Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

This is the best healthy mashed cauliflower recipe, because this creamy cauliflower puree is infused with sweet roasted garlic and fresh herbs. It’s an easy recipe that only tastes indulgent. Substitute this low-carb garlic mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes for a lighter, healthier side dish that’s naturally vegan and perfect for keto eating plans.

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2014.

A bowl of mashed cauliflower with extra thyme, olive oil and black pepper.

The inspiration for mashed cauliflower with roasted garlic

I made my first mashed cauliflower recipe more than 15 years ago when my husband and I were on Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. It was a healthy, low carb alternative to the mashed potatoes we both craved. I thought the cauliflower puree had the comfort food mouthfeel I wanted, but the flavor was a bit lacking. Probably because it was little more than cauliflower and fake butter.

That led me to experiment with different ways to flavor the mashed cauliflower — without adding excess carbs, sugars and the like.

Sure, if you’re on a keto diet, adding whole cream or cheese is a no-brainer… but South Beach isn’t the same as the Keto diet and I was trying to keep it healthy.

After several tries (and fails), I came up with my favorite way to make delicious mashed cauliflower without dousing it in tons of saturated fats. My solution was sweet roasted garlic.

Not one or two cloves. A whole head of buttery, caramelized allium that gets pureed along with the cauliflower. A bit of fresh thyme adds a bit of freshness to this healthy cauliflower puree — and you know what? We love it. 

As in—  this mashed cauliflower recipe actually gets REQUESTED by my family. Even when we’re not “dieting”. In fact, this recipe has become our de-facto mashed potatoes recipe — except for holidays like Thanksgiving when we go the traditional route.

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roasting a head of garlic with olive oil and a little salt until it's sweet and tender.

What’s roasted garlic?

Roasted garlic is what makes this mashed cauliflower recipe taste so good. Roasting transforms the strong pungent flavors into something mildly sweet and nutty.

The caramelized garlic becomes soft, even spreadable after roasting and the aroma loses it’s nose-tingling sting.

In fact, it’s such a transformation that it takes a lot of garlic to flavor the cauliflower puree. Figure one head of garlic for each head of cauliflower.

How to roast a head of garlic

  1. Trim the pointy end of the garlic so that the individual cloves are revealed.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves and wrap the head of garlic in aluminum foil.
  3. Bake at 400° for 40-50 minutes or until the garlic is soft, buttery and fragrant.

How to remove garlic cloves from the peel

So you might be wondering how you get the garlic out of the head once its been roasted. It’s easy.

  1. Let the garlic rest until it’s cool enough to handle.
  2. When it’s cool, carefully break apart the head of garlic so you have individual cloves.
  3. Press on the end (opposite the opening) and squeeze out the tender garlic (some will pop right out and others will act more like a paste, either way is fine).
Cut a whole head of cauliflower into florets.

Ingredients you’ll need for my roasted garlic mashed cauliflower recipe

  • Cauliflower
  • Head of Garlic
  • Thyme
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

I think the ingredient list is one of the best things about this mash. It’s short and sweet — and you probably already have everything you need at home.

steam the cauliflower florets until tender.

I prefer steaming the vegetable instead boiling. When you boil the cauliflower it loses some of the nutrients and absorbs more water, which can make for a watery puree instead of a creamy cauliflower mash. Get out your vegetable steamer and cook the florets until they’re tender.

How to cook cauliflower:

  1. Separate the head of cauliflower into individual florets. (You can use the stems too, just discard the green leaves and the tough base of the head of cauliflower).
  2. Transfer the florets to a steamer basket or pot with a steamer insert.
  3. Add water, cover and bring the pot to a boil.
  4. Cook the cauliflower until it’s very tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and let the steam evaporate before transferring the veg to the food processor.


Want to know how to check if your cauliflower is done cooking? You can tell by piercing a large floret in the center with a sharp knife. If the knife slips right out, it’s done. If the knife holds in the cauliflower, you’ll want to let it cook for a few more minutes.

add the steamed cauliflower, roasted garlic and fresh thyme to a food processor.

The best way to mash cauliflower florets

I find that a food processor is the best way to puree the cauliflower mixture. A high powered blender can actually be TOO POWERFUL. I’ve tried this in my VitaMix and instead of a cauliflower mash, I had more of a soup consistency.

  1. Add the cauliflower to the food processor along with the roasted garlic, herbs and seasonings and pulse several times to break down the cauliflower.
  2. You will need to stop and scrape down the sides several times, before it really starts to get smooth. It generally takes me between 3 and 5 minutes before the garlic cauliflower puree is creamy and velvety..
  3. Taste the purée and adjust seasonings to your tastes.

Unlike mashed potatoes, which would become a gluey mess in the food processor, cauliflower doesn’t have any glutinous tendencies. Y

ou also don’t need to add tons of butter, milk and cream to the mashed cauliflower because it won’t absorb the liquids the way that mashed potatoes do.

pulse until the mixture is very smooth and creamy.

