I love love love this Paleo, Dairy-Free Cauliflower Bacon Mac and Cheese! The dairy-free “cheese” is super creamy and the combination of cauliflower and bacon as the “mac” is a dream come true for those of us integrating more grain-free meals into our lives!
I would hedge a bet that most of us have a nostalgic feeling when it comes to mac and cheese and our childhood. Personally, I literally felt a flutter of happiness inside carrying a plate of it (with canned peaches and green peas mind you) carefully to our kitchen table when I was 10. That trio of awesomeness was my favorite meal by far!
But now in the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
So, now at this time of my life, when I know better, there will be no Kraft mac & cheese, but there will be a delicious substitute!
Paleo Mac & Cheese recipes are nothing new, but I have never tried a recipe before so I wouldn’t be influenced in developing this one. I was determined to make a sauce that was creamy and definitely toting an orange hue, albeit of the natural sort.
I thought about adding russet or red potatoes to help make the cheese creamy, but I also wanted this to be a lower-carb, paleo and keto version, so white potatoes were out. I’ve added carrots in the past to my other “cheesy” recipes to deepen the orange color, but I was worried that they would make this version too sweet. The vegetable that I settled on was butternut squash and boy did it deliver. It adds a beautiful deep orange color and is the star player when helping to make the sauce creamy and smooth. I had to add more nutritional yeast to bring the flavor back to a cheesy place, but I think that’s OK. You can back off on that amount if you’d like.
If you’re not following a grain-free diet and don’t feel like using cauliflower, use this sauce for lentil or chickpea pasta instead! It would be delicious!
- Bacon – Look for uncured, nitrate-free bacon. Organic and pasture-raised if possible. Voting with my dollar is something I feel very passionate about, and if you do too, search out farms that are raising animals humanely and in a sustainable fashion. I’m from Minnesota and I love TC Farms!
- Cauliflower – Look for cauliflower heads without any brown spots on the “curds” (the florets). They are harmless, but are signs of oxidation and decay. You want the freshest cauliflower possible to get the most nutrients from the plant. If you can only find ones with the brown spots, cut them off before cooking the cauliflower.
- Chicken Broth – Try making your own and be amazed!
- Nutritional Yeast – Nutritional yeast is a food made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate” it. Because it’s inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability. I LOVE this brand because it’s not fortified with any fact vitamins.
- Parchment Paper – Obviously not an ingredient, but I recommend you use the unbleached variety of parchment paper. Bleached parchment paper when heated can/may/might leach dioxin, which you can read about here and why I advise you to avoid it. There are several brands of unbleached parchment paper which are available at your local grocery store or on Amazon. I use the If You Care brand.
Special Diet Modifications:
- GAPS and SCD – It is my understanding that nutritional yeast is allowed on these diets because it is an inactive form of yeast. If I am wrong on this, please let me know!!!
- Whole30 – Technically nutritional yeast is allowed on Whole30, but using it to make “cheese” is not.
Paleo, Dairy-Free Cauliflower and Bacon "Mac and Cheese"
A truly delicious grain-free and dairy-free alternative to this much loved dish! The cheese sauce is versatile and can be used on plain gluten-free noodles. Leftovers keep well.
- "CHEESE" DRESSING
- 3/4 cup cashews soaked at least 4 hours, preferably 7-8
- 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash instructions to follow, or can purchase pureed canned
- 3-4 cloves roasted garlic instructions to follow
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup chicken broth homemade or low-sodium store-bought
- 3/4 tsp sea or himalayan salt divided
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- CAULIFLOWER AND BACON "MAC"
- 1 large cauliflower head roughly chopped
- 2 tbs coconut oil
- 1/2 - 3/4 lb uncured bacon cooked, thickly sliced and pasture-raised preferable
- 1/3 cup fresh italian parsley roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup lacinto kale or spinach sliced into slivers, OPTIONAL
Preheat the oven to 400. Taking a small butternut squash, slice it down the middle lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Place face down on a baking sheet and roast for 40-50 minutes or until it is easily pierced with a fork.
With about 20 minutes remaining, place the garlic cloves on the baking sheet as well.
While the squash is roasting, chop the cauliflower into rough pieces. Since this is a "Mac & Cheese " recipe, you'll want pieces roughly the size of a penne pasta (or easily to eat in one bite). Cook the bacon now as well if it hasn't been already.
With a few minutes left on the butternut squash melt the coconut oil by placing it in an oven-safe container and placing it in the oven. It will only take a few minutes to melt. Carefully remove it and toss it with the cauliflower pieces and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Spread the cauliflower pieces evenly out on another baking sheet.
Remove the squash and the garlic from the oven and place the cauliflower in. Roast the cauliflower for 15 - 20 minutes. (15 will cook it well, 20 minutes will result in more charred edges.)
While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the "cheese" mixture. Place all the "cheese" ingredients (1/2 tsp salt) in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Taste for salt preference.
Remove the cauliflower from the oven and mix with the bacon and "cheese" mixture. Reserve a little bit of "cheese" to drizzle over the top. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and, optionally, lacinto kale.
If you would like the dish to be warmer, put the mac and cheese in a casserole dish, lower the heat to 300, and place the casserole in for 5-10 minutes.