Homemade Mac and Cheese

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The cheesiest, CREAMIEST homemade mac n cheese you’ll ever make! Macaroni pasta covered in sharp cheddar cheese, melted into a warm cream sauce, and topped with a perfect panko crust. The whole family will definitely approve!

Macaroni and cheese is always a quick and easy go-to for dinner, especially when you cant think of anything to make. The kids never complain (because what kid doesn’t like pasta?), and they love it as much as our Creamy Penne Pasta and Fettuccine Alfredo.

Homemade Mac and Cheese on spoon in casserole dish

no whining at the dinner table

Macaroni and cheese is always a safe bet. The kids never complain about having mac and cheese for dinner, which means we avoid dinner table whining (I know you know what I’m talking about). 😉

We wanted to share our homemade version, which has become a family favorite. It’s a baked mac and cheese recipe that is easy, cheesy and so delicious! Have you ever made homemade Macaroni and Cheese? If not, today needs to be the day!

This recipe makes for a great dinner idea through out the year, but we even use it frequently during the holidays—it’s a fantastic side dish at big family gatherings!

homemade mac n cheese recipe in a red baking dish

How to Make Mac and Cheese:

This might take a little longer than boxed mac n cheese, but let me tell ya, the extra time and effort is SO worth it. Plus, most of the ingredients you need are ones you already have on hand, and the steps are simple.

PASTA. Begin by cooking pasta according to package directions, and set aside.

SAUCE. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 c. butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic salt and pepper to taste. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking until smooth. Heat the mixture to a low boil until thickened. Remove from heat.

ASSEMBLE. Add the hot pasta to a greased 9×13″ baking dish. Then, sprinkle 6 cups shredded cheese over the pasta (yes, you can cut that down if you want). Pour the thickened cream sauce over the pasta and cheese. Let it sit until the cheese has melted and then stir together.

TOP & BAKE. Melt 2 TB butter over medium heat. Add in bread crumbs, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Pour over the mac and cheese. Bake at 325° for 14-15 minutes. Serve warm, and ENJOY!

CROCK POT VERSION

To make Mac n Cheese an even easier dish you can make it in a crock pot. Pour your pasta in first cover them with your sauces and cheese. Cook on Low for 2-3 hours. For our favorite crock pot mac and cheese CLICK HERE

Cheesy Mac and Cheese sauce pouring in casserole dish

Recipe variations

This cheesy mac and cheese is simply the best. Here are some variations you can make, whether it’s changing up the cheese, using different kinds of breadcrumbs or adding ingredients like bacon.

CHEESE. You can get creative with the cheeses by changing the cheddar for a different cheese or blend 2-3 cheese together. A popular blend is equal parts mozzarella, cheddar and american.

Some other cheese that are good to use in a Mac n Cheese recipe include Parmesan, Sharp Cheddar, White Cheddar, smoked Gouda, Gruyere, Colby Jack, Gorgonzola.

TOPPINGS. Adding a topping gives the Mac and Cheese a simple finishing touch. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, or want to try something different, here are a few suggestions you might like: crushed ritz crackers, crushed Triscuits crackers, crushed corn flakes, or sliced almonds.

ADD-INS. If you want to get adventurous, try adding some of these items to change things up: cooked bacon bits, parmesan cheese, salsa or jalapenos, broccoli, roasted red peppers, diced ham, grilled chicken, cooked hamburger, chili flakes.

Best Mac and Cheese Recipe in casserole dish

Tips, Tricks, and FAQ

Why do you add flour into the mac n cheese? The technique for adding flour and butter to Mac n Cheese is called Roux. Roux is a thickening agent used for gravy, sauces, soups, stews. Roux is always made first, then the other ingredients are added.

When the Roux technique is added to Mac n Cheese, it not only thickens the dish, but keeps the cheese from separating and/or clumping together.

