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Cheesy Cauliflower with Crunchy Panko Crumbs, made Lite


Roasted cauliflower with a little olive oil, salt and pepper is one of our favorite side dishes, because it's healthier. I wanted to see if I could create a cheese sauce that wouldn't be loaded with lots butter and cream fat grams. I did it!

My family loved this dish, which had a nice light garlic-infused sauce and a crunchy panko crumb topping. The low-fat cheese that I recommend might take a little searching to find (Whole Foods is where I found it). It's a reduced fat cheese that tastes great! I reduced the butter with healthy Omega-3 olive oil and added herbs and aromatics, which yielded a creamy, flavorful sauce with perfectly cooked cauliflower that was slightly crunchy to the bite-- and not mushy. Nobody will know that this isn't a rich a decadent side dish!

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  • For the sauce:
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese* (highly recommended brand is Cabot Cheese, grated
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
  • 3/4 low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme (fresh is best)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or dry mustard powder)
  • Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • For the topping:
  • 3/4 cup Japanese Panko Crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Servings 6
Preparation time 20mins
Cooking time 60mins
Adapted from


Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut the cauliflower into even-sized florets, rinse and drain. Microwave in a bowl, with about 1" of water, covered in plastic for 3-5 minutes (depending on your microwave power). Remove the plastic wrap and set aside-- you want the cauliflowers to be slightly crunchy.

For the sauce:

Melt the butter and olive oil on medium heat. Whisk the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes very thick. Add the milk and continue whisking-- the sauce should still be very thick.

Add the minced garlic. Add the chicken stock, a little at a time, until the sauce is has thinned out enough to be "pourable". Reduce the heat to low and add the grated cheese, stirring until it is completely melted. Add the thyme, then season, carefully, with salt & pepper, mustard and cayenne pepper(if desired). Give the sauce one final taste, and adjust the final seasonings to your preference.

For the topping:
In a small bowl, drizzle enough olive oil to slightly moisten the panko crumbs (regular bread crumbs are okay, but panko crumbs are much crunchier, and combine with a fork. Set aside. You can also add some additional thyme to the topping if you love that herb!

Pour the cauliflower into a casserole dish (or individual ramekins). Carefully pour and distribute the cheese sauce, evenly. Sprinkle the panko crumbs on top.

Bake at 350°F for about 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden and bubbly.

You can broil the topping for 1 minute (keep an eye on it) if desired.

By using low-fat milk, healthier olive oil and less butter, and reduced-fat cheese, this otherwise very high caloric dish is equally flavorful and we loved this dish!

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