If you consider cauliflower bland or ho-hum, then I invite you to grab a plate and try this stand-out, super-loaded, cheesy Cauliflower Casserole. It’s loaded baked potatoes meets cauliflower au gratin, with a serious, obsessively tasty OOMPH that beats them both.
Tender, caramelized roasted cauliflower florets interlaced with indulgent, melting pockets of cream cheese, gruyere, and crispy bacon, this loaded cauliflower casserole can’t help but win affection (and second helpings).
This recipe is now a staple at our annual Friendsgiving, and I’m not so secretly plotting to add it to our Christmas menu too.
My inspiration for this recipe is a mashup of two classic comfort food recipes, cauliflower au gratin and loaded baked potatoes, but I’ve made it easy and lightened it up with healthy swaps.
Like a cauliflower gratin, this low carb cauliflower casserole is rich, cheesy, and makes you question whether or not it actually contains vegetables.
Like a loaded baked potato, it’s filled with the good stuff: Greek yogurt (my healthy swap instead of a cauliflower casserole with sour cream), bacon, chives, and cream cheese.
Unlike both of these classic side dishes, however, loaded cauliflower casserole is something that your guests might not have seen before. It’s easy to adapt to different flavors and ingredients, low carb, gluten free, and relatively hands free for you, the cook.
This cauliflower casserole with bacon is worthy of a holiday spread, and it’s also a side dish I love to make for dinner parties and date nights. It’s easy to prepare and offers that sought-after WOW factor from the first bite.
Why is Cauliflower Good for You?
- It’s no secret that cauliflower is good for you. Cauliflower is packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
- It contains almost every vitamin and nutrient that you need in your diet. It is also high in fiber and low in calories.
All of that nutritional benefit does not mean that we should have to sacrifice taste. In fact, this cauliflower casserole is so stand-out delicious, you’ll forget that what you are eating is good for you.
How Do You Make Cauliflower Casserole? (The Easy Way!)
So, how do you bake cauliflower and cheese into a delicious casserole? Well, I wanted to keep this recipe easy, so it only takes a handful of simple ingredients and straight forward steps to assemble.
- Cauliflower. Unlike raw cauliflower (which is bland), roasted cauliflower is complex, caramelized, and rich. For maximum ease, I roasted the cauliflower in the same baking dish that I used for the final casserole; no need to wash in between.
- Garlic Powder. All the garlic flavor without the fuss of actually chopping garlic.
- Ground Black Pepper. Kicks up the cauliflower and jives well with the bacon.
- Ground Nutmeg. My nod to the traditional flavors in an au gratin recipe.
- Bacon. Turns this casserole into the stuff of dinner legend. For maximum ease, I use this easy Baked Bacon method.
- Cream Cheese. For the ultimate creamy texture and “loaded” factor. I used reduced fat cream cheese for this recipe.
- Greek Yogurt. Another secret to the creamy texture of this dish. I opted for nonfat plain Greek yogurt to keep the recipe on the lighter side.
- Cheese. Gruyere and Parmesan are the perfect nutty combination here!
- If you don’t have gruyere, any similar melty, alpine-style cheese will work famously.
- Chives. A beautiful addition of color and fresh flavor.
To keep the casserole as low maintenance as possible, I skipped the classic gratin white sauce in favor of a blend of cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and shredded cheese that I dolloped over the top. The cream cheese blend warms in the oven and envelops the tender florets with mouthfuls of decadence.
- Lightly coat a casserole dish with nonstick spray, and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Toss the cauliflower florets with the oil and spices. Place the cauliflower in the casserole dish, and spread into an even layer. Bake the cauliflower at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes, until the florets are tender.
- Lay the bacon strips on the baking sheet, and bake until crisp. Remove the bacon and cauliflower from the oven. Stir the cauliflower, return it to the oven, and continue baking until its cooking time is up. Crumble the bacon into pieces.
- In the same bowl you used for the cauliflower, combine the cream cheese and yogurt. Add part of the cheese and bacon.
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven, and add dollops of the cream cheese mixture to the dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses, and return to the oven. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Turn the oven to broil for 1 to 3 minutes, until cheese is golden. Remove, sprinkle with chives and more bacon, and ENJOY!
Recipe Adaptations + Dietary Swaps
I adore this healthy cauliflower casserole just as it is, AND I adore the different delicious spinoffs it can create. A few ideas:
- Fully Loaded Baked “Potato” Cauliflower Casserole: Swap the gruyere for sharp cheddar and the nutmeg for cayenne.
