Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Many people follow a gluten-free diet to manage their symptoms. Knowing which foods contain gluten is important for avoiding reactions.
The gluten status of Kraft Mac and Cheese
Kraft Mac and Cheese is a popular boxed pasta and cheese sauce meal. There are several varieties of Kraft Mac and Cheese, including the original, organic, whole grain, and shapes. The main question is – with so many versions, are any of them gluten-free?
The pasta: The pasta used in Kraft Mac and Cheese contains wheat flour. Wheat contains gluten, so the pasta is not gluten-free. Neither the original elbow noodles nor the shaped pasta varieties are gluten-free.
The cheese sauce powder: This also contains gluten. Kraft uses wheat flour in the spice blend that gives the bright orange color and tangy flavor to the cheese powder. So the sauce mix is not gluten-free either.
In summary, no Kraft Mac and Cheese products are gluten-free due to the wheat-based pasta and spice mixes. Those avoiding gluten should not eat regular Kraft Mac and Cheese.
Gluten-free alternative mac and cheese brands
Although standard Kraft Mac and Cheese contains gluten, there are several gluten-free brands that make similar boxed mac and cheese meals. Here are some of the top recommended gluten-free options:
- Annie’s Gluten Free Rice Pasta and Cheddar Mac
- Barilla Gluten Free Elbows Pasta and White Cheddar Cheese Sauce
- Banza Chickpea Pasta Mac and Cheese
- Bakery on Main Delicious Gluten Free Mac and Cheese
- Glutino Mac and Cheese
Always check the label when buying gluten-free mac and cheese, as manufacturers can change their recipes at any time. Look for a gluten-free certification logo from organizations like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) for extra assurance.
Homemade gluten-free mac and cheese recipes
Preparing homemade gluten-free mac and cheese allows you to control all the ingredients. Here are a few tasty gluten-free recipes to try:
Baked mac and cheese with almond flour
- Gluten-free elbow pasta
- Almond flour
- Shredded cheddar cheese
Make an almond flour-based cheese sauce, boil the pasta, mix together, and bake. The almond flour gives a creamy, nutty flavor.
Loaded cauliflower mac and cheese
- Riced cauliflower
For a low-carb spinach version, replace the pasta with riced cauliflower. Make a cheese sauce and mix with the “rice” then bake until bubbly. Add toppings like bacon, chicken, or tomatoes.
Vegan mac and cheese with potatoes and carrots
- Nutritional yeast
- Plant-based milk
Make a creamy cheese sauce out of potatoes, carrots, onions, and nutritional yeast for a dairy-free and vegan mac and cheese. Blend until smooth and mix with baked cubed potatoes and carrots.
Getting creative with unique gluten-free ingredients allows you to enjoy comforting mac and cheese at home.
Is regular Kraft Mac and Cheese made on shared equipment with gluten-containing foods?
Kraft makes some gluten-free products on dedicated gluten-free production lines. However, regular Kraft Mac and Cheese that contains gluten is produced on shared equipment.
On the Kraft Foods website, under their FAQ section they state:
“Most Kraft Foods products are made on equipment that is also used to make foods with wheat and milk derivatives. Only those products with gluten-free claims on the label have been manufactured to keep gluten levels below 20ppm.”
This means there is a risk of cross-contact for people who cannot tolerate even small amounts gluten. The brand does not recommend their regular pasta, cheese sauces, and mac and cheese products for people with celiac disease or sensitivity.
Is Kraft Mac and Cheese safe for gluten intolerance?
No, regular varieties of Kraft Mac and Cheese are not safe for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Since it contains wheat-based ingredients and is made on shared lines, there is too high a risk of gluten exposure.
People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can sometimes tolerate small amounts of cross-contact. But those with celiac disease need to strictly avoid any exposure to prevent intestinal damage and symptoms.
The amount of gluten from cross-contact is unpredictable. Even tiny amounts can trigger reactions in gluten intolerant individuals. It’s best for them to avoid products made on shared equipment, including regular Kraft Mac and Cheese.
What about “wheat-free” Kraft Mac and Cheese?
Some varieties of Kraft Mac and Cheese have “wheat-free” written on the packaging. However, this only means that specific product does not contain wheat as an intentional ingredient. It does not mean it’s gluten-free.
These “wheat-free” versions still contain gluten from barley sources. They are also still produced on shared equipment. So they are not safe for people who need a gluten-free diet.
Currently, Kraft does not make any gluten-free macaroni and cheese products under the original brand. Look for certified gluten-free alternatives if you need to avoid gluten.
