Cauliflower & Brown Rice Gratin

I've said for years now that I hate moving and after the past few weeks I can confidently say I still stand by that sentiment. I know there are certain crazy people who like finding new places for things and the boxes and fresh starts but I am not that kind of crazy person. I am a different kind of crazy person - the kind that figuratively looses her shit when things are out of control and messy and expensive and in flux. It probably doesn't help anyone that I am pregnant and extra emotional so the tears seemed to sit right behind my eye lids at the ready for a quick breakdown. My beloved husband... My parents would praise him when I would call upset that the gray paint looked too blue (so tragic!), they wouldn't entertain my over-reacting, just a "God bless that Hugh." It didn't change the gray, but I started to catch on that I was the only one who was taking things like the size of a rug or the density of curtain fabric so seriously.

Hugh showed me a few photos he shot of my belly a few weeks ago and I got shuffled back into perspective. In short, he said "I'm afraid you're missing all the good things in front of you because you are so concerned with the house looking a certain way." He's right and I am. I mean, I was, because I am trying to calm down starting today. We will create a beautiful home in its time. These sorts of projects take months and years, not a couple weeks. I've been throwing meals together but in an effort to get back to work on both the blog and book, I actually cooked cooked - as in not just scrambled eggs or grilled cheese. I oiled the cutting boards and Hugh and his dad fiddled with the oven to get it up and running again. It was today, cooking and working in this new kitchen, that both of us said it felt like our home. I threw together a strawberry-lemon breakfast cake and we danced when familiar songs came on Pandora and I felt a little less crazy. I was reminded that it's the comfortable rituals and familiar idiosyncrasies of the days and the people you spend them with that make a place feel like home, not the paint color or ideal curtains. My usual answer when people ask why I like to cook is because I like to serve people in this small way, but I also love that it is a cozy skill - a skill that can warm your own heart when you need it to.

I had a gigantic head of cauliflower from my recent CSA basket and went the warm and cheesy route because I wanted the kitchen to smell delicious and the 30 week-old person in my belly likes warm and cheesy things. A well charred tray of garlicky-roasted cauliflower is my tried and true, but folding the florets and brown rice in with some milk and cheese offered a pseudo mac n cheese situation. I think you could add in some chopped spinach for greenery or mix in a dollop of horseradish to give it a kick. Either way, it's vegetable comfort food and it was just what we needed.

Cauliflower & Brown Rice Gratin

Cauliflower & Brown Rice Gratin


Recipe adapted and mashed up from Smitten Kitchen and Naturally Ella

I know someone will ask about making this gluten free and with a little searching it seems you can substitute cornstarch in the roux. I haven't tried it, but it sounds to me like it would work. I think this would also look adorable in individual ramekins or gratin dishes. Those would likely cook in under 20 minutes.


  • 2 lbs. cauliflower
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt and pepper, more as needed
  • 2 Tbsp. unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Italian herb
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for topping
  • 3/4 cup shredded gruyere, plus more for topping
  • fresh chopped, parsley for garnish


Cauliflower & Brown Rice Gratin

Cauliflower & Brown Rice Gratin

Cauliflower & Brown Rice Gratin

Preheat the oven to 400' and grease an 8x8 pan.

Cut up the cauliflower into small chunks. Steam for 5-7 minutes until softened. Combine the cauliflower and brown rice in a mixing bowl and set aside (I ripped up any larger cauli pieces at this point).

In a saucepan, warm the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Saute until softened. Add the flour and cook another minute. Slowly start adding the milk, continuing to stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and let the roux thicken. Add the nutmeg, cayenne and Italian herbs. Stir in the parmesan and gruyere until just melted in. Pour the warm cheese mixture (it will be pretty thick) over the cauli and rice, add another few pinches of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into your baking dish and sprinkle the top with another handful of grated gruyere, parmesan and fresh ground pepper. Bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes or until the edges start to bubble. Turn the heat up to 500' and cook another 6-10 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove and let it cool for a few minutes.

Sprinkle the top with fresh chopped parsley and serve warm.