Why is my cheese grainy? Here are some tips to keep your cheese from getting a grainy texture: Use high quality cheese with natural ingredients. Grate the cheese yourself as opposed to buying pre grated cheese. Make sure you add the cheese AFTER the Roux sauce has thickened. Also, do not overheat the cheese.

Make Ahead. This can be really useful when you are planning for a larger holiday meal, family BBQ, or on a regular busy day. Prepare the Mac and Cheese according to the recipe. Before baking, cover the dish tightly and keep in the fridge for 1-2 days. When you are ready to use, bake as per recipe directions.

Freeze. If you know you plan to freeze the dish, make sure the pasta is cooked al dente. This pasta dish can be frozen for 2-3 months. When you’re ready to bake, you can thaw it in the fridge and bake according to the recipe directions, or you can put it directly from the freezer in the oven.

In the latter case, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the foil covered mac n cheese dish in the oven and bake until it’s hot in center (about 1 hour).

Spoonful of Homemade Mac and Cheese

I never said this recipe was healthy, but oh man, is it good!! It’s full of cheese, and the Panko crumbs on top make it even more delicious!

what to serve with macaroni and cheese:

For more cheesy recipes, check out:

Mac and Cheese Recipe

4.92 from 36 votes

The cheesiest, CREAMIEST homemade mac n cheese you'll ever make! Macaroni pasta covered in sharp cheddar cheese, melted into a warm cream sauce, and topped with a perfect panko crust. The whole family will definitely approve!

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 10 people
Calories 666 kcal
Author Kellyn Carpenter

Ingredients

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 4 c. milk
  • 6 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 TB garlic salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Boil pasta according to package directions. In large saucepan, melt 1/2 c butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic salt and pepper to taste. Slowly pour in 4 cups milk, whisking until smooth. Heat to a low boil until thickened. Remove from heat.

  2. Add hot pasta to a greased 9x13" baking dish. Sprinkle 6 cups shredded cheese over pasta. Pour the thickened cream sauce over the pasta and cheese. Let sit until the cheese has melted and stir together.

  3. Melt 2 TB butter over medium heat. Add in bread crumbs, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Pour over the mac and cheese.

  4. Bake at 325 for 14-15 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Video

Recipe adapted from That Which Nourishes

Author

Kellyn Carpenter

Kellyn is a mom of 4 and loves to try and test out new recipes. She loves to find the best dinner and dessert recipes around and share them with those in the blogosphere.

More by Kellyn

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Comments

  1. I alwsys use some sharp cheese and instead of bread crumbs , i use rosemary and olive oil flavored triskets crushed …. the triskets work good on chicken casserole too…

  2. Made this last night and it was delicious!! Velveeta always grosses me out so it was nice to find a simple recipe that can create the cheesy texture with cheddar cheese. The garlic salt was a game changer and I got so many compliments!! Thank you ????

  3. 5 stars
    This was hands down the best & EASIEST homemade mac & cheese recipe ever. My sisters are super picky about mac & cheese and they loved it! It was the perfect addition to our Father’s Day lunch. Going to be a staple for me moving forward!

    1. You should be able to. When my cursor is over the pictures, the PIN it button appears. You may need to add the Pintrest button, if you don’t have it on your computer. I hope that helps. Let me know 🙂

  4. Made this today for my son’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor. I actually multiplied it by 5 (it fit in two really large aluminum trays). I used mild cheddar instead of sharp, and added Havarti cheese slices before cooking. Instead of panko, I used crushed up ritz type crackers for the top. (I also left out the garlic.) It was so creamy and awesome and I got so many compliments. Thanks so much. It was the first time I have ever made homemade mac n’ cheese!

  5. I love trying new recipes for just 2 my husband & I sometimes my family of 4 who live beside us! I’m really excited ???? to try your mac & cheese for Thanksgiving day! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! ???? ????????

  6. 4 stars
    This looks delish!! Would I be able to make ahead and bake it after I’ve had it in the refrigerator? I’m not sure of that will affect the outcome? Thanks!!

