This creamy, cheesy homemade stovetop gluten-free mac and cheese is almost as quick and just as easy as the boxed stuff, but oh, SO much better. Made in one pot and takes just 20 minutes from start to finish!
Remember when “hygge” (pronounced ‘hyoo-guh’) was the it-word and our chief aim in life? Hygge your house. Hygge your vacations. Create a wardrobe capsule that is hygge. You’re looking at me weird. It’s okay. Trust me, it’s a thing. Or rather a vibe. Merriam-Webster even made hygge official in 2021.
Anyway, this mac and cheese is completely hygge.
According to AI (what world do we even live in now), “Hygge is associated with relaxation, indulgence, and gratitude. It can be translated to ‘cozy’ or ‘coziness’. The concept of hygge is believed to have made the cold and dark winters more tolerable.”
You can just go ahead and replace the word, ‘hygge’ with this recipe for gluten-free mac and cheese. They are essentially synonymous. The cold winter is now cozyfied, indulgent, and tolerable. Amen.
🌟 Why you’ll love this recipe
Creamy. Cheesy. Pasta. Really, what else does a person need?
Well, since you’re asking, I need dinners that take roughly 30 minutes. Or 20 minutes. Or somewhere in between. And straightforward ingredients.
This gluten-free mac and cheese encompasses all such needs. It’s slightly mind-blowing how a meal that caresses the soul can be made with 8 basic ingredients. Check it out. ↓
🛒 Ingredients & suggestions
- Gluten-free pasta: Elbow-shaped pasta is a classic pasta shape for mac and cheese but shell-shaped pasta is a close runner-up. You can’t go wrong with either but you can go wrong with the brand. Look for a gluten-free pasta that doesn’t include corn in the ingredients (corn dramatically affects the flavor and texture of gluten-free pasta in a way that I find rather unappetizing). Two brands I love that have a texture and taste similar to regular pasta are Jovial and Tinkyada.
- Cheese: Two important factors for the cheese -> it must melt well and be tasty. Sharp cheddar and cream cheese meet both of those requirements. However, Monterey Jack, Colby, Gouda, Fontina, Muenster, or Gruyere would also be amazing cheese choices that melt really well without becoming overly stringy.
- Milk: We’re going for unabashed luxuriousness and creaminess so whole milk is how we’re rolling, but if 2% or skim milk is what you have (or prefer) it will still turn out amazing.
- Unsalted butter: Allows a little more control with how salty you like your mac and cheese.
- Paprika: Totally optional, but adds a mild peppery flair to the mac. Smoked paprika would be tasty too or even a swish of hot sauce.
For a full list of ingredients and quantities see the recipe card at the end of this post.
🔪 Step-by-step instructions
Step 1: In a large pot, gently bring milk, water, and butter to a simmer over medium heat.
Step 2: Add salt and the elbow-shaped macaroni pasta and cook until tender, stirring regularly (gluten-free pasta likes to stick and clump to itself when placed in hot liquid). Remove the pot from the heat.
Step 3: Add the cream cheese to the noodles and stir until the cheese has melted.
Step 4: Add the cheddar cheese and stir again!
Step 5: Keep stirring the noodles until all of the cheese has fully melted creating a thick sauce that coats the noodles.
Step 6: Top with a sprinkle of paprika or maybe even a swoosh of hot sauce (optional but adds some tasty flair), eat, and understand the meaning of hygge.
👩🍳 Recipe tips!
- Do NOT boil the milk. High heat can cause milk to scorch so it’s best to keep on an eye it and slowly stir until it comes to a simmer.
- Stir the pasta. Gluten-free pasta tends to stick and clump together as soon as it’s placed in a pot of hot liquid so be sure to give it a constant, slow stir.
- Use block cheese and not pre-shredded cheese. Many pre-shredded cheeses contain other ingredients such as potato starch, cellulose, or natamycin (a mold inhibitor). Those extra ingredients can affect how well the cheese melts impacting the texture and taste of the cheese sauce so, if possible, just buy a block of cheese and shred it yourself.
- Not every gluten-free pasta is the same in flavor, type, or cooking duration. My go-to pasta brands are Jovial and Tinkyada for their taste and texture. I’ve tried many other gluten-free pasta brands over the years and in my opinion, none of the other gluten-free pastas compare. If you choose a different brand than the two I have suggested for making this recipe, be aware that the taste and texture of this mac and cheese recipe will be different than what I intended for you to enjoy.
🍽 Recipe variations
There are several ways you could zhuzh up this gluten-free mac and cheese but here are a few ideas if you’re looking to mix things up.
- White cheddar mac and cheese: Simply swap the sharp orange cheddar for white cheddar.
- Add some protein: Try adding ground beef, sausage, diced ham, crispy bits of panchetta or bacon, crab meat, or even lobster (maybe for a Valentine’s Day dinner?!).
- Add some veggies: Stir in some roasted broccoli or cauliflower, chopped greens (spinach, kale, or swiss chard), caramelized onions, or some diced tomatoes.
- Make it spicy: Add in a 4oz. can of diced green chiles, give it a generous drizzle of your favorite hot sauce, or add a sprinkle of cayenne or crushed red pepper.
💭 Frequently asked questions
I wouldn’t recommend it. Mac and cheese is really best eaten right away. The longer the pasta sits the more it will soak up the cheesy sauce and you’ll end up with oversaturated pasta and very little creamy sauce.
In my opinion…no. Pasta doesn’t freeze well and neither does dairy. Since this recipe is so quick to make I would say just make a quick batch of mac and cheese right when you get the hankering for it. You’ll enjoy it a lot more than a frozen and reheated bowl of mac.
Are you one of those people who love that extra layer of melted cheese and toasted bread crumbs on top of their mac and cheese? I see you. 🙌 Turn on the oven broiler and position the top rack about 3 to 4 inches away from the heat source. Spread the mac and cheese in a baking dish and top with a layer of shredded cheese and gluten-free bread crumbs or gluten-free panko that have been tossed with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Place the dish under the broiler for about 2 minutes until the crumbs are golden brown and the cheese is melted.
There’s no holding me back. ♡
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