Cauliflower & Brown Rice Gratin

Reader Comments (63)

Is it wrong that I read this, totally into the idea of rice, cauliflower cheese and a shared hatred of moving, but then TOTALLY GOT DISTRACTED BY BELLY!! Friend, you're such a beauty. That glow. xo

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertara

Look @ that beautiful belly! You look stunning!

This is such a cozy meal. I'm going to make some this w/end. Thanks!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCoco in the Kitchen

You can also use tapioca flour for the roux....that's one that the folks at Homeroom say works best for them for g-free mac in their book (

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Cauliflower with cheese was always my favorite food growing up. Gruyere and Parmesan!! Mmmm. This looks wonderful! Thank you!!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

Congrats on moving in! I'm sure it will be lovely – just take it easy. [However, I'm definitely the same kind of crazy person as you are, so I may not be the best person to tell you to take it easy.... You're lucky to have Hugh by your site ;)] Thank you so much for sharing this comforting dish in the midst of your new-house-owner-life.

Congratulations on moving in! I totally understand that desire to do everything at once and see your vision for the house take shape right away. We've been in our place for almost a year and I am still feeling that pull to get our house looking exactly how we envision it. And nothing makes you feel more at home than getting back to the kitchen. I still remember the first thing I baked after moving in (your coconut loaf recipe, one of our favorites) and how good it felt to be in the unpacked kitchen, listening to npr, gazing out our windows, and cooking again. Savor this moment and all of the wonderful ones ahead of you this year!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMyndi

So happy you two finally got moved! But I second what Tara said - so distracted by that beautiful, growing belly.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAshlae

I love what you said about cooking being a cozy skill you can use to warm your own heart! it's so important to slow down and take care, though I know it's altogether too easy to fall into frenzy mode pre-baby. there's so much magic in the days before, and I'm glad you've found the pace to slow down and enjoy it. wishing you all the best!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNishta

This gratin is stunning!! I love the look of this :)

This looks absolutely delicious. I've tried a few types of similar cauliflower "mac n' cheese' type recipes and now I'll have to try this one, as it looks like it might be the best yet. Thanks for sharing!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

I bet oat flour would work okay or probably sweet rice flour because it's quite starchy. I can so relate to "missing all the good things in front of you" and am trying to put a stop to that as well. We have moved a LOT in our years together and this last move was probably the toughest. We moved in September and our main floor was pretty much void of furniture for the past 6 months. It was actually driving my husband crazier than me, haha. :) It all comes in time. Love your bump and wishing you two all the best! xo

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Oh, how stunning! You look like you are glowing. I know too well how easy it is to get caught up with all the to-dos, but truly, what really makes a home are the memories, processes, meals cooked. I moved 6 months ago and I am finally starting to enjoy those slow mornings. Hitting your stride in a new kitchen is not easy either - the light is difference and things have moved places. I'm glad you have Hugh to remind you how wonderful life is for you two.

Enjoy these last moments together, just the two of you. You are glowing!

Adore that lovely writing in your opening paragraphs. Thanks for sharing your heart!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Now this cheesy rice and cauliflower is a good idea! Hang in there with the move. Moments of flux are certainly anxiety-provoking, but the worst part is behind you! ;-)

may arrowroot flour would work? I havent tried it but just a suggestion. I am the same way when it comes to unpacking or finishing a project-- hopefully things will slow down and you will enjoy the process of moving in, beautiful baby inside you and life in general :)

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdixya

Enjoy these moments they will be cherished in the very near future. And this dish looks so cozy and good, definitely going to try soon!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

this sounds just about right for those pregnant mac'n'cheese cravings (which I've been satisfying with Annie's up until now) - thanks for the idea! and you're looking beautiful mama :)

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous, Sara. So glad to hear you and Hugh are getting settled into your new place. I'm sure it's all a little maddening right now but it sounds like you're adopting the right perspective amidst chaos. Cannot wait to see that little one. You and Hugh will make one beautiful baby, no doubt. Lovely photographs and recipe, as always.

