My beautiful gluten free mac and cheese recipe is your new family favorite! It has a beautiful, rich cheese sauce, and, because it's made on the stovetop, there's no oven required. Plus it only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.
Why you'll love this gluten free macaroni and cheese
It's the roux-style creamy, cheese sauce made with evaporated milk. It's the sauce made in the right way with the right cheeses. The perfectly cooked pasta that doesn't get soggy, and it's the ease and speed.
There are a lot of things that make this recipe really special and will be the reason you come back to this recipe again and again, for comfort food mid-week meals, special occasions, and just because.
There's just something about homemade mac and cheese that's gluten free — it might sound like a lot of work, but my recipe really isn't. And it's so good! Once you see how simple it is to pull off this easy, cheesy dish on your own, you'll never reach for the box again.
Pick your favorite gluten free mac and cheese recipe
Let's dig into my gluten free pasta and cheese recipe options.
The first variety, pictured above, calls for a few more ingredients, but it makes a just-right balance of creamy and cheesy. It's made with a simple cooked flour and butter base that never disappoints.
The second variety is made from pulled from our recipe for gluten free queso. It makes a thick, rich sauce that's the easiest way to make the cheesiest sauce.
The third variety is made with powdered cheddar cheese. It's a specialty ingredient that you probably don't already have, but it tastes like The Box, and it's the only type of gf mac and cheese that my non-gooey-cheese eating gluten free son loves.
Roux-style gf mac & cheese
The original way I made stovetop gf macaroni and cheese was always using a roux, which is just a cooked mixture of butter and a simple flour blend. The roux thickens the sauce and creates a creamy texture without just adding more cheese.
After making the roux, simply add the milks and the cheese with a bit of seasoning. Mix in the prepared gluten free pasta, and dinner's ready.
There are ways to make this even easier by tweaking the method to cook the dried pasta in the same saucepan first, but you have to use more liquids and the overall method isn't any easier. In fact, I think it's more complicated and confusing.
This is perfect for a weeknight, or a Friday night when you're just.plain.tired. It's also convenient for the holiday table since, well, it doesn't use the oven.
Making a cheese sauce without a gf flour blend
The gluten free cheese sauce that we use for queso is perfect for making macaroni and cheese. We discussed that method in that recipe, too.
All it calls for is some freshly shredded cheese tossed in a bit of starch to help thicken the sauce (but without a roux), some milk, and some Kraft deli-style cheese slices.
Those Kraft slices aren't the “processed cheese” we all know, but rather they're real cheese. If you can't find the right cheese slices, I bet you could use an equal amount, by weight, of Velveeta instead.
There are different flavors of the Kraft deli-style cheese, too. I like American best in this recipe, but it's really just a matter of taste.
Tips for making the best gluten free mac and cheese
My homemade gluten free mac and cheese recipes are so easy to follow, but if you want even better results, follow these tips.
Salt the water for more flavorful gluten free pasta
If you're the kind of person who tends to salt at the table, skip that step by salting your pot of boiling away instead. The gluten free pasta will absorb some of the salt as it cooks, resulting in a more dimensional flavor.
Keep an eye on that boiling gluten free macaroni
Gluten free pasta tends to be sticky, so you have to be diligent while it's boiling to ensure you don't end up with big clumps. As soon as you drop the pasta into the water, start stirring and continue to stir every few seconds to keep those noodles from sticking.
Use warm water to stop the cooking process
Did you know that straining gluten free macaroni isn't the last step in the cooking process? If you strain and walk away, trapped heat will continue to cook the pasta. To keep from ending up with mushy macaroni, be sure to rinse it with warm water.
Double-check the cheddar (for gluten!)
Most cheeses are naturally gluten free. Always check ingredient lists on any packaged product, but you'll find that almost all blocks of cheese are safely gluten free—and grating your cheese fresh will always give the best results.
However, if you buy the shredded bagged stuff, you'll want to carefully check the product label. That's because some manufacturers sprinkle a gluten-laden starch inside the bag to keep the cheese from sticking together.
Almost-instant gf mac & cheese
My gluten free son, whose needs led to the creation of this site, doesn't really like most mac and cheese—except he really likes this third type, made with dehydrated cheese.
This type of gf macaroni and cheese happens to be the absolute easiest kind, too. Simply whisk together the milk and the powdered cheese until it's very smooth, add butter, and cook.
The milk rehydrates the cheese, and the butter helps the sauce coat the gluten free macaroni. It will be the easiest thing you do all day, and I would even let my teenagers make it for themselves.
