Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder (A Low-Carb Alternative to Baked Potato Soup!)


Gluten-Free Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder is thick and creamy, and a low-carb alternative to Baked Potato Soup!

When I was in high school (which feels like 4 years ago, but was actually a million, sob!) students were given 30 minutes to eat lunch everyday. Starting senior year we were allowed to leave campus during that time, to do what whatever it is that seniors do, as long as we were back before the next period started.

Sweet, sweet freedom!

Except, it always took 5 minutes to round everybody up, then another 5 to argue over who’d have to sacrifice their parking spot (a rare and precious jewel,) which meant that by the time my friends and I arrived at our dining destination, we’d have approximately 10 minutes left to eat before having to turn around and head back.

What’s that you say? Save yourself the trouble (and the parking spot) and eat in the cafeteria? Pssht! We were SENIORS, darnit!


Anyway, we weren’t left with many options with such a short amount of time to spare, so the girls and I usually resorted to inhaling chalupa value meals from Taco Bell (I know,) devouring cheese fries from A&W (I KNOW,) or slamming bowls of soup from Panera (I know!) during those super speedy lunch runs.

Thick and decadent, Panera’s creamy Baked Potato Soup with bacon was my favorite option of the three (what with it not being a chalupa or platter of cheese fries and all!) Perfect for the fall and winter, I decided to create an updated, non-teenage metabolism version of the soup using one of my favorite potato swap outs – grated cauliflower. (But, uh, kept the bacon… ;) )

I first fell in love with grated cauliflower a few months ago when I made Key West Grilled Chicken with Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower “Rice”, where I used grated cauliflower as a low-carb rice alternative. Guess what I found when I sauteed some of the leftover grated cauliflower though? It tasted like hash browns!

Guess what I found when I replaced the potatoes in Baked Potato Soup with grated, steamed cauliflower? Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder that’s not only rich and creamy like the real thing, but low-carb to boot. Whee!

Clocking in at 265 calories, with 7 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein per serving (per Livestrong’s Recipe Calculator Tool) I could not be more pumped about this chowder. You will LOVE it!

Start the Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder by chopping 1 celery stalk and 2 garlic cloves. I used my food processor for all the prep work in this recipe so, instead of repeating myself 100 times, just know that you can hand chop / use a box or flat grater for everything you see below!

Remove the celery and garlic to a plate or bowl, then fit the processor with a grating blade and grate 1/2 head of cauliflower, to equal 4 cups grated cauliflower.

Like I said, a box or flat grater will do the job just fine, or you can just chop the cauliflower up real small!

Next grate up 2-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese to be used in both the chowder, and as a garnish. I recommend grating cheese fresh for things like soups and chowders, as the pre-grated stuff is coated in, well, stuff, that makes it not melt as well as fresh. If you’re in a pinch though, by all means – dooo iiit!

Next, chop up 8 strips center-cut bacon, to be used in both the chowder and as a garnish. I know you were panicking. ;)

K. Prep work’s done. Time to get cookin’!

Heat a big ol’ soup pot over medium heat, then add the chopped bacon and let it cook low and slow until it’s nice and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, then remove all but 1 Tablespoon drippings from the pot.

Next add the chopped celery and garlic, season with salt and pepper, then saute until the celery is nice and tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the grated cauliflower to the pot, along with 1 teaspoon onion powder and 2 Tablespoons water, then season with more salt and pepper, and place a lid on the pot to steam the cauliflower until tender. This will take between 5-7 minutes, and just give it a stir every now and again.

Once the cauliflower is tender, add in 1-3/4 cup chicken broth and 2 cups 2% milk.

Also throw in a dash (or 3, or 30) of your favorite hot sauce. This will give the chowder a fabulous flavor, and pretty orange color.

Almost done! Bring the chowder up to a boil then slowly drizzle in 2 Tablespoons gluten-free or all-purpose flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill White Rice Flour) whisked into 1/4 cup chicken broth while stirring constantly.

The flour will make the chowder lusciously thick and wonderful in just a couple of minutes.

Finally, turn off the heat then stir in 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese until smooth, then stir in half the cooked bacon. Taste, then add more salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce if neccessary.

Ladle the thickened, cheese and bacon-laced cauliflower chowder into bowls, then top with remaining shredded cheese, cooked bacon, and sliced green onions (or chopped parsley, if you’re in a pinch!)

Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder

serves 8


Gluten-Free Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder is thick and creamy, and a low-carb alternative to Baked Potato Soup!


  • 8 slices center-cut bacon, chopped and divided
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped OR 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 cups shredded or grated cauliflower (1/2 large head)
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons gluten-free or all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 3-4 dashes hot sauce (or more or less)
  • 2-1/2 cups (12oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 green onions, chopped (optional)


  1. Whisk together flour and 1/4 cup chicken broth in a small bowl then set aside.
  2. Saute bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate then remove all but 1 Tablespoon drippings from the pot. Add chopped onion (if using,) celery, and garlic to the pot then season with salt and pepper and saute until vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower and onion powder (if using) to the pot then stir to combine. Add water then place a lid on top and steam cauliflower until tender, stirring a couple times, about 5-7 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and milk then turn up heat and bring to a boil.
  4. Slowly whisk in flour/chicken broth mixture while stirring, then turn down heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until chowder has thickened. Turn off heat then stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese a little at a time until smooth, then stir in half the cooked bacon. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce if necessary. Serve topped with remaining shredded cheese, cooked bacon, and green onions, if desired.


