The Best Mashed Cauliflower

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Wanting to switch up your starchy mashed potatoes for something more healthy? Try this cheesy mashed cauliflower recipe to reinvent this classic recipe.

114 CAL 9g CARBS 7g FAT 6g PROTEIN 4

The best Mashed Cauliflower recipe for anyone looking for a low-carb alternative that is creamy, garlicky, and delicious. 

I have been making mashed cauliflower for years and honestly, I love it pretty much any way you make it. However, my family doesn't feel the same way. They normally only eat mashed cauliflower only if I mix in a few potatoes, like this Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes.

That all changed with this recipe. The secret? Drying off the cauliflower before it's mashed. It's such a small step but it makes all the difference. This ensures a fluffy, thick mash like you would get with traditional potatoes. Then to make sure it really tastes amazing, it is mixed with garlic butter, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Seriously delicious. This is the ultimate way to make mashed cauliflower. 

Why This is the Best Mashed Cauliflower

  • Light, fluffy texture: No more watery or gritty mashed cauliflower! This recipe has a fluffy texture similar to traditional mashed potatoes.
  • Easy to make: This recipe is made in less than 20 minutes with just 5 ingredients! 
  • Great for meal prep: This cauliflower mash only gets better after a night in the fridge for the flavors to combine. Use it all week as a low-carb or keto side dish. 

Speaking of delicious low-carb alternatives, what are your favorites? We eat a ton of cauliflower rice, especially this cilantro lime and garlic parmesan version, and I love these creamy ricotta spaghetti squash or parmesan zucchini noodles.

Ingredients and Easy Swaps

Here is everything you need to make this cauliflower mash.

  • Cauliflower florets: Fresh cauliflower florets are best for this recipe. Frozen cauliflower is usually blanched before it is frozen and this adds extra moisture, which can make the final product watery. To ensure a thick, fluffy mash, fresh florets are the best option. 
  • Garlic butter: Since cauliflower can be bland, it's important to kick up the flavors. Making a quick garlic butter in a pan or the microwave is a great way to do that. Swap in olive oil if you prefer or add roasted garlic instead. Garlic powder can be used in a pinch but it won't have the same, rich flavor.
  • Cream cheese:  Adding cream cheese or sour cream to the mashed cauliflower makes the final product creamier. Some people use Greek yogurt instead, but I think it makes it too tangy.  Leave this out if you want a dish with fewer calories.
  • Parmesan cheese: This is completely optional but adds a richer flavor to the potatoes.  Nutritional yeast is also a great option to add some extra flavor. Leave this out if you want a dish with fewer calories.
  • Salt and pepper: If your cauliflower mash tastes bland, you probably need more salt and pepper. 
  • Make it special: Add fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, green onions, or chives. Top the dish with cheddar cheese or crispy bacon. 

How to Make Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed cauliflower is actually really easy to make and will turn out delicious if you follow a few important steps.

  • Boiling versus roasting: If you look at a lot of mashed cauliflower recipes, you will see some use roasted cauliflower and some use boiled cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower ensures that the final product won't be watery, but I find the texture isn't great. It gets somewhat gritty and stringy. When you boil the cauliflower ensures a smooth texture, but the end product can be watery. There are two ways to overcome this. First, don't cook the cauliflower too long. It should be soft enough to mash (fork tender) but not disintegrate. The second step is drying the cauliflower really well. See below.
  • Dry the cauliflower: If you take anything away from this recipe, it should be to always dry the cauliflower when you plan on mashing it. Cauliflower soaks up water when it boils. Always start by draining the  cauliflower and then drying the cauliflower really well with a kitchen towel. This helps remove this excess moisture. Do not skip this step!
  • Add flavor: Cauliflower has a very mild flavor so you need to add some fat and seasoning to make it taste good. You can use butter, olive oil, ghee, cream cheese, or sour cream to add some fat. This helps the texture as well. Then add flavor with garlic, salt, pepper, and any other herbs or spices you like. Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast is another way to add flavor. You can even cook the cauliflower in chicken or vegetable broth to impart flavor. 
  • Mash, puree, or blend: There are three methods for "mashing" the cauliflower and it all depends on the texture you like. For the most texture, mash it by hand with a potato masher or wooden spoon. For a creamier mash that still has some texture, pulse it in a food processor. For a super smooth texture, use a blender or immersion blender.

Why is my mashed cauliflower watery?