This recipe tastes like I remember the Kraft box of mac and cheese. Kraft itself now makes its own box of gluten free mac and cheese, but I haven't tried it. If you have, let us know how it went!
My new favorite gluten free macaroni
If you use my new favorite brand of gluten free macaroni, which you see in the image above, you can refrigerate the boiled pasta before adding it to the cheese sauce of your choice. The brand is Rummo, and their gluten free pasta is a cut above.
Amazon does carry some Rummo brand gluten free pasta (that's an affiliate link, but please shop around), but they don't often carry the elbow macaroni. I've hunted it down, but from sources I consider too expensive for me to recommend in good conscience.
I also regularly use Barilla gluten free elbow pasta (and all other shapes), and they're great, too. But Rummo actually cooks al dente and isn't hard even when it's cold. That's just a gluten free miracle.
Gluten free mac and cheese: ingredients and substitutions
Dairy free, gluten free mac and cheese
I have never tried to make this mac and cheese recipe (or any, really) myself dairy free. But I think it's worth trying for 2 of the 3 methods.
Here are the substitutions I would try, dairy ingredient by dairy ingredient:
- For the milk: unsweetened almond milk
- For the shredded cheese: Violife brand or Miyoko's Kitchen brand blocks, shredded
- For the sliced cheese: Daiya sliced American-style cheese
- For the butter: Miyoko's Kitchen or Melt brand vegan butter
The dehydrated cheese, “almost instant” recipe can't be made dairy free. For the cheddar cheese powder in the third variety, I really like Hoosier Hill Farm brand (that's an Amazon affiliate link, but please shop around.)
Vegan, gluten free mac and cheese
There are no other animal-based products in recipes #1 and #2, so follow the dairy free instructions above, and you'll have yourself meals that are also vegan.
As there is no substitute for the dehydrated cheese for recipe #3, that one cannot be made vegan.
Flours/cornstarch-free, gluten free mac and cheese
In place of the gum-free gluten free flour blend in the roux-based method, or the cornstarch in variety #2, you can use an equal amount of superfine sweet white rice flour.
Additions and variations
I love my gluten free macaroni and cheese recipes just as they are, but if you're looking to create a more complete meal, you can mix in some veggies like peas, corn, and broccoli or proteins like ham and ground beef.
For a little more zing, you can also add a dash of garlic powder, mustard powder, or chili powder, depending on your tastes.
How to store gluten free mac and cheese
Remember how I said that you needed to eat these gluten free macaroni and cheese recipes ASAP for best results? Unfortunately, that also means that they aren't ideal for storing.
I'm not saying that you can't save leftovers; I'm saying that it's just better to gobble up that goodness while it's still fresh.
If you do need to store leftovers, let the stovetop mac and cheese cool completely before transferring to a storage container and refrigerating. Try to eat your leftovers as soon as you can because the longer they stay in the fridge, the more they'll dry out.
I don't recommend freezing gluten free macaroni and cheese at all. The consistency would just be ruined.
Do I need to boil gluten free pasta longer?
You don't need to boil gf pasta longer, but you do need to stir it more frequently so it doesn't stick together. You'll also want to remove the pasta as soon as its al dente and rinse with warm water after straining to stop the cooking process.
What cheeses are good for gluten free mac and cheese?
Without a doubt, cheddar cheese is the best option for mac and cheese. You can use sharp cheddar, extra sharp cheddar, or whatever variety you want, but I highly recommend some variety of it.
If you do want to experiment, you can also try Gouda, Parmesan, Muenster, and Monterey jack — or a mixture!
Can I finish this gluten free mac and cheese recipe by baking it?
You can, but you really, really don't have to. I can't explain enough just how creamy and perfect gluten free mac and cheese on the stovetop is. You really don't have to do anything else but eat it.
But you're really set on having baked mac (or you've somehow added too much liquid and ended up with goopy macaroni), you can transfer the mac to a baking dish, add extra cheese, and top with gf bread crumbs before popping the dish into the oven on 350°F for 15 minutes. Don't cook for much longer or you'll end up with a dried out mess.
Can I make gluten free mac and cheese ahead of time?
Each mac and cheese recipe I've outlined is best served immediately. This means preparing it, mixing it, and chowing down.
However, if you do need to prepare it ahead of time, here's what I recommend: First, cook the pasta, let it cool, and then coat it with a light layer of olive oil. You don't have to refrigerate it if you're planning to eat it the same day.
Next, prepare a gluten free mac and cheese sauce from recipes 1 or 2, let it cool, and then store it in an airtight container. When you're ready to serve, reheat the cheese in a saucepan (adding a little milk if you need to thin it out), add the cooked pasta, and combine.
