Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Chicken

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This hearty Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese recipe can be made right on the stovetop. And it’s a satisfying one-pot meal because it’s loaded with chicken, bacon, and, of course, plenty of cheese. Your basic macaroni and cheese gets a comfort food upgrade, making it one of the most delicious gluten-free pasta recipes ever!

Bowl of gluten free mac and cheese with bacon, chicken, and tomatoes

Gluten Free Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Chicken

There isn’t much better than noodles just swimming in a creamy cheese sauce, am I right?

Actually, I shouldn’t use the word “swimming” because we don’t want any thin, watery cheese sauces. It needs to be thick, and rich, and creamy.

While a good baked macaroni and cheese might really be the ultimate in comfort food, sometimes you just want it quick and easy. That’s when you need a stovetop mac and cheese recipe!

This one not only cooks up fast right on your stove, a few extra additions are not only delicious, but truly make it a one pot meal. It has tomatoes (or your favorite vegetable) to get in your veggie action. There is bacon, which we all know makes everything better. And to transform it into a hearty and satisfying dish, just stir in one of my favorite ingredients, leftover rotisserie chicken from Costco or the grocery store (or any cooked chicken you have on hand).

If you are just dying to try this gluten free mac and cheese but aren’t digging those mix-ins, read on for more substitutions and ideas so you can truly make it your own.

wooden spoon stirring a pot of stovetop mac and cheese

Why this Recipe Works

For a long time, the problem with making gluten free macaroni and cheese was that the early brands of gluten free pasta had a tendency to be very fragile and get mushy. By the time the noodles made it into a thick cheese sauce, they were disintegrating.

Tinkyada pasta has been tested for this recipe as this pasta has a texture that can hold up to the cheese sauce as well as being re-heated without getting mushy or dry. Jovial is another favorite gluten-free pasta brand. And Banza pasta made with chickpeas is great for added protein and holds up well in creamy gluten free pasta recipes.

The other thing that makes this stovetop mac and cheese a little extra special is the blend of cheeses. Sharp cheddar gives if that classic tangy bite that you are most accustomed to in this dish. Smoked gouda melts really well and adds a smoky element that plays off of the bacon and the deep flavor adds subtle sophistication. And you can never beat a little of the salty, nutty flavor of a bit of parmesan.

However, you can just use one or two kinds of cheese and substitute your favorite variety or whatever you have on hand.

Can you make macaroni and cheese without flour?

Yes you can make mac and cheese without flour. While some stovetop mac and cheese recipes call for making a cheese sauce with cornstarch, this one doesn’t need a cornstarch slurry at all.

The combination of heavy cream, cream cheese, and a mixture of three kinds of cheese all melt together into one luxurious sauce that perfectly coats the pasta. In fact, you might find you need to use a little or the reserve liquid from cooking the pasta to thin it out a bit!

Wooden spoon serving a large scoop of gluten free chicken mac and cheese

Simple Mac and Cheese Recipe without Flour

Let’s see what we need to make a gluten free mac and cheese without flour, but loaded with bacon, chicken, and veggies!

Here is a brief overview so you can see just how easy it is to make. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for the full quantities and details.
But don’t skip my PRO TIPS below!

Ingredients

An out-of-this-world marriage of familiar ingredients produces extraordinarily delicious and creamy homemade mac and cheese.

