That’s right, we’re revisiting the magical vegetable once again. Cauliflower is truly the most versatile ingredient when it comes to hacking your favorite comfort food recipes and we’ve done it again.
This time we’ve got a phenomenal Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. We didn’t stop there though. This recipe also features guest appearances by bacon and pork rinds to pack in as much flavor as possible. Megha is also going to show you how everything is done in the video below:
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese That’s Sure to Please
This cauliflower mac and cheese would convert even the most ardent of mac and cheese purists. There are a couple of decisions that we’ve made to ensure that we come out with a crispy and delicious cauliflower mac and cheese recipe that’s a step above any you’ve tried before. Wet and mushy pieces of roughly chopped cauliflower will not exist in this recipe! We’ve thought about everything from size for cauliflower, to thickness of the cheese sauce. Then we put it all together to make the best low carb cauliflower mac and cheese.
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Is Cauliflower Keto?
Cauliflower is a great keto ingredient for any low carb recipe you want to make. It has minimal prep time, and is super low in carbs. Per 100 grams of cauliflower there are only: 25 calories, 5 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of net carbs, 0.3 grams of fat, and 1.9 grams of protein.
Due to the low net carb count of this vegetable, roasted cauliflower becomes a great addition to our keto mac and cheese recipe. Cauliflower also has a ton of other health benefits like being rich in choline (3). Choline does a plethora of things for the body such as help with brain development, nervous system health, and metabolism support.
Frozen or Fresh Cauliflower
While it has been shown frozen veggies retain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts (1), pre- frozen cauliflower is not the best option for this recipe. When a vegetable is frozen the water molecules expand and push on the cell walls, stretching them out and causing the water based vegetable to go mushy (2). That’s why it’s best to stick to fresh over frozen cauliflower for this recipe.
What to Make With Cauliflower Mac
There’s really no definitive line on what you should and shouldn’t make with mac and cheese. Whatever you enjoy makes the perfect side! This recipe is hearty with a big serving size that you could eat as a meal. However, if you want some main meal ideas try one of our favorites:
- Buffalo Mac and Cheese- Cook and shred some chicken thighs seasoned with pepper and salt. Add 4oz on top of your mac and cheese, then drizzle with a keto friendly hot sauce.
- BBQ Mac and Cheese- Cook or pick up smoked pork barbecue (un-sauced). Top the mac with your meat and some sugar free BBQ sauce.
- Low Carb Buffalo Chicken Burger– This savory and spicy burger is the perfect combo to put along side this mac and cheese recipe. It’s quick to make and can be done in the time it takes for your mac to cook in the oven.
- Homemade Chicken Fries– This recipe is a keto version of chicken tenders. Let your true inner child out with a mac and cheese, chicken tender combo!
These are just a few of the many things you can pair with our mac and cheese recipe. If you ever get lost for ideas you can always just keep it super simple with a grilled protein. Grilled steak and chicken both taste amazing with this recipe so don’t be afraid to keep it simple!
Tips to Make the Best Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
There’s nothing quite like a gooey cheesy cauliflower mac on a keto diet. We love this recipe as a side dish or a main dish, but there are a few tips to making an absolutely delicious mac n cheese recipe every time.
Roast Cauliflower with Bacon for Ultimate Mac and Cheese Flavor
Often times cauliflower mac and cheese recipes will call for boiling, steaming or baking the cauliflower. Instead, we pan roast the cauliflower to perfection with bacon. The cauliflower will absorb all of the flavor of the bacon and it will also have a much better texture than other preparation methods. We achieve a perfect al dente cook on the cauliflower, as well as a nice golden brown color. This can’t be replicated with any other cooking method!
Keto Mac and Cheese with Pork Rinds for a Crunch
My favorite type of mac and cheese has a crispy top on it. There’s something to be said for the traditional shells with cheddar cheese sauce style, but it pales in comparison to a well cooked mac and cheese with an extra crunchy and cheesy topping.
To achieve that crisp you’re normally going to turn to bread crumbs…but carbs! In place of bread crumbs, we’re using pork rinds. Pork rinds crisp up just as nicely and give a lovely flavor to the final dish. One word of caution in the preparation of this dish is that both the bacon and pork rinds have a good amount of salt in them, meaning you may want to take it easy on the amount of salt used. Simply add a healthy dose of crushed pork rinds to the top of your cauliflower with cheese sauce and bake!
Watery Mac and Cheese
No one wants a super runny sauce that won’t stick to their cauliflower. If you find your recipe is too runny these are a few things that may have caused it:
- Don’t Boil the Cauliflower- We specifically roast the cauliflower to prevent excess moisture in the recipe ahead of time. Plus roasting the cauliflower adds even more flavor, so don’t skip this step and try to boil it.