  7. I just came across this recipie I didn’t have macaroni noodles but I had penne so I used that it was so good lol

  8. 5 stars
    I’ve tried many recipes from online over the years, but this is the first time I felt the need to comment on one. Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dishes, but I’ve never been able to make a satisfying homemade one until now. This is definitely a recipe I will be making over and over again. Thank you for sharing such an amazing meal!

  9. Hello! Made this today and flavor was delicious but my husband felt like it had a little chalky texture to it. What did I do wrong? Also when should I add the garlic salt, I didn’t see it in the directions?

    1. You add it in step one. I just say salt, but it is the garlic salt 🙂 I am not sure about the chalky texture. I’m thinking it is not letting the sauce cook long enough, like Tara mentioned. Mix well 🙂

      1. You should maybe modify the recipe to say garlic salt. I missed this addition too because “add salt and pepper to taste” has a different meaning than “add a tablespoon of garlic salt”. I noticed my garlic salt left over at the end of the recipe and was disappointed i wasn’t prompted to use it. Hopefully it still has the great flavor everyone’s raving about!

  10. 5 stars
    Just made this for my group of picky eaters. My crew loved it! My pickiest eater just went back for seconds! I used 4cups preshredded cheese, cheddar and Colby jack because that’s what I had. So good! Keeping this recipe handy for future use! Easy to make too, as I’m a novice in the kitchen.

  11. Hello.
    Just to clarify.. I am a paranoid cooker.
    With your “Best Macaroni and Cheese”, you poor the cream sauce over the shredded cheese and then you mix them together in the pan???
    Please let me know. I would LoVe to make this for my family and for a meal I am taking to a family on Friday (4/16/18).

    Thank you for your time and for your yummy recipes.

  12. Come up with your own recipe it’s easy everyone has their own blend of cheeses to use and you really don’t have to use the flour mixture I don’t if you bake it the macaroni will absorb the liquid and become creamy anyway

  13. Tried the home made mac & cheese tonight. Let me tell you, I’m the only female in our 6 person household that includes a couple ridiculously picky eaters, & I can’t thank you enough for this recipe! Everyone loved it! Thanks again & keep ’em coming!

  14. I don’t believe the nutritional information is correct. It can’t possibly be 1600+ calories per serving, right?

  15. 4 stars
    We only used 4 cups of cheese as I as only putting in 2 cups at a time, 6 seems like way too much! Turned out great!

  16. 5 stars
    Very good recipe! Made this tonight for dinner. I used rotini instead of macaroni, I also just had garlic powder instead of garlic salt. Equally delicious.

  17. 5 stars
    I found this to be the best because you pour the sauce over the cheese unlike most recipes that tell you to add the cheese into the sauce. I found that doing it this way gives it a creamier consistency awesome technique thank you so much!

  18. 5 stars
    Love love love this recipe. I have a lot of vegans in the house so I substituted vegan cheese and vegan milk and my family loves it. My nieces say I make the best mac and cheese now 🙂

  19. 5 stars
    I’ve never liked mac and cheese from the box so my kids don’t get to eat it often. BUT this recipe is delicious and has become a regular favorite at my house. My kids and I thank you!

  20. 5 stars
    I made this for a barbecue open house for a friend and it was awesome! What makes this so creamy is making the roux (the flour and butter) keeps the cheese from separating. Also, I took 6 thick strips of bacon, crisped it up and mixed them with the Panko bread crumbs and sprinkled it on top before placing the whole dish in my Traeger Grill and smoked it rather than baking it in the oven. The smoke made it perfect for this barbecue party!

  21. 5 stars
    THANK YOU for this crazy easy and very YUMMY macncheese. Hate box macaroni, but love homemade, and this one has become my new favorite. I like to add 1 tsp of dried mustard but I know that’s not for everyone. BTW, I have frozen the leftovers and they warmed up great! 