bowls and measuring cups and spoons holding elbow noodles, chicken broth, heavy cream, cream cheese, cheeses, spices, chicken, bacon, and tomatoes
  • Chicken stock or broth: This is simply used for cooking the pasta to add a little extra flavor. You can just cook it in plain water if you prefer.
  • Gluten-free elbow macaroni: Choose a brand that holds up well to cooking. If you don’t have elbows, any small pasta will do, like penne, rotini, or shells.
  • Unsalted butter: Even though you aren’t making a roux, you still want to add that buttery, rich flavor.
  • Cream cheese: A half of a block helps to thicken the cheese sauce without flour, and gives it a little tangy flavor. Be sure to have it at room temperature so it melts easily.
  • Heavy cream: Have it at room temperature to keep the sauce from seizing or curdling. You may also substitute whole milk or your favorite milk for the heavy cream although the consistency of your sauce may be a bit thinner. 
  • Spices: A mixture of garlic powder, salt, black pepper, ground mustard, and just a pinch of cayenne pepper pull all of the flavors together and make the cheesiness pop.
  • Shredded cheese: This recipe uses a combination of sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, and parmesan cheese. Feel free to use your favorite blend of cheese.
  • Bacon: Make sure it is cooked nice and crispy, then crumbled. We usually use turkey bacon, but regular pork bacon is, of course, perfectly delicious too.
  • Canned stewed tomatoes: Drain the liquid, then dice the tomatoes. When in season, try a half cup of chopped fresh tomatoes, but be sure to squeeze out the excess liquid and seeds.
  • Chicken: A great way to use up leftover chicken or to make with that Costco rotisserie chicken (always grab one when you are at the store).

How to Make Gluten Free Mac and Cheese

  1. Cook and drain the pasta. Cook as per the package directions with chicken stock instead of water, if desired. Drain and rinse with cold water. Reserve 1/2 cup of the stock you cooked the pasta in to thin out the cheese sauce if needed.
  2. Make the cheese sauce. In the same pot, melt the butter, whisk in the cream cheese, then add the heavy cream, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper. Continue heating and whisking until slightly thickened, then whisk in the cheeses. 
  1. Finish the dish and serve. Stir in the pasta, bacon, tomatoes, and chicken. Heat it through and serve immediately.

How to Store Leftover Macaroni and Cheese

This dish can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

How do you reheat leftover gluten free mac and cheese?

The preferred method is to add the pasta to a saucepan along with a couple more tablespoons of cream or milk. Then gently warm it over medium-low hear, stirring carefully until heated through.

You could also place it in an oven-safe dish and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.

No matter which method you choose, adding a tablespoon or two of cream or milk will help prevent the pasta from becoming too dry. 

bacon mac and cheese scooped up in a wooden spoon

Tips for Gluten Free Mac and Cheese Success

There are a couple of important tips I’d like to share here, to help you get the best results when making this recipe! Read on, and enjoy!

Buy the Right Pasta and Don’t Overcook it

I mentioned earlier, you want to make sure you get gluten free noodles that hold up well to boiling, draining, and adding to a thick cheese sauce. As far as the shape, while any small pasta will do, from penne to rotini, we all know that the classic mac and cheese shape is elbow macaroni.

BRIANNE RECOMMENDS:

Then the key is to not overcook y9our pasta. Check it after the shortest time listed on the package. You’ll want to leave it slightly al dente since it will absorb more moisture in the cheese sauce. Rinsing it with cold water right away will also stop the cooking process.

Have The Ingredients at Room Temperature

You’ll want your cream cheese and heavy cream at room temperature so that they warm easily in the pot and don’t curdle or seize.

Shred Your Own Cheese

I highly recommend shredding your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese contains additives that prevent it from melting into a creamy and smooth consistency. 

You can just use a basic hand or box grater. But if you want to make quick work of it, use a shredder blade on a food processor, like the Hamilton Beach Stack & Snap that I use, or a shredding attachment for your KitchenAid.

Cook the Bacon to Crispy Perfection

When you are adding it to a dish like this, you want to make sure you have crispy bacon that you can crumble. Nobody wants a piece of chewy bacon in their mac and cheese.

You can use regular pork bacon, or turkey bacon, which is what we usually use in our house.

My favorite way to cook turkey bacon is to lay out the strips of bacon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the bacon in a cold oven and preheat to 375° F. Bake for 20 minutes, flip and bake another 5-10 minutes or until desired crispiness.

bowl of finished mac and cheese sprinkled with pepper

Variations and Substitutions

This is truly a versatile dish that you can make your own.

