Sometimes, all you need is a cozy, cheesy, casserole to warm you up. This cheesy Vegan Cauliflower Casserole is exactly that! Made with roasted cauliflower florets, rice, and a dairy-free cheesy sauce, this vegan rice casserole makes the perfect comfort food side dish. Or add some vegan protein and make it a complete meal!
Y'all. I am OBSESSED with creamy sauces made with coconut milk and vegan chicken broth. I think that is the absolute best combination of creaminess and savory flavor that works perfectly in a soup broth (such as my vegan Zuppa Toscana) or as a base for a vegan cheese casserole.
And for this casserole, I jazz up the sauce even more by adding pumpkin puree to the creamy sauce for more flavor and nutrients.
If you love comfort food that is a little bit healthy (hellooo cauliflower!), kid-friendly, and easy to make, you're going to love this gluten-free, vegan casserole made with rice, cauliflower florets, and an easy 5-minute vegan "cheese" sauce.
Ready to make it?? Here's what you need!
- 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
- 2 cups cooked rice (use brown rice for a healthier casserole)
- 1 green onion, chopped
Vegan cheesy sauce:
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 14-oz can coconut milk (lite or full-fat. Or use any other plant milk, but the rich canned coconut milk gives this sauce the richest flavor!)
- 2 cups vegan "chicken" broth (see notes below)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (yes!!! Or see notes below for substitution ideas)
- 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch (or tapioca starch for a corn-free option)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (always!)
- ½ tablespoon each dried rosemary and thyme
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional, but it really gives a great depth of flavor. See notes below.)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
→ Vegan "chicken" broth: I like to use either the Better than Bouillon No-chicken or McKays Vegan Chicken style seasoning to make broth. They're both tasty! Just use 1 teaspoon and mix with 1 cup of water to make a delicious broth. Or make your own vegan chicken broth!
→ Pumpkin puree: I love adding pumpkin puree to this sauce for many reasons: to add that orange cheesy color, to add some nutrients, and to thicken it a little. If you don't have a can of pumpkin puree on hand, you can use ½ - 1 teaspoon ground turmeric to add a gorgeous orange color to the cheese sauce, and you might need to use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken the sauce more. I also recommend using juuuust a little bit more broth or coconut milk in this case, to add more volume to the sauce.
→ Nutmeg: I like to grate my own fresh whole nutmeg using a microplane zester. Nutmeg is something that is used in small quantities, and grated nutmeg loses freshness, so taking the time to grate your own is a great way to always have the freshest nutmeg for your recipes! PLEASE always wear cut-proof kitchen gloves when grating or zesting!
Step 1: Roast the cauliflower: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush or spray a large baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange your cauliflower florets on the baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and roast the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
Alternatively, you can steam or boil the cauliflower florets for a few minutes until they are just fork-tender (do not overcook!) but you get a much richer flavor from roasting the cauliflower.
When the cauliflower is done, set it aside to cool. Lower the oven heat to 375 for the next steps.
Also, make sure your rice is pre-cooked!
Step 2: Make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, saute the minced garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to let it burn. Add the next 8 ingredients (coconut milk, "chicken" broth," pumpkin puree, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, herbs, red pepper flakes, and grated nutmeg), and whisk immediately so that the cornstarch does not clump up. Bring to a gently boil, stirring frequently, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens to your liking.
Carefully taste the sauce and add salt and pepper, if desired. You will be pouring this sauce over your roasted cauliflower and rice (both of which are not super salty), so you want to make sure the sauce is flavorful before you go onto the next step!!
Step 3: Assemble the casserole: Combine the roasted cauliflower and the cooked rice in a 2.5-quart casserole dish (or similar size) and mix gently. Here's where you can add some canned chickpeas (drained) or chopped vegan chick'n strips for some protein!
Pour the sauce over the casserole, and let it really seep into all the nooks and crannies. You might need to gently tap the casserole dish to let the sauce drip down, because it will be quite thick!
Step 4: Bake: Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until the casserole is heated through, and the sauce on top is hot and bubbly. Garnish with sliced scallions or fresh herbs of your choice.
Recipe variation ideas
- Swap out some of the cauliflower for broccoli!
- Top this with vegan bacon bits
- Add plant-based "chicken" to add some protein and make it a complete meal - I love choped up Gardein chick'n strips for adding to casseroles.
- Add canned chickpeas (drained!)
- Make it Tex-mex: substitute the pumpkin puree with fire-roasted diced green chilies and puree it with the liquid sauce ingredients in a blender before adding it to the saucepan to cook. Note: I have not tried this, but it sounds absolutely delicious to me!!
- Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for some spice!
However you decide to make this cauliflower and rice casserole, I hope you love it as much as we did! If you end up making it, please take a picture and tag me on INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK. I love seeing your creations!
Other hearty vegan casseroles you will love:
And make sure you try this amazing cheesy vegan baked cauliflower for a lighter side dish idea.
If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!
Cheesy Vegan Cauliflower Rice Casserole
The cauliflower and rice
- 1 large cauliflower, (about 3 lb) cut into florets
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups cooked rice, (use brown rice for a healthier casserole)
The vegan cheesy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 14 oz can coconut milk, see notes
- 2 cups vegan chicken broth, or vegetable broth, see notes
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch, or tapioca starch
- ½ tablespoon each dried rosemary and thyme, or your favorite dried herbs
- 1 pinch red pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 scallion, diced
- salt and pepper, to taste (optional, see notes)
- Casserole pan
- Medium saucepan
Roast the cauliflower
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray or brush a large baking sheet (or 2 medium baking sheets) with olive oil, or line with parchment paper.
- Cut the cauliflower into small florets. Arrange the florets on the baking sheet(s) and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425F for 20-25 minutes, or until crisp-tender or fork-tender (you preference). Set aside, and lower the oven temperature to 375F.
Make the sauce
- In a medium saucepan, sauté the minced garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Add the next 8 ingredients (coconut milk through the nutritional yeast), and whisk together to dissolve the cornstarch and avoid any clumps. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens to your liking. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. You want to make sure the sauce is super tasty and has enough salt and flavor at this point, otherwise the casserole may seem bland!
Assemble the casserole and bake
- After removing the cauliflower florets from the oven, turn down the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a 2.5 quart casserole pan (or similar size), combine the roasted cauliflower florets and cooked rice, mix gently. Carefully pour the sauce over the cauliflower and rice mixture. It will seem like a lot of sauce, but give the casserole pan a gently shake or a tap to allow the sauce to settle in between the cauliflower + rice, then add the rest of the sauce.
- Bake at 375F for 15 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Enjoy warm!
- Coconut milk: A can of coconut milk will give this dish the richest flavor, but you can use any non-dairy milk if you want to reduce the calories and fat. If not using a can, you can use anywhere between 1 ¾ and 2 cups of coconut milk or other milk alternative
- Vegetable broth: Make your own vegan chicken broth, or use Better than Bouillon no-chicken base or McKays Vegan Chicken Broth Seasoning
- Pumpkin: If you don't want to open a can of pumpkin puree for this, you can skip the pumpkin and use ½ teaspoon ground turmeric to give the sauce a cheesy yellow color. If skipping pumpkin, you might need to use a little more than 2 cups each of coconut milk and vegetable broth to add more volume, and increase the cornstarch to 2 tablespoons to thicken the sauce
- Nutritional yeast flakes: optional, but they give this casserole more savory cheesy flavor and add lots of vitamins and nutrients!
- Make it a full meal: Add nutritious canned chickpeas (drained) or vegan chick'n strips (I love these from Gardein) to the casserole dish with the cauliflower and rice