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Easy Stovetop Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese

May 26, 2021
At a Glance

Summary

This is the definitive guide to making gluten free mac and cheese on the stovetop. With 3 varieties using different cheeses and methods, you’re sure to find your family’s favorite.

Categories

Prep / Cook Time

10 minutes / 12 minutes

Rating

 5/5 (30 votes)
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Easy Stovetop Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese

This easy gluten free mac and cheese is made on the stovetop, and takes 20 minutes or less. Make this crowd-pleasing gf meal in 1 of 3 ways.

Gluten free mac and cheese at its easy best. This recipe only takes about 20 minutes to make from start to finish, and it's made entirely on the stovetop. So good!

What makes this recipe, with 3 varieties, special?

This recipe is a 3-in-1, so the ingredient list might seem intimidating. But let me show you the way, and you’ll probably be able to commit your favorite variety of the recipe to memory. Then, it will really be yours.

Baked gf macaroni and cheese is more like a casserole, and it calls for eggs. You can easily make that whole recipe ahead of time, freeze or refrigerate it, and then bake it when you’re ready.

But these 3 recipe varieties are all egg-free. The cheese sauces must be made right before serving, but you can boil the pasta ahead of time, toss it with some olive oil, then cover it and keep it at room temperature for hours (or even a day, when the weather isn’t steamy).

The first variety, pictured above, is the roux-based macaroni and cheese. It calls for a few more ingredients, but it makes a just-right balance of creamy and cheesy.

The second variety, called queso-style, is pulled from our recipe for gluten free cheese sauce. It makes a thick, rich sauce that’s the easiest way to make the cheesiest sauce.

The third variety, called “almost-instant,” calls for cheddar cheese powder. 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-based 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.

Queso style cheese sauce being poured from a small saucepan on top of a white bowl of cooked elbow macaroni

Queso-style gf mac & cheese

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.

Words shredded cheddar above bowl, word milk above measuring cup words gf elbows above bowl, sliced cheese above slices on brown paper

I promise it’s easy to make a roux-based sauce. Once you master the technique, you’ll begin to see how useful it is for recipes like gluten free turkey gravy.

But if you don’t feel comfortable trying to make a roux-based sauce, this queso-style sauce is perfect for you. You can modify the type of shredded cheese to your family’s tastes.

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.

White bowl with bowl of cooked elbows with powdered cheese-base cheese sauce and spoon in background on blue cloth

Almost-instant gf mac & cheese

My gluten free son, the one whose needs led to the creation of this site, doesn’t really like most mac and cheese—especially the stovetop kind. But 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!

Glass bowl with cooked elbow macaroni with white bag in background

My new favorite gluten free macaroni

If you use my new favorite 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 they don’t often carry the elbow macaroni. I’ve hunted it down, but from sources I consider too expensive for me to share.

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.

Ingredients and substitutions

Dairy

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.)

Flours/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.


Fingers holding spoon taking a spoonful of elbow macaroni in cheese sauce in white bowl on blue cloth

Gluten free mac and cheese at its easy best. This recipe only takes about 20 minutes to make from start to finish, and it's made entirely on the stovetop. So good!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 2 to 8 servings

Ingredients

For all 3 varieties
4 to 16 ounces small dried gluten free pasta (See Recipe Notes)

1 to 2 tablespoons (14 to 28 g) extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

For variety #1: roux-based
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, chopped

1/3 cup (47 g) 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 1/2 cups (16 to 20 fluid ounces) milk, at room temperature

1 pound (16 ounces) cheddar cheese, shredded

For variety #2: queso-style
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) milk, plus more as necessary

3 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

1 teaspoon (3 g) cornstarch (See Recipe Notes)

2 ounces Kraft deli deluxe American cheese slices (3 to 4 slices) (See Recipe Notes)

For variety #3: almost-instant
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) milk

3 tablespoons (21 g) dehydrated cheddar cheese powder (See Recipe Notes)

4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, chopped

Directions

  • 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, 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 variety #1, roux-based: 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. Add salt and/or pepper to taste.

  • Pour the hot cheese sauce over 4 ounces of the cooked pasta, and stir carefully to coat without breaking the pasta. Serve immediately.

  • For variety #2: queso-style. 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.

  • For variety #3: almost-instant. 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.

  • Originally published on the blog in 2014. Photos, video, varieties all new.

Love,
Nicole

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