Best Gluten-Free Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Kicked Up Mac and Cheese (gluten-free)
Classic comfort food - gluten-free mac and cheese

Classic Comfort Food: Kicked Up

Mac and cheese- how I love thee. And not from a box. Give me the good stuff. The real deal. Comfort food. Something worth craving. Something creamy and comforting and crunchy on top with a hint of spicy heat.

This gluten-free macaroni and cheese recipe is based on my pre-celiac go-to cheesy mac favorite with cheddar cheese. I kicked it up with chopped jalapeños and crunchy gluten-free bread crumbs. Sweet grape tomatoes. Was it tasty, Darling.
I usually make this dish in a single casserole dish, but last night I spooned it into individual.

Note: Are you GF/CF, dairy-free, or a gluten-free vegan? Don't despair. I am now, too. 

Find my just as yummy dairy-free recipe for dairy-free Baked Mac and Cheese here.

Or better yet, try my vegan cheesy uncheese sauced mac n cheese.

Karina's Best Kicked Up Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

Recipe posted November 2006.

Don't reach for the Velveeta, Babycakes. Just say no. This homemade cheese sauce is beyond better.


12 oz. gluten-free penne pasta
2-4 tablespoons chopped jarred jalapeños, to taste (we used 4 - we like it spicy)

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons light olive oil or butter
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
2 1/2 cups milk or soy milk
1 1/2 cups shredded aged sharp or mellow cheddar cheese
3/4 cup small curd cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon or honey mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1-2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine, to taste (may omit)

For the topping:

1 cup Crunchy Gluten-Free "Bread" Crumbs - for topping
10-12 grape tomatoes, halved
A sprinkle of dried basil and parsley


To pre-cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and partially cook the penne- just until it is very al dente, tender but still firm to the bite. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it quickly under cold water. Set aside. 

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and stir in the rice flour (I like to use a whisk to do this). Cook and stir the flour for about 10 seconds, then slowly add in the milk, whisking to blend the flour paste (called a roux) and milk. Bring the mixture to a bubble (it will thicken as it heats) then reduce the heat to low. Add the shredded cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sea salt, mustard, nutmeg and stir to blend. If adding a dash of sherry, add it now. Continue stirring the sauce until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

For a , combine the cooked penne with the chopped jalapenos.
Pour the hot cheese sauce over the penne and gently combine. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the buttered gluten-free bread crumbs and halved grape tomatoes. Sprinkle with dried basil.

For individual gratin dishes, combine the pasta with the jalapenos in the drained pasta pot; add the cheese sauce; combine; then spoon it into the gratin dishes. Top with crumbs and tomatoes and sprinkle with dried basil.

Bake at 350ºF for about 25 minutes, until bubbling and heated through.
Serves 4.


For those cooking gluten-free, the trick with baking gluten-free pasta in a casserole is to not over-boil it first. Keep it very al dente; it continues to cook in the sauce.
For a fab gluten-free vegan cheesy uncheese sauce (without plastic vegan cheese) check out Karina's new cheesy uncheese sauce recipe here.

Recipe Source: 
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xox Karina


ByTheBay said...

Oh Karina that looks incredible!

Kathy said...

Oh dear...I feel like my waistline enlarged just from looking at this photo. Sure looks yummy!


GrewUpRural said...

Thank you for this post. I have been craving gf homemade mac n cheese for a while. Will have to try this over the weekend.

Jenn, Hesse Family CEO said...

Yum, yum, yum-O! Macaroni & Cheese was always the go-to comfort food in my house growing up. Now my kids enjoy the GF version, but I've never made it spicy like you have here. I'm feeling inspired! Oh, and I wanted to add how honored I was that you commented on my blog a few weeks back -- I love reading your blog, so keep the GF inspiration coming! Gluten-free blessings to you ~ Jenn

Karina said...

Thanks, Everyone! We enjoyed every lip-smacking bite, I confess.

Ivonne said...

I didn't think it was possible to improve upon mac and cheese but clearly you have!


Shaheen said...

looks so good! i just add a dash of red pepper flakes to spice it up but jalpenos sounds too good.

Kit said...

Is the cottage cheese supposed to melt too? I made this recipe today, and my cheddar melted nicely but the cottage cheese curds stayed lumpy ... it still tasted great though (especially with some curry powder mixed in).

Karina said...

Hi Ivonne! You are [as always] very sweet!

Shasheen~ Ooh yes, I love red pepper flakes, too.

Hi Kit~ Mine melted, yes. I used organic small curd low fat cottage cheese. Sometimes I add curry powder, too. Just a little. ;-)

Vanessa (of vanesscipes) said...

I have so been craving mac and cheese... and I think your kicked up way is the way to do it!

sher said...

Oh boy!! One of my favorite things on earth--mac and cheese. Yours looks magnificent! Can you mail me any leftovers? :)

Anonymous said...

What brand of sweet rice flour do you use?

Karina said...

Hi Anon~ I use Gluten Free Pantry's Sweet Rice Flour. Pamela's Baking Mix also works.

Anonymous said...

thanks karina, my morale was boosted with some of the wheat-free recipes... however my problem is that i have further allergy from tomatoes, lemon, chickpeas, almonds and oranges... am really sad as i cant find any recipe to substitute these... could you please put something up for this kind of problem?

Karina said...

Hi Anon- I feel your pain. I too have an allergy to lemon, chick peas and almonds, etc. (recently discovered).

For lemon- in savory recipes- I use champagne vinegar or balsamic - like the potato salad I posted. I have to avoid all legumes and nuts at the moment so I just don't bother with recipes that feature them as main ingredients.

There are recipes in the archives here that would be safe for you. If you find a recipe you'd like to try but need a sub for, just ask and I'll see what I can do.

All new recipes (since July) are multiple allergen free (though some will have tomato as tomatoes are one fruit I *can* do. ;)

Take care-


Tina said...

I am trying to find the shredded non-dairy gluten-free cheese that you use in your baked mac and cheese, and I also need it soy free. Can you tell me the brand name of this please. Sorry if I just missed it somewhere else on your site.
Thank you for your site, you love and helping me do this right. I have been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and its all so new to me, I want to heal and you are a great, great help! You are LOVE!

Karina said...

Hi Tina- I don't have any on hand to look it up- but I found it at a health food store. It was based on almonds or rice- not soy- and it said gluten-free right on the package.

Note: It wasn't shredded- it was solid. I shredded it.

Good luck- hope you find it!

Take care, Karina

mom doing the best i can said...

thank you! this is my first visit to the blog and i have a son (16 mo) who is egg allergic and may be sensitive to glutens. your recipe looks intriguing-i'll make it for the kids tomorrow and let you know how they like it. it is very kind of you to share your recipes.

gluten free for 17 days now! said...

I got a sudden craving for mac and cheese one day and lucky for me, there was a recipe on your website. I had to omit some of the ingredients because I'm either allergic or didn't have them in the house. Still the mac and cheese turned out great! I used 1/2 pasta and 1/2 boiled quinoa for an extra kick of iron. Yum!

Karina said...

Hi "Mom doing the best I can..." I have a vegan version of this recipe as well; look in the vegan/vegetarian chapter. That sauce is very mild and kid friendly. ;)

Hey GF for 17 days...

Wow- I love the idea of a combo = pasta and quinoa. Sounds delicious!

Thanks for sharing, both of you.


Marni said...

Absolutely wonderful! It turned out fantastic! Loved by the whole family!

atxglutenfree said...

Oh MY! This looks delicious. I love the new picture setup on your website :) Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

that looks absolutely delicious! :) MVR

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