This Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole with Sausage, Kale, and Red Pepper is comfort food at its prime. Tender cauliflower florets, savory sausage, Italian kale, and sweet and smoky roasted red peppers are enveloped in a seriously creamy cheese sauce, topped with mozzarella balls, and baked until tender and bubbling. This twist on classic mac & cheese offers a gluten-free and lower-carb alternative that's equally satisfying.
- Inspiration: A Low-Carb Twist on Mac & Cheese
- Ingredients needed to make a flavorful Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole
- Ingredient Substitutions and Variations
- Serving Ideas for Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole: Quick Dinner Suggestion
- Storage & Reheating
- Essential Tools for Making Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole
- Looking for more dinner inspiration?
- Cauliflower Mac & Cheese with Kale & Sausage
Inspiration: A Low-Carb Twist on Mac & Cheese
The Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole draws inspiration from the beloved comfort of mac & cheese while offering a lower-carb alternative that's equally satisfying. This dish transforms the traditional macaroni favorite into a flavorful casserole by substituting cauliflower for noodles, maintaining that comforting cheesy goodness while reducing the carb content.
Embracing the creamy, indulgent essence of mac & cheese, this cauliflower casserole is designed to deliver the same heartwarming comfort with a health-conscious twist. The blend of savory sausage, vibrant kale, and the rich cheese sauce enveloping this easy cauliflower recipe, creates a dish that's both familiar and unique. Additionally, by using cauliflower as the base, this casserole is naturally gluten-free, accommodating a wider range of dietary preferences without compromising on taste.
Ingredients needed to make a flavorful Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole
- Cauliflower Florets: Act as a satisfying substitute for noodles, soaking up the creamy cheese sauce, adding a tender texture, and delivering a neutral base to carry the flavors of this comfort food dish.
- Kale: Lacinato or Italian kale introduces earthy and slightly bitter notes that complement the richness of the other ingredients, offering a pop of color and an extra layer of texture. If you can’t find Italian kale, feel free to use traditional curly kale.
- Roasted Red Peppers: Infuse a delightfully sweet and smoky flavor, enhancing the overall depth of the dish. They contribute a unique complexity that balances the richness of the cheese and sausage. Jars of roasted red peppers are easily found right next to the olives in most grocery stores, but you are also welcome to roast your own from fresh if you prefer.
- Sausage: Provides a rich and savory element that elevates the casserole's heartiness and adds protein. Feel free to play with different varieties of sausage -- Kielbasa, bratwurst, chorizo, bulk ground, turkey, or chicken sausages are all great options! Not feeling the meat? You are welcome to enjoy this dish sans meat if you prefer or swap in your favorite plant-based alternative. Gluten-Free? Pay close attention to the ingredient list in your sausage as some contain added grain.
- Cream Cheese: Adds richness and creaminess to the sauce, resulting in a velvety texture that binds the ingredients together while enhancing the overall indulgence of the dish.
- Cheese: I prefer to use a combination of cheddar, Monterey Jack, and mozzarella, but you're welcome to keep it super simple with just one choose option if you prefer. Mozzarella balls (ciliegine) are an especially fun choice to add to the top of the dish to create pools of melty goodness, but shredded mozzarella also works well.
- Sour Cream: Contributes to the creamy base, adding a subtle tanginess and richness to the dish.
- Milk: Enhances the creaminess and richness of the sauce, ensuring a luscious and smooth consistency.
- Dijon Mustard: Adds a subtle tang and depth of flavor, complementing the richness of the cheeses and sausage.
- Green Onions: Offer a fresh bite of flavor that I think compliments cheesy dishes so well.
- Kosher Salt: Diamond Crystal kosher salt is a staple in my pantry.
- Cracked Black Pepper: Adds a mild heat.
- Ground Cayenne Pepper: Provides an extra kick of heat. Feel free to adjust based on the spice level of your sausage.
- Nutmeg: Adds aromatic warmth that enhances creamy sauces.
Ingredient Substitutions and Variations
Tailor your Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole to your taste and dietary preferences with these versatile swaps and adaptations:
- Cheese Selections: Feel free to experiment with different cheese combinations. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, Gouda, and mozzarella cheese all work great because they melt well and have unique flavor profiles. For example, smoked Gouda introduces a smoky richness that enhances the overall profile. Aged Parmesan does not melt as well as some of the other varieties, but offers a sharp and nutty taste that adds depth to the dish when added as a complimentary cheese.
- Herb Additions: Herbs can significantly enhance the dish. Rosemary contributes a fragrant, piney essence, while thyme adds subtle earthy and lemony notes. Basil brings a sweet, slightly peppery flavor that complements the dish beautifully, and dill introduces a fresh and slightly tangy taste, providing a vibrant herbal note.
- Spice Level Adjustments: Fine-tune spice quantities and varieties to tailor the taste and heat level. Cayenne Pepper adds an assertive kick of heat, while black pepper adds a more mild heat. Paprika introduces a smoky or sweet undertone, enhancing the overall flavor complexity.
- Sausage Varieties: Experiment with different sausage options to introduce varied flavors. Kielbasa offers a smoky richness, Bratwurst brings a mild and slightly sweet taste, and Chorizo adds a spicy kick. Bulk Ground Sausage provides versatility, while Turkey or Chicken Sausages offer lighter options with distinct flavors. Please note, for those following a gluten-free diet, it's important to check ingredient labels, as some sausages might contain added grains or gluten-based fillers.
- Opting out of meat? Feel free to savor this dish without meat or substitute with your preferred plant-based alternative.
