Published On: Mon, Nov 20th, 2023

This vegan gratin uses cauliflower puree to keep the classic creamy

This vegan gratin uses cauliflower puree to keep the classic creamy
This vegan gratin uses cauliflower puree to keep the classic creamy


I ask myself that question fairly often. It’s not that I’m a purist; while I eat a mostly plant-based diet, I flex enough to eat dairy products here and there. But I’m always looking for ways to take a recipe that already looks appealing and open it up to more readers.

Sometimes it’s a heavy lift, heavier than it might be worth. Other times the tweaks are so obvious you wonder why they weren’t offered as a variation in the first place.

Get the recipe: Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Gratin

The latter feeling struck me when I saw an ingenious recipe for cauliflower gratin in one of America’s Test Kitchen’s latest books, “Modern Bistro.” It’s not a vegan book, by any stretch; the “vegetable mains” chapter, for one, also includes cheese dishes such as fondue and soufflés, and puffy pastry and cream abound. But the gratin recipe caught my eye because its defining quality is the double use of the main-ingredient cruciferous vegetable, part of which is pureed to make a sauce for the rest.

The cauliflower puree replaces the traditional Mornay sauce (milk, flour and gruyere) in the classic French side dish, getting it awfully close to vegan. Using nutritional yeast instead of the relatively small amount of parmesan (in both the sauce and the topping) and vegan butter takes it all the way home.

Since I was already playing around, I went ahead and shook up the spices, too, using smoked paprika and chipotle as foils to the nutty nutritional yeast (although you can stick with the classic nutmeg and dry mustard if you’d like). I also introduced two shortcuts, adding cornstarch directly to the blender with other puree ingredients rather than creating a separate slurry first; and skipping a step for toasting the panko in butter, thereby saving a skillet — and some calories.

After I tested the recipe, I realized that the lack of a Mornay sauce also made the recipe within easy striking distance of gluten-free. Switch out the conventional panko for a celiac-friendly version, and there you have it: a creamy, comforting dish with a heavy dose of inclusivity.

Get the recipe: Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Gratin


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