- You Used Frozen Cauliflower- As stated above frozen vegetables will not work as well in this recipe. They have too much water and can thin out the sauce. If you choose to use frozen, still make it has been thawed and roasted ahead of time. You may even want to add a 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum (keto “corn starch”) to the cauliflower when tossing it in the sauce.
Seasoning is Vital
Cauliflower is a blander vegetable so it’s super important you add seasoning to cauliflower recipes. If you use bacon like the recipe calls for, you may need less salt because bacon and cheese are already salty. However, you will still want cracked black pepper and maybe even a pinch of garlic powder too.
Fresh garlic in this recipe is better than garlic powder, but if you don’t have fresh minced garlic you can always add a little bit of garlic powder instead.
Don’t Overcook the Cauliflower
Keto recipes that use cauliflower will often have you cook it quite a bit to soften. Unlike pizza crusts and other cauliflower recipes, cheesy cauliflower mac is much better with a bit of a bite than soft. To really mimic noodles you don’t want the cauliflower to cook too much and be mushy. With this keto recipe a good rule of thumb is to undercook it a bit in the pan and let it spend extra time in the oven. You can always pull it out of the oven and try a piece to get your desired texture.
Broiling Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
The last step is to bake and broil this cauliflower mac and cheese. The broiling time we recommend is 3-5 minutes, but this can vary a lot from oven to oven. I’d recommend keeping an eye on it the entire time it is broiling to make sure it doesn’t burn. This will also allow you to pull it out when you have achieved the exact amount of crispiness you want. Our pictures show a broiling time of four minutes as a reference point.
These tips should help you create the perfect mac. Cheese sauce seasoning, cook time, and final broil time are all important in creating the best overall keto mac and cheese. The next time you take on this keto recipe you’ll be a pro!
How to Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
This dish has a few moving parts, but overall you’ll be happy to hear it’s an easy dish to prepare. So whip out your fresh head of cauliflower, heavy cream, and cheese, it’s time to get cooking!
Luckily this keto cauliflower mac and cheese is pretty straight forward and only requires a few pieces of equipment.
- A Skillet- You’ll need a large skillet to roast the cauliflower and bacon
- A Saucepan- A good quality saucepan will help to evenly heat the cheese sauce
- 8x8in Baking/ Casserole Dish- We get ours from amazon, but any 8x8in baking dish should work to cook the cauliflower
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Ingredients
There are three main ingredient categories for this low carb cauliflower mac and cheese recipe. We start with the base which will include cauliflower of course, then thick sliced bacon, onion, and garlic. The bacon is optional, but… Is it? Bacon adds extra fat as well as a nice crispy; smokey flavor. We choose to roast it with the onion, garlic, and cauliflower florets. You can buy pre cut cauliflower florets, but we find them to be much too big for this recipe. To really achieve an authentic noodle-like size, you’ll want to tear apart or chop the cauliflower florets by hand. It is a bit time consuming, however you will be rewarded with the best cheddar cheese cauliflower mac you’ve ever had!
Next for the cauliflower and cheese sauce you’ll need 1/4 cup heavy cream, cheese, and butter. You can use almond milk if you don’t have heavy cream, but you may need more cheese for the proper cream to cheese ratio. Finally a little black pepper and salt will really bring the cheese sauce to life!
The baked topping we used is only two ingredients, but adds a really good depth of flavor and texture. to make it we used shredded cheese and crushed pork rinds. If you want a little greenery you can top it with sliced green onions when done, however just these two simple ingredients make for an amazing keto friendly “bread crumb” replacement. They taste like the panko breadcrumbs you can pick up at the store, but without all the carbs!
Putting Together Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
We made this last night and i’m so glad we did. Every time we have this mac and cheese i’m left full and satisfied. Plus I get to re-live my childhood macaroni and cheese days! This will definitely be a recipe we make for Theo in the future and can’t wait until he’s able to enjoy it too.
Making the Roasted Cauliflower
To begin making this cauliflower mac and cheese, heat a skillet on medium heat and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Next you’ll want to dice your bacon into small bits in order to roast it alongside the cauliflower. Break the cauliflower into small bite sized pieces, we used elbow noodles for reference size. You can do this with a knife, or your hands like we did.
Now it’s time to add the cauliflower and bacon into your skillet. Cook for 5-7 minutes, you are looking for slightly browned cauliflower and fully cooked bacon. If you like the bacon extra crispy add it to the pan first and get it started cooking before the cauliflower. Once cooked dice your onion and mince the garlic, these will go into the skillet next. Cook for a final 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is cooked and the onions are translucent.
