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Air fryer cauliflower cheese

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In our home, particularly during the colder months, we love a hearty roast dinner. This air fryer cauliflower cheese is a delicious air fryer side dish that goes perfect with my Ninja Foodi roast beef.

I’ve got a TON of easy air fryer recipes that I love to cook, and these air fryer cauliflower cheese is super simple, and absolutely delicious too.

Cauliflower cheese is a fantastic dish to make in the air fryer. You can pop it in the air fryer just after you place your Yorkshire puddings in the oven and then you won’t have to open the door again while your Yorkshires are rising.

When you’re looking to bulk your roast out, on a budget, cauliflower cheese can be a great side to serve. It’s hearty, and you can even use frozen cauliflower florets too.

Making family style meals is always a winner in my home. I love to place out the serving dishes and have everyone serve themselves. Then it is very simple to place leftovers directly in the fridge and use them over the coming days with very minimal fuss and effort. This is a great way to cut back on food waste too and helps me to make a simple dinner the next evening, or just a fast lunch.

A cauliflower cheese cooked in the air fryer in a Le Creuset dish.

Ingredients for air fryer cauliflower cheese:

Cheese sauce:

  • 25 g butter
  • 25 g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp mustard
  • l1/4 tsp garlic powder (or 1 minced clove) 
  • 300 ml whole milk
  • pinch Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt and pepper 
  • 150 g cheddar cheese

Other ingredients:

  • 300g cauliflower florets (frozen or fresh)

Topping: 

  • 20g sharp cheddar cheese (grated) 
  • 20g parmesan (grated)
Ninja Kebab Stand, Ninja sling, Ninja mini muffin tray

Method for making cauliflower cheese in the air fryer:

Start by finding a baking dish that is suitable for use in your air fryer and the right size to fit into the air fryer basket, or air fryer pot.

I have a Ninja Foodi OL750UK and so I remove the inner basket and just use the main cooking pot. Then I use my favourite ceramic Le Creuset dish, or an enamel dish.

Prepare your cauliflower.

Personally I like to cut the cauliflower florets from the cauliflower head, place into salted cold water, bring to the boil and then I will drain after 5-6 minutes. You CAN boil the entire head, stalk out of the water, and then cut the florets off after cooked if you want to make it easier to remove the florets.

Drain this and set to the side.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the flour. Mix well.

Cook on the hob for 1 minute.

Add the salt, mustard, garlic and a pinch of nutmeg. Then slowly add the milk, while whisking the mixture, until it is fully combined. Once you have mixed in all of the milk just remove the saucepan from the heat.

Add in the cheddar cheese, stir continuously until it is melted. Only add back onto the heat if needed. Add the pepper and stir through.

Once you’ve prepared your cheese sauce stir through the drained cauliflower florets and add these to the cheese sauce.

Place this into your air fryer suitable dish and then add the cheese mix to the top, or another topping of your choice (see below for suggestions).

Then pop it into the air fryer.

Air fry at 200C for 5-6 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

There is no need to stir this during cooking, or disturb it at all, but do check at 4-5 minutes, just to ensure that the top is not burning as each air fryer is different. Check my air fryer tips for some other tips and tricks to using the air fryer too!

A bowl of air fryer roasted tomato soup with basil. Alongside is a grey tea towel with a brushed aluminium teaspoon and a white and blue enamel dish with air fryer croutons.

Alternative vegetables that you can add to your cauliflower cheese:

You CAN add any vegetables you like, however, I find that broccoli works well, as does spinach. If I’m adding broccoli I’ll cook in the same water as the cauliflower, for the same time, and use the same quantities (just split 50/50).

You can also add some cauliflower and/or broccoli into this air fryer mac and cheese dish. I love cooking air fryer vegetable recipes.

Want to add a little extra special flavour to your dish? 

I love to add some protein to this dish, to make more of a meal. This is perfect for a simple lunch. I’ll add some air fryer bacon or even some leftover whole roast chicken. Chorizo works beautifully too.