  • Serves 8, 265 calories, 7 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of protein per serving
  • Use a food processor's chopping and grating blades to make prepping veggies and cheese a breeze!

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,

I am so jazzed over this recipe!! I mean of course grated cauliflower isn’t going to have the same, super-smooth mouth feel as cooked potatoes, but it is DARN close.

As for the thick and creamy consistency of the chowder? I’ll let the spoon speak for itself…

Hope you’ll give this chowdah a try!


More Chowder Recipes You’ll Love!

Creamy (No Cream!) Sweet Corn and Potato Chowder >


Creamy Pepper Jack and Potato Chowder >

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  1. I’ve been seeing cauliflower in soup everywhere lately – putting on my list to try!

  2. Gravel Naperville 09.25.2012

    Cauliflower is becoming one of my most versatile things in my kitchen these days!

  3. Lauren 09.25.2012

    Okay I have a very random question for you…Are you using photo shop for your text edits on your pics. They are gorgeous! I spent over an hour trying to do text overlays in photoshop today and failed miserably. I think I need to take a class just for the basics because PS is a whole new language. Anyways, just wanted to let you know how beautiful your work is lady! ;)

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.26.2012

      I do! I know – it is so overwhelming at first. I learned everything I know by googling tutorials – let me know if there’s anything specific I can help you out with!

      • Nicole 02.20.2014

        This might be a really dumb question but can you freeze it? Either that or I could just cut the recipe in half

        • Kristin 02.20.2014

          I’ve never tried freezing it so I can’t say for sure, but you could definitely halve the recipe!

  4. Tracy 09.25.2012

    Either I’m just really hungry, or this has to be one of your best food posts ever!!! From the moment I saw bacon, I was moved by it, AND the pics are great!

  5. Lori H 09.25.2012

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. My husband is diabetic so we are always counting carbs!

  6. Everyone’s all stoked on pumpkin and squash for this time of year… I am getting super excited about cauliflower and brussels sprouts! What’s wrong with me? They’re like every kids least favorite veggie! This soup sounds sooooo good.

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.26.2012

      B-sprouts are one of my very favorite foods ever, so I’m right there with you, girl! ;)

  7. I want to kiss you! LOVE this recipe idea! :)

    • Tubbins 06.17.2014

      Wow dinner and a show!!!

  8. Lindsey 09.25.2012

    Yum! Can’t wait to make this!

  9. Kristen 09.25.2012

    This is a must try! Looking forward to beating the cold days ahead with a steaming bowl of comfy soup.

  10. How creative using the cauliflower for potatoes in soup…love that. It looks so creamy and decadent!! I think a must make for Fall!

  11. Hillary 09.25.2012

    One more reason to be SO thankful for the new food processor my hubs surprised me with this past weekend :) I’ve also never been so excited about cauliflower!

  12. I love how vibrant this soup is! And I love that its got cauliflower in it. Its one of my favorite fiber-rich veggies and I bet it works wonders in dishes like this.

  13. LJ 09.26.2012

    Seriously can’t WAIT to try this soup! I may use a more Atkins-type approach, using half-n-half to cut a few more carbs. I do this with a cream of broccoli recipe, simmering a little while allows me to cut out the flour. Still, LOVE your recipe and I am sure my hub will as well. Thanks so much! Pinning!

  14. Looks very delicious :-) yum yum. :-)

  15. I go crazy for baked potato soup, but the photos have totally convinced me to try this alternative!! I anyway like cauliflower! :)

  16. You had me at bacon ;)

  17. A little jealous that you got to eat outside the cafeteria senior year! Our high school never let us do that :( This looks like a great recipe to lighten up the panera bread soup, I’m keeping this for a rainy day!

  18. Cher 09.26.2012

    I wonder if I could trick my husband into thinking this was Baked Potato Soup ;) Either way – looks delicious!

  19. Now I REALLY need to try this grated cauliflower thing! Looks luscious!

  20. Katie 09.26.2012

    I just have to say that I always love your pictures, but today I LOVE your pictures. Now that fall is officially here and it is cooling off a little here in Nebraska we will be able to eat soup without sweating. I made a soup almost exactly like this last week except I added a few baby potatoes and added in some smoked salmon along with the bacon. My kids (5 and 6) especially loved it. Keep the yummy soup recipe and beautiful pictures coming!

  21. Yummmm I will totally be making this!! I also love “ricing” cauliflower and have a great recipe for cauliflower “fried rice” on my blog here: Try it out!!

