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I love making this dish as much as I enjoy eating and serving it to my family! Roasted “Loaded” Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner is Paleo, Keto, GAPS, Whole30, AIP and can even be made Vegan. Easy, impressive and delicious, this nutrient-dense dinner won’t disappoint!
Flavorful and caramelized roasted cauliflower is topped with crispy bacon, sprightly green onions, lots of fresh herbaceous thyme (we’ll talk more about this amazing and under-appreciated fresh herb!) and optional creamy cheese (including dairy-free cheese).
Dig in to a healthy and pleasurable sheet pan meal!
Ingredients in Roasted “Loaded” Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner
You’ll use a short list of ingredients in this recipe because each one delivers so much satisfaction:
- green onions
- fresh thyme
- sea salt
Together these ingredients are going to surprise you! The way the bacon and cauliflower cook, with the little bit of sea salt, produces a simple and incredibly delicious dinner. Topped with green onions and fresh thyme — so special.
- optional cheese (Omit for AIP, Whole30 etc or use a dairy-free, compliant version. Cheese is not needed in this recipe; it’s WONDERFUL without, which I discuss more below.)
- You may add extra protein to this recipe, which I discuss more below: roasted chicken or fried egg (not AIP).
- black pepper (Omit for AIP.)
Cauliflower works for so many diets
Cauliflower is one of those rare, perfect vegetables that’s creamy, rich and satisfying, yet it’s low in carbohydrates, so it fits all five traditional diets that are popular for healing the gut and wellness: Paleo, Keto, GAPS, Whole30 and AIP. Amazing.
You’ll love how the cauliflower roasts in the bacon fat! — brilliant, effective, easy (one pan!) and delicious.
Paleo, AIP and Whole30
For Paleo, AIP and Whole30, this recipe is dairy-free. Which is no. problem. 🙂 I must emphasize, this recipe is indulgent-feeling while being healthy and delicious! You won’t miss the cheese.
I give the AIP variations below in the recipe itself. Obviously no cheese, no black pepper and no optional egg on top.
This dish does not need cheese to be lovely and special. I have never yet been underwhelmed by roasted, almost-caramelized cauliflower, bacon, green onions and fresh thyme!
With a side of roasted chicken, you’ll really be indulging.
If cheese feels too special to pass up, use the AIP cheese from this recipe; but otherwise, you won’t miss it.
Keto, Primal, Gluten-free and GAPS with dairy
Yes, the Keto, Primal, GF and GAPS with dairy version of this recipe is extra-creamy and indulgent. I love serving this version to my three guys who can have cheese again (after a year+ without). It’s an eye-popper of yumminess.
What kind of cheese to use? For GAPS or those more sensitive, use aged cheese, like aged cheddar or Gruyere. Otherwise, you may use whatever melting cheese you love best: mozzarella, fontina etc.
To make this recipe vegan, simply omit the bacon, and use avocado or coconut oil instead, to roast the cauliflower. Then top with a favorite protein sources in place of the bacon, such as: sautéed chickpeas or other beans, fried tempeh or vegan cheese.
How Roasted “Loaded” Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner is made
- Use a large pan to oven-cook your bacon. This method produces great bacon, perfectly done every time.
- Transfer the bacon to a plate, reserving all the rendered fat in the pan.
- In the same pan, toss chopped cauliflower and sea salt in the bacon fat, to coat. Roast until caramelized, about 22 minutes.
- Add optional cheese, reduce heat and bake again briefly to melt.
- Serve using a large spatula. Top each serving with chopped bacon, sliced green onions and plenty of fresh thyme.
Super hungry eaters? This one-pan dish can quickly become a more protein-rich main dish by simply adding a fried egg, or baked chicken, which can roast while the cauliflower is cooking.See the Roasted Chicken Variation in the recipe Notes below, if you’d like it to roast while the rest of dinner does!
- Add a side of roasted chicken or fried egg (not for AIP), if desired, for more protein.
Casual variation for more protein: You can also cook up your favorite ground meat, and serve it with the roasted cauliflower, before adding the toppings.
Why fresh thyme is worth using and how to prepare it
Green onions and fresh thyme add so much to this dish, especially in winter, when we sometimes crave fresh foods to keep our bodies and moods happy and energized.
But thyme is in a league all its own. If you haven’t meditated on fresh thyme, it really is a wonder! Please, please, buy it (or grow it) for this dish. Don’t omit it or use dried.
Don’t be scared to use a lot.
Here’s how to use fresh thyme: Rake your fingers down individual branches to run off the leaves. Let them fall into a bowl beneath. Watch a movie, listen to music or talk to a loved one while you do it.
If you have no patience or time, and you know your eaters will do it, give each eater a generous branch to do this themselves before eating.
Even though my days feel really busy, I never regret sitting down for a few minutes to rake thyme leaves from their branches. My fingers always smell good afterwards, and this little menial task shows a reverence toward food — that I still believe in “slow food” even when I’m busy or tired. That I love what fresh herbs bring to our table. That I know homemade food gives back to us — joy, appreciation, notice, observation, subtlety, thankfulness, awe.
Even visually, thyme is what puts this dinner over the top. It creates another layer for the eye of appeal, curiosity and interest.
