Gluten free mac and cheese is a classic comfort food that everyone loves! My recipe yields firm al dente gluten free pasta and a creamy homemade cheese sauce. The macaroni and cheese are then topped and baked with a delicious crunchy topping. It doesn’t get any better than that! Dinner can be ready in about 30 minutes!

A bowl of homemade gluten free macaroni and cheese.

Homemade mac and cheese is so much healthier than store-bought box mac and cheese. This comfort food recipe makes an incredible main dish or side dish the whole family will love.

Give my easy recipe a try and see how good this cheesy dinner can be! If you want to change it up, try these fried gluten free macaroni and cheese bites.

Why my kids want this for dinner every night:

  1. This is the creamiest mac and cheese, and it is certain to satisfy any cheese craving!
  2. You can make it ahead, freeze it, and even make it dairy-free! Your kids are going to love it!
  3. Pack it up and take it to a potluck! Further down, I include some fun variations on this mac’ n cheese recipe so you can make it in lots of different ways.
  4. This is an incredible recipe with the perfect pasta texture. There is no mushy macaroni!
  5. You only need a few simple ingredients to make the creamy sauce!

Getting your kids in the kitchen so they learn to cook can be very empowering. Here are some delicious Gluten Free Recipes for Kids ideas to get you all started! You may also love my Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese recipe, which is based on my mac and cheese recipe.

I made this recently and it was yummy! I used sharp cheddar because that’s what I had at the time, but plan on trying it again soon with regular cheddar. I also added a little bit of finely crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick! Very tasty!”

susan t., blog comment

Allergen Information:

This creamy macaroni and cheese is gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free, soy-free, and oat-free.

The secret to creamy macaroni and cheese is combining cheddar cheese, full-fat cream cheese, and heavy cream. If you love a creamy cheese sauce, you will want to try my gluten free chicken tetrazzini recipe too.

A picture of all of the ingredients I used to make this recipe.
Note I forgot to add the butter to this photo.

Ingredient Notes:

  • Gluten free macaroni or shaped pasta – I really like Jovial and Tinkyada brands. They hold up the best to sitting in a sauce.
  • Cream cheese – Full fat makes this recipe so much better!
  • Cheddar cheese – You can use mild or sharp cheddar cheese. I used mild, but both taste delicious.
  • Heavy cream – Please don’t use half and half.
  • Butter – I used unsalted.
  • Gluten free panko or breadcrumbs – Use one of the topping ideas below mixed into the panko! You can also make your own homemade gf panko.
  • Parmesan cheese – You can use a parmesan or parmesan Reggiano blend.

Variations:

  • If you love spice, add roasted hatch green chiles or a drizzle of hot sauce!
  • This recipe uses leftover ham, rotisserie chicken, or turkey!
  • Add some sausage or chorizo for more flavor!
  • Crumble up cooked hamburger meat to make cheeseburger mac n cheese.

Topping Ideas:

  • Crushed corn chips or potato chips
  • Gluten free panko
  • Ground Doritos (the organic white cheddar Doritos are gluten free)
  • Crushed Cheetos
  • Gluten Free Crispy Onions

Step-By-Step Photos and Directions:

A pot of cooking macaroni on the stove.

Step 1: Cook your gluten free pasta in a large pot according to the package directions. Cook the pasta for one minute less than the package cook time.

Every brand of gluten free macaroni seems to have slightly different cooking times, so make sure to use what the manufacturer recommends, minus one minute. Empty the cooked pasta into a colander to remove the hot water. Rinse the pasta in cold water to stop the cooking process.

A pot with the cheese sauce ingredients.

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350º F. Add your cheese sauce ingredients to a medium saucepan, including cream cheese, cheddar cheese, heavy cream, butter, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

For best results, use a non-stick pot because this cheese sauce can be tough to clean otherwise. Cook on medium-low heat, and whisk to blend. Stir the cheese mixture frequently to avoid burning.

