This healthy mashed cauliflower recipe is deliciously satisfying and also extremely easy to make.
There is no need for boiling, steaming, or roasting cauliflower. Instead, it involves a few simple steps of pureeing with the help of a food processor or blender (aff. link) and then sautéeing the ingredients in a pan to bring all the flavors together with the help of a few seasonings. Super easy and super creamy!
It's a quick 20-minute vegetable dish that works well when you are on a low-carb food journey—I also share a dairy-free and vegan-friendly version.
But mashed cauliflower is so much more than a lighter alternative to mashed potatoes. And this vegetable dish deserves a place at your table because it's versatile, its texture is light and fluffy, and a simple, rewarding cauliflower recipe.
Make it at regular dinners as a great quick side dish any night of the week or for Thanksgiving or Christmas next to a whole roasted Brie-filled chicken.
Plus, leftovers are quickly reheated the next day to supplement lunch, or, yes, enjoy even for breakfast!
Cauliflower showed up regularly at the dinner table growing up, either raw in salads, roasted or cooked and often mashed into boiled potatoes, paired with other vegetables like kale or broccoli, and served with codfish.
But this cruciferous vegetable can quickly turn into a beautiful mashed side dish without having to add potatoes, and that's how I enjoy it more often these days.
So let me show you how to make the creamiest healthy mashed cauliflower.
What you'll need & a few notes
You only need 9 basic ingredients —the parsley is just for garnish. And, it even tastes darn close to mashed potatoes when everything comes together.
Cauliflower: Look for a medium-sized to a large one, about 2 pounds. Use the entire head, cores included, only the outer leaves removed. You can also use an equal amount of packaged rice cauliflower instead.
Garlic & onion: Because cauliflower has such a mild taste, it readily absorbs flavors of other pairing ingredients. Garlic and onions like shallots or yellow onions are great options because they balance out any potential bitterness in cauliflower and add a subtly sweet flavor. They are first quickly sautéed to release their aromas before pureeing them together with the raw cauliflower.
Seasoning: I use simple seasoning like salt and pepper. Go a little heavy on the pepper if you prefer a punchier side dish. But it is the nutmeg that gives this vegetable that warm spicy aroma. So when possible, grate fresh nutmeg instead of using ground—it is even better.
Plant milk or butter: I use it mainly to help with blending the chopped raw cauliflower. But it also adds a lovely richness. If dairy is not your concern, choose butter. Otherwise, go for neutral-tasting plant milk like cashew, oats, or even pea milk.
Make it cheesy or dairy-free: If anything, Parmesan cheese will perk up your cauliflower mash and will make this recipe extra special. Feel free to add more than the suggested amount, but be more careful with the seasoning since this cheese is already slightly salty. A great buttery dairy-free alternative here is cashew sour cream.
Parsley: I'm only adding it for garnish and to add a peppery touch to the dish. Chopped chives are another great option here if you love a more oniony finish.
Olive oil: I'm using a little to sautée the veggies, but you could opt for butter instead.
How to make healthy mashed cauliflower
I make my mashed cauliflower by first blending the raw cauliflower pieces and then pureeing it with the sautéed garlic and onions—you can use a food processor, Vitamix, or a regular high-speed blender.
Then everything goes into the pan to sauté the pureed cauliflower mix into a smooth, creamy mash and season it just right. Super easy to make and super flavorful!
Let's go over the most important steps, so you'll see how this cauliflower transfers into a creamy mashed vegetable side dish.
Place the roughly chopped raw cauliflower in a blender or food processor with the plant milk or butter, then puree at medium to high speed.
Depending on the size of your machine, you might need to puree in batches, throwing in more chopped cauliflower after each blend—set aside.
There should be no chunks left.
Cover the bottom of a large skillet with two tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onions. Cook and stir for 3 minutes to release their aroma. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper.
Transfer the sautéed garlic and onions to the blender containing the pureed raw cauliflower. Blend everything for a few seconds or until the veggies are completely mixed in with the cauliflower.
The cauliflower mash should absorb the garlic and onions completely.
Cover the same large skillet, used to sautée the garlic and onions, again with one tablespoon of olive oil and heat over the same medium heat.
Transfer the pureed veggies from the blender to the skillet, spreading it evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cook and stir frequently to avoid browning for at least 5 to 10 minutes or until the pureed cauliflower mix is fully cooked.
Note: sautéeing this vegetable after it's pureed helps thicken the cauliflower mash and offsets the vegetable's natural liquid. When the cauliflower is completely cooked and smooth, you can stir in the grated Parmesan cheese until melted, extra butter, or (cashew) sour cream for flavor and extra creaminess.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Note: a good indication that your cauliflower is ready is by the smell. The aroma of the pureed raw cauliflower will have disappeared completely and taken over by the aroma of the nutmeg, at this point, taste to adjust seasoning.
Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with fresh parsley leaves, chives, or extra grated cheese to taste (optional).
Making mash cauliflower variations
Make it dairy-free
Nothing comes close to a mashed cauliflower with cheese, and Parmesan adds a wonderful sharpness to this dish.
But if you like to keep it dairy-free, I prefer working in a cashew-based sour cream. It adds a surprising ultra-rich creamy texture to the mash, and its tangy taste works well in this recipe without overpowering the flavors.