Omit the Bacon and Chicken

This makes it a vegetarian dish or turns it into a lighter side dish.

Try Other Cheese

Any of the shredded cheeses can be substituted with your favorites. Some options would be white cheddar, Monterey jack, gruyere, mozzarella, fontina, or asiago. 

Use Different Meats

As mentioned, you can use pork or turkey bacon. Instead of chicken, try using up your leftover Thanksgiving turkey, mix in extra baked ham that you’ve cubed, or even some cooked and crumbled ground beef or sausage.

Change out the Veggies

You can substitute the tomatoes or add to the dish with any of your favorite vegetables. Some options are steamed broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, or frozen green peas.

Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese

To make baked macaroni and cheese, add the pasta to a greased baking dish. Top with additional shredded cheese or breadcrumbs before placing in a 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and cheese on top is melted. 

A bite of macaroni and cheese on a fork

Can I use pre-shredded cheese?

I highly recommend shredding your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese contains additives that prevent it from melting into a creamy and smooth consistency. 

Can this dish be frozen?

Technically, if you have any leftovers, then can be safely frozen, then thawed and reheated another time. However, I do not typically recommend freezing gluten-free pasta as it changes the texture and can become mushy.

gluten free mac and cheese with bacon, chicken, and tomatoes served in a white bowl

Make it a Meal – What to Serve with Gluten Free Mac and Cheese

While this is truly a one-pot dinner, you can always serve some extra veggies on the side.

Or skip the meat and serve stovetop mac and cheese as a side dish with your favorite main course.

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gluten free mac and cheese with bacon, chicken, and tomatoes served in a white bowl

Gluten Free Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Chicken

This easy stovetop macaroni and cheese is a hearty one pot meal of cheesy comfort food. The family will love this recipe!
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Servings: 14 servings

Ingredients

  • 6-8 cups chicken stock (optional for cooking the pasta, or just cook it in plain water)
  • 16 ounces uncooked gluten-free elbow macaroni (about 4 cups)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked gouda cheese
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • one 8 ounce package bacon, cooked and crumbled (I used turkey bacon but feel free to use your favorite kind of bacon.)
  • one 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (you can use leftovers, a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or pre-cook and shred the chicken)

Instructions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions, substituting chicken stock for the water.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse quickly with cold water. Set aside. *Reserve 1/2 cup of the stock you cooked the pasta in to thin out the cheese sauce if desired.
  • In the same pot you used to cook the pasta, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  • Add the cream cheese and heat, whisking occasionally, until melted.
  • Increase heat to medium and add the heavy cream, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper. Heat, whisking constantly, for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
  • Reduce heat to low and add cheddar, gouda, and Parmesan cheeses. Whisk until cheeses are melted and smooth. *If you would like a thinner sauce, add the reserved 1/2 cup of chicken stock and whisk to combine.
  • Stir in the pasta, bacon, tomatoes, and chicken. Heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until warmed through.
  • Serve immediately.

Notes

This dish can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To reheat, the preferred method is to add the pasta to a saucepan along with a couple of tablespoons of cream or milk and heat over medium-low until heated through. You could also reheat at 350°F for 15 minutes or in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. No matter which method you choose, adding a tablespoon or two of cream or milk will help prevent the pasta from becoming too dry.
You can omit or substitute any of the meats or vegetables. Any of the shredded cheeses can be substituted with your favorites. Some options would be white cheddar, monterey jack, gruyere, mozzarella, fontina, or asiago.
Nutrition Facts
Gluten Free Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Chicken
Amount Per Serving (1 cup)
Calories 538 Calories from Fat 342
% Daily Value*
Fat 38g58%
Saturated Fat 21g105%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 129mg43%
Sodium 1101mg46%
Potassium 341mg10%
Carbohydrates 28g9%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 22g44%
Vitamin A 1102IU22%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 338mg34%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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