Tips to avoid mushy pasta:

Mushy pasta can ruin a meal faster than anything. Here are my best tips to avoid mushy pasta:

  • Cook the macaroni a minute less than the package says so that the pasta is very al dente. This way, it gets moisture from the cheese sauce and doesn’t get mushy.
  • After cooking, drain the pasta in a colander. Rinse the pasta well in cold water to halt the cooking process to avoid mushy pasta.
A pot of melted cheese sauce.

Your cheese sauce will be thick and creamy, like this photo!

Mixing the cheese sauce into the macaroni.

Step 3: Mix the cheese sauce into the pasta to coat the gluten-free macaroni.

Mixing the panko seasoning blend.

Step 4: Mix your gluten-free panko and topping ingredients in a small bowl.

The mac and cheese in an 8x8 casserole dish.
Step 5

Step 5: Add the gluten free macaroni and cheese mixture to an 8×8 baking dish. I love using a casserole dish because it won’t get scraped up by serving utensils. Use a spoon to spread it all out.

Spreading the panko topping over the mac and cheese.
Step 6

Step 6: Sprinkle your topping over the mac n cheese. Cover the whole top.

Step 7: Bake for 15-20 minutes until it is hot and bubbly.

The top view of an 8x8 baking dish full of gluten free macaroni and cheese.

What Macaroni Brands Are Gluten Free?

There are many brands of gluten free macaroni available in grocery stores. I use mostly Tinkyada and Jovial brands. They seem to hold up better than most pasta brands. You can use any gluten-free brand, but please cook your gluten-free elbow macaroni according to package directions since they vary greatly by ingredient.

What Cheeses Are Gluten Free?

While most cheese is gluten free, it is always a good idea to check the ingredients of any cheese you want to purchase. Look for words like wheat starch or modified food starch, which is usually made from corn, but a label will tell you if it is derived from wheat. My kids like these gluten free cheese brands:

  • Tillamook – You can buy the block of cheese and shred it or buy pre-shredded cheese.
  • Trader Joe’s also sells block and pre-shredded cheese.
  • O Organics
  • Horizon

Vegan cheeses are more at risk of containing wheat flour and gluten, so check the labels. Our favorite vegan cheese is the VioLife brand, and these are gluten free. Kite Hill and Daiya vegan cheeses are also dairy-free.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you make this mac and cheese recipe dairy-free?

You can make this recipe dairy-free by using dairy-free cheeses. Substitute the heavy cream for a non-dairy dairy product like plain unsweetened almond milk. Note that if you make this recipe dairy-free, it will not be as creamy.

How long will this gluten-free macaroni and cheese stay fresh?

Store this in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Can you freeze mac and cheese?

You can easily freeze this mac and cheese in a freezer-safe container for up to 4 months. To thaw, put in the oven and bake at 325º F until it is hot. (The actual time will depend on how thick the mac and cheese froze.)

Is mac and cheese healthy?

Mac and cheese is not a perfectly healthy meal. It is high in fat due to the cheeses. That being said, this mac and cheese is much healthier than the neon orange boxed mac and cheese sold in stores.

Why did my mac and cheese turn out dry?

If your mac and cheese turned out dry, it is because you used too much pasta for the cheese sauce you used, or you baked it too long and dried it out.

Serve With:

Love This Recipe?

If you made and enjoyed this recipe, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a comment below. This will help others know this recipe is delicious. Thank you!

A bowl of homemade gluten free macaroni and cheese.