Should you rinse gluten-containing Kraft Mac and Cheese under water?
Some people wonder if rinsing gluten-containing pasta under running water eliminates enough gluten to make it safe to eat. This is not recommended, as it is not an effective way to remove gluten.
Research on rinsing gluten-containing pasta found:
- Rinsing only reduced the amount of gluten by about 2%
- The pasta still had unsafe gluten levels for people with celiac
- The technique did not change the immunologic response to the pasta
The researchers concluded boiling and rinsing gluten pasta does not eliminate enough gluten to prevent intestinal damage for people who need to avoid it.
It’s not worth the risk. Sticking to certified gluten-free pasta and mac and cheese products is the safest approach.
Does cooking regular Kraft Mac and Cheese destroy the gluten?
No, cooking Kraft Mac and Cheese does not destroy the gluten to make it gluten-free. Gluten gives pasta its structure and texture. It stays intact even after being boiled.
One study tested whether boiling wheat pasta for up to 15 minutes removed gluten. The results showed:
- Gluten levels remained high after cooking
- Boiling did not change the pasta’s ability to trigger an immune reaction
Frying or baking the pasta also does not destroy the gluten. The proteins may become slightly altered, but remain intact enough to cause issues for people with gluten disorders.
Since cooking does not remove gluten, the original Kraft Mac and Cheese is not safe even after being prepared according to the directions.
Can you make Kraft Mac and Cheese gluten-free with modifications?
It’s best not to attempt modifying regular Kraft Mac and Cheese to make it gluten-free. While you may be able to substitute in a gluten-free pasta, the cheese sauce mix still contains gluten. Making substitutions means you are no longer following Kraft’s carefully tested recipe.
Safest practice is to choose certified gluten-free products made by brands specializing in them. There are many delicious gluten-free mac and cheese options available made with pasta and sauces guaranteed to be gluten-free.
Should you eat Kraft Mac and Cheese on a gluten-free diet?
No, people following a gluten-free diet should avoid eating regular Kraft Mac and Cheese.
According to the FDA, foods labeled “gluten-free” must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. This is the lowest amount considered safe for people with celiac disease.
Since Kraft Mac and Cheese contains wheat-based ingredients and is at risk for cross-contact on shared equipment, it does not meet the requirements to be labeled gluten-free.
Eating the original Kraft Mac and Cheese would be cheating on a strictly gluten-free diet. Those with celiac disease or sensitivity must stick to verifiably gluten-free versions to prevent reactions.
Is Kraft Mac and Cheese safe in a gluten-free kitchen?
It’s best not to bring regular Kraft Mac and Cheese containing gluten into a gluten-free kitchen. Even sealed packages can leak small amounts of gluten into the air and onto surfaces.
One study found gluten powder can spread up to 13 feet away from the packaging when opened. Shared kitchen tools can also pick up traces of gluten.
To protect your gluten-free environment:
- Only buy products labeled gluten-free
- Use separate toasters and strainers for gluten-free foods
- Designate certain areas of the counter and cabinets gluten-free
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for gluten-free prep
- Wash hands thoroughly before preparing gluten-free items
Following strict precautions helps avoid inadvertent cross-contact at home. Skipping regular Kraft Mac and Cheese is the safest option.
Can you eat Kraft Mac and Cheese on cheat days?
People with celiac disease should not eat gluten on “cheat days” as it damages the small intestine every time. But those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be able to tolerate occasional exposure.
Factors like the dose of gluten and individual sensitivity levels come into play. Some people have immediate reactions, while others take a few days to react.
It’s best to discuss cheat meals with your doctor to understand the risks and benefits. They may recommend slowly reintroducing gluten to assess your tolerance. Take precautions like clearing your schedule in case symptoms occur.
While eating gluten-filled Kraft Mac and Cheese may be tempting, it may not be worth the stomach ache that follows.
Kraft Mac and Cheese is a pantry staple, but traditional varieties are not gluten-free. The pasta contains wheat-based ingredients and wheat flour is utilized in the cheese sauce mix. Kraft also makes most products on shared equipment increasing the risk of cross-contact.
Modifying regular Kraft Mac and Cheese at home to make it gluten-free is not recommended. The safest choice is to purchase pre-made gluten-free mac and cheese from brands that specialize in it. Look for ones certified gluten-free to ensure safety.
Following a strictly gluten-free diet means avoiding cheating with favorites like classic Kraft Mac and Cheese. For people with celiac disease, even tiny exposure to gluten can trigger symptoms and intestinal damage. Resist temptation and stick to replacement products proven gluten-free.