Love Cauliflower Cheese? Then you will also love this easy Air Fryer Cauliflower Cheese recipe. Creamy sauce, melted cheese, and crispy cauliflower edges make it perfect for vegetarian holiday mains or a comforting dinner on a chilly night.
There are so many variations of this British classic recipe. But this creamy and cheesy cauliflower cheese is a staple recipe in our household and a true family favourite. Whether you’re preparing it for cosy weeknight dinner or as the star of your Christmas dinner, I can tell you it makes a super comforting indulgent dish, that everyone will love.
I first learnt this incredible recipe from my neighbour, Pat, who made us Cauliflower cheese a few times. Pat’s version of oven baked cauliflower cheese, cooked to perfection in the air fryer, has become a staple in my family’s menu. This recipe has a two secret ingredients, which elevates the flavours by multifold. It’s a wonderfully simple dish that never fails to impress. You are also going to love our roasted broccoli and cauliflower cheese recipe!
About my easy Air fryer Cauliflower Cheese recipe
This Air fryer cauliflower cheese is super simple and easy to make. You really cannot go wrong with it.
All you need to do is to par boil the cauliflower until fork tender, but still firm. Simultaneously prepare a cheese sauce. Then transfer the cauliflower florets in to the baking dish, top with cheese sauce, add lots of cheese and air fry for 5-6 minutes or so until the cheese has melted and slightly brown on the top.
For this recipe I am using 20 x 16 cm dish, that fits in perfectly inside my Instant Pot Vortex 6 in 1 Air fryer with 5.7l capacity.
You will need the following to make one of the easiest air fryer cauliflower cheese.The recipe uses two secret ingredients that makes this dish stand out – Dijon Mustard and Red Leicester Cheese.
- Cauliflower: Fresh cauliflower florets taste best when chopped into large florets and used in this dish. Make sure it is cooked well before adding it to the baking dish.
- Cheese: Use a combination of cheeses – Cheddar Cheese and Red Leicester Cheese
- Milk: Adding milk creates the creamy texture.
- Cream: Adding cream lends the richness to the sauce.
- Plain flour: Also known as All purpose flour is used as a the thickening agent for the creamy sauce.
- Butter: You can use unsalted butter for this recipe.
- Salt & Pepper: to taste
How to make Cauliflower Cheese in the air fryer?
Cook the cauliflower: Begin by adding cauliflower florets and a teaspoon of salt to a large pan. Pour boiling water from the kettle and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Drain to a colander and set aside. You want the cauliflower to be fork-tender when pierced with a knife but still firm enough to hold its shape.
Make the cheddar cheese sauce: To prepare the cheese sauce,.first melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Then add the flour, stirring continuously to form a thick paste. Gradually add the milk and cream, whisking until fully combined. Stir in Dijon mustard and a pinch of nutmeg, cooking the sauce until it begins to bubble. Turn off the heat, add cheddar cheese, season, and then remove it from the heat.
Transfer to a baking dish: Arrange the cauliflower florets in a baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over them to ensure they are fully covered. Sprinkle cheddar and Red Leicester cheese on top.
Air fry: Transfer the baking dish to the air fryer basket and set it to air fry at 200°C for 5-6 minutes. Your goal is to achieve a golden-brown top with bubbling sauce. Keep in mind that the exact frying time may vary depending on your air fryer’s size, so use the mentioned time as a reference.
If you are using a smaller air fryer, you may have to make them in two dishes.
Serve: Allow the cauliflower cheese to rest for a few minutes before serving. This dish can serve as the main course for 3 people or as a side for at least 6-7 servings.
How to make Cauliflower Cheese in the Oven?
To make cauliflower cheese in the oven, preheat to 200°C (400°F). Layer cauliflower in a baking dish, pour cheesy cream sauce over them, scatter cheese, and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden. Allow the dish to cool slightly before serving. These creamy and flavourful cauliflower cheese will make a delicious side dish for any meal or as a main for special occasions or gatherings.
