How to Make Cauliflower Mash

Cauliflower mash isn't just a low-carb mashed potato replacement; we think it actually tastes better!

There’s no way around it: mashed potatoes are comforting and delicious. They’re a staple alongside fried chicken or pot roast, and you’ll find them at almost every holiday meal. The interesting thing about this popular side dish is that you don’t actually need the potatoes! You can create a low-carb replacement that tastes just as delicious by whipping up this cauliflower mash.

Is cauliflower healthier than potatoes?

Cauliflower and potatoes are both good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals, but when it comes to macronutrients, cauliflower has fewer calories and carbohydrates. If you’re on a low-carb diet or you’re looking to restrict calories, mashed cauliflower is the way to go. Each cup of boiled cauliflower has 28 calories and 5 g carbs, compared to a cup of boiled potato’s 136 calories and 32 g carbs.

How do you chop cauliflower?

For cauliflower mash, you don’t need to cut the head into perfect florets; all you need are uniform pieces that will cook evenly. Instead of discarding the stem, we like to include it in the mash. Believe it or not, it tastes sweeter than the florets!

Start by removing the woody stem base so the cauliflower sits flat when you place it stem-side down. Then, cut the whole head of cauliflower into 2-inch slices. You’ll notice the florets cling to the stem-like tree branches. Then, cut each cauliflower steak into 2-inch slices. Finish by turning the slices 180-degrees and cutting them into 1-inch cubes.

Watch how Ina Garten chops cauliflower without making a mess.

How do you know when cauliflower is cooked?

Like potatoes, the best way to know when cauliflower is cooked is to probe it with a fork. If the tines move easily into the center of the floret, it is tender enough to mash! If you’re boiling cauliflower on the stovetop, it should take about 10 to 12 minutes. It’ll take less time (and you’ll preserve more nutrients) if you steam the cauliflower for 5 to 7 minutes.

(Psst: Did you know you can use your Instant Pot as a steamer?)

How to Make Cauliflower Mash


Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

A quick note about the ingredients: Customize this recipe to create any vegetable mash! Swap the cauliflower for rutabaga, turnips, winter squash, carrots or beets. If you’re mashing sweet veggies like carrots or winter squash, skip the butter and use maple syrup or honey instead.


Step 1: Chop the cauliflower

You can follow our floret-less chopping technique above or do this: quarter the cauliflower, remove the stem and break the quarters apart into small florets. The important thing is that each piece of cauliflower is the same size so it cooks evenly.

Step 2: Simmer until tender

Place your chopped cauliflower in a large saucepan and cover it with water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Drain out the water using a colander and return the cauliflower to the pan. Keep the pan over very low heat and cook, stirring, for a minute or two to let as much of the water evaporate off as possible.

Pro Tip: Try steaming your vegetables instead of boiling them to preserve more of the nutrients.

Step 3: Season the cream

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, create the seasoned cream by combining the heavy whipping cream, butter, peppercorns, garlic, bay leaf and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat. As soon as the cream starts to bubble, remove the pan from the heat. Strain the cream mixture into the saucepan containing the cooked cauliflower, discarding the peppercorns, garlic and bay leaf.

Step 4: Mash away

You have two choices when mashing cauliflower. For a chunky mash, use an old-fashioned hand masher to mix the cauliflower and cream, breaking it down into the desired consistency. If you like a really smooth texture, you can use a hand mixer or a food processor, but keep in mind that these methods will overmix starchy vegetables (like potatoes or rutabaga) and give them a gluey consistency. (Avoid these most common mistakes when making mashed potatoes.)

Use the Leftovers in These Creative Recipes
1 / 25

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.