Find out if mac and cheese contains gluten, plus get a list of all the gluten-free mac and cheese brands available at stores and online.
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If you’re just getting started with a gluten-free diet, you may have started to realize that some of your favorite foods contain gluten. If you’re anything like me, learning that mac and cheese was one of these foods was panic inducing.
Like so many others, mac and cheese is like a teleport back to my childhood. We ate so much of this food when I was growing up and when I think back on it, it’s probably because it was one of the foods that my mom could actually get my sister and I to eat regularly. It was fast, easy, cheap, and a crowd pleaser.
This comfort food might conjure up memories for you too. So if you’re just now learning that mac and cheese might not be the best food for you to eat while avoiding gluten, put a pin in that thought and read through this post before giving up all hope.
We’re going to talk about what mac and cheese is, what it’s made from, and find out if it’s safe for folks on a gluten-free diet. We’ll wrap the post up with a big list of all the gluten-free mac and cheese brands available at stores and online to help you find a new favorite brand so you can still get your comfort food needs met and take you right back to being a kid again.
Ready to talk mac and cheese? Let’s get into it!
What is mac and cheese?
Mac and cheese is an American dish that’s made with elbow or macaroni shaped pasta and a cheese sauce. This dish can be served as a side dish or entree and is popular among kids and adults alike.
Mac and cheese is considered a comfort food to many and can be found in both boxed versions with a powdered cheese sauce mix or in the frozen foods section of the grocery store as microwave entrees.
Mac and cheese is usually made with cheddar cheese, but can be made using other cheeses as well. You can buy mac and cheese from the store or you can make it yourself using a recipe with boxed pasta and a homemade cheese sauce.
Two main types of mac and cheese are most popular: stovetop mac and cheese and baked mac and cheese. Stovetop mac and cheese is made in a pan on the stove, whereas baked mac and cheese is made on the stove, then transferred to the oven to bake longer.
Oftentimes, baked mac and cheese will have a breadcrumb topping to add more flavor and crunchy texture to the dish.
What is mac and cheese made from?
Mac and cheese is made using a mixture of pasta, usually macaroni pasta or elbow pasta and a cheese sauce.
In most mac and cheese recipes and boxed mixes from the store, the macaroni that’s used is made with wheat flour. Cheese sauce in macaroni and cheese dishes can be made from a number of different ingredients.
A homemade cheese sauce for mac and cheese will include butter, flour, milk, and cheese. The cheese used in most mac and cheese dishes is cheddar, though other cheeses can be used as well.
If you buy boxed mac and cheese, you might find other ingredients in addition to these. For example, a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese contains the following ingredients:
“Enriched macaroni (wheat flour, durum flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate [iron], thiamin mononitrate [vitamin b1], riboflavin [vitamin b2], folic acid), cheese sauce mix (whey, milkfat, salt, milk protein concentrate, sodium triphosphate, contains less than 2% of tapioca flour, citric acid, lactic acid, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, with paprika, turmeric, and annatto added for color, enzymes, cheese culture).”
Microwavable mac and cheese products will have similar ingredients to those that you make at home. Most microwavable options only require the addition of water to make the product.
Read on: Is cheddar cheese gluten-free?
Read on: Is cheese gluten-free?
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
Gluten is naturally occurring, and therefore is impossible to strip away from the grain. If a grain naturally has gluten in it, there’s no way to make that food gluten-free.
Is mac and cheese gluten-free?
Most mac and cheese is not considered gluten-free. In most recipes, gluten can be found in both the pasta as well as in a roux of a homemade cheese sauce.
Mac and cheese can be made to be gluten-free using the right ingredients. If gluten-free pasta is used, then macaroni and cheese can definitely be gluten-free if no other gluten ingredients are added to the sauce.
If you’re making a homemade gluten-free macaroni and cheese dish, swap your regular pasta for a gluten-free elbow or other pasta shape. Be sure that the cheese sauce you make uses gluten-free flour to create your roux.
You can also find some brands of gluten-free mac and cheese at the store. These have been made for folks on a gluten-free diet and will contain less than 20ppm of gluten, as this is the requirement for having a “gluten-free” label on the packaging.