The number one complaint about mashed cauliflower is its watery texture. This happens when there is too much moisture in the boiled cauliflower. Here is how to fix that:

  • Before: To prevent having a watery texture, use fresh cauliflower florets and do not overcook them. Then dry them thoroughly with a kitchen towel to remove as much moisture as possible. 
  • After: If you finish the recipe and find your mash is watery, here are a few tricks to fix it. Start by using a few paper towels to soak up the extra moisture or place it in a colander and push out some of the extra moisture.  Sometimes this is enough. If it is still watery,  you will need to add more cooked cauliflower, potato starch, or even a cooked potato. This will thicken the mixture. Some people also thicken their mashed cauliflower with a cornstarch flurry, but the texture will be slightly different. 

Main Dishes to Serve with Cauliflower Mash

Now that you have made this delicious side dish, you need a main dish to serve with it. It works great in place of mashed potatoes, but can also be used in place of polenta or rice. Here are some of our favorites:

Storage and Leftover

This is a great dish to make in advance and keep in the fridge to use as an easy side dish or base for bowls.

  • Fridge: Store this in an airtight container in the fridge fro 4-5 days. Reheat in the microwave or a small pot with a splash of milk or broth.
  • Freezer: Freeze in a ziploc bag with all the air pressed out for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about how to make mashed cauliflower.

Mashed cauliflower is packed with nutrients despite being low-calorie. In one cup of cauliflower, you will find 3 grams of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, nad magnesium. 

The nutritional content of mashed cauliflower will depend mostly on what other ingredients are being added to the mash. Cheese, butter, and cream can make mashed cauliflower less healthy while additions like garlic, herbs, and nutritional yeast add even more nutrients. 

To make this recipe vegan and or dairy-free, replace the cream cheese with vegan cream cheese. Use olive oil instead of butter. Use nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan cheese.


The Recipe
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The Best Mashed Cauliflower

114 CAL 9g CARBS 7g FAT 6g PROTEIN 4
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  • 1 cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
  • 1.5 tbsp butter
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook for 6-8 minutes until tender. Drain and use a dish towel or paper towels to pat the cauliflower dry. Make sure it is as dry as possible. This will ensure the mash is fluffy and thick.


While the cauliflower is cooking, melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Add the garlic and cook for 2-4 minutes until very fragrant and tender. Remove from heat.


Add the cauliflower, garlic butter, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2/3 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 114
Calories from Fat 64
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 18mg
Sodium 471mg
Total Carbohydrate 9g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 3g
Protein 6g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


Choose your texture: There are three methods for "mashing" the cauliflower and it all depends on the texture you like. For the most texture, mash it by hand with a potato masher or wooden spoon. For a creamier mash that still has some texture, pulse it in a food processor. For a super smooth texture, use a blender or immersion blender.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On The Best Mashed Cauliflower
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October 2, 2022 - 13:53
wondering if since you don't want moisture in this if it would be better to roast the cauliflower and garlic instead of boil or steam? then mash it?
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October 4, 2022 - 12:36
I haven't tried that but it could work great! You may need a bit more liquid to bring it together since the outside of the cauliflower will be more caramelized. Let me know if you try it and how it turns out!
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Kellie Salinas
February 12, 2019 - 13:34
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I steam the cauliflower instead and then let it cool down. This side dish is absolutely delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
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September 13, 2018 - 16:07
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Instead of drying the cauliflower off with paper towels or whatever, I just added a bit of coconut flour to the cauliflower after I drained it. Mashed up fine and nice mashed potato consistency. Easy peasy.
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Ray Tizdale
January 18, 2022 - 17:21
Great idea!! Thank you
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September 14, 2018 - 08:35
That is genius!! Sometimes it can take a long time to dry the cauliflower. I love this trick!
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July 5, 2018 - 16:27
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This is a great recipe. I served it to guests and they couldn’t believe they weren’t real mashed potatoes. My family loves this recipe. Thank you!!!
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Paige Camp
June 25, 2018 - 17:18
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I've tried many recipes for mashed cauliflower, and this recipe is beyond the best, they are awesome!! Thanks for sharing!
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Freda Potter
January 17, 2017 - 15:56
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These were outstanding.
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Carol Green
January 7, 2017 - 04:04
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I think I love this more than mashed potatoes. I substituted cream cheese with Greek yogurt. Yummy!
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