Craving the homestyle goodness of Cracker Barrel’s iconic Macaroni and Cheese without the dairy?
Our Dairy-Free Copycat Cracker Barrel Macaroni and Cheese Recipe is your ticket to savoring that comforting, cheesy delight at your own table.
And be sure to see the other versions of this recipe too.
WHAT TO EXPECT WITH DAIRY FREE MAC N CHEESE
Macaroni and Cheese is both super easy to make dairy free and also not so easy. You’re taking the main flavor ingredients and substituting them for dairy-free versions. Anytime you do that, you’re going to alter the texture and taste.
When my family and I made Cracker Barrel’s Macaroni and Cheese in the regular recipe AND a dairy-free version on the same day and compared, this is what we found:
- The dairy-free version is creamier (if you can believe that)
- The dairy-free version tasted a little different. It wasn’t bad in any way, just different. We all agreed that we wouldn’t notice the difference if we didn’t have both recipes in front of us to taste back and forth.
This can be a great main dish weeknight meal, or you can serve it as a side dish with fried chicken, pork chops or even hot dogs. This is a family favorite recipe that can be a quick family dinner!
You can use the noodles of your choice, but we like using the traditional elbow macaroni.
You’ll use this to create the roux for your cheese sauce. You can use whatever brand you prefer. We like Full Circle or Earth Balance.
We recommend all-purpose flour, but you can use wheat flour if you want to.
You can also use chicken stock if you’d rather.
DAIRY FREE HEAVY CREAM
Silk makes a great Heavy Whipping Cream. As you shop, you’ll want to avoid anything that has added flavor (like vanilla). A can of coconut cream is also an option here, but you might taste a hint of coconut (which isn’t terrible).
DAIRY FREE COLBY CHEESE SHREDS
While we normally recommend shredding cheese yourself to avoid the anti-caking agents on shredded cheese, that just isn’t possible when you’re going dairy free. This cheese will NOT melt the same way that regular cheese does, but if you can find VIOLIFE brand dairy-free cheese shreds, you’re going to be in awe at how close they get to the real thing!
SALT AND BLACK PEPPER
Stir in some meaty mix ins, like diced ham or cooked bacon bits. We also like to top ours with panko breadcrumbs.
Step 1: Follow the box instructions to cook your macaroni to al dente.
Step 2: Melt vegan butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to create a thick paste.
Step 3: Stir in chicken broth and dairy free heavy cream. Stir until the sauce thickens. Add dairy-free cheese shreds and stir until melted.
Step 4: Combine the cheese sauce with cooked noodles and pour into oven-safe dish. Top with panko breadcrumbs (optional) and bake until edges are browned, typically for 10 minutes.
HINT: Do NOT skip the oven step in this recipe. The dairy-free cheese sauce needs that oven time to thicken up.
This can easily be made into a gluten-free Cracker Barrel Mac n Cheese Dinner. Click here for our full recipe.
Looking for the regular recipe? If you’re not avoiding dairy, grab the regular recipe for The Best Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese Copycat here.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
This dairy-free mac n cheese surprisingly freezes really well. After baking, let cool complete. Cover in tin foil and freeze for up to three months. When ready to eat, let thaw in the fridge overnight and bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30-45 minutes or until heated through.
You can also freeze prior to baking and follow the same instructions for reheating.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
While elbow macaroni is the classic choice, you can experiment with different pasta shapes based on your preference. Shells, penne, or cavatappi work well too!
While Colby is key to replicating the signature Cracker Barrel taste, you can use any dairy free cheese shreds to match your cheese preferences. I would start with cheddar and potentially combine mozzarella. (Those two are typically easily found in the dairy free section of your supermarket.)
Absolutely! Nutritional yeast is a popular dairy-free cheese substitute that can add a deliciously cheesy flavor to your dish. Adjust the quantity to your taste preferences.
This is the Silk Dairy-Free Heavy Whipping Cream that we use.
If you’re not able to find that, go with a can of unsweetened coconut cream.
If you’re not able to find that, then just be sure that whatever dairy-free cream you’re able to find is unsweetened and not flavored.
Absolutely! Prepare the macaroni and cheese, refrigerate, and then reheat when needed.
Yes, You can see our gluten free recipe here. If you need to make a dairy-free AND gluten-free recipe, substitute the flour and noodles for gluten-free versions in this recipe.
Pair it with a crisp green salad, roasted vegetables, or grilled chicken for a well-rounded meal. The versatility of this dish makes it a perfect companion to various sides.
Absolutely! Customize your dairy free mac and cheese by adding crispy bacon bits, breadcrumbs, or even a dash of hot sauce for an extra kick.
Gradually add the dairy free cream while making the cheese sauce, and avoid overheating. If it seems too runny, let it sit for a few minutes off the heat to thicken. Do NOT skip the step of baking it in the oven for at least 10 minutes. This is necessary to help the cheese sauce thicken up.
Yes, it can easily be vegetarian-friendly. Simply substitute the chicken broth for vegetable broth. Double-check the other ingredient labels to ensure there are no animal-derived additives in your chosen pasta and dairy free cheese.
- 2 1/2 cups uncooked pasta
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter (We like Full Circle brand or Earth Balance)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups Silk Dairy-Free Heavy Whipping Cream (If you can’t find this, purchase a can of unsweetened coconut cream)
- 2 1/2 cups VIOLIFE Colby Cheese Shreds (If you can’t find Colby, try a mix of cheddar and mozzarella)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Optional: 1 cup Panko bread crumbs, 1 cup diced ham, 1 cup cooked bacon
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until a thick paste / roux is formed.
- Gradually pour chicken broth over the roux, stirring constantly.
- Add the dairy-free cream and stir until the sauce thickens.
- Add the cheese shreds and stir until it melts.
- Stir in the cooked macaroni and mix well, until the macaroni is completely coated in the creamy sauce.
- Add a little bit of salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the mac and cheese into an oven-safe dish, like a cast iron skillet or casserole dish.
- Top with breadcrumbs (optional).
- Bake uncovered for 10 minutes or until the edges and breadcrumbs are golden brown.
Do not skip baking this in the oven. The dairy-free version of this recipe needs this step in order to fully thicken.
- Prep Time: 5 min
- Cook Time: 30 min