Where to buy gluten-free mac and cheese
While mac and cheese can be found at almost any and every grocery store in America, gluten-free mac and cheese may or may not be as easy to find.
Most big box grocery stores, like Safeway, Walmart, or Kroger, carry gluten-free products and you’re likely to find gluten-free mac and cheese at these stores.
You can look either in the prepared pasta and dried packaged food area or in the freezer section for some microwavable options. In some stores, gluten-free products are in a health food area or specific gluten-free area, so keep your eyes open for this too.
If you aren’t able to find gluten-free mac and cheese locally to where you live, you may want to try online. Amazon is always an option for finding different brands and shelf stable foods. Thrive Market is another online retailer that offers gluten-free mac and cheese products.
Brands of gluten-free mac and cheese
Since mac and cheese is such a popular dish, I thought it would be useful to round up some of the gluten-free options you can find at the grocery store.
The options listed here are a combination of boxed and microwavable mac and cheese you can find with other pasta products at the store, as well as frozen entrees you’re likely to find in the freezer section of your grocery store. Sometimes these are also in the health food section if your store has a dedicated area for gluten-free foods.
Since many of my readers also follow a dairy-free diet in addition to avoiding gluten, I’ve marked those mac and cheese products below that are also free of any milk or dairy products with an asterisk (*) to help you make quick decisions next time you’re shopping.
- Rice Mac & Cheese, Gluten-free
- Mac & 3 Cheese with Cauliflower Bowl
- 3 Cheese & Kale Bake Bowl
- Organic Vegan Rice Mac & Cheeze*
- Vegan Chili Mac & Cheeze*
- Gluten Free Deluxe Rich & Creamy Shells & Cheddar Rice Pasta Mac & Cheese
- Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar Mac
- Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar Microwavable Mac Cup
- Red Lentil Spirals with White Cheddar
- Organic Vegan Gluten Free Elbow Rice Pasta & Creamy Sauce*
- Vegan Red Lentil Spirals with Sweet Potato & Pumpkin*
- Deluxe Shells
- Plant-based Shells & Vegan White Cheddar*
- Plant-based Shells & Vegan Cheddar*
- Microwavable Mac & Cheese
- Shells & Classic Cheddar
- Shells & White Cheddar
- Elbows & Classic Cheddar
- Elbows & White Cheddar
- Deluxe Elbows
- Gluten-free Mac & Cheese
- Classic Cheddar Mac’ N’ Cheese
- White Cheddar Mac’ N; Cheese
- Vegan Cheezy Mac*
- Cheddar Style Deluxe Mac & Cheeze*
- Alfredo Style Deluxe Mac & Cheeze*
- White Cheddar Style Deluxe Mac & Cheeze*
- Meatless Bac’n & Cheddar Style Deluxe Mac & Cheeze*
- Four Cheeze Style with Herbs Deluxe Mac & Cheeze*
- Gluten-free Uncured Bacon Mac & Cheese
- Gluten-free Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese
- White Cheddar Mac
- Buffalo Style Chicken
- Gluten-free Creamy Deluxe Shells & Cheese
- Gluten-free Macaroni & Cheese
- Cauli Mac & Cheese
- Gluten Free Mac & Cheese
- White Cheddar Mac & Cheese Lentil Spirals
- Classic Cheddar Mac & Cheese Lentil Elbows
- Three Cheese Mac & Cheese Lentil Penne
- Mom’s Gluten-free Cheesiest Mac n’ Cheese
- Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese
- Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese for One
- Organic Gluten-free Mac and Cheese
- Organic Gluten-free Mac & Plant-Based Cheese*
- Gluten Free Mac & Cheese
- Mac & Cheese
- Microwavable Gluten-free Mac & Cheese made with Cauliflower
- Microwavable Gluten-free Mac & Cheese made with Sweet Potato
If you’ve been wondering which brands of mac and cheese you can buy from the store, I hope this post has helped you get a short list of what to look for. While most mac and cheese does contain some gluten, there are plenty of products and brands available on the market that cater to the gluten-free crowd.
As always, you can make your own gluten-free mac and cheese if you want to know for sure what ingredients are used and can feel confident that what you’re eating is completely gluten-free.