How do I reheat gluten free mac and cheese?
As varieties #s 1 and 2 mac and cheese cool down, the cheese may become a bit grainy. To restore some of the creamy consistency, just add a little milk when reheating.
You can reheat the dish in the microwave, but I think you'll have better results in a saucepan over low heat.
Variety 3, the “almost instant” gf mac n cheese, if made with Rummo brand gluten free pasta, is literally good cold, right out of the refrigerator. You can also reheat it gently in the microwave, if you like.
Gluten Free Mac and Cheese | Easy, Cheesy Stovetop
- 4 to 16 ounces small dried gluten free pasta See Recipe Notes
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
For a roux-based sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter chopped
- ⅓ cup gum free gluten free flour blend 31 grams superfine white rice flour + 10 grams potato starch + 6 grams tapioca starch/flour (See Recipe Notes)
- 1 can 12 fluid ounces evaporated milk
- 2 to 2 ½ cups milk at room temperature
- 1 pound cheddar cheese shredded
Without a gf flour blend
- ½ cup milk plus more as necessary
- 3 ounces cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch See Recipe Notes
- 2 ounces Kraft deli deluxe American cheese slices 3 to 4 slices (See Recipe Notes)
With powdered cheese
1/4 cup 2 fluid ounces milk
- 3 tablespoons dehydrated cheddar cheese powder See Recipe Notes
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter chopped
- Boil the pasta in a large pasta pot to an al dente texture, according to the package directions.
- For variety #1, you’ll need the full pound of pasta. For the other two varieties, just 4 ounces of pasta, unless you plan to multiply those recipes by 4.
- Drain the pasta, return it to the pasta pot and toss it with olive oil to prevent it from sticking together. Cover the pasta pot and set it aside.
Make ahead option
- You can place the cooked pasta in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it out at room temperature for up to 8 hours before proceeding with the recipe.
For a roux-based sauce
- In a medium-sized, heavy-bottom saucepan, place the butter and medium heat until it’s melted. Add the flour blend and stir to combine well. The mixture will clump at first, and then smooth.
- Cook the roux over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has just begun to turn a very light brown color (about 2 minutes).
- Add the evaporated milk to the roux very slowly, stirring constantly to break up any lumps that might form. Add 2 cups of milk, and whisk to combine well.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced by about one-quarter (about 7 minutes). The sauce should coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the grated cheese and mix to combine with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste, and the remaining milk a bit at a time if you like a thinner cheese sauce.
- Pour the hot cheese sauce over 4 ounces of the cooked pasta, and stir carefully to coat without breaking the pasta. Serve immediately.
Without a gf flour blend
- In a small saucepan, place the milk over very low heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking very frequently. Continue to cook until the milk just begins to reduce (about 3 minutes).
- Toss the 3 ounces of shredded cheddar in the cornstarch, remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the cheese and starch to the hot milk.
- Mix to combine. Tear the cheese slices into about 4 pieces each, and add them to the mixture, too. Mix until smooth.
- If necessary to melt all the cheese, return the saucepan to the stovetop over very low heat, mixing constantly. Add salt and/or pepper to taste, and add to 4 ounces of cooked pasta. Serve immediately.
With powdered cheese
- In a small saucepan, place the milk and then the dehydrated cheese. Whisk until very smooth. The powder will resist combining at first.
- Add the butter, and place the mixture over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until the butter is melted.
- Cook until the mixture begins to simmer, still whisking frequently. Cook briefly, until the mixture is creamy and slightly thickened.
- The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Add salt and/or pepper to taste. Add 4 ounces of cooked pasta, toss to coat and serve immediately.
For variety #1, you’ll need a full pound of pasta. You can always reduce the recipe by half, and only use 8 ounces of pasta. For the other 2 varieties, you’ll only need 4 ounces of pasta, but you can increase the recipe proportionally to make more sauce for more pasta. For the GF flour and/or cornstarch
In place of the gum-free gluten free flour blend in the roux-based recipe, or the cornstarch in variety #2, you can use an equal amount of superfine sweet white rice flour. For the Kraft deli deluxe American cheese slices
These are not the individually wrapped “cheese.” Instead, we’re using the Kraft sliced cheese that usually comes in a square blue package, and says “deli slices.” For the dehydrated cheddar cheese
I like Hoosier Hill Farm brand, which is just cheddar cheese with the moisture removed. It’s shelf-stable, and comes in a convenient resealable container. I buy it on Amazon.com Originally published on the blog in 2014. Photos, video, varieties all new.