The cauliflower should be slightly al dente because it is going into the oven to bake after roasting. Macaroni and cheese should have a bite so don’t be scared if your cauliflower seems a little hard right now.
Making the Cheese Sauce
To make the cheese sauce combine the butter, cheese, and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium/ low heat. Cook until everything is melted and combined. Then, season with salt and pepper to taste. You definitely don’t want to forget these because they add a really good flavor, especially the pepper, that you wouldn’t always think of putting in mac and cheese.
Once the cheese sauce is ready it’s time to assemble and bake! Place your cauliflower and bacon into a baking dish, we used an 8×8. Now it’s time to get saucy! Pour your low carb mac n cheese sauce on top of the cauliflower and mix well.
After everything is evenly coated it’s time to hit the mac and cheese cauliflower with finishing touches. Sprinkle the cheese in an even layer overtop of your sauced cauliflower mac and cheese. Cheesy cauliflower is the best, so don’t be afraid to top it with a little extra cheese!
Next comes the crispy pork rind layer to provide a nice crunch. If you haven’t already, crush your pork rinds in a zip lock bag to make a ” breadcrumb”. Spread the pork rind breadcrumbs so that the top is evenly covered.
Baking the Mac and Cheese
Finally it’s time to bake your cauliflower mac and cheese. Place it into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. The last 3-5 minutes you can set the oven to broil and let the toppings get extra crispy. Make sure you’re on standby! Oven temperatures vary for broil, so turn the light on and watch it as it finishes. The amount of times we’ve burned something in the oven is ridiculous! Once it’s browned you can remove the baked cauliflower from the oven and dish up your finished low carb cauliflower mac and cheese.
How to Store and Reheat Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
This recipe stores really well in the fridge when placed in an airtight container. The mac and cheese recipe should last for 3-5 days. You can freeze it, but frozen cauliflower tends to crystalize the water molecules and become too wet and mushy.
This recipe reheats well in the microwave and airfryer. If you are reheating frozen cauliflower mac and cheese you will want to cook it longer until the center is heated through.
More Comfort Food
Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of good candidates. Our blog is full of delicious recipes just waiting to be cooked. Check out some of our favorite comfort food recipes:
- Keto Chocolate Chip Cookies– These absolutely delicious low carb cookies are soft and chewy, packed with chocolate. Making them the perfect comfort food and late night snack.
- Keto Lasagna– Who doesn’t love a creamy, gooey, cheese filled lasagna. Our gluten free lasagna recipe is the perfect low carb main dish when you want something easy and delicious.
- Keto Broccoli and Cheddar Soup– Break out your fresh sharp cheddar cheese and get crackin! This soup blends fresh broccoli with sharp cheddar to make a rich and extra cheesy soup.
- Low Carb Cornbread– Whether you’re from the south, or the midwest, this side dish is a staple food for many families all across the US. Our keto cornbread is gluten free and packed with delicious ingredients so good you won’t even miss the real thing!
These are just a few of the many delicious low carb recipes we have on our blog. Make a few of these recipes ahead of time this week. Once the cooking’s done you’ll have meal prepped delicious new recipes for days!
Keto Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
We made this recipe over and over again until we knew the flavors and ratios were perfect. Each time we made this mac and cheese recipe we learned a new way to make it even better. This recipe is also perfect to make as a side dish, or a main meal. All you have to do is adjust the recipe serving size to your appetite (but be careful because our appetites would let us eat the whole thing as the serving size…). We just know you’ll love this recipe as soon as you try it, so get your kids together and head to the kitchen. It’s time to make cauliflower mac and cheese!
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 6-8 cups cauliflower
- 2 slices bacon thick cut
- 1/2 medium Onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese shredded
- 1/2 oz Pork Rinds crushed
- Heat a skillet on medium heat and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Dice the bacon and separate the cauliflower into “macaroni” sized pieces. We do this by hand, but you can also use a knife. Add bacon and cauliflower to the skillet and allow to cook for 5 minutes, or until the bacon is nearly fully cooked.
- Dice the onion, finely chop the garlic and add items to the skillet. Cook for 10 more minutes or until the cauliflower is cooked and the onions are translucent. You’ll want to cauliflower to be slightly al dente so that it cooks the remainder of the way in the oven.
- Combine butter, cheddar cheese(1 cup), and heavy cream in a small saucepan. Cook on low heat until everything is melted and combined. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the cauliflower mixture into a baking dish. We use an 8×8.
- Pour the cheese sauce over top and mix everything together with a spoon.
- Top with crushed pork rinds and the remaining cheddar cheese.
- Bake at 425 for 10 minutes and then broil for 3-5 minutes to crisp up the topping. Enjoy!