Apple Smoked Cheddar Mac and Cheese Balls (Gluten-Free)

What is the ultimate comfort food for you and your family? In our house, it is macaroni and cheese, without question. And not the kind that comes from a box, either, but rich, creamy homemade macaroni and cheese. Mind you, I personally don’t eat mac n cheese anymore at all, but my kids and husband do. My husband makes a wonderful version, and he usually makes a large enough batch to put several trays in the freezer. It’s one of the few things I can guarantee that all three of my children will eat. A little while ago, I discovered a fun little appetizer version of mac n cheese at our local Trader Joe’s. They were formed into balls and coated in bread crumbs, and then baked. Of course, being finger food, these held great appeal for my children and I almost instantly started scheming on how to make them at home, with a healthier twist.

Naturally, that was many months ago and I never quite got around to it. Then I was invited to participate in the Macaroni & Cheese Blog to celebrate National Cheese Lover’s Day, and asked to put my personal spin on this most comforting of foods. I knew instantly that I wanted to attempt the Mac N Cheese balls, and that I wanted to see if I could make a gluten free version to fit better with the message of this blog. There simply wasn’t a way to make them both low carb and gluten free, I’m afraid, but as part of my MO is making healthier recipes for my kids, I was pretty excited about the challenge.

The Macaroni & Cheese Blog is hosted by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and is publishing a different macaroni and cheese recipe every day for 30 days ( Part of our challenge was to choose one main Wisconsin cheese to highlight in our recipe. There are a vast array of cheeses to choose from, since Wisconsin is such a huge producer of cheese, but it took me barely a second to choose the one I wanted to use. I have long been in love with Apple Smoked Wisconsin Cheddar, and I knew it would add a unique flavor to this fun recipe.

As both the pasta and the cheese sauce lack any gluten whatsoever, it took me a few tries to figure out how to get my balls to stick well enough together so that I could roll them in an almond flour coating. At first, I simply tried forming the balls and rolling, but they were extremely fragile prior to baking. Chilling the mixture and adding a beaten egg definitely helped, but I still thought it could use some work. Finally, I figured out two tricks that made the difference. The first was that I needed to rinse off my hands after forming 2 or 3 of the balls, because the cheese sauce was sticky and making it difficult to form the subsequent balls. The other trick was freezing the balls after they were formed and before baking, to help them keep their shape.

This post is sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. All opinions expressed are my own.

Apple Smoked Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese Balls (Gluten-Free)

Serves 6 to 8


1 12-oz package gluten-free macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon arrowroot starch or cornstarch

1 ½ cups Apple Smoked Cheddar

1 teaspoon mustard powder

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 cups almond flour


Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk arrowroot or cornstarch into heavy cream until thoroughly combined, then slowly add cream mixture to butter in the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens. Stir in the cheese, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Add cooked macaroni and stir until thoroughly coated.

Refrigerate macaroni and cheese until well chilled, at least 1 hour. Once chilled, stir in beaten egg.

Spread 1 cup almond flour in a shallow dish and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Using clean hands, form macaroni into balls about 2 inches in diameter, squeezing gently to press them into shape. Roll carefully in almond flour and place on prepared baking sheets.

Place baking sheets in the freezer until macaroni and cheese balls are firm, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F and bake 12 to 15 minutes. Turn oven to broil for 4 minutes, until almond flour begins to brown and crisp.

Serve hot.

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  1. Carolyn, very clever! I wonder if baking them in mini muffin tins first would help firm it up. I saw that somewhere a while back.

  2. You amaze me! I'd probably have trouble with getting these to hold together and be photogenic WITH gluten, and here you've made them perfectly. These would be great for the Super Bowl!

  3. I am a huge fan of mac n cheese and yours looks amazing! I need to try some apple smoked cheddar cheese.

  4. This would make an awesome treat for the Super Bowl!

  5. What a fantastic idea! I love that you did this because we don't have a Trader Joe's here and I'd have never found out about these little beauties otherwise. Your version looks amazing.

  6. 30 days of mac and cheese!? Love it. And this recipe.

  7. 30 days of Mac and Cheese sounds so good… and these look so yummy! Love that they are baked… Never tried apple smoked cheddar, but that sounds really nice! Gotta try it… Thanks for sharing, Carolyn :)

  8. This is the most original Super Bowl appetizer I have seen! What a great idea, Carolyn.

  9. If you want to cut the carbs, try dreamfields pasta. I order a case at a time online. Each serving works out to 5 gr. of carbs. And it's not a clam I use it during phase 1 and never lose colour! Check it out :D

    BTW how many carbs do you think the sauce has?

    Thank you for woo your hard work. :)

  10. omg this looks awesome!!

  11. oh my goodness, these are awesome!

  12. food_dreamer says:

    I actually wasn't intending for these to be low carb at all, simply Gluten free. Unfortunately, Dreamfields is not gluten free.



    Blog: All Day I Dream About Food

  13. oh these look FABULOUS!!!

  14. How fun are these! Great for kids, great for parties, great for dinner! Wonderful idea!

  15. Oh yum! I love mac and cheese balls in any form, but these sound especially good with the apple smoked cheddar. Must add great flavor!

  16. This looks wonderful, Carolyn. This something my boys will definitely love

  17. oh. my. goodness. I think a part of me just died a little…. I LOVE mac and cheese but can't eat it like I used to…. Thanks so much for this awesome post!

  18. livingth3sw33tlife says:

    Wow, this sound AMAZING …. I normally dream about ALL the food you make – – but I think this one takes the cake :)

  19. These look delicious, Carolyn! I can`t believe you made them and don`t even eat mac & cheese…I`d be dyin`! Theresa

  20. These sound divine, Carolyn! I love the idea of mac n cheese bites as little appetizers. In fact, it's the only way I've allowed myself to enjoy this indulgence a handful of times over the past few years. Just a thought, I bake mine in mini muffin tins. They pop out perfectly and hold together just fine!

  21. What a fun idea, and perfect to make with kids even:-) Love the flavor combination! Hugs, Terra

  22. snixykitchen says:

    These look so delicious! I can't wait to try it!

  23. these are so cute! my kids would totally love these. mac n cheese is their usual side dish when my husband and i go out on date night. i love the idea of making these in advance and freezing them!

  24. cookingrookie says:

    This is an ingenious, must-make recipe!

  25. I know I keep asking about the nutritional information on some recipes, but I need to know this for my little granddaughter. Do you have this information?

    • This is not a low carb recipe. And when the nutritional counts are not provided (as is the case with older recipes), you can always use something like My fitness pal. It’s pretty easy to enter the ingredients.

  26. What is the nutritional information on the mac and cheese?

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