Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Fontina Cheese Sauce

By Amanda Paa – Updated October 1, 2021
4.44 from 16 votes
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I’m not a picky eater, but I am a particular eater.

I enjoy fruit and chocolate, but never together (which is how these coconut butter dipped strawberries came to be).

I love poached eggs, but not super runny yolks. If you eat breakfast with me, I’ll always clarify to the server, “medium poached, like I don’t want yellow oozing everywhere  when you I poke it with a fork.” I know some of you are shaking your head and saying, “but that’s the best part!

Hot coffee, never iced. Even when it’s 89 degrees at 7:00 am, and the humidity is already at 65%. To me, it doesn’t have as much flavor, aNd I can’t drink it as fast.

And cheese. Except don’t build me a cold sandwich with a cold piece of cheese. I will pick it off every single time, and have done so since I was a child. But this only applies to sandwiches.

Now warm, melted cheese… that’s where my true love resides. In just about every application, such as Hot Buffalo Cauliflower Dip…. but especially savory fontina cheese sauce that sinks into SMOKING hot whole roasted cauliflower.

pouring cheese sauce over roasted cauliflower

With edges charred and browned, dried herbs mixed with olive oil and a little dijon mustard giving it a crust that most with associate with meat.

This is the kind of dish that wins friends. Both those who love vegetables, and those who might be convinced to try only because of the cheese.

The Secret to the Best Whole Roasted Cauliflower

I learned from Joy The Baker that simmering the whole head of cauliflower (basically poaching) in a “brine” before roasted partially cooks the cauliflower, so that it is cooked from the inside out. For the brine,

I used (peppercorns, olive oil, garlic, bay leaves) infuses them with initial flavor all the way through.

Now that the cauliflower is partially cooked, roasting will take care of the crispy edges, turn the core tender, and impart delicious. It’s so tender it nearly melts in your mouth.

brushing raw cauliflower with olive oil and herbs
whole roasted cauliflower with herbs on a plate

Making Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce

When making cheese sauces, I like using fontina (made from cow’s milk) because it melts like a gem and is extremely versatile. Roth Cheese, from my neighbor state, Wisconsin, produce a Swedish-style Fontina. The smooth, creamy body accents the slightly tart flavor and mild, yeasty finish.

This sauce recipe evolved from the rosemary bechamel I used on cauliflower steaks at a recent dinner party, and couldn’t have been more perfect for this whole roasted version. To make it gluten-free, you’ll use brown rice flour to make the roux.

Savory. Rich. A golden, crackly masterpiece. Comfort feelings reminiscent of those I had when eating deep fried cauliflower and cheddar cheese sauce at the local watering hole with my parents when I was young. Except it’s a little more refined, quite impressive to serve, and wholesome, real food magic. Enjoy, xo.

whole roasted cauliflower on a plate with cheese sauce

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whole roasted cauliflower on a plate with cheese sauce

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Fontina Cheese Sauce

A recipe for whole roasted cauliflower with a delicious crispy crust, finished with a creamy fontina cheese sauce poured on top. Makes for a beautiful vegetarian main dish!
4.44 from 16 votes
Prep Time :20 minutes
Cook Time :1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time :1 hour 25 minutes
Yield: 5
Author: Amanda Paa




  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 head of garlic smashed
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower leave removed and core cut off a bit on the bottom so it sits flat

Cauliflower Crust

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley (or oregano)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dijion mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fontina Cheese Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 cups two percent milk
  • 2 1/2 ounces Roth fontina cheese shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • grated fresh nutmeg


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Bring large pot of water (I use a 5 quart dutch oven and fill it about 5 inches to the top. You’re looking to give the cauliflower room to float) to boiling. Stir in all of cauliflower ingredients, then put in cauliflower, core side facing the ceiling (so top of head down). Simmer for 15 minutes, until cauliflower is fork tender.
  • Drain cauliflower, and carefully place it on parchment lined sheet pan. Whisk crust ingredients together and brush all over cauliflower crust (if your cauliflower is really large, use an extra tablespoon of oil when mixing the ingredients up). Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is charred and brown. You can broil for a few minutes at end to really get crispy edges.
  • Meanwhile, heat butter in a saucepan on medium to melt. Whisk in flour, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, so flour can get heated through. Then whisk in cream and milk, until smooth. Add salt and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken.
  • Add shredded cheese and whisk, until melted. Cook for one minute, than add rosemary, parsley and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg. Taste, and add a little salt if needed.
  • Pour over warm cauliflower, and reserve some for dipping.

Did you make this?

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November 29, 2016


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  1. Liz Teachey

    Hi, I made this recipe last night and it was a hit. My husband and a friend who don’t like cauliflowers loved it and had seconds and thirds. I used gluten free flour and Gruyere instead of the rice flour and fontina cheese only cause I could not find it but still delicious!

    • Amanda Paa

      yay, love that there are newfound cauliflower lovers at your table!

  2. Nicole

    Can you use almond flour instead of brown rice flour?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Nicole!
      You’ll need to use a starchy gf flour – its purpose in the recipe is to thicken the sauce. Almond flour will not work.

  3. Amanda

    made this last night. It was amazing!!!
    I did user Gruyere cheese which was also delicious.

    • amandapaa

      Yay! I’m so glad you liked the recipe. I’ll have to try it with Gruyere!

  4. Kimberley Quinn

    I have one question, you say 1 Head of garlic, smasjed. Now, you mean the whole peeled head of garlic? Not 1 CLOVE of garlic? Not complaining, my friends and I never feel there is such a thing as too much roasted garlic. Just being careful the first time I make this.
    Love cauli and adore cheese! Thank you for a great recipe!😄

    • amandapaa

      Hi Kimberly! The head of garlic, smashed, is to go in the brine that you’ll boil the cauliflower in first. It just infuses the water. So it’s not ground up to actually eat. :) Enjoy!

  5. Janene

    Wow–I LOVE everything about your site!! I can’t wait to make this tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your gifts!!

    • amandapaa

      Aw, thanks Janene! I’m so glad you stopped by. And hope you enjoy the cauliflower! xo

  6. Emily Tritabaugh

    This dish is amazing. I made it last night with a group of friends and plates were licked clean.

    The only change I made was using almond flour instead of brown rice flour because I already had it. We ended up having 1/3 of the cheese sauce left that was used today on eggs and will be used throughout the weekend on other dishes.

  7. Abby @ Heart of a Baker

    Hoooooly goodness, this looks amazing! I’ve been eyeing up whole roasted cauliflower for some time now, but my husband doesn’t like cauliflower is anything, so I might have to eat it all myself :) That cheese sauce is calling to me! Plus, these pictures are SO GOOD my friend xoxo

  8. Karlie

    This is beautiful! My mom and I have a favorite whole roasted cauliflower at a restaurant, I can’t wait to share this recipe with her so we can make it at home! Thanks for sharing

    • amandapaa

      It’s really easy to make at home! And I love how fancy it looks. There usually aren’t any leftovers. :)