Tenderstem broccolini in an air fryer basket

Topping ideas for your cauliflower cheese: 

While the cheese mix above works very well you could also use panko breadcrumbs, normal breadcrumbs or even polenta. Anything that will go golden brown, and have a bit of a crunch to it, works very well as an addition to this dish.

Sometimes I will take some air fryer croutons, blitz them in the food processor, and then sprinkle these over the top. Ideal for the days when I don’t have any extra cheese to hand.

How to reheat air fryer cheesy cauliflower: 

If you’ve got a cooked cauliflower cheese that you want to re-heat then you can do this in the air fryer. The timings are similar to the above, just check after 3-4 minutes and make sure that it is piping hot throughout when serving.

Two corn on the cobs cooked in the air fryer on a white plate

Want to use a different cheese sauce?

There is no need to make your own cheese sauce from scratch if you don’t want to. While the Bisto cheese sauce is not quite as nice as home made (in my opinion) it is VERY simple to make up and ideal to have on hand in your pantry. All you need is water (or milk if you want a thicker sauce).

You’ll also find cheese sauce in the fresh aisle in most supermarkets, often with the fresh pasta, and you can use this too if you want something both super tasty AND simple to make.

Do you want to use a different cheese in your sauce?

I love to use smoked cheese or even cream cheese when I want to use up fridge leftovers or make a thicker sauce. You can use any variety of cheddar cheese for this and personally I love one with a hint of spice to it.

Red Leicester works great too and brings more of an interesting colour to the dish too.

Floral background with text overlay that says air fryer tips and tricks 20+ great tips!

Want to use roasted cauliflower instead?

You could make your own cheese sauce up while you roast the cauliflower in your air fryer with a little spray olive oil. This will have more of a bite to it, and be less fork tender, but is perfect if you’re a fan of a firmer bite to your cauliflower.

Why does cauliflower cheese go watery?

Cauliflower itself has quite a high water content, and when it is cooked it will release water. This can make a dish watery – particularly if the cauliflower is overcooked. 

Make sure that you drain your cauliflower well and let it steam for a couple of minutes before you use it in this recipe. 

A higher temperature can help you to have a dish that is not watery and a nice thick sauce will help a little too, as does stirring it well when serving up or even using a slotted spoon when dishing up. 

A white bowl of root vegetable mash with a brushed steel spoon, a pat of butter on the top and a pink waffle tea towel in the background.

How to make cauliflower cheese healthier? 

Cauliflower cheese is a calorie dense dish, but there is nothing wrong with that! All foods in moderation and all that… However, if you’re looking to make your cauliflower cheese a little lighter in calories or fat you can look to swap to skimmed milk, use a lower-fat cheese or even replace some of the cheese with nutritional yeast to bring extra flavour without all of the calories.

If you want to bulk the meal out a little you can use broccoli or spinach too. This will help to boost the fibre content and you could swap the flour for almond flour if your budget allows. 

Can cauliflower cheese be cooked from frozen? 

Personally I have tried this and find that the sauce thins too much and you end up with a dish that is much more watery.

What you can do is prepare this in advance and leave it in the fridge for up to 3 days before cooking and serving. 

Just add a couple of minutes onto the cooking time before you serve if you’re cooking directly from the fridge in your air fryer. 

If you want to freeze the cauliflower cheese I would advise cooking fully, cooling completely, transferring to a freezer-safe container in individual portions and then you’ll have servings that you can microwave right before serving. Alternatively defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat in the oven before serving for best results. 

Pressure cooker mashed potatoes with butter and chives

Can you reheat cauliflower cheese?

Absolutely you can! It’ll taste good, but be aware that it can be a little drier and the cauliflower may be quite soft. 

I love to save individual portions and then re-heat those in the air fryer before serving. For re-heating I follow the same cooking temperature and just add a couple of minutes to the cooking time making sure to check it is piping hot throughout before serving. 

