If you’re looking for low-carb comfort food, this is it! This cheesy cauliflower bake is loaded with all the flavor and creaminess of mac and cheese without the gluten and additional calories of pasta. It is warm, cheesy and delicious, loaded with all the flavors of classic mac plus bacon, but so much better for you.
Before you call me crazy for implying that this might be a healthy option, consider that fat is not always the bad guy. Especially good fats like olive oil, grass-fed butter and uncured bacon. Consider that a pound of pasta is roughly 700 calories while the equal measure of cauliflower has about 150 calories. Of course, it’s just not the same eating cauliflower instead of pasta and if you want a bowl of good old fashioned mac and cheese, go for it. I’m simply suggesting this as a delicious alternative, or at least a delicious side with chicken, fish or steak!
This cheesy cauliflower bake can actually be made two ways. Today I steamed the cauliflower to keep it lower in calories, but it is also delicious twice-baked.
Roasting takes no more effort than steaming the cauliflower and adds a great layer of flavor. By roasting, you allow the natural sugars in the cauliflower to caramelize creating, yep, you guessed it, flavor! This step is also a great place to add additional flavors. I like it simple with olive oil, salt and pepper, but if you want a more bold flavor, consider roasting the cauliflower with garlic or basil-infused olive oil. If you are trying to save a few calories wherever you can, trust me when I say this Cheesy Cauliflower Bake is delicious with steamed cauliflower.
Cheesy Cauliflower Bake
- 2 small heads cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil for roasting cauliflower
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar, divided
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
- Preheat the oven to 450° F.
- For roasting: On a baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Roast the cauliflower in a single layer for 15-20 minutes until tender, yet still slightly crisp (aldente).
- For steaming: Use a microwave steamer to steam the cauliflower for 5 minutes or simply drop into a large pot of boiling water to par boil the cauliflower for 3 minutes. Drain well.
- Making the Cheese Sauce: In a large skillet, melt butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute, then add flour and stir until golden, 2 minutes. Add milk and bring to a low simmer, then add cream cheese, whisking until combined. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup cheddar until melted, then season with salt and pepper.
- In a 9”-x-13” dish, add cauliflower. Pour over cheese sauce and stir carefully until combined.
- Stir in all but 1 tablespoon each of the cooked bacon and green onions until combined, then top with remaining cheddar, bacon and green onions.
- Reduce the oven temp to 350°F and bake until cauliflower is tender and cheese is melty, 30 minutes.