I was scrolling along my Instagram feed a few weeks ago and came across a photo of a vegan mac n cheese dish, topped with a few cherry tomatoes, green leaves, and spices. Unfortunately, there no recipe attached to this gorgeous image, only a “vegan mac n cheese” caption, so off I went into the kitchen in hopes of replicating a delicious yet healthy mac n cheese dish.

I’l admit, this was my first time trying gluten-free brown rice pasta, as I was a bit wary that it wouldn’t taste nearly as good as regular pasta. Ordinarily I’m not a big pasta eater, but mac n cheese happens to be one of my pasta weaknesses. I have to say, I couldn’t even tell the difference between brown rice shells and regular shells – my only advice is to keep an eye on the pasta when it’s boiling, because it can become a big soggy if it’s boiled for a few minutes too long.

The end result of my experimenting was a baked mac n cheese salad, because with the added tomatoes and baby spinach leaves, it felt much more like a salad than plain old mac n cheese. The recipe below is completely dairy-free, vegan-friendly and gluten-free, but those who are not on a restricted diet are welcome to use regular pasta, breadcrumbs, milk, and cheese.

I love my mac n cheese with shells, but any pasta will do. For the dairy-free cheese, I used Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Gourmet shredded cheddar cheese (I like the taste much more than Daiya.)

vegan gluten-free macaroni and cheese shells

Baked Mac N Cheese Salad (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free)
Recipe type: Dinner
  • 2 cups gluten-free pasta
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ¾ cup shredded dairy-free cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free flour
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 6 spinach leaves
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 1 tbsp capers
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Add pasta to a pot and cook in boiling water until soft.
  3. Strain and place pasta in a large bowl.
  4. In a saucepan, add almond milk and flour, stirring until combined.
  5. Add cheese to saucepan and stir ingredients over medium heat until the cheese has melted, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Pour cheese mixture over the pasta and stir until macaroni is coated.
  7. Place the pasta in a square pan and cover with bread crumbs.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes until the top is brown.
  9. Top with spinach, tomatoes, and optional capers.