This Cheesy Cauliflower Bake combines the classic comforts of creamy macaroni and cheese with all that is awesome about bacon (hello, FLAVOR!) for one truly delicious low-carb casserole.
Cheesy Baked Cauliflower Casserole
Everything you could possibly want from a creamy, cheesy side dish is found in this recipe. At least all the most important parts, like BACON and CHEESE and cauliflower.
We cannot forget the cauliflower.
You know, the magical vegetable that tastes like potatoes, but is so low in carbs and calories that eating half of a pan filled with cream and cheese and bacon is completely acceptable.
Acceptability aside, if yummy creamy comfort foods scare you, then this cauliflower bake probably isn’t for you. I mean, I know you’d love it, and I’m not saying it’s unhealthy, but I will definitely admit that it is not a low-fat side dish. Low-carb? Yes. And easily modified to be keto-friendly, too (more on that below).
Perfect for weekends and (less-chaotic) weeknights, it gets the stamp of approval from everyone in my house. Octavian thought it was especially yummy and was completely unaware of the sneaky cauliflower hiding below the thick layer of cheese a bacon crumbles.
- cauliflower florets
- olive oil
- all-purpose flour
- whole milk
- cream cheese
- sour cream
- shredded cheddar cheese
- salt & pepper
- fresh thyme
Technically, this recipe is not keto-approved. That said, you can easily make it keto-friendly by leaving out the all-purpose flour. Since you won’t have flour as a thickener for your cheese sauce, you may want to add a little extra cheese or a little less milk.
Optional toppings: more BACON! chopped green onions (I ran out, otherwise I would have added them myself), fresh thyme, red pepper flakes, or hot sauce (I love a little Tabasco sauce.
How to Make this Loaded Cauliflower Bake
1. Blanch the cauliflower
I highly recommend blanching or roasting your cauliflower florets at least partially before mixing with the cheese sauce and baking. This accomplishes two things,
- Guarantees that your cauliflower will actually end up soft and cooked (trust me, you do not want crunchy cauliflower) and,
- Reduces the time your cauliflower bake will have to bake in the oven once it’s been assembled.
You can blanch the cauliflower in a pot of salted water for 3-4 minutes, drain, and pat dry with paper towels, or, roast it on a baking sheet in the oven until crispy.
I tend to blanch my cauliflower. It’s easier.
2. Cook the bacon
You’re going to want crumbly bacon bits. I like to pre-chop my bacon before cooking, but feel free to cook it however you like. You can even cook your bacon in the oven.
Once your bacon is fully cooked, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside while you move to the next step.
3. The homemade cheese sauce
I start by softening an onion in a little leftover bacon grease. Of course, feel free to omit the onion if you prefer a smoother cheese sauce. Next, you’ll add some minced garlic (or garlic powder if you prefer).
Now it’s all about the roux. Simply melt a few tablespoons of butter (or add a few more tablespoons of reserve bacon grease), sprinkle with flour, and whisk to combine. You’ll have a thick paste-like substance.
Keep whisking for about a minute to prevent the flour and butter from burning, then slowly add the milk. Whisk until combined. Bring to a simmer and add the cream cheese, continuing to whisk until fully incorporated.
Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream, half of the shredded cheese, and half of the crumbled bacon. Season with salt, pepper, fresh thyme, or even a little pinch of cayenne pepper, if desired.
4. Assemble and bake
Add the cauliflower florets and the cheese sauce to a large casserole dish. Gently toss to coat the cauliflower in the sauce. Top with the remaining cheese (feel free to add other kinds of cheese like mozzarella or parmesan cheese) and bacon.
Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 20-35 minutes.
Total cooking time will vary depending on the size of your florets, the type of oven you’re using, how pre-cooked your cauliflower was before being mixed with the cheese sauce, etc.
Serve garnished with additional salt and pepper, to taste, chopped scallions, red pepper, or your favorite hot sauce.
More delicious cauliflower recipes you’ll love,
If you try making this Cheesy Cauliflower Bake, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE FORKED SPOON NEWSLETTER FOR FREE AND RECEIVE WEEKLY RECIPE NOTIFICATIONS DELIVERED STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!
Cauliflower Bake with Bacon
- 2 small head of cauliflower (chopped into small florets (about 12 cups))
- 6 slices bacon (chopped)
- 1 small onion (minced)
- 5 cloves garlic (minced)
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour (use gluten-free all-purpose flour to make this recipe gluten-free)
- 2.5 cups whole milk (plus more if needed)
- 4 ounces cream cheese (softened)
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 cups shredded cheddar (divided)
- 1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (plus more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- green onions (for serving)
- Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a large 9"x13" casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Fill a large pot with water and add a generous teaspoon of salt. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, carefully transfer the cauliflower florets to the pot and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Drain and gently pat the cauliflower dry with a clean paper towel. Set aside.
- Chop the bacon into small pieces and add them to a large skillet or saucepan set over medium-high heat. Once the bacon is hot and sizzling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and cook low and slow, stirring occasionally. Once the bacon pieces are golden and release their grease, remove the lid and allow them to cook until the desired doneness is reached. Remove from heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. Discard all but 1-2 tablespoons of leftover bacon grease.
- Return the saucepan to medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute, mixing well to combine with the onions.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Melt the butter. Once melted, sprinkle with flour and stir until completely combined and the raw flour has been cooked off (approximately 1 minute). Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, until fully combined. Bring to a low simmer.
- Add the cream cheese and continue to whisk until fully incorporated with the milk. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream, half of the shredded cheese, and half of the crumbled bacon. Season generously with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme, to taste.
- Transfer the drained cauliflower florets to your prepared baking dish. Pour the homemade cheese sauce directly over the florets and mix well to combine. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese, bacon, and fresh thyme (or green onions).
- Bake until the cauliflower is soft and tender and the cheese is melted approximately 25-35 minutes. Garnish with additional salt and pepper, chopped scallions, red pepper, or your favorite hot sauce, to taste.
- For best results, keep leftovers stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy within 3-4 days.
- Try this with other veggies - broccoli would be especially delicious!
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)