This comforting Cauliflower Casserole is creamy, cheesy, and has added bacon! It’s the side that will be sure to satisfy everyone at the table. This side dish features cauliflower, bacon, cheesy sauce mixture, and topped with a bacon bread crumb topping.
Creamy Cheesy Cauliflower Side Dish
I am crazy about cauliflower in every way, shape, or form. Be it roasted, mashed, as a pizza crust, or ever raw. When cauliflower is combined with cheesy sauce and bacon, then it’s mouthful of comfort. This cheesy cauliflower side dish would make a beautiful addition to the holiday table.
There are a couple of variations you can make to this dish. You can use half broccoli and half cauliflower to make a broccoli cauliflower casserole. Try adding a little ham or chicken and make it a complete meal.
You can also try substituting different flavorful cheeses, like Asiago, goat cheese, Gorgonzola, or cheddar. (Be careful about the combination though.)
Cauliflower – get a nice firm head of cauliflower without any dark spots. Pick out a medium sized cauliflower that’s about 2-2.5 lbs.
Bacon – grab your favorite bacon and remember, it will egg a good flavor to the casserole.
Shallots – I love using shallots for their aroma and a touch of sweetness.
Liquids – whole milk and vegetable stock. For the richer, creamier flavor, try to use whole milk. Vegetable stock tends to have richer flavors than broth as well.
Cheeses – a flavorful combination of freshly grated Swiss, white sharp cheddar, and blue cheese crumbles. Remember to freshly grate the cheese off the block when using it in sauce.
Dijon – Dijon mustard is best for it’s flavor and acidity level. If you have to substitute it, use another gourmet mustard but not yellow mustard.
Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease an 8×8 casserole dish.
Cut cauliflower florets off of the stem. Discard the stem.
Blanch cauliflower first: In a large pot, bring water to boil and blanch the cauliflower florets for about 4-5 minutes. Transfer them into an ice bath and let them cool. Take them out and dry off the excess water.
In a pot over medium heat, cook bacon bit until completely cooked and set them aside. Sauté shallots in some of the leftover bacon grease until golden.
Sprinkle flour over the shallots, whisk until completely coated and start slowly pouring in the stock and the milk. Stir in Dijon mustard, and season. Keep whisking slowly until mixture thickens.
Stir in the cheeses one handful at a time, and keep whisking until all melted and smooth.
Add in the cauliflower florets, mix well with sauce, and transfer to the casserole dish.
In a small bowl, combine the bacon bits, bread crumbs, and melted butter. Mix very well and spread the mixture over the casserole evenly.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbly.
Make Ahead Tips:
There are two ways you can make preparations ahead of time:
You can blanch the cauliflower ahead of time and store it in an air-tight food storage container, in the refrigerator for a day or two. When ready, follow the recipe to make the casserole.
Another way to make it ahead of time is to prepare most of the cauliflower casserole and store it instead of baking. So prepare the casserole up to the step of adding the topping, spread the casserole in the baking dish you plan to use. Don’t add the topping yet. Make sure the casserole mixture is cooled, cover it, and refrigerate until the next day.
Store cooked bacon bits in another air-tight container. When ready to bake, take the casserole out, reheat bacon bits, and prepare the topping. Spread the topping over the casserole and bake as directed in the recipe.
Gluten Free Tips:
You can definitely make this cauliflower casserole gluten free with a couple of simple substitutions. Use gluten free all-purpose flour to make the cheese sauce and use gluten free Panko crumbs in the topping. Double check the labels on the remaining ingredients, like bacon and cheeses, to make sure they are gluten free.
Cauliflower Cheese Casserole
- 1 head of cauliflower large
- 2 tbsp canola oil split in 2
- 4-5 shallots peeled and minced
- 1/2 lb uncooked bacon diced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock or broth
- 6 oz grated Swiss cheese
- 6 oz grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- 4 tbsp Blue Cheese crumbled
- 1/2-1 tsp coarse or sea salt to taste
- 1/4-1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- Bacon bits from above
- 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375° and lightly grease an 8×8 casserole dish.
To Blanch Cauliflower:
- Cut cauliflower florets off of the stem. Discard the stem. Prepare a large mixing bowl filled with cold water and ice about 2/3 of the way and set it close to the stove.
- Bring a pot of water to boil and add cauliflower florets. Let them cook for about 4-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to take them out of the pot and right into the iced water to stop them from cooking. Le them cool completely.
- Take cauliflower florets out of the iced water and into a clean towel. Pat them dry and set aside.
Prepare Cheese Sauce:
- Preheat a Dutch oven or another pot over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add diced bacon and sauté until bacon bits are fully cooked and take them out. Set them aside for the topping.
- Take most of the bacon grease out of the pot but leave behind about 2 tablespoons for cook with.
- Sauté diced shallots until completely softened and starts to get golden brown.
- Sprinkle the flour over the shallots and whisking constantly. Once incorporated, start SLOWLY pouring in vegetable stock and then milk, while constantly but slowly whisking.
- Stir in Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Start adding shredded cheddar, shredded Swiss, and Blue cheese crumbles a handful at a time, while whisking slowly and constantly. Keep stirring until cheese is melted and smooth.
- Once the cheese sauce is thickened, and blanched cauliflower florets. Mix all well and transfer to the casserole dish.
Baking Cauliflower Casserole:
- In a small bowl, combine the bacon bits, bread crumbs, and melted butter. Mix very well and spread the mixture over the casserole evenly.
- Bake the casserole for about 20 minutes, until bubbly around the sides.