What to serve cauliflower cheese with:

We absolutely love to enjoy this with a roast dinner. Air fryer pork chops, air fryer pork schnitzel or air fryer pork belly strips are all delicious too and work great with the flavours of this dish.

You can serve this as a main course for vegan or vegetarian guests too, just make sure you modify the ingredients as appropriate. If you want to save time you can even use an instant cheese sauce. Buffalo cauliflower wings work great too if you want something a little different.

You won’t get such a creamy cheese sauce typically but they are great if you’re in a rush. A pinch of black pepper is a nice addition too.

A bowl full of air fryer carrots and parsnips.

How to make cauliflower cheese in the air fryer:

A cauliflower cheese cooked in the air fryer in a Le Creuset dish.
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5 from 4 votes

Air fryer cauliflower cheese

How to make a delicious simple cauliflower cheese in the air fryer.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine British
Keyword air fryer, cauliflower, cheese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Total Time 11 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 309kcal
Author Katykicker

Ingredients

Cheese sauce:

  • 25 g butter
  • 25 g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp mustard
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1 minced clove
  • 300 ml whole milk
  • pinch Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt and pepper
  • 150 g cheddar cheese

Other ingredients:

  • 300 g cauliflower florets frozen or fresh

Topping:

  • 20 g sharp cheddar cheese grated
  • 20 g parmesan grated

Instructions

  • Start by finding a baking dish that is suitable for use in your air fryer and the right size to fit into the air fryer basket, or air fryer pot.
  • I have a Ninja Foodi OL750UK and so I remove the inner basket and just use the main cooking pot. Then I use my favourite ceramic Le Creuset dish, or an enamel dish.
  • Prepare your cauliflower.
  • Personally I like to cut the cauliflower florets from the cauliflower head, place into salted cold water, bring to the boil and then I will drain after 5-6 minutes. You CAN boil the entire head, stalk out of the water, and then cut the florets off after cooked if you want to make it easier to remove the florets.
  • Drain this and set to the side.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the flour. Mix well.
  • Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the salt, mustard, garlic and a pinch of nutmeg. Then slowly add the milk, while whisking the mixture, until it is fully combined. Once you have mixed in all of the milk just remove the saucepan from the heat.
  • Add in the cheddar cheese, stir continuously until it is melted. Only add back onto the heat if needed. Add the pepper and stir through.
  • Once you’ve prepared your cheese sauce stir through the drained cauliflower florets and add these to the cheese sauce.
  • Place this into your air fryer suitable dish and then add the cheese mix to the top, or another topping of your choice (see below for suggestions).
  • Then pop it into the air fryer.
  • Air fry at 200C for 5-6 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
  • There is no need to stir this during cooking, or disturb it at all, but do check at 4-5 minutes, just to ensure that the top is not burning as each air fryer is different. Check my air fryer tips for some other tips and tricks to using the air fryer too!

Nutrition

Calories: 309kcal

Note: All calorie information is for demonstration purposes only and is based on the specific uncooked ingredients that I used when creating the recipe.

If you enjoyed this post I’d love it if you could pin it on Pinterest!

A cauliflower cheese cooked in the air fryer in a Le Creuset dish.
Recipe Rating




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chhavi

Friday 28th of June 2024

I am not a big fan of cauliflower, but this recipe was delicious! Will be making it again!

Vladka

Thursday 27th of June 2024

They are a game-changer! The cauliflower comes out perfectly tender with a delightful crispy edge and absolutely delicious.

Maris

Thursday 27th of June 2024

This recipe was super easy to follow and the cauliflower came out perfectly tender. The top was nice and crispy while the inside remained soft and cheesy. I'll definitely be making this again.

Melanie

Monday 17th of June 2024

Came out perfect! Cheesy and very comforting. Our family's new Cauliflower recipe. Yum!

Rin

Saturday 8th of June 2024

So delicious! I had some leftover mozzarella so I added them in. Definitely my new favorite!

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