Cauliflower cheese should be unctuous and gooey with a crispy, cheesy topping. But sometimes, it doesn’t go to plan, and it becomes watery. So, why does cauliflower cheese turn out watery sometimes?
Your cauliflower cheese would be watery if the cauliflower was overcooked. Cauliflower should be slightly undercooked before it is used in cauliflower cheese as it will cook further in the oven. Not draining the cauliflower fully will also lead to watery cauliflower cheese.
What Causes Watery Cauliflower Cheese?
Besides overcooking your cauliflower, there are a few other reasons your cauliflower cheese might be more watery than you expected. Do any of these look like mistakes you may have made along the way?
- Not Draining the Cauliflower – If you don’t get rid of the liquid, it will end up in your cauliflower cheese. If you only give it a quick drain in a colander and then throw it straight into the sauce, you’ll inevitably end up adding water to your sauce.
- Incorrect Roux Ratios – If you don’t get your roux quantities correct, then your sauce’s consistency is likely to be off. The roux is the base of your sauce, after all! For the perfect ratios, try these from Fanny Craddock.
- Fat-Reduced Milk – Stick to the fattier stuff when making a roux, as it will naturally be creamier (and less watery). If you start with a watery base, you will be fighting an uphill battle.
- Lack of Cheese – The cheese takes your plain sauce to the thick, unctuous sauce you’re after. If you hold back on the cheese, for whatever reason, then you’re probably not going to thicken the sauce up as much as you had hoped.
Cheese sauce will appear to split if you leave it over the heat for too long. When you add the cheese, give it a vigorous whisk. When the cheese has melted, remove it from the heat but continue to whisk it. You can often melt the cheese off the heat entirely.
How to Stop Cauliflower Cheese Going Watery
To prevent your cauliflower cheese from going watery in future. Try to stick to these 4 simple tips. Don’t worry, they’re really simple to follow:
- Undercook the Cauliflower – You must remember that the cauliflower goes back into the oven and will cook further. Try undercooking your cauliflower slightly before smothering it in sauce and cheese. This way, you won’t risk having mushy cauliflower.
- Allow to Drain for 5 Minutes – Don’t worry about the cauliflower going cold; it’s going back into the oven after all. When draining it, allow it to sit in the colander for 5 minutes so the steam can evaporate.
- Make a Thicker Sauce – Avoid making a thin roux or white sauce for your cauliflower cheese. Instead, opt for a thicker consistency by using less milk or by allowing it to reduce for longer. You could also try adding in some cornflour to thicken it quicker.
- Steam the Cauliflower – Instead of boiling the cauliflower to cook it initially, try steaming it, so it sits in less water. Once cooked, you’ll still want to place it into a colander to allow any excess moisture to evaporate. If you’re feeling adventurous, then you could even try roasting the cauliflower beforehand to cook it.
One of the best ways to ensure you don’t have watery cauliflower cheese is to follow a reliable recipe. This recipe from BBC Good Food is highly-rated. When it comes to making a good cauliflower cheese, it comes down to the correct ratio and perfect timing.
Yes, it is possible to make cauliflower cheese without flour. Instead of making a roux which then thickens the sauce, you can use cream instead, which will be naturally thicker. This can help prevent wateriness too!
How to Make Cauliflower Cheese Tasty
When making cauliflower cheese, there’s no need to stick to the basics and not be a little experimental with the flavours. There are plenty of things you can add to your sauce to take it up a level:
- Worcestershire Sauce – Adding a splash of Lea and Perrins or Henderson’s Relish to your sauce will give it an umami depth that’s impossible to achieve with such ease.
- Chilli Powder or Paprika – If you can handle the heat, then a teaspoon of chilli powder or paprika can elevate cauliflower cheese. Just be wary of what you’re serving the cauliflower cheese with. Spicy cauliflower cheese alongside a classic beef wellington might not be the best combination.
- Panko Breadcrumbs – If you want to add texture to your cauliflower cheese then a fine sprinkling of panko breadcrumbs mixed with some parmesan cheese will give you the ultimate crust.
Make Cauliflower Cheese in Advance
You can make cauliflower cheese the day before you want to eat it! Make it as you typically would until you have tipped the cauliflower and cheese sauce into a baking tray. Cover it and keep it in the fridge for 24 hours. When you’re ready, cook it as usual.
Watery Cauliflower Cheese FAQs
If your questions about watery cauliflower cheese haven’t been answered yet then these common FAQs might help you out:
Although it’s possible to make cauliflower cheese without milk, you will still need a liquid dairy element such as cream or plant-based milk to make the base of cauliflower cheese.
If you cook cauliflower cheese at a high temperature then there is a risk that the cheese sauce will split and curdle. You should cook cauliflower cheese at 170F/340F to avoid this happening.
Yes, you should cook cauliflower a little before mixing it with the cheese sauce. The cauliflower will not cook solely in the sauce. You need to give it a head start by boiling or steaming it.