Crispy Toppings: Sprinkle 2 -3 tablespoon of white bread crumbs over the top of grated cheese.
Vary the cheese: Cheddar cheese is firm favourite in the cheese sauce. But for a change, you can add parmesan or blue cheese.
Mustard: This recipe uses Dijon Mustard. You can choose to add English Mustard instead, in the cheese sauce.
Air Fryer Cauliflower Cheese is a versatile dish that can be a star on your holiday mains menu, whether it’s for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any other special occasion. It’s also an excellent choice for vegetarians looking for a hearty main course.
In the fridge: If you have any leftovers, don’t worry; this dish can be stored easily. Simply place the leftover cauliflower cheese in an airtight container and refrigerate it. It will stay fresh for 2-3 days.
In the freezer: For longer-term storage, consider freezing it. The cauliflower texture will be softer when thawed, but I can tell you they are still delicious.
To reheat: First thaw the frozen cauliflower cheese in the fridge overnight or in the microwave using the defrost function. Then reheat it in the oven or air fryer to bring back that crispy texture.
Make ahead Best Cauliflower Cheese for Christmas
To ease the holiday rush on Christmas or Thanksgiving, consider preparing your Cauliflower Cheese in advance. Start by cooking the cauliflower until it’s firm tender and making the creamy cheese sauce. Once those components are ready, follow these steps:
- Assemble the Cauliflower and Cheese Sauce: Layer the cooked cauliflower with the rich velvety cheese sauce in a baking dish. Scatter more cheese on the top.
- Cover and Refrigerate: Cover the dish with foil or cling film, then place it in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. This resting period will enhance the flavours as the cauliflower absorbs the rich, cheesy goodness.
- Preparing for Serving: About one hour before you’re ready to serve, remove the prepared cauliflower cheese from the fridge.
- Air Fry to Perfection: Place the dish in the air fryer and cook until the cheese are bubbly, and golden on top. The air frying method ensures a crispy finish without losing the creamy texture.
By making ahead and air frying just before serving, you’ll have a stress-free and delicious mains that perfectly complements your holiday celebration. Serve along with other Christmas sides like crispy potato slices, root vegetables tray bake, christmas tray bake, dauphinoise potatoes , air fryer parmentier potatoes and christmas coleslaw.
Homemade Easy Cauliflower cheese recipe below
- 1 medium cauliflower broken into large florets (450g)
- 50 g butter about 4 tbsp
- 56 g plain flour about 4 tbsp
- 250 ml whole milk
- 250 ml double cream
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- 75 g mature cheddar grated
- ½ tsp nutmeg optional
On the top
- 50 g red Leicester cheese
- 50 g cheddar cheese
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then add cauliflower pieces, and cook for 5 mins – lift out a piece to test, it should be cooked. Drain and add it to an oven proof dish1 medium cauliflower
- Simultaneously, make a cheese sauce.Heat butter in a pan. When melted, add the flour and cook continuously in low flame to create a roux.50 g butter, 56 g plain flour, 250 ml whole milk, 250 ml double cream, salt and pepper to taste, 75 g mature cheddar
- Then add the milk and cream a little at a time first and continue to whisk until thick.
- Add the dijon mustard, remaining cream / milk and a pinch of nutmeg and stir and cook until the sauce bubbles.Switch off the flame and add cheddar cheese.1 tsp dijon mustard, ½ tsp nutmeg
- Place the cauliflower florets in a baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce over until fully coated. Scatter red Leicester cheese and cheddar cheese all over.50 g red Leicester cheese, 50 g cheddar cheese
- Transfer the dish to the air fryer basket. Air fry at 180C for 5-6 minutes until the cheese has melted, bubbling and the top is brown.
Baking in the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 200C. If you would like to bake, place the the dish in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese has melted and bubbling and the top is brown.