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Super creamy gluten free mac and cheese

Craving gluten free mac and cheese? There’s no reason to miss out on the just because you’re skipping gluten. I’ve been making this variation of my most popular baked mac and cheese for years so get ready to celebrate everything you love about this homemade classic made just for you.

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a white baking dish of gluten free mac and cheese with a spoon taking out a scoop

If you’ve tried to buy a good gluten free mac and cheese at the store, your options have been mostly pre-packaged foil squeeze pouches over gluten free noodles or something frozen and they are all–eh. Not only do they not taste great, they are still full of preservatives, additives and flavors we don’t need.

Instead, indulge in a version that’s truly creamy (almost too creamy for me but we’ll get to the tweaks in a second) and free from that curdled “there’s an egg in this” appearance a lot of baked versions have. I hate that.

You should be able to have a homemade version that no one–and I mean not one single soul–should be able to detect as any different than traditional.

What pasta makes the best gluten free mac and cheese?

I’ve tested a ton and my favorite forever will be (affiliate link) Barilla’s Gluten Free Elbow Macaroni. Any shape of pasta will really work here as long as it’s short (like penne, cavatappi, elbows, etc.) and I find that Barilla’s blend of gluten free flours really eliminates that sticky, goopy brown-rice nastiness I just hate.

Barilla is available in just about every grocery store these days or you can get it on Amazon here.

a cup of Barilla gluten free macaroni

Pro tip: If you plan to bake your mac and cheese in the oven, make sure to cook your pasta to just al dente or a little bit firm. If you over cook it you’ll have mush after it’s been baked.

What gluten free thickener should I use?

I know a lot of mac and cheese recipes use some blend of cream, eggs, and cheese and just stir it together and toss it in the oven and that’s fine…sorta. But my version is going to require that you make a roux or white sauce first and that means you’ll need a thickener.

In my original baked macaroni and cheese I use flour of course but here I recommend an all purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum in it. I LOVE (affiliate link)King Arthur’s Measure for Measure Gluten Free Flour blend. It works like a champ. You should be able to buy it just about anywhere these days or online as well.

a bag of king arthur gluten free flour on the counter

Could I use cornstarch instead of gluten free flour?

You can thicken your pasta sauce with a cornstarch slurry if you don’t want to use a flour blend. To do that, melt your butter, add the milk of your choice reserving about 1/2 cup to the side. Add a tablespoon and a half of cornstarch to the cold 1/2 cup milk, stir well, then add that to the milk in the skillet. Bring to a simmer to thicken, and then add your cheeses.

Pro tip: remember that if you simmer cornstarch too long it will lose its thickening power and go runny on you again. Once your sauce comes to a bubble, add the cheese.

We are dairy free. Can I use a different milk or cheese?

You can! I haven’t tested this particular recipe as dairy free but lots of people have made my other mac and cheese recipes with almond and soy milk and it has been just fabulous.

You won’t need to adjust any measurements or the cook time.

As for cheese you’re on your own there. I’ve never tested with anything other than the real deal.

Tips for the best gluten free mac and cheese

  • If you haven’t seen my 18 Secrets to the Creamiest Mac and Cheese check it out for cheese swaps, and flavor boosting ideas.
  • Always salt your water before cooking your pasta and taste your white sauce for seasoning after adding the cheese. If it needs more salt, add it.
  • Choose cheeses with flavor. Sometimes when people tell me their mac and cheese was bland it’s because they chose plain cheeses with no flavor punch. We love sharp cheddar and swiss and it works great. Avoid subtle cheeses like mozzarella and colby jack on their own. You won’t get much flavor from them. You can also check out this cheese list for ideas.
  • Always grate your own cheese to avoid the additives in bagged. When in doubt buy a block of cheese and grate your own. It will melt better and won’t have any powdered anti-caking cellulose in it which could make your sauce lumpy or split.
  • When making your white sauce, keep the heat low, be patient and stir like the dickens. Once your butter and flour come together in the skillet (image step 2), add the milk and turn the heat to medium low and stand there and stir (see image step 3) . Don’t go feed the dog or make a snack for the kids or your white sauce may get too hot (even if it’s not boiling) and may split or look a little grainy. If that happens, don’t worry. Just use it anyway. Your texture will be a little off, but the flavor will still be fine.
six steps for making gluten free mac and cheese starting with a roux, adding milk, cheese and pasta then baking

Pro tip: If you don’t want to bake your mac and cheese, skip it or just stick it under the broiler for 4 or 5 minutes to brown the top. It will be ultra creamy!