Make it extra cheesy
Add a sprinkle of extra cheese at the end when the mash is still hot and right before serving. It creates these melted cheese pockets that are just mouthwatering—perfect for those who love a good cheesy mash cauliflower.
Another lovely cheese option to try is the Dubliner Irish Cheese.
Make it more garlicky
The best way to make this healthy mashed cauliflower more garlicky is to add a few pinches of garlic powder at the end before stirring in the cheese or sour cream. Taste test and adjust the amount as preferred.
Add in other vegetables
Like regular mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower goes well with greens like kale and spinach to add more flavor and nutrition.
I prefer to sautée kale or spinach leaves for a few minutes briefly or until wilted in the same sautée pan—slightly seasoned with salt—and then stirring the greens into the mashed cauliflower. It's delicious!
Other options include using leftovers like roasted broccoli, sprouts, and sweet potatoes, which can be mashed in and served with some sausages (Bangers & Mash), egg, or bacon.
ANOTHER GREAT OPTION is white fish like cod, sautéed in olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper.
By the way, kids love this with fish sticks!
Here are some other MAIN DINNER IDEAS that go well with this cheesy mashed cauliflower:
- An Easy Spicy Beef Short Rib Recipe
- A Super Flavorful and Easy Buttery Wild Salmon Recipe
- Bunless burgers with buttery Brie
MAKE IT A VEGAN DISH: use plant milk instead of butter and add frozen peas and shelled edamame beans to enjoy as a meal on its own. Defrost peas or beans first for a couple of seconds in water. Then allow them to cook with the mashed cauliflower for 10 minutes.
Stir in vegan cheese or cashew sour cream until melted and serve with an apple mouse on the side—kids' favorite.
And try pairing it with my buttery roasted beets and dandelion greens—simply delish!
MAKE A HEARTY BREAKFAST: you can quickly reheat any leftovers the next day in a pan coated with some olive oil. Then, add an egg (or two) and mash it in. It is a hearty and filling breakfast.
This healthy cauliflower mash stores well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you plan to freeze it, then sautée the cauliflower mash without adding the Parmesan cheese or any creamy component.
Let it cool completely and store in freezer bags or sealed containers. Thaw by removing it from the freezer and refrigerate overnight. Add the other ingredients when you're ready to reheat.
How do you reheat Mashed cauliflower? I prefer to reheat it on the stove in a pan and occasionally stirring until hot. But I imagine that you can also reheat in the microwave.
Meal prep Idea
It's one of those recipes that's the perfect candidate for meal prepping because:
- It freezes well;
- Heats up quickly;
- And pairs well with a lot of meals;
On a low-carb diet? This dish is a great mashed potato substitute for dinner or as a holiday side dish. Can't fathom subbing it for mashed potatoes but love cauliflower? Then this healthy mashed cauliflower is a fast and tasty way to enjoy this vegetable and a nice change from regular mashed potatoes.
- 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds/900 grams), or 2 (16-ounce) packages rice cauliflower will do as well
- ¼ cup (60 grams) oat milk or melted butter (you can also use pea or cashew milk instead)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 shallots (160 grams), peeled and coarsely chopped. You can also use ½ of one large yellow onion.
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup (90 grams) grated parmesan cheese, or more as preferred (replace with ¼ cup cashew sour cream to make it dairy-free)
- Fresh parsley leaves to garnish
- Remove outer leaves from cauliflower. Cut up the vegetable into florets and further coarsely chop the florets—core included. Omit this step if you use the packaged rice cauliflower.
- Place the cauliflower in a high-speed blender or food processor with the plant milk or butter. Blend on high speed until pureed. You might need to puree a certain amount of cauliflower if your blender is not large enough to hold everything, and then add in and puree the rest of the florets (or rice cauliflower) in batches—set aside.
- Cover the bottom of a large skillet with two tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onions. Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper.
- Transfer the sauteed garlic and onions to the blender containing the pureed cauliflower. Mix everything for a few seconds or until the sauteed veggies are completely blended in with the cauliflower.
- Cover the same large skillet again with one tablespoon of olive oil and heat over the same medium heat.
- Transfer the pureed veggies from the blender to the skillet, spreading it evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cook and stir frequently to avoid browning for at least 5 minutes or until the pureed cauliflower mix is fully cooked.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Note: a good indication that your cauliflower is ready is by the smell. The aroma of the pureed raw cauliflower will have disappeared completely and taken over by the aroma of the nutmeg, at this point, taste test.
- When fully cooked, stir in the grated cheese until completely melted.
- Garnish with fresh parsley leaves, chives, or extra grated cheese to taste (optional).
Storage: leftovers are best stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze up to three months (see freezing instructions in the post).
Reheating: reheat leftovers either in a pan over the stove for a few minutes or quickly in the microwave. Best to add a teaspoon of olive oil to prevent the cauliflower from becoming too dry.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 129Total Fat: 8.1gSaturated Fat: 2.8gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 177mgCarbohydrates: 9.5gFiber: 3.7gSugar: 4.3gProtein: 7.5g
Vitamin D 4mcg 21%; Calcium 173mg 13%; Iron 1mg 4%; Potassium 431mg 9%; Disclaimer: This nutritional data is calculated using third-party tools and is only intended as a reference.
(Note: this post was initially published in January 2019. This post has been updated to include new info and photos)