- Parmesan and Herb Cauliflower Bake: Swap the gruyere for fontina, add ½ teaspoon dried thyme to the cauliflower prior to roasting, and top the final casserole with chopped, fresh parsley. Bacon optional…or not.
- Italian: Swap the gruyere for shredded provolone or mozzarella, omit the nutmeg, and add 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning + a pinch of red pepper flakes to the cauliflower prior to roasting.
- Is Cauliflower Keto Approved? Yes, cauliflower is keto approved, and this *might* be a keto cauliflower casserole, but I’m not as familiar with the specifics of that diet, so I would recommend checking other resources if you’re looking for keto cauliflower recipes.
- To Make Gluten Free. No changes! This casserole is naturally gluten free.
- To Make Vegetarian. For a vegetarian cauliflower casserole recipe, omit the bacon.
- To Make Vegan. This would honestly be difficult. Since there are few ingredients, each is important, and I’m not as comfortable with the dairy-free options in this case. Instead, I’d look for a recipe that’s already vegan, like my Mashed Cauliflower Colcannon (so good!) or Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole.
Make Ahead + Storage Tips
- To Store. Store creamy cauliflower casserole in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F until hot. You can also gently rewarm leftovers in the microwave until heated through.
- To Make Ahead. The cauliflower can be roasted 1 day in advance, and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The cream cheese mixture can also be prepared 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, warm the cauliflower in the baking dish in a 350-degree F oven until hot. Let the cream cheese mixture come to room temperature. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F, then dollop on the cream cheese and bake as directed.
Can you Freeze a Cauliflower Casserole?
Yes! You can freeze a cauliflower casserole.
- To Freeze. Place leftover casserole in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
What Main Dish Goes Well with Cauliflower Casserole?
Whether you want to make this a Christmas or Thanksgiving cauliflower casserole or as a tasty addition to your weeknight meals, here are a few ideas of what you could serve with it:
- Chicken. Serve this casserole with a hearty chicken dish like this Rosemary Chicken Thighs with Apples and Brussels Sprouts or Crockpot Chicken and Potatoes.
- Pork. Crock Pot Pork Chops, Crockpot Ribs, or Mustard Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Vegetables in Foil would all be delicious with this casserole.
- Mushroom Burger. Keep your meal vegetarian by serving this casserole with a Portobello Mushroom Burger.
More Delicious Vegetable Side Dishes
Whether you are looking to please picky eaters (hi, cream cheese and bacon), try new easy cauliflower recipes, or are among those who *think* they don’t care for baked cauliflower recipes, I hope you give this loaded cauliflower casserole a try. It’s sure to be a fast favorite at your table!
- 2 medium heads cauliflower cut into bite-size florets (about 3–4 pounds cauliflower, prior to being cut, or 5–6 cups florets)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon McCormick Garlic Powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Black Pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon McCormick Ground Nutmeg
- 6 slices bacon
- 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 2/3 cup freshly grated gruyere or similar melty, nutty, alpine-style cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese divided
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Lightly coat a wide 3-quart casserole dish, such as an 9x13, with nonstick spray. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
- In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Transfer the cauliflower to the prepared casserole dish and spread into an even layer. Keep the bowl handy. Bake the cauliflower on the lower rack for 30 minutes, until the florets are tender and begin to brown.
- Meanwhile, arrange the bacon strips in a single layer on the prepared foil-lined baking sheet. Bake on the upper rack until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bacon and cauliflower from the oven. Stir the cauliflower, spread it back into an even layer, and place it on the upper rack to continue cooking until the end of its baking time. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate and lightly pat dry. Once cool enough to handle, roughly chop or crumble the bacon into small pieces.
- In the same bowl that you used to toss the cauliflower, beat together the cream cheese and Greek yogurt until combined. Stir in 1/3 cup gruyere cheese, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, and half of the chopped bacon.
- Remove the roasted cauliflower from the oven and dollop the cream cheese mixture over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup gruyere and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Return the pan to the upper third of the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and gooey, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the oven to broil. Broil the casserole until golden on top, 1 to 3 minutes. Do not walk away, and watch carefully to make sure the cheese does not burn. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh chives and remaining bacon. Serve hot.
- The cauliflower can be roasted 1 day in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The cream cheese mixture can be prepared 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, warm the cauliflower in the baking dish in a 350-degree F oven until hot. Let the cream cheese mixture come to room temperature. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F, then dollop on the cream cheese and bake as directed.
- This recipe is easy to scale! Feel free to double it (bake in two separate 9x13-inch pans) or halve it and bake in a 1 1/2-quart casserole or gratin dish.
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