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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.
- Remove from oven. Transfer to serving dish or individual plates. Top with 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.
Here's the half sheet baking pan I use for all non-reactive baking (roasted veggies, roasted chicken and baked goods).
Roasted Chicken Variation*If you wish to roast chicken to make a one-pan dinner with more protein, use the same bacon pan after Step 4: So...toss cauliflower in bacon fat with sea salt as Step 4 directs. Then put this cauliflower aside in a large bowl. Spread chicken drumsticks and/or thighs (bone in, skin on, about 1.5 lbs) out on baking sheet. Roll them over a bit in the fat. Sprinkle with sea salt and optional black pepper (omit for AIP). Reduce heat to 375°, and bake 30 minutes. Remove pan; increase oven temp to 400°. Move all chicken pieces to one side. Spread cauliflower in a single layer to the other side of the baking sheet, using a spatula to scrape any extra fat from bowl onto the chicken pieces, basting them. Resume recipe with Step 5, baking cauliflower and chicken for about 22 minutes.
Looking for more great cauliflower dishes? Try these:
- Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Soup
- Cauliflower Au Gratin Casserole with Chicken and Bacon
- Cauliflower Pickles (easy ferment with probiotics!)