Flavor-wise, thyme is better than you remember it! It is much more floral than most people think. It is also citrusy, peppery, grassy, sweet, sharp, minty and earthy. The leaves are tender and enjoyable to eat.
If you buy fresh thyme for this dish, use as much of the package as you can. A LOT of fresh thyme on this dish is a wonder! If you have any leftover, add it to future dishes with (grain-free) pasta, rice, any meat, stews, soups, egg dishes etc.
Roasted "Loaded" Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner
- large baking sheet pan
- 1 large head cauliflower chopped bite-size
- 10-12 ounces bacon
- 1 bunch green onions chopped, whites and greens separated into two piles (omit whites for Keto)
- 1 cup cheese (optional), grated: leave out for AIP, Whole30 or if you can't have dairy; best options include aged cheddar, Gruyere, fontina, jack and mozzarella
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground pepper optional, leave out for AIP
- several large sprigs/branches fresh thyme
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spread bacon out on a large baking sheet (preferably a half sheet [like this]). Bake until done, about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness.
- Remove bacon to plate, and set aside. Keep pan with fat.
- Spread out cauliflower on pan with bacon fat. Sprinkle with sea salt and optional pepper. Toss well with two spoons, so cauliflower is well-coated with fat. (*At this point, if you wish to make a one-pan dinner with roasted chicken, see instructions below in Recipe notes.)
- Roast cauliflower about 22 minutes, or until tinged with brown on its edges.
- Remove pan from oven. Add green onions' whites and optional cheese. Reduce oven temp to 200 degrees.
- Put back in oven for 5 minutes. Chop bacon.
- Remove from oven. Transfer to serving dish or individual plates. Top with chopped bacon, green onions' greens and lots of fresh thyme. Serve.
- Also serve with optional fried/poached eggs (not for AIP) or roasted chicken for additional protein.
Renee Kohley says
I am making this tomorrow for breakfast! I miss my eggs, but will top it with sausage! Thank you!
Megan Stevens says
Yay, Renee. Delicious and lovely! Sausages are definitely staples here too!
linda spiker says
Holy moly. Now I want that for breakfast!
Megan Stevens says
Yeees, with that fried egg, agreed! Thanks, Linda!
Joni Jessica says
This looks amazing! I can imagine it’s a great flavor combo!
Megan Stevens says
What a great way to dress up a simple vegetable dish. Looks amazing!
Megan Stevens says
Tessa@ Tessa the Domestic Diva says
I am SO making this!! What is there NOT to love??!!
Such a great combo!
Megan Stevens says
Yay, Tessa! I agree, fully good stuff! 😉 Thank you!
This looks amazing. I’m thinking of adding avocado to mine at the end.
Megan Stevens says
Cool, sounds good! Love that with the bacon and green onions!
Christina Nesbitt Shoemaker says
This looks incredible!! I would eat this for every meal. <3
Lindsey Dietz says
Wow! Wow! Wow! I have never wanted to dive into a bowl of cauliflower more!
Katie Stanley says
Oh yum! I’m thinking about trying the Whole 30 next month, so I will need to remember this. 🙂
Jennifer in PA says
This ia a great idea. Beautiful image.
How much cauliflower (cups) is that?
Hi Anita, it depends on the head: 6 to 8 cups. 🙂
I love this recipe and as always your recipes are fantastic and simple.
I just wanted to ask you about the pan you recommend and use as it’s made of aluminium which I thought was not good to cook with?
Hi Claudia, Thank you for your kind comments and great question! Aluminum is non-reactive and safe as long as you avoid ingredients with citric acid: so no tomatoes or citrus. It’s a wonderful heat conductor and works well for baked goods as well as sheet pan dinners. 🙂
I agree with the other comments…this looks delicious! So many appetizing recipes have bacon or other kinds of pork in them. I’ve been avoiding pork for some time because of the way the animals feed and digest food. Am I just missing out on a good thing? What kind of bacon do you look for?
Hi Dorothy, great point, and thank you! I like buying Applegate Farms the best, as I’m very impressed by their husbandry principles and how progressive they are with their goals. Their bacon is pretty thin, though, so you need to watch it really closely; it has a super short cooking time, or it will burn. Perhaps you could enjoy bacon occasionally from this company. You can read more about Applegate here and in other articles as well: https://www.propagate.org/brands/2019/2/11/how-applegate-is-developing-its-regenerative-agriculture-platform 🙂
Thanks, Megan. That would at least be a better option. ?
You’re welcome, I’m glad. 🙂
Jill Proctor says
I think you might have left out a step to chop and add bacon to baked cauliflower/cheese mix!
Sounds amazing. Trying it tonight!
You’re right, Jill! (face palm 😉 ) Thanks for letting me know. I’ll fix it now. I hope you loved the recipe!
Is the 618 kcal for the entire meal or per serving?
Hi Grady, just one serving, which is 1/3 of the entire meal. So, a big portion.
So delicious, filling and wholesome! 10/10 from the whole family! This is going into the meal plan rotation for sure! Thank you so much for the recipe!
So great to hear, Sara! And thank you for sharing your family’s review!! 🙂