Mashed Cauliflower with Parmesan Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 30 min.
Cauliflower mashed potatoes are a great substitute for "the real thing," whether you're low-carbing or just want a lighter side dish for those hot summer evenings. They're just as quick and easy as potatoes, and every bit as tasty.

Updated: Jun. 03, 2024

Mashed potatoes are one of the all-time great side dishes, but cauliflower mashed potatoes may be even better. One of potatoes’ great virtues is that they’re filling, but that can also be a fault. Sometimes (in summertime, especially) you might not want a heavy side dish, and that’s where cauliflower comes in.

Cauliflower mash doesn’t have exactly the same texture as mashed potatoes, but it’s still a great substitute. It packs all the classic flavors you love into a lighter side dish, one that’s lower in carbs as well, if that’s your thing. If you don’t know how to make cauliflower mashed potatoes, don’t worry: It’s just as quick and easy as the regular kind.

Ingredients for Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

  • Cauliflower: Cauliflower’s low-key, slightly nutty flavor makes it a good substitute for potatoes in many dishes. It’s still neutral enough to work with most dishes, but it’s lower in carbs and doesn’t feel as heavy.
  • Parmesan cheese: Parmesan cheese packs a big wallop of savory umami flavors. As a dry cheese, it also absorbs some of the cauliflower’s moisture, improving the mouth-feel of the cauliflower mash.
  • Cream: Heavy whipping cream or half-and-half adds richness to the finished dish and makes it feel more like potatoes.
  • Butter: Like the cream, butter adds to the richness of the mashed cauliflower.
  • Black pepper: There’s plenty of salt already, thanks to the Parmesan, and pepper works with it to make the other ingredients taste better.
  • Parsley: Parsley is an optional garnish, but it adds a bright visual contrast that’s welcome at the table.


Step 1: Cook the cauliflower

Run an inch of water into the bottom of a large saucepan, then add the cauliflower florets. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then turn it down and simmer the cauliflower for 10 to 12 minutes, or until soft. Drain the cauliflower well.

Editor’s Tip: Cooking time will vary, depending on how large you’ve made your florets. Small florets (about 1 inch) will cook more quickly, but large florets (2 inches or more) trap less water and will give your cauliflower mash a better texture.

Step 2: Mash and flavor the cauliflower

Mash the cauliflower until it reaches your desired consistency (some cooks prefer their mashed cauliflower slightly chunky, while others prefer a smooth texture). Stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, plus the cream, butter and pepper. Transfer the cauliflower to a serving bowl, and garnish with the remaining Parmesan and the parsley, if you’re using it.

Cauliflower Mashed Potato Variations

  • Garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes: Garlic is a much-loved addition to regular mashed potatoes, and it works equally well in cauliflower mash. Just roast a bulb of garlic beforehand (or two, if you’re a garlic lover), squeeze the cloves from their skins and add them to the cauliflower during the mashing stage.
  • Herbed cauliflower mash: Fresh herbs make a great addition to both mashed potatoes and this mashed cauliflower recipe. Chives, thyme, dill, fennel fronds and finely minced rosemary are all excellent choices, but feel free to experiment with any other herbs you’re fond of.
  • Spiced cauliflower mashed potatoes: Cauliflower is neutral enough to provide a blank palette for experimentation, so throw open your spice cabinet and start rummaging! Curry powder, Italian seasoning and other prepared mixtures are easy options, but you can also come up with your own custom spice combinations to match the rest of the meal.
  • Loaded mashed cauliflower: Treat your cauliflower mash as a vehicle for your favorite toppings, including sour cream, shredded cheese and crumbled bacon. Better yet, set out several toppings and let everyone pick their own combination.

Can I make cauliflower mashed potatoes ahead of time?

Yes, absolutely. Store them in your refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days, either as a make-ahead or as leftovers (assuming they’ve been cooled as soon as possible after the meal). The cauliflower mash can be reheated quickly in the microwave, or in a baking dish in a low oven.

Can I freeze this cauliflower mashed potatoes recipe?

You can, though it may shed some moisture when it’s thawed. Draining it for a few minutes in a colander before heating it can help remove most of the excess moisture, and reheating in an oven or toaster oven allows time for the rest to evaporate.

Cauliflower Mashed Potato Tips

Can I mix mashed cauliflower with regular mashed potatoes?

Sure, it’s a great option if you want to ease some more vegetables into your meals, or if you miss the texture of real potatoes. Over time you can scale back on the potatoes, if you wish, until you’ve transitioned all the way to mashed cauliflower.

What should I use to mash the cauliflower?

A regular potato masher works just fine, though the cauliflower mash won’t be quite as smooth as mashed potatoes. Some prefer it to be a bit chunky in texture, but if you want that smooth mashed-potato feel you can use an immersion blender to achieve a finer puree.

How can I cut the cauliflower into florets without making a mess?

There’s a specific technique involved in cutting up a head of cauliflower without getting little white crumbs everywhere. If nobody’s ever told you about it, we’ve got your back. Check out our detailed tutorial on how to cut cauliflower.

What other low-carb side dishes can I pair with mashed cauliflower?

That’s basically up to you! We have dozens of low-carb side dishes to choose from, using green beans, zucchini, broccoli and much more. Scroll through the list and pick out whichever options look like they’d fit with your meal plans and the ingredients you have on hand.

Watch how to Make Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Prep Time 30 min
Yield 6 servings.


  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2-1/2 pounds), broken into florets
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Minced fresh parsley, optional


  1. Place 1 in. of water and the cauliflower in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, covered, until cauliflower is soft, 10-12 minutes. Drain.
  2. Mash cauliflower to desired consistency. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese, cream, butter and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and, if desired, parsley.

Nutrition Facts

2/3 cup: 154 calories, 11g fat (7g saturated fat), 33mg cholesterol, 290mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 3g fiber), 8g protein.

I couldn’t shake my mashed potato habit—until I tried mashed cauliflower with a similar consistency. I started making my own, and my family loves it. —Meredith Howard, Franklin, Kentucky