Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

5 from 9 votes
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Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese combines two of the most iconic American bar foods (buffalo wings and mac & cheese) into a deceivingly healthy pasta dinner. Vegetarian and gluten free, this buffalo mac and cheese will win over even the staunchest veggie skeptics.Buffalo cauliflower mac and cheese in a white pan

Think of this dish as the two friends you know are a perfect match and have been dying to meet for years. Once they come together, it’s instant sparks and elicits the question, “where have you been all my life?!”

And thanks to a few sneaky swaps, this mac and cheese recipe is actually far healthier than its classic creamy, cheesy counterparts. In place of heavy cream, I use cashew milk, which gives the sauce the same thickness but is far lower in saturated fat.

For the cheese, I lean on varieties that pack a big punch, so a smaller amount goes a long way. My top picks are sharp cheddar, which melts beautifully and has a classic mac-and-cheese flavor, and blue cheese, which is just the perfect match for anything-buffalo.

I also use chickpea pasta in place of the regular white pasta, which packs a double punch of protein and fiber. (It’s also gluten free!)

How to Make Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

If ever there were a mac and cheese recipe to eat as a main event, it would be it. Especially for game day grub, tailgating parties, and weekend potlucks.

The Ingredients:Recipe ingredients on a stone board with blue labels

  • Cauliflower: Roasted florets of cauliflower blend seamlessly into the cheesy pasta mixture. The blind eye will barely be able to detect their flavor, yet will appreciate the extra texture they add. Just be sure to chop them into small, bite-size pieces so they evenly roast.
  • Pasta: You can use any type of shape pasta you like here. My go-to is Banza Chickpea Pasta because it’s high in protein and fiber, and naturally gluten free. 
  • Aromatics: A mix of yellow onion, celery, and green onion create an aromatic foundation for this mac and cheese. I like to sauté about two-thirds of the green onion, and reserve the remaining for the topping. 
  • Cashew Milk: While you can use any milk you have on hand, I love using cashew milk because it’s mild in flavor and thick in consistency. It mimics the thickness of heavy cream, yet only clocks in at 25 calories per cup.
  • Flour: To help thicken the milk mixture, use either all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour.
  • Buffalo Sauce: Use mild, medium, or hot depending on your spice preference. In terms of brands, my favorite is Noble Made, which has a simple, clean ingredient list.
  • Cheese: The true star of any mac and cheese recipe! A combination of sharp cheddar and blue cheese create the most spectacular flavor.
    • If possible, I strongly suggest grating the cheese yourself right from the block. It will result in a much smoother, creamier sauce than the pre-shredded kind, which is usually coated in a starch that keeps it from clumping but also makes it harder to melt smoothly.

One serving of buffalo mac and cheese on a small gray plate

The Directions:

Step 1: Roast the Cauliflower

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place cauliflower florets in a 9×13-inch baking dish, and toss with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. each of salt and black pepper.

Roast cauliflower for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Decrease oven temperature to 375ºF. Cauliflower florets being roasted in a white pan

Step 2: Boil the Pasta

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of SALTED water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions until JUST shy of al dente (the pasta will continue to cook in the oven).

Step 3: Sauté Aromatics

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large high-sided sauté pan over medium. Once hot, add yellow onion and celery; cook 8 minutes, or until soft. Stir in two-thirds of chopped green onion, garlic powder, and paprika; cook 1 minute. Onion, celery, and scallions being sautéed in a white skillet

Step 4: Create a Roux

Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and mix to combine. Cook two full minutes to eliminate raw flour taste. Slowly pour in milk and buffalo sauce, and whisk to combine. Increase heat and bring mixture to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with remaining 1/2 tsp. salt.Flour, milk, and buffalo sauce being whisked in a pan

Step 5: Stir in Cheese

Sprinkle in 1 cup cheddar cheese and continuously stir until melted. Transfer roasted cauliflower and cooked pasta into skillet with buffalo mixture; stir well until combined.Cooked pasta being stirred in a skillet with buffalo sauce

Step 6: Bake Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Carefully pour mac and cheese into the same 9×13-inch pan you used to roast the cauliflower. Sprinkle remaining grated cheddar cheese overtop, along with blue cheese crumbles, if using.

Bake mac and cheese for 15 to 20 minutes, until melted and bubbly. If desired, broil for final 2 minutes for a more golden topping.

