Loaded Cauliflower Bites
Yield: 4 servings (dressing yield = ½+ cup, enough for several salads)
Crisp-tender bites of cauliflower are topped with bacon and cheese for a family-friendly, company-worthy alternative to loaded potato skins. Dipping sauces optional!

adding the florets that break off around the perimeter of the baking sheet


  • 1 large head cauliflower*
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon each garlic and onion powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper**
  • ¾ cup (3 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3-4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (LINK)
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped chives or 2 scallions, sliced
  • Optional for serving: Blue cheese or ranch dressing or hot sauce (like Frank’s RedHot original) for drizzling or dipping
  • Options to make it a meal: 1 cup rinsed and drained black beans (or more as desired); ½ a large avocado, chopped; a handful of grape tomatoes, halved, or 1 small vine-ripened tomato; a cup or so of chopped romaine, baby arugula. or greens of choice


  1. Preheat the oven to 425℉ and grease or spray a large, rimmed baking sheet, or line with greased foil for easy cleanup.
  2. To prepare the cauliflower, use a chef’s knife to slice off the stem, and then quarter it into four equal wedges. Slice off and discard the inner core areas, leaving the rest intact. At this point it’s easiest to break the florets into chunks, and then level the rounded sides slightly with a knife as needed. There will be some smaller pieces that won’t work as bites, which may either be roasted along the perimeter of the baking sheet or reserved for another use.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the garlic and onion powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
  4. Place the prepared cauliflower on the baking sheet, brush or drizzle with the olive oil, and then sprinkle with the seasonings. (Helpful hints: I recommend brushing on the oil because tossing the cauliflower pieces in a bowl will make the pieces more likely to break and harder to pick up later. For a less fussy approach, you may simply cut the cauliflower into bite-size florets, add the toppings, and eat with a fork and knife. Or prepare as heartier cauliflower steaks.)
  5. Roast until just tender and golden on the edges, about 20 minutes, depending on oven and color of baking sheet. (Dark sheets cook and brown faster than light-colored ones.) Remove from the oven, top with the cheese and bacon, and return to the oven for 5 minutes, or just long enough to melt the cheese and crisp the bacon. (Tip: I often hurry this along by placing the tray on the top rack for 1-2 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.) Remove from the oven and enjoy!


*There’s no need to worry too much about the size or weight of the cauliflower for this recipe, as you can eyeball the toppings. The recipe will provide a helpful framework from which deviations work well. Like more or less cheese or bacon, for example? Feel free to add accordingly.

**While the spices enhance the flavor, in a pinch you may season simply with salt and pepper or use just the ones you have on hand.

To make it a meal: Roast all of the florets from the full head of cauliflower. (The steak option works well here, too.) When just tender, sprinkle the black beans over and around the cauliflower pieces, and then top with the cheese and bacon. Return to the oven to melt the cheese and crisp the bacon, and then top with avocado, tomatoes, and other optional toppings as desired. Sometimes I serve a simple green salad, dressing with blue cheese on the side, and then sort of mix together as I eat.

I often bake the bacon in advance (LINK), and then chop or crumble, and add to the cauliflower when needed. It will re-crisp in the oven. As an alternative to baking, you may cook in a skillet until crisp, transferring when done to a paper towel-lined plate. You can even microwave the bacon between layers of paper towels. It works surprisingly well, and is splatter-proof!

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