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdana

I Love Love Love your blog! The photos, the recipes, it's amazing! And you inspired me to start a blog as well. This is my first time posting, but I thought it was funny that I do recently made the Smitten Kitchen's gratin mashed up a bit to my own tastes. It was delish, and yours looks amazing too!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer N.

Oh how I can so deeply identify:) We have moved 3 states and 6 places in 3.5 years, the latest move with a 30 week belly and toddler. We have been living in suitcases for 2 months while we find a place (hopefully our final move once and for all.) I long for the day I can cook, really cook, and not cry over every little thing. Congrats on your home and a place to nest before that babe arrives! Beautiful recipe and photographs, as always:)

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I recently went through a move while pregnant as well. I know how you feel! Be patient with yourself and the house. Can't wait to try this recipe!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Love the sneaky little belly shot :-)

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmma Galloway

Look at your new place and adorable belly!!! So happy for you guys!!! ;)

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoz

Wheeee!!!!!!! You made it to the other side!!

You know, I was thinking, after your last post, that we bought OUR first house when I was six months pregnant with our first. It was capital-I INSANE. I can see that now, in retrospect. Also, that it was right, for right then. Still, all paint tantrums and drapery drama is totally, totally deserved. (I speak from personal experience. Both from during that hormone-riddle move, and *ahem* from other moves, with no excuse.)

The casserole sounds dreamy. We just downed our own 3-pound whopper tonight, blitzed with half a pound of xtra sharp cheddar. Cauliflower + cheese were meant for each other.


March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermolly

Ugh moving really is the worst. I hate it too. I only enjoy it once all my crap is actually put away in its new place and I'm used to that new place, but getting there is just ugh. My boyfriend and I just planted a few cauliflower plants and are hoping they grow. If they do, and even if they don't, I will be trying this. Looks yum!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

This is truly the bomb, I just made fritters out of our cauliflower, and I'm realizing there is so much more!

March 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercheri

BEAUTIFUL pics! I have a new found love for cauliflower and this looks delicious!

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTamara

That growing belly! Also, I hear you on the moving crazies - I am currently surrounded by a double digit number of boxes and really should be packing more rather than reading food blogs but every once in a while I just need to sit down with a cup of coffee and pretend I am not about to pack up all my shit (I am calling it shit because there is just so much of it) only to unpack it all again (which sounds crazy in itself). And then the furnishing of the new place begins (thankfully a bed and bookshelf are already there), choosing carpets, lamps, bedside tables ... exciting but oh so stressful. Having just had a day consisting of carbs only (leftover cake for breakfast, pizza for lunch and quesadillas for dinner) this cauliflower gratin is right up my alley!

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSophia

What a perfect spin on one of my favorite comfort casseroles. Thanks, Sara!

You write so beautifully. I love your honesty and the new kitchen looks amazing. Congratulations!

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoseann

So beautiful! We are gearing up for a move here, and I can totally relate to the crazy-ness. I'm not one for change; I like to stay put and feel safe. I'm glad you're in your new space. Much love. xo

March 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersarah

What a beautiful belly! And the recipe looks wonderful too!

March 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLiz @ FloatingKitchen

What is your definition of whole foods lol. I do not consider cheese to be a whole food! or butter ! you can not find it , it has to be made! Even flour is a processed food. The dish needs to be cauliflower, rice and only whole ingredients or change your tagline :) The word whole implies healthy to me and this is not a healthy dish with dairy, and all that fat.

March 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercynthea

Congratulations on all of this beautiful change in your life! This dish is BEAUTIFUL and looks so delicious! Love the parsley on top. Just bought 2 huge heads of cauliflower so perfect timing :)

March 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJade

@cynthea - the majority of the recipes on this site are pretty wholesome. You can read my about page, but I do not subscribe to a super strict standard of "health food". Sometimes I use butter and cheese and that's been pretty clear from the get go. If you are looking for vegan sites, a plethora of those exist. I don't promote this blog as being some sort of diet wonderland, just us trying to eat well and enjoy life in the midst of that. Sometimes that includes sugar, butter and cheese and I'm ok with that. This is a PERSONAL blog, not a business, you are welcome to read sites that fit your dietary preferences.