How to make gluten free mac and cheese ahead

To make this ahead, add the pasta and stir then allow the whole dish to come to room temperature. Transfer to a baking dish if needed and place a layer of plastic wrap right against the surface to prevent a skin. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. To bake, remove the plastic wrap and place in a cold oven (so you don’t crack your dish) then turn the heat to 400 and bake until hot in the center–about 25 to 35 minutes or so.

Want even more mac and cheese recipes?

Try these and check out even more side dishes here.

a white baking dish of gluten free mac and cheese with a spoon taking out a scoop

Super Creamy Gluten Free Mac and Cheese

Don't skip the creamy just because you're gluten free. Make this ultra-indulgent delcious mac and cheese no matter what diet you're on.
4.84 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 489kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Bring a 3.5 quart pot of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt and the pasta. Cook according to the package directions for al dente. Do not over cook. Drain, and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
  • In an oven-safe 10" or larger skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until no pockets of flour remain and the flour taste cooks out–one minute.
  • Add the milk and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the salt, pepper and mustard powder. Stir continuously and slowly until the mixture thickens–6 to 8 minutes. Be patient.
  • Once thickened enough to coat the back of your spatula, turn off the heat, add the cheeses and stir until melted. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
  • Add pasta and stir to coat. You can serve from here or transfer to the broiler for 4 to 5 minutes until the top just starts to get brown and bubbly.

Notes

Note 1: I like King Arthur gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum but you can also find instructions in the post for using cornstarch if you choose. 
Note 2: I recommend whole milk but you can also use half heavy cream and half milk, 2% milk or dairy free milk of your choice as well. Just be aware that the type of milk you use will affect the creaminess of the final dish. 

Nutrition

Calories: 489kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 562mg | Potassium: 144mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 742IU | Calcium: 369mg | Iron: 1mg

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Recipe Rating




cathy malapit

Thursday 26th of November 2020

We made it gluten free using 1 box penne. Just do the x3 ingredients. We used the daiya cheddar cheese and lactose free whole milk. It is very good! Thanks so much!

Christy

Tuesday 24th of November 2020

This is the baked Mac & cheese I've been looking for my whole life! Incredibly cheesy (none of that gross curdled stuff that often happens with baked Mac and cheese), flavorful, and a huge hit with the whole family. My most picky eater asked for thirds! I made some minor changes: I added a bit of garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne because we didn't have mustard, and, like others, I added a GF bread crumb to the top and broiled. I also reserved some sauce to put over spaghetti squash for our keto family member which was also a hit. Fantastic all around!

Rachel Ballard

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

I'm so glad to hear that Christy!

Omega Pieterse Gregory

Sunday 11th of October 2020

This recipe is outstanding. I added a tablespoon of spicy prepared mustard and a dusting of cayenne pepper ( we like a little bite to the delicious creaminess of this dish)

Rachel Ballard

Monday 12th of October 2020

I love this one too! And I love spice! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. --Rachel

ROBERT SILVA

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

Added chopped spinach and broccoli!

Sara

Sunday 17th of May 2020

Made this using GF penne, and reserved some of the sauce to make a cauliflower version for my mom (just boiled the cauliflower for 3 minutes, drained and let cool). I thought that this was so so delicious! Before baking, I sprinkled on some GF breadcrumbs and cheese, and added some chili flakes and a little bit of chili powder to the sauce for extra flavour, I found myself using a little extra mustard powder as well!

Rachel Ballard

Monday 18th of May 2020

I'm so glad you liked it Sara. I think it's great too! --Rachel