bechamel fell apart while baking, leaving a gooey, greasy mess. Is there any way to avoid this or to fix it if it does happen? I also like to toast breadcrumbs in a mixture of butter and lemon juice, and sprinkle liberally over steamed, lightly salted cauliflower – no baking, just quick, simple and yummy!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Arlene, it may have something to do with the cheese. Cheddar tends to separate. I looked up the issue online and found some useful advice here: A couple bits: Simmer the bechamel a couple minutes before adding the cheese, and whisk vigorously. Take the pot off the heat before adding the cheese, or use a very low heat. Add a little extra fat like a few tablespoons of cream. Use younger, less sharp cheese, a mild cheddar instead of sharp cheddar. Add a little mustard to the sauce, which can act as a stabilizer.