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese

Sandi Gaertner
A creamy delicious gluten free macaroni and cheese recipe that the whole family will love!
4.94 from 16 votes
an egg free allergen icon
gluten free allergy icon
nut free allergen icon
soy free allergy icon
vegetarian icon
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Gluten Free Dinner Recipes, Gluten Free Pizza and Pasta Recipes, Meal Recipes
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 616 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 12 ounce box gluten free pasta (*See note)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese full fat
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter salted
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

For Crisp Coating

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  • In a pot, cook your pasta according to package directions. (*See note) Cook your pasta 1-2 minutes less than the instructions. This will help keep your pasta more al dente after baking in cheese sauce.
  • In a non-stick pot (very importat to make clean up easy!) add the cheese sauce ingredients. (Heavy cream, cheddar, cream cheese, butter, salt, pepper, garlic powder.)
  • Cook on medium low heat, whisking to prevent burning. Cook until the cheese is all melted and warm.
  • Drain the pasta into a collander and rinse in cool water to halt the cooking process.
  • Pour the pasta into the cheese sauce and mix well. Pour into an 8×8 baking pan.
  • In a bowl, add the topping ingredients and whisk to blend. Spoon the panko topping over the macaroni and cheese.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until hot.

Video

Notes

  1. You can use any gluten free pasta but I highly recommend using Jovial or Tinkyada because they hold up best to being in the sauce a long time.
  2. Every pasta brand has different cook times so be sure to follow the cooking time on the box of pasta you bought. TIP: Cook 1-2 minutes less so that it will hold up to being in the cheese sauce and baking.
  3. Have fun with the toppings! You can use smooshed potato chips, Doritos, pretzels, etc!
  4. Vary the recipe by adding leftover rotisserie chicken, turkey, ham, or spicy green chiles! You can have so much fun changing things up!
  5. This gluten free mac and cheese will keep up to 4 days in an airtight container.

SPECIAL NOTE

Please know that every gluten free flour blend has a different starch to grain ratio. If you use a blend I didn’t test, you may need to adjust your moisture levels in your baked goods.

Nutrition

Serving: 6servingsCalories: 616kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 19gFat: 37gSaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 943mgPotassium: 97mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1232IUCalcium: 369mgIron: 1mg
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @FearlessDining or tag #FearlessDining!

Nutrition Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the actual nutritional information with the products and brands you are using with your preferred nutritional calculator.

This post was updated with more information from an older September 2020 post.

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Recipe Rating




14 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    You hit it out of the park with this recipe! It’s so yummy!

    I’ve made it both with the topping and without and both are amazing.

    I made this recipe, doubled, for Thanksgiving and received a lot of complements on it.

    I omitted the pepper (sensitivity). I used brown rice pasta.

    I’m thinking the next time I make this I’ll use gluten free brown rice spaghetti noodles and see what I think. In my mind it sounds so yummy!

    Your recipes are my favorite! Everything that I’ve made has been delicious. Thank you!!

  2. 5 stars
    This mac and cheese is fabulous! It’s super creamy and the possibilities to change it up a little are endless. I added some finely crushed red pepper flakes to give it a little kick. I can’t wait to make it again and try a few different varieties of cheeses!

  3. Hi!! I was going to try to make this for Thanksgiving but how to you make it dairy free with it tasting good? What brands would you use and how much of it?

  4. 5 stars
    This turned out so good! We were having dinner at a friends house and I brought this dish, everyone raved about it and couldn’t believe it was gluten free. I used Tinkyada pasta and let the noodles boil for one minute, turned off the burner and covered it like the front of the package said to. I only let it sit in the water for about 10 minutes compared to the 16 suggested and the pasta withstood being baked and then being warmed back up in the oven at the friends house again. Will definitely be making this again! I get real satisfaction out of people not being able to tell things are gluten free

  5. 4 stars
    This was delicious, used Jovial brand Penne-cooked 1 minute less per recipe suggestion.Made recipe exactly as called for, will make again. Not sure if it will be as cheesy the following day as leftovers.

  6. 5 stars
    We loved this recipe! I made some modifications, as I can only tolerate goat cheese but the whole family raved about it. Instead of cream cheese, I used soft goat cheese ( 4oz of plain and 4oz of a garlic and herb log), used a sliced goat cheddar from Whole Foods, and used goat’s milk instead of heavy cream. I made this for Halloween and stuffed the mac and cheese into orange peppers with jack-o-lantern cutouts, then baked in oven with the crunchy topping dotted with Earth Balance instead of butter. It was really delicious and cute!