Cauliflower Cheese Bake

from Little Critics Cookbook

Contributed by Suzanne Barr: “This is my go-to for the whole family when I don’t have a lot of time but still want to serve something substantial, and it is the epitome of comfort food. As a chef and mother, I try to tweak hearty classics to make them healthier without losing any of the yum factor. My son Myles has no idea that this cheesy fave has cauliflower in it, and I’m okay with that. I like using panko breadcrumbs to sprinkle on top – he loves that crunchy component before digging into the cheesy, gooey goodness.”


PREP TIME: 20 minutes 

COOK TIME: 50 minutes


1½ heads cauliflower 

2 tbsp olive oil

½ cup medium-diced white onion

½ cup medium-diced carrot

¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste 

3 cups vegetable stock

3 cups shredded sharp cheddar

½ cup coconut milk

½ tsp apple cider vinegar

½ tsp Dijon mustard

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 

1 tsp pepper, plus more to taste


Roughly chop the ½ head cauliflower and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the chopped cauliflower and stock and increase the heat to high. Cover the pot and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining whole cauliflower into ¼-inch-thick slices and place the slices in a casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Carefully blend the cauliflower soup in the pot using a blender. It will be hot, so use caution. Once it is smooth, return it to the pot and place over medium heat. Once it begins to simmer, add 2 cups of the cheddar and whisk until smooth and creamy. Remove the pot from the heat and add the coconut milk, vinegar, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne. Whisk to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Pour enough sauce over the prepared cauliflower slices to thoroughly cover them. You might not need all the sauce. Any excess can be served as a soup or frozen for up to 3 months.

In a medium bowl, combine the panko, remaining 1 cup of cheddar, the parsley, and pepper and toss until well mixed. Sprinkle over the cauliflower and bake until the sauce is bubbly and the top is crispy and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Nada’s Tips & Tricks: OMG this was so good! Smooth and creamy…I used cream instead of the coconut milk as one of my granddaughters doesn’t like coconut. This sauce can be used with different vegetables – make the sauce your mainstay and then change up the veggies. Perfect side dish to your next dinner or holiday party!

Excerpted from Little Critics: What Canadian Chefs Cook for Kids (and Kids Will Actually Eat) by Joanna Fox. Foreword by Frederic Morin. Copyright © 2022 Joanna Fox. Photography by Dominique Lafond. Photos on pages, 30, 31, 88, 89, 91, 124, 125, 212, 213, 220, 221, 237, 248, 253, 254, 255, and 256 by Maya Visnyei; and on pages 60, 61, 84, and 253 by Viranlly Liemena. Book Design by Talia Abramson. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.