  22. I adore potato soup, but it’s nice to know there are healthier alternatives

  23. A-Mazing!! Now I have too many recipes of yours to try.

  24. […] Cauliflower Chowder without the Bacon –… […]

  25. Noelle 09.26.2012

    I’m a weirdo that doesn’t like potatoes in soup (it’s a texture thing), so this recipe is now on my must-try list. Now I can see what all the fuss about baked potato soup is! :)
    BTW–did you hear about the global bacon shortage? I…can’t…there are just no words.

  26. Julie Ryan 09.26.2012

    Thank you! I have everything I need in the house to make this tonight!!

  27. Trisha 09.26.2012

    Hmmm, I can see making this soup while my hubby isn’t looking & tricking him into thinking it’s the real deal. ;)
    Even though we only had Subway & Culver’s to choose from, I was always super bummed that we didn’t have open campus.

  28. Mandy 09.26.2012

    I have just discovered how good cauliflower can be, so I’m super excited to try this! Thanks!

  29. This sounds soooo good, especially for fall/winter! I haven’t tried subbing cauliflower for anything yet (like pizza crust or potatoes) but I will definitely try this. I LOVE SOUP.

  30. Anna 09.26.2012

    I love potato soup so I’ll have to admit I’m skeptical but I’ll have go give this a try. Your pictures make it look delicious. Keeping in line with your FALL theme I have a question. I have some Butternut Squash pasta we got at the Farmers Market. Any ideas for what kind of sauce I should use or what to cook it with?

  31. Amy 09.26.2012

    Just made this and it is amazing!! Thank you so much! Glad I made a double batch. :)

  32. Donna 09.26.2012

    My family doesn’t like cauliflower. If I switch back to potatoes are portions the same?

    • Iowa Girl Eats 09.30.2012

      You can probably omit the flour if you are making it with potatoes. Just use a potato masher to mash some of the cooked potatoes to create a thicker consistency!

  33. I can not wait to make this for Sunday night football! Such a great alternative to the heavy baked potato soup. Thanks!

  34. Sarah 09.27.2012

    Thank you for this recipe! I made it last night and it was delicious. Was also pretty quick and easy to make, I had dinner on the table in about an hour. I’m relatively new to your blog and love it :)

  35. Amy 09.27.2012

    I was wondering if this reheats wells? I really want to make it, but I’m the only one in my family who will eat it.

  36. This looks AMAZING and I can’t wait to give it a try!

  37. Lynn 09.27.2012

    Just made this for supper LOVED it!! Was also a hit with my 10 month old – her first intro to bacon too – :).

  38. Brisa 09.28.2012

    I just made this and it was super yummy!! I am definitely making it again! My family has already requested that it becomes a weekly meal!

  39. Tiffany 09.28.2012

    Made this last night, so so so fabulous. Thanks for another amazing recipe!

  40. That looks delicious… Perfect for an upcoming fall Sunday when the Packers are playing! Also, just have to tell you how beautiful your pictures are! What program do you use to edit and add text?

  41. Kara 10.02.2012

    I made this last night and it was so good! My husband had thirds which was amazing because he hates cauiflower :)

  42. Jenny 10.03.2012

    I made this tonight! It’s SO delicious!!! I fell in love with your cauliflower rice and make it almost weekly. This soup will definitely be making a regular appearance in our dinners! Thanks for an amazing recipe!!

  43. Deanna 10.04.2012

    LOVE IT! This is a really awesome recipe! It’s even better the next day! I will definitly be making this again.

  44. Zenia Johnson 10.07.2012

    I’m new to your site and I love it! Cooked this today – the only thing I added was a can of corn because I’m a sucker for corn chowder. It’s absolutely delicious, and a definite addition to my fall/winter soup recipes!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 10.08.2012

      Great addition – sounds delish!

    • Sean Molin 02.20.2014

      Corn does totally defeat the concept of low-carb, since corn (while delicious) is just sugar/carbs.

  45. […] Cheddar Cauliflower Soup: Iowa Girl Eats  I am a big fan of potato soup and am loving this lower far/lower carb version using cauliflower. […]

  46. […] A healthy alternative to the crave-worthy and carb-tastic Baked Potato soup from Panera!  Seriously, I still have all the ingredients for this in my fridge from earlier this […]

  47. […] Pie – household favorite!Vegetarian Enchiladas – household favorite! Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower ChowderBaked Potato SoupBeef & Barley Soup – household favorite!Beef & Barley StewChicken […]

  48. […] found this recipe on Iowa Girl Eats and, like all of her other recipes, it did not disappoint. I was even able to break my soup can’t […]

  49. I just made this for dinner tonight and it was fantastic! I love thick soup, so I decided to puree the soup after I added the milk. Then, once that was done, I added 2 ears of corn on the cob (cut off), the cheese and bacon. This was SO good! I am so excited about the leftovers. Another delicious and guilt free recipe!

  50. Kristen P. 11.15.2012

    I just have to say that I’ve literally made this recipe every week since you posted it. I eat it for lunch throughout the week and can’t get sick of it! I also add in corn and sometimes chop up some kale when I have it on hand. Such a great recipe!

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