With everything that’s happened in recent weeks, our world could use a little love and comfort right now. These cheddar cauliflower bites are just the thing to make for yourself, your friends, and your neighbors to share the love. And cheesy, bite sized potato things scream comfort food.
I think of these cheddar cauliflower bites a bit like these mac and cheese cups my friend Chelsea made. But naturally, I used vegetables. Because hello, I’m obsessed.
First, I roasted the cauliflower to make sure they were tender enough in the final product. Alternatively, you could blanch or boil the diced cauliflower. But since you’ll be turning on the oven anyway…
Second, while the cauliflower florets were getting nice and soft, I made some deliciously cheesy sauce. It’s the basic cheese sauce for homemade mac and cheese which is always a good thing in my book. And especially excellent for these cheddar cauliflower bites.
You start by making a roux, whisking together butter and flour. This creates the thickening agent for the sauce. Pour in milk for a bechamel sauce and then add in cheese for your variations on a mornay sauce. Oh look, we learned some French today!
Then, that lovely cheesy sauce gets combined with the tender roasted cauliflower which is delightful as is. At this point, you could turn these cheddar cauliflower bites into a cauliflower gratin and skip the hash browns. But I like the hash browns.
Confession: the first time I made these baked cheddar cauliflower bites, I did not have hash brown cups. The bites fell apart but were still insanely delicious (because, you know, cheese and roasted vegetables). Then, I conferred with a foodie friend who suggested cheesy mashed potatoes which rapidly evolved into alternate potato vessel of hash brown cups. Proving, as usual, two heads are better than one.
So there you have it. These cheddar cauliflower bites are:
- Bite sized morsels of goodness
- Cheesy enough that lactose intolerant people should be warned
- Crispy from the hash brown cups and creamy from the cheese sauce
Finally, the presentation is very forgiving. It’s okay if you’re a little short on potato hash browns or you have an extra large chunk of cauliflower. They’re made in a mini muffin tin and mini food is adorable! Winning.
Cheddar Cauliflower Bites
For the cauliflower
- 1 small head cauliflower, diced (about 1 pound)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the cheese sauce
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup milk
- 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
For the cauliflower bites
- 4 to 6 ounces frozen hash browns, thawed
- Olive oil spray
Roast the cauliflower
Heat oven to 350°F.
Toss diced cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a lined baking sheet.
Roast cauliflower 10 to 15 minutes until just tender. Then remove from oven and set aside.
Make the cheese sauce
While the cauliflower is roasting, make the cheese sauce.
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and let cook 1 to 2 minutes. Keep whisking so the flour does not burn.
Pour in milk while whisking until sauce begins to thicken slightly.
Gradually whisk in shredded cheese until smooth.
Make the cheddar cauliflower bites
Heat the oven to 450°F.
Grease a mini muffin tin with olive oil spray.
Generously press thawed hash browns into each well.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes until the hash browns are just brown. Leave hash brown cups in the muffin tin. Then reduce oven to 350°F.
Mix cauliflower into the cheese sauce. With the hash brown cups still in the tin, fill each cup with the cheese cauliflower mixture.
Return to oven and bake another 5 to 10 minutes.
Let cool slightly, then use a spoon to remove cheddar cauliflower bites. Transfer to a dry paper towel to absorb excess oil before serving.
Be sure to fill the well all the way to the top, and be generous in how much potato you put in each well. They will shrink in volume as they cook.
Check out this vegan cheese sauce from Minimalist Baker. They key component will be how thick your sauce is. You want the cheese sauce to stick to the cauliflower as a binding agent to keep it all together. Alternatively, skip the cheese and make buffalo cauliflower bites.
You can use sweet rice flour instead of regular wheat flour to make your roux. Or skip the sauce entirely and just sprinkle some cheese on top of the cauliflower inside the potato cups and melt.
Bacon and ham are the most natural additions. My 5 year old self would request diced hotdog. Grown up me would suggest breakfast or spicy sausage. Be sure to cook your meat thoroughly before mixing together with the cheese sauce and roasted cauliflower.
CHECK THE FRIDGE
Don’t have cauliflower? Broccoli, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or a combination of these would be great as a substitute. Or mix all the above with cauliflower. This recipe is perfect for using up any leftover raw or roasted vegetables in your fridge. Did I mention the awesomeness of cheese and roasted vegetables?
Instead of using frozen hash browns, shred russet or yukon potatoes using a box grater or food processor. Be sure to press all the moisture out of the shredded potatoes. You can use a cheese cloth, dish towel or fine mesh strainer.