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.
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.
- 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.
Step 1: Roast the Cauliflower
Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place cauliflower florets in a 9x13-inch baking dish, and toss with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and ½ tsp. each of salt and black pepper.
Roast cauliflower for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Decrease oven temperature to 375ºF.
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.
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 ½ tsp. salt.
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.
Step 6: Bake Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
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 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.
What to Serve with Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- Salad: For a cooling, crunchy counter to the creamy pasta, this Avocado and Cucumber Salad is a show-stopper.
- Extra Veggies: For even more cruciferous love, try my reader-favorite Miso-Sesame Glazed Brussels Sprouts.
- Other Bar Food Favorites: For a bonafide game day spread, my Vegan Green Chile Queso is a MUST! This Spinach & Kale Whipped Yogurt Dip is also a favorite.
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.
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!
Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 9x13-inch baking pan
- Medium pot for boiling pasta
- 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
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 (8-oz.) box chickpea pasta, such as Banza brand (sub pasta of choice)
- 1 ½ cups finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 bunch green onions, trimmed and finely chopped, divided
- 1 ½ tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour (or gluten free all-purpose flour)
- 2 cups unsweetened cashew milk (or milk of choice)
- ½ cup mild or medium buffalo sauce (I like Noble Brand)
- 1 ½ cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 3 Tbsp. blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place cauliflower florets in a 9x13-inch baking dish, and toss with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and ½ 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 ½ 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.
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!
The spice level was spot on and heated up great the following day
DELICIOUS!! Approved by even the picky eaters of the house. Thank you for such an easy-to-follow, fab recipe.
Hi Mariana - I'm so glad the recipe was a hit! Thank you for coming back and leaving a review!
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!
I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Mariana! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!
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!!!
Hi Anna - So glad the recipe was a hit! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review.
This was SO delicious!! Even my son who strictly loves boxed Mac and cheese ate seconds. Will make again
Hi Lynn - I'm so glad you enjoyed it!! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!