Variations for garlic mashed cauliflower:

  • Add grated cheese (cheddar, gruyere or monterey jack would be good) to the cauliflower before pureeing the florets in the food processor, then garnish with extra cheese.
  • For more richness, add a tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup of sour cream to the cauliflower mash when you puree it. It’ll still be perfect for keto diets.
  • Spray a casserole dish with vegetable spray and add a layer of your favorite chili, or a beef or chicken stew. Top with a layer of cauliflower puree and spread evenly over the top. Add breadcrumbs and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350° for a hot dish you can’t resist.


Can I use frozen cauliflower?

I recommend using fresh cauliflower for this recipe, though you can use frozen in a pinch. Frozen cauliflower has already been blanched (cooked) and tends to hold more water which can a watery puree.

Can I boil the cauliflower?

Submerging the cauliflower in boiling water to cook will add more liquid to the vegetable and can make for a watery cauliflower mash. If you do boil your florets, drain them well and let the steam evaporate and escape so that they’re as dry as possible.

How long will leftovers last?

Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave.

Can I double the recipe?

Yes! After pureeing, the cauliflower doesn’t actually have a large yield. One large head makes 4 servings. So if you want extras or are feeding more people, you’ll want to double the recipe and use a larger steamer pot to cook it in.

Can I mash the cauliflower with a potato masher?

No. In order to get a creamy, lush puree, you’ll need a food processor.

Serve the mashed cauliflower with roasted garlic garnished with a bit of olive oil and fresh thyme, salt and pepper.

Try garlic mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes.

Substitute a side dish of mashed potatoes with this healthy cauliflower recipe. It’s an easy swap that’s healthier and tastes great.

Here are a few of my favorite things to serve with cauliflower puree:

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a bowl of mashed cauliflower with roasted garlic.
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4.38 from 40 votes

Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic

A healthy, low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes.  My husband actually prefers this to potatoes, they’re light and creamy with a sweet, nutty note from the garlic and fresh pop of herbs.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword cauliflower, low carb
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 cauliflower whole head, separated into florets
  • 1 garlic whole bulb
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons thyme fresh chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slice about 1/4″ from the head of garlic and drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves. Wrap garlic in aluminum foil and roast for 40-50 minutes, until soft. Remove from oven and cool until you can handle it.
  • Meanwhile, set a vegetable steamer into a pot or saucepan with a lid. Add an inch of water to the pot and fill the steamer basket with the cauliflower florets. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Cook cauliflower until very tender (so that when you pierce it with a knife it goes in and comes out easily without catching), about 10 minutes.
  • Transfer cauliflower to a food processor. Squeeze the individual cloves of roasted garlic into the cauliflower. Add the thyme and secure the lid on the food processor. Pulse the cauliflower mixture until there are no lumps and it’s smooth like mashed potatoes. This may take a few minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can garnish with extra sprinkle of thyme and a drizzle of good olive oil to serve.



The nice thing about cauliflower is it has no starch, so there’s no worry about over-processing — they don’t become gluey. Yay!


Calories: 69kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 189mg | Potassium: 441mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 48IU | Vitamin C: 71mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 1mg

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  1. Karen Owen says:

    5 stars
    I added some butter and sour cream and it was delicious!

  2. Sandy Harding says:

    Am anxious to try this. Wonder if anyone has tried freezing this recipe for future use?

  3. 5 stars
    I don’t have a food processor, but I do have a potato ricer. I used it, and it worked fabulously. We all loved the texture. it was a bit time consuming as I had two large heads to mash.

    1. Definitely more work than a food processor, but I like your stick-to-it-iveness! We love this as a healthy side dish to a roast chicken or even roast beef. Glad you enjoyed it too!

  4. I can’t wait to try this! Can I make it a day ahead and re-heat? It’s for a dinner party and i’d like to get as many things done ahead of time.

    1. I like the way you think! Yes, you can reheat the next day!

  5. Hi Lisa! Looks amazing!
    One question: can I use frozen cauliflower rice from Costco?
    Thank you!

    1. #1 How did I not know Costco had cauliflower rice?
      #2 I’ve found that frozen vegetables tend to be more watery when mashed, so either put it into a fine mesh strainer after mashing and let some of the excess liquid drip out, or I would use fresh cauliflower.

  6. This looks awesome and I plan to make it for Thanksgiving. About how much does a small head of cauliflower weigh? I buy huge, beautiful heads of cauliflower at our local farmers market and will need to adjust. Also, I’m not a huge fan of thyme. How do you think it would be if I used fresh chives instead?

    1. A small head would be about 2 pounds. I think the chives sound like a great idea. I would chop them and stir them in at the last minute — maybe sprinkle a few on top! Enjoy!

  7. This really tasted very good. Honestly it still can’t compete with real potatoes, but it’s still a satisfying alternative. The roasted garlic was great. I did think it needed a little something to balance it out, it got a little strong (and i loooove garlic, especially roasted garlic). Maybe a tiny bit of milk or butter would’ve helped. But overall a good recipe!

    1. Cauliflower is obviously not potatoes, but when we want to lighten it up, this is what we enjoy. Feel free to “doctor” it to suit your tastes!

