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Sunflower Crusted Macaroni and Cheese {gluten free}

Noodle nirvana. Comfort food. There’s nothing like a dish of hot bubbling macaroni and cheese to make you feel warm and cozy. Penne pasta, plenty of sharp cheddar cheese and a surprise topping—sunflower crusted macaroni and cheese.

Sunflower Crusted Macaroni and Cheese in a wooden spoon

Click here to PIN Gluten Free Sunflower Crusted Macaroni and Cheese!


Macaroni and cheese. Simply a casserole of grated sharp cheese melted into sauce, stirred into hot cooked noodles, and baked with something crunchy on top. It’s basic sustenance—and easy to make from scratch.
When the world has got me down and I need something gooey cheesy—I head to the kitchen and whip up homemade mac and cheese. Especially this one. I feel better even before it starts to bubble in the oven.

spooning Sunflower Crusted Macaroni and Cheese from red casserole dish

Growing up, macaroni and cheese showed up on the dinner table menu many a Friday night. We observed meatless Fridays, abstaining from meat following the rules of our religion. On occasion breaded fish sticks made an appearance, direct from the oven by way of the freezer, but more often than not, on Fridays we dined on Mom’s homemade, not from a box, macaroni and cheese.

This recipe is very much like the mac and cheese I ate as a kid. Same technique–except with gluten free brown rice pasta. Typically, there’s a layer of buttery breadcrumbs on top–Mom put wheat germ and butter on hers. I may be biased, but I think my coating of toasted sunflower seeds trumps both—it makes the macaroni and cheese even more gooey and soul-foodie–and keeps it gluten free.

ingredients for Sunflower Crusted Macaroni and Cheese pasta, butter vegetable broth, cheese

Can you call it a white sauce if the liquid is vegetable broth instead of milk? Traditional white sauce, the base of Mom’s macaroni and cheese, is made by stirring milk into a butter and flour roux. In this recipe, the liquid is vegetable stock. Of course you can go with milk—though I think you’ll agree that vegetable stock based “white” sauce has more flavor. And when you stir in all the cheese… nirvana.

Switching out three ingredients makes this macaroni and cheese gluten-free:

  • The pasta: Trader Joe’s sell an excellent gluten free brown rice penne pasta that holds together when cooked, unlike some gluten free pastas that break apart when they get near boiling water. Unless you read the label you would never know this product is gluten free. (see note)
  • The roux: Brown rice flour blends with butter and thickens a sauce the same way as all purpose flour.
  • The crust: Simply sunflower seeds, toasted and ground in the blender. Unbelievably scrumptious—gluten free or not–you want this as the topping on your mac and cheese.

Just so you know, some of the links in this post are affiliates. When you purchase products via my links, it doesn’t cost you anything and I earn a tiny commission, which helps me continue to provide free content here on Letty’s Kitchen. Thank you!!

Mom seasoned macaroni and cheese with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a little bit of garlic powder. With the vegetable broth base you don’t need either, though if you decide your mix needs salt—try garlic salt. I’d add the Worcestershire, except I read the label–now they put freeking corn syrup in it. What for—to make the anchovies taste better?

Sunflower Crusted Macaroni and Cheese from the oven ready to eat in red casserole dish

My kitchen is all torn apart. Every door and drawer is missing the front and there’s masking tape all over the place. It’s getting transformed with paint and antique glaze– thanks to my awesome handyman husband. When it’s finished, I’m getting in there and making us a big hot dish of sunflower crusted macaroni and cheese.

Other Notes:

Make it a fabulous week–get in the kitchen and cook something delicious!

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Nutrition Facts
Sunflower Crusted Macaroni and Cheese
Amount Per Serving
Calories 698 Calories from Fat 378
% Daily Value*
Fat 42g65%
Saturated Fat 17g106%
Cholesterol 74mg25%
Sodium 660mg29%
Potassium 286mg8%
Carbohydrates 56g19%
Fiber 7g29%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 25g50%
Vitamin A 915IU18%
Vitamin C 0.5mg1%
Calcium 435mg44%
Iron 2.3mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  • I’m headed to TJ’s today! And love the idea of a sunflower crust- nuts and seeds for the win! Reply · 21 October, 2014

    • Letty

      Thanks Kelley! We are lucky to have that TJ store (fairly) close by. And I thought they would never come–liquor laws. So they don’t sell 2 buck chuck–who cares. Reply · 21 October, 2014

  • Dennis Halloran

    Makes me want to wander in the 219 Kitchen Reply · 21 October, 2014

    • Letty

      It’s a great recipe–thanks Mom! and Denny! Reply · 21 October, 2014

  • I know it’s not polite to tell someone what they should do, but… you SHOULD totally enter that recipe into a contest. I’ve seen a lot of mac and crack recipes and have never seen anything sound so innovative and scrumptious. KUDOS!! Reply · 23 October, 2014

    • Letty

      Thanks Jenny!!! Now I gotta find that contest….
      It’s polite as all get out to send someone kudos and should suggestions– I appreciate it! Reply · 23 October, 2014

  • It’s good to update the classics and keep them in our (ever changing) diets. There’s always room for Mac & Cheese. GREG Reply · 24 October, 2014

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