Remove from oven and garnish with remaining chopped green onion. Baked buffalo cauliflower mac and cheese in a white pan on a grey surface

What to Serve with Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

How to Make-Ahead, Store, and Reheat:

  • To Make Ahead. Cut up cauliflower into bite-size florets up to 3 days in advance, and store in the refrigerator. You can also grate the cheese up to 1 day ahead, storing in a separate container in the refrigerator.
  • To Store. Place leftover buffalo mac and cheese in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stove over medium heat, adding a splash or cashew milk or water to help rehydrate the sauce as needed. Alternatively, reheat in the microwave in 30 second increments, stopping to stir each time, until warm. 
  • To Freeze. Store mac and cheese in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

A spoonful of mac and cheese being taken out of a pan

More Healthy Pasta Recipes to Try:

Weeknight Mediterranean Pasta

Lemon Butter Broccoli Pasta

Creamy Red Pepper Pasta

Tuscan Sun-Dried Tomato Gnocchi

If you give this buffalo cauliflower mac and cheese a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review! Lastly, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!

5 from 9 votes

Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese combines two of the most iconic American bar foods (buffalo wings and mac & cheese) into a deceivingly healthy pasta dinner. Vegetarian and gluten free!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 5

Equipment

  • 9x13-inch baking pan
  • Medium pot for boiling pasta

Ingredients  

  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small bite-sized florets (about 6 to 7 cups)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 (8-oz.) box chickpea pasta, such as Banza brand (sub pasta of choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 bunch green onions, trimmed and finely chopped, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten free all-purpose flour)
  • 2 cups unsweetened cashew milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/2 cup mild or medium buffalo sauce (I like Noble Brand)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
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Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place cauliflower florets in a 9x13-inch baking dish, and toss with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. each of salt and black pepper.
    Roast cauliflower for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Decrease oven temperature to 375ºF. 
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of SALTED water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions until JUST shy of al dente (the pasta will continue to cook in the oven). Drain and set aside.
  • Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large high-sided sauté pan over medium. Once hot, add onion and celery; cook 7 to 8 minutes, or until soft. Stir in two-thirds of the chopped green onion (reserve remaining for garnish), garlic powder, and paprika; cook 1 minute. 
    Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and mix to combine. Cook for two full minutes to eliminate raw flour taste. Slowly pour in milk and buffalo sauce, and whisk to combine. Increase heat and bring mixture to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with remaining 1/2 tsp. salt.
    Sprinkle in 1 cup cheddar cheese and continuously stir until melted. Transfer roasted cauliflower and cooked pasta into skillet with buffalo mixture; stir well to combine.
  • Carefully pour mac and cheese into the same 9x13-inch pan you used to roast the cauliflower. Sprinkle remaining grated cheddar cheese overtop, along with blue cheese crumbles, if using.
    Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered, until bubbly. If desired, broil for final 2 minutes for a more golden topping.
    Remove from oven and garnish with remaining chopped green onion. 

Notes

To Make Ahead. Cut up cauliflower into bite-size florets up to 3 days in advance, and store in the refrigerator. You can also grate the cheese up to 1 day ahead, storing in a separate container in the refrigerator.
To Store. Place leftover mac and cheese in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stove over medium heat, adding a splash or cashew milk or water to help rehydrate the sauce as needed. Alternatively, reheat in the microwave in 30 second increments, stopping to stir each time, until warm. 
To Freeze. Store mac and cheese in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1.25cups | Calories: 440kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 4.5g | Sodium: 1090mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 7g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

If you love this recipe, please leave a star rating and review below!
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10 Comments

  1. Misty Fontenot says:

    5 stars
    I have made this one for football watching. It’s rich! But so good. As a vegetarian, one of the things I used to love so much was buffalo chicken and I have moments of missing that flavor. This totally helps that craving!

  2. Katie says:

    5 stars
    The spice level was spot on and heated up great the following day

  3. Mariana says:

    5 stars
    DELICIOUS!! Approved by even the picky eaters of the house. Thank you for such an easy-to-follow, fab recipe.

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi Mariana – I’m so glad the recipe was a hit! Thank you for coming back and leaving a review!

  4. Mariana says:

    5 stars
    My family loved this!! Great way to get my boys to eat veggies 😉 and no one guessed I used a gluten free pasta. We will make it again!

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Mariana! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!

  5. Anna Casey says:

    5 stars
    This was an amazing crowd pleasing dish I made ahead and froze for the whole family coming into town! If I were to make again I may reduce the Buffalo sauce to make it a tad less spicy but that is purely preference. Great textures and very hearty!!!

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi Anna – So glad the recipe was a hit! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review.

  6. Lynn Crosby says:

    5 stars
    This was SO delicious!! Even my son who strictly loves boxed Mac and cheese ate seconds. Will make again

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi Lynn – I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!