Cheesy-Habanero Cauliflower Bake

 Cheesy Habanero Cauliflower Bake
I am constantly inspired by food I taste, read about and see on other blogs. There are so many great ideas out there and I love trying lots of them in my home kitchen.

This past week I saw a recipe on a blog I fell in love with. I adored the idea of Cheesy Cauliflower and I made it the first time as the recipe was written. Then I started messing with it and tweaked it until this Cheesy-Habanero Cauliflower Bake was born.

My taste for spicy foods has grown tremendously over the past five years. I love a little heat in lots of foods, even sweet ones. In my current work with Sargento, tracking flavor trends over the next year, Habanero is mentioned as a culinary trend happening right now. And it's true, there has been an explosion of Habanero sauces and recipes on the food scene. I have seen the movement from the chipotle chili to the Habanero as the next latest and greatest cooking ingredient. Its fruity, citrus-like flavor and floral aroma make it an enticing addition to all kinds of foods.

Have you worked with the Habanero chili before? You must absolutely wear gloves while slicing it. If you don't, your hands can burn fiercely afterwards. And you don't even want to risk touching your eyes after that. I am amazed at the folks who can eat these raw, they must be super-human.

In this recipe you only need one Habanero chili to enjoy the small amount of background heat it provides. It's a wonderful addition to the sharp cheese, creamy sauce and crunchy topping. This is honestly a winning dinner side dish. It's pure comfort food and went nicely with a plateful of Pacific Northwest Salmon. The heat of the Habanero is cooled by the cheese and cream in this recipe, it is not over the top in spice. It's safe!

Cheesy Habanero Cauliflower Bake perfect comfort food side dish
The Habanero chili pepper sits way above the jalapeno pepper on the Scoville scale. This is why you only need one chili pepper to add a nice heat to a single recipe.

Print Recipe

Cheesy-Habanero Cauliflower Bake

Recipe from: Created by Cathy Pollak for | Serves: 6


  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Habanero chili pepper, seeds removed and finely diced (wear gloves)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 7 oz Sargento Extra Sharp Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Steam cauliflower florets over medium heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, uncovered.
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 Tablespoon butter, Saute Habanero chili pepper and shallot for about one minute. Add garlic and stir for about another 30 seconds. Stir in flour until fully incorporated.
  • Combine cream and milk together and slowly whisk into flour mixture, breaking up any lumps. Continue to whisk for about two minutes. Add cheeses, salt and pepper.
  • Transfer cauliflower to a 1-1/2 quart baking dish and pour cheese sauce over the top.
  • In a small bowl combine melted butter, Parmesan and Panko. Sprinkle over cauliflower.
  • Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until cheese is bubbling and top is slightly browned. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

One Year Ago: My Visit to Bob's Red Mill
Two Years Ago: Indonesian Ginger Chicken
Three Years Ago: Balsamic Baked Red Potatoes
Four Years Ago: Mom's Mile High Meringue Pie

Disclosure: I am currently working with Sargento Cheese over the next year as a Flavor Journey Correspondent. While I have been compensated for my time, as always, all opinions are my own.

Post a Comment


  1. I like the idea of adding some heat to cauliflower with cheese sauce…it can sometimes be a little bland.

  2. I’m definitely giving this a try. I love a good cauliflower bake!

  3. Shelby 3

    This is a definite try in my home! Love it!

  4. I LOVE habanero, but I have yet to make anything with it! This looks super fantastic, I would love to try this!

  5. Sheila 5

    Come to momma! I grew up eating cauliflower drowned in cheese sauce…not really something I duplicate in my kitchen..but THIS this I could definitely put down. YUM.
    PS I’ve never used a habenero in my cooking…I’m skerd of the burn.

  6. Liz 6

    Cheesy, spicy cauliflower…I could easily make this my dinner!!!

    PS…so glad to hear you’ll be at the IFBC. Hope we get a chance to meet :)

  7. Thanks so much for linking to my recipe! With our cauliflower harvest happening later this Fall, I’m going to definitely try your version! Can’t wait…. love the spice!

  8. great side dish idea, love cauliflower and cheese and of courrrrrse anything spicy!

  9. I wanna try this cauliflower bake. Looks awesome!

  10. Des 10

    I am a sucker for anything habanero and this looks fantastic!

  11. Maria in Oregon 11

    Yes, I’ve used habanero before. Last year I made several jars of pineapple-habanero jam. I sent some to my best friend in Englnad, who’d never had these peppers before. She said it was lovely on toast with butter. I’ve since used the jam as a glaze on ham, pork roasts, and even chicken wings and thighs. YUM! I LOVE habaneros!

  12. Oh yum – you had me at jalapeno. Add the cheese and cauliflower – oh yes!!!

  13. Vicki 13

    Made this last night for dinner and it was delicious. Not a scrap left. Just a little background heat with the habanero–not much at all. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!

  14. Brad Grenz 14

    My family has made this for the last couple holidays and we really love it. I did find the cheese sauce comes out far too tight using the indicated quantity of cream and milk. Doubling both makes it a much better consistency so it flows and coats the cauliflower nicely.


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