Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

There are not many people who could use “harm reduction” and “cauliflower macaroni and cheese” in the same context. I’ve been thinking a lot about harm reduction lately, and it’s not just because I was interviewed for a Seattle Times article about Valentine’s Day, sex, and COVID.

The principle of harm reduction is that it is often possible to reduce the chance of poor health outcomes without giving up “bad” behaviors altogether. There’s an abundance of evidence that aiming for abstinence is likely to lead to failure.

So we give pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to people at risk for HIV to prevent them from getting HIV. We give clean needles to people who inject drugs. People get prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicines even though they might continue to eat French fries. None of us are perfect, and behavior change is really hard.

Today’s musings about harm reduction started while I contemplated what to make for dinner during one of today’s zoom calls. I started putting together a bowl in my mind. We still had leftover BBQ pork. I wanted to make the sweet potato salad from Jubilee (made with cranberries and hazelnuts instead of pecans and raisins). There was leftover mac and cheese in the freezer. Then I realized that I had cauliflower.

Below is a recipe for the world’s best mac and cheese converted into something slightly more healthy. Cauliflower macaroni and cheese. Harm reduction.

But don’t let me fool you. There’s still a lot of cheese here.

a pot of cauliflower and cheese sauce

Though the sweet potato salad might provide a bit of redemption.

a bowl of sweet potato salad to be served with the cauliflower mac and cheese

Cauliflower macaroni and cheese

Author uglyducklingbakery


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz gruyere
  • 1 oz parmesan
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika


  • Preheat the broiler.
  • Chop cauliflower into small florets.
  • Heat a large pot of lighted salted water to boiling. Then parboil the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, cut up the cheese into cubes and blitz in the food processor.
  • Make the cheese sauce. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add the flour, whisking constantly to make a roux.
  • Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly,until the sauce is thickened (some say "until it coats the back of a wooden spoon").
  • Remove from heat. Add in about 2/3 of the cheese (you'll need to reserve enough to top the cauliflower), the paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • When the cauliflower and cheese sauce are both done, mix them together into the pot and then add to a broiler safe baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese and slide under the broiler until just starting to brown.

If you make this, please comment here or share a pic with me on Instagram!

Checkout the original cavatappi mac and cheese recipe or use this cauliflower recipe in the taco meatloaf bowl.

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