Gluten free mac and cheese is 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 is 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!
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 This Recipe Is Great:
- This is the creamiest mac and cheese and it is certain to satisfy any cheese craving!
- You can make it ahead, freeze it, and even make it dairy-free! Not to mention your kids are going to love it!
- Pack it up and take it to a potluck! Further down I include some fun variations to this mac n cheese recipe to make this in lots of different ways.
- This is an incredible recipe with the perfect pasta texture. There is no mushy macaroni!
- You only need a few simple ingredients to make the creamy sauce!
Check out my gluten free mac and cheese web story too!
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 make sure to cook your gluten-free elbow macaroni according to package directions since it varies 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
Vegan cheeses are more at risk of containing wheat flour and gluten so check the labels. Our favorite vegan cheese is VioLife brand and these are gluten free. Kite Hill and Daiya vegan cheeses are also dairy-free.
The secret to creamy macaroni and cheese is to use a combination of 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.
- 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.
Recipe Step By Step Directions:
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.
Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350º F. Add your cheese sauce ingredients including the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, heavy cream, butter, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to a medium saucepan.
For best results, use a pot that is non-stick 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 some 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
Your cheese sauce will be thick and creamy like this photo!
Step 3: Pour the cheese sauce into the pasta and mix well to coat all of the gluten free macaroni.
Step 4: In a small bowl, add your gluten free panko and topping ingredients and mix well. See below for fun topping ideas if you want to try something fun.
Step 5: Add the gluten free macaroni and cheese mixture to an 8x8 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.
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.
This post was updated with more information from an older September 2020 post.
- If you love spice, add some roasted hatch green chiles or a drizzle of hot sauce!
- This recipe is a great way to use up 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.
- 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
Expert Tips and Recipe FAQ:
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, if you make this recipe dairy-free it will not be as creamy.
Store this in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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.)
Mac and cheese is not a perfectly healthy meal. It is high in fats due to the cheeses. That being said, this mac and cheese is much healthier than the neon orange boxed mac and cheese that are sold in stores.
If your mac and cheese turned out dry, it is because you used too much pasta for the amount of cheese sauce you used, or you baked it too long and dried it out.
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Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese
- 12 ounce box gluten free pasta (*See note)
- 8 ounces cream cheese full fat
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- For Crisp Coating
- ½ cup gluten free panko
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 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 8x8 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Have fun with the toppings! You can use smooshed potato chips, Doritos, pretzels, etc!
- Vary the recipe by adding leftover rotisserie chicken, turkey, ham, or spicy green chiles! You can have so much fun changing things up!
- This gluten free mac and cheese will keep up to 4 days in an air-tight container.
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.
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