March 16, 2014 | Registered CommenterSara

I love what you said about why you cook....both serving people through it and bringing comfort and coziness, especially to yourself when you most need it! That is just how I feel about it but was never quite able to put words to it. Thank you :)

March 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Oh my gosh, you do look completely stunning! You are gorgeous, lady. All the best wishes to you and your family. Love, love, love.

March 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichaela

Sara - Always so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your sentiments. Love your two fold reason for your love of cooking. A very cozy skill indeed. Enjoy every moment of making your house your home. xo

March 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYumi

I made this last night and it was delicious! I used oat flour and an orange cauliflower, which gave the most beautiful color. I also used shallots because I was out of red onion, and lots more gruyere because I was out of parmesan. A perfectly forgiving, cozy, warming and delicious meal. Thanks for the inspiration, and good luck with settling in!

March 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSara P

Love your version and you just reminded me I really need to make this again before the it gets to hot out (this is totally a cooler weather, comfort dish.) So glad you made it through the move (I'm with you- I've moved something like 5 times in the past few years and I'm over it. Completely over it.)

March 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commentererin

Oh man, hang in there! I can totally empathize..I'm the same way. Shit better be together! I get stressed easily if things are out of sync and I dread moving. That wall colour behind you is gorgeous...if that's the one you're afraid is too blue. It's spectacular!

That looks like the perfect thing to come home to. I could use a big bowl of that tonight...

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRocky Mountain Woman

our cold weather is has just started to move in. i am very excited about turning the oven on again.
this will have to be one of the first thing i make.
gorgeous post, as always. x

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjade

Great recipe, thanks for sharing, i have to try it !!!! yummy!

March 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda|Timeshare Weeks

Your belly looks beautiful. And your house will come together and one day you'll look back at all this and smile. :) Great recipe. I have to make this, maybe even tomorrow night for dinner. It sounds delicious. Btw I LOVE your blog.

March 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKathy @ Olives & Garlic

Sara, I read this post over the weekend, sitting in the passenger seat of the car, watching the Alabama countryside roll by, and I have thought about it several times since. You guys are so beautiful, and the way you describe your relationship is beautiful, heightened ever more by the fact that you're willing to post honest things like how it's stressful to move and it's easy to get caught up with curtains. I say that as someone who has panic attacks about cleaning out the living room buffet. also, ps, for what it's worth, @ the comment above -- cheese and butter are so whole foods (!) and there are like one million blogs dedicated to saying so. This recipe looks delicious!

March 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commentershanna mallon

I made this a few nights ago and it was delicious! I had a few stray mushroom in the fridge so I sautéed them and threw them into the mix, too. Every bit as satisfying as mac & cheese!

March 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersteph (whisk/spoon)

Congratulations on the new digs! You have beautiful light, which is all that matters. Screw the unpacked boxes (as long as they aren't kitchen things).

This gratin looks heavenly, and I want to trot off to the store just now for a cauliflower! I'll be making it gluten-free with rice flour. Most any kind of g.f. flour will do, though they behave a little differently than wheat: the roux won't thicken until you add the first drop of milk, though you should cook it a minute to get the raw flour taste out. Then add about 1/2 c. milk, watch the roux seize and thicken instantly (and maybe panic a little), and then whisk like hell until the lumps disappear. Add the remaining milk and proceed as normal. : )

March 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteramy

Well, I'm definitely not growing another being, but I just moved to a new house and spent an inordinate amount of time debating my curtain choice. They're gray but a little too blue, maybe. Gray is hard. Anyway, I hope you're feeling more settled now. This dish sounds marvelous. I'm trying to make up for the lack of green outside with lots of leafy things, but deep down, I just want a big bowl of cheesy goodness.

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKathryne

Well, I'm definitely not growing another being, but I just moved to a new house and spent an inordinate amount of time debating my curtain choice. They're gray but a little too blue, maybe. Gray is hard. Anyway, I hope you're feeling more settled now. This dish sounds marvelous. I'm trying to make up for the lack of green outside with lots of leafy things, but deep down, I just want a big bowl of cheesy goodness.

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKathryne

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>