  8. This is a great recipe. Instead of steaming the cauliflower, I chose to roast it in the oven. It added another dimension to the flavor. I did not let it get very brown but it still gave it a slightly darker color. I also blended it in my Vitamix, adding a slight bit of chicken broth to make it smoother. It was wonderful – creamy and flavorful. Hard to believe something so tasty had no dairy. Thanks for the recipe.

  9. I’ve had mashed cauliflower and loved it, but I’ve never tried to make it. I do like the inclusion of roasted garlic. I’ve had that in garlic soup and OMG I love it.

    I’ve had to eliminate all potatoes except sweet from my diet, and I miss my creamy and buttery mashed potatoes. I do wonder how the difference in flavor will translate between the old warm ‘n fuzzy go to fave versus the new version of yummy cauliflower “fakatoes” (this is my own made up word). I realize the garlic is a pleasant flavor trick and the texture of the cauliflower should be the same/similar, but do you have any additional tips or tricks you’ve found since creating and posting this recipe?

    My taste buds have been trained for certain textures and tastes, so recreating this closely would be nice. I used to always go for mashed potatoes and mac ‘n cheese when I was ill or having difficulty. Admittedly I never made garlic mashed potatoes from scratch, but I was a big fan of the state package (didn’t think I could use the brand name). I always used full milk and genuine lightly salted butter when making my from scratch mashed potatoes. I never have added any additional salt than what was in the butter. Plus I’ve always used the fresh multicolored peppercorn grinder instead of black pepper.

    Will strict adherence to kosher salt and black pepper most help the flavor recreation or are those primarily suggestions for health and flavor? I’m asking based on my familiar flavor profile of the multicolored peppercorn and the sea salt or Himalayan salt.

    I’d really like to do this right and fully enjoy the end result without attempting a gazillion recipes.

    I require a super healthy diet now and it’s not always easy to achieve new food options since I’m disabled and cooking is somewhat difficult for me.

    At the moment Google lists your recipe as a 5/5 rating out of 8 reviews.

    Sorry for this being so long! I’ll have to return to rate this after I receive a reply and attempt the recipe. Don’t worry, while I have asked quite a few questions I am actually a good cook. I like to understand the premise and process for a recipe to know how and why it works. I think that way you can solidly build your dish, fix any possible issues you encounter, and add things or leave it alone.

    1. Thanks for your comments/questions, Kelly. Let’s see if I can help… As far as the flavorings in this dish, I like the sweetness imparted from the whole head of roasted garlic. I used kosher salt because I prefer it to iodized salt, but by all means, if you have other salts and/or pepper that you like — use them. I look at cooking as making the dish my own — and tweaking it to my tastes — you should absolutely do the same.

      I understand that the switch from mashed potatoes — with butter and milk etc. can take some getting used to, but here’s what I’ve found… my husband and I actually PREFER mashed cauliflower to the potatoes — the texture is very similar, though a bit lighter than regular mashed potatoes. When you’re serving the cauliflower mash with other things — like roast chicken, pork or vegetables, it’s just as satisfying as mashed potatoes and it doesn’t weigh you down. Bonus. We made this switch about 8 years ago and my family hasn’t missed mashed potatoes.

      To make sure you get this to the right consistency — cook the cauliflower so that it’s very tender — when you poke it with a knife the knife should slide out VERY EASILY. Do not use a blender — only make this in a food processor. I’ve done it in a blender and it becomes soupy. It takes longer to process in the food processor and you may have to stop it several times to rearrange the cauliflower at the top of the bowl, until it eventually gets sucked into the whirling vortex and completely blends. Don’t worry, since there’s no gluten, it can’t become gummy.

      If I were you, I’d make the cauliflower with the garlic — then taste it and season the way you like – with whatever salts, peppers or even herbs that you prefer. You can drizzle with a little olive oil or maybe a low-calorie butter substitute if you prefer that flavor. I hope this helps.

  10. I don’t have a food processor. Can I use a blender?

    1. I’ve tried this with my VitaMix blender and the cauliflower comes out over-processed – almost liquidy. However, the VitaMix is an industrial blender. If you’ve got a standard Kitchen Aid or Hamilton Beach — it might work, but you’re going to have to scrape the sides with a spatula — a lot. And the cauliflower takes a good 3-5 minutes to process in a food processor. It might take a little longer in a regular blender and you’ll probably want to do it in batches — don’t fill the blender to the top and blend, because you’ll never get the top cauliflower down to the bottom of the container… if that makes sense.

  11. bridgette says:

    5 stars
    Just turned Diabetic, cutting out beloved potatoes, can’t wait to try this dish!

    1. Let me know how you like it Bridgette! We eat this at least once a week.

  12. Great with some sour cream, butter and ricotta added t9 the food processor. I often roast a slice of onion too and throw that it (just throw it under the garlic in the foll) ?. The more I add the worse it gets for me, but still lower carb….

    1. Love the idea of the roasted onion! I admit that I sometimes add butter to mine as well — but I’ve never tried ricotta and sour cream — might have to give it a go!

  13. 5 stars
    Delish! All plates were polished off and even the cooking utensils were licked clean by Miss 10! Big hit in our family, will never go back to the “spud”