Serving Ideas for Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole: Quick Dinner Suggestion
This Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole is an easy dinner idea that is hearty and family-friendly. It delivers a satisfying and comforting meal on its own. However, if you're looking to add a contrasting touch of freshness and crispness to your meal, consider serving it alongside a light salad.
Refreshing Salad Option: Opt for a simple mixed green salad with a zesty vinaigrette or citrus-based dressing to complement this hearty yet low-carb casserole.. The crispness of the greens and tangy dressing provide a delightful contrast to the creamy and savory elements of this cauliflower recipe.
Storage & Reheating
- Storage: Store any leftover Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- Freezing: This cauliflower casserole is incredibly freezer-friendly for low-carb meal prep or future easy dinners. You can freeze unbaked portions in a freezer-to-oven safe baking dish for later use. Alternatively, freeze leftovers once baked by tightly wrapping portions in foil or placing them in freezer-safe containers. Label with the date and freeze for up to 2-3 months.
- Reheating: To reheat, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Cover the casserole dish with foil and reheat for about 20-25 minutes or until warmed through. For smaller portions, the microwave works well. Transfer individual portions to a plate or bowl (skip the foil!) and microwave for 2-4 minutes or until heated through.
Essential Tools for Making Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole
- A cutting board
- A chef's knife
- A kitchen scale
- Liquid measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- A large saucepan
- Kitchen tongs (if using link sausage)
- A cheese grater
- A whisk
- A silicone spatula
- A 13 x 9 casserole dish
Are you looking to upgrade your cooking tools or replenish your pantry?
Looking for more dinner inspiration?
Love this Cauliflower Mac & Cheese with Sausage, Kale, and Red Pepper recipe? Here are some more of my favorite cozy comfort food dinner recipes:
- Cottage Pie with Horseradish Cauliflower Mash
- Taleggio Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Red Pepper Flakes and Honey
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Chipotle Pumpkin Sauce
- Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice
- Pasta with Butternut Squash Sauce and Chorizo
- Sloppy Joe Bowls
- Chili with Butternut Squash
- White Pizza with Pumpkin, Bacon, Kale, and Gouda
- Golubtsi Cabbage Rolls
- Salmon with Whisky Cream Sauce and Cheddar Mashed Cauliflower
This Cauliflower Mac & Cheese with Sausage, Kale, and Red Pepper is comfort food at its prime. Cauliflower florets, sausage, Italian kale, and roasted red peppers are enveloped in a seriously creamy cheese sauce, topped with mozzarella balls, and baked until tender and bubbling.
- 600 g (6 cups) cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
- 70 g (2 cups, tightly packed) Lacinato kale, deveined and chopped
- 4 oz (½ cup) roasted red peppers, chopped
- 12-16 oz sausage (Kielbasa, bratwurst, Italian, bulk, chorizo - can use link or ground)*
- 1 tbsp butter or olive oil, divided (to coat the casserole dish and brown sausage links)
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 6 oz (¾ cup) whole milk
- 4 oz (½ cup) sour cream
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 80 g (1 cup) green onions, chopped
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp cracked black pepper
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- 8 oz (2 cups) cheese, shredded (cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, Gouda all work great)
- 4 oz mozzarella balls (ciliegine) (may sub for additional shredded cheese if preferred)
- Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C.
- Lightly oil or butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Add cauliflower florets, kale, and red peppers. Reserve to the side.
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 teaspoon butter or ghee to melt. Add sausage links to brown turning on each side every ~2 minutes. The sausage does not need to be fully cooked through, you just want to get a nice brown on the outside. Remove from heat, slice into ½ inch coins, and reserve to the side. (Alternatively, if you are using ground sausage, brown the sausage, drain excess fat, and reserve sausage to the side).
- In the same saucepan, lower heat to medium-low and add cream cheese, milk, sour cream, and Dijon mustard. Using a whisk, break up the cream cheese until melted. The sauce may look slightly separated as it melts but will emulsify as the cheese is added.
- Slowly add 8 oz (2 cups) of the shredded cheese, about 2 oz (½ cup) at a time, whisking each in until fully combined and emulsified.
- Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg, whisking to combine.
- Once the sauce is fully combined and smooth, pour over the top of the cauliflower and kale mixture and add sausage. Fold sauce into the ingredients until well-coated, then add mozzarella cheese balls to the top.
- Cover the casserole dish with tin foil and transfer to the oven to bake for 20-minutes. Carefully remove the casserole dish and remove the tin foil from the top. Return the dish to the oven for a further 20-25-minutes uncovered. The top of the cheese should be slightly blistered and bubbling. I highly recommend letting the dish sit for atleast 10-minutes after removing it from the oven to help allow the cheese sauce to thicken slightly.
Nutritional information on Whip & Wander is provided as a courtesy and is approximate only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site.
* The most recent photos I took of this dish include sliced kielbasa sausage, but it's good with just about any type of sausage you prefer -- both link-style and ground. I've enjoyed this dish with bratwurst, Italian sausage, chorizo, turkey or chicken sausages, and bulk sausage and it's been great. Not feeling the meat? You are welcome to enjoy this dish sans meat if you prefer or swap in your favorite plant-based alternative. This dish is easily made gluten-free when you select a sausage that is also gluten-free.
- Serving Size: 1 portion
- Calories: 713
- Sugar: 6 g
- Sodium: 1158 mg
- Fat: 59 g
- Saturated Fat: 30 g
- Carbohydrates: 13 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 33 g
- Cholesterol: 170 mg
Keywords: Cauliflower, Sausage, Kale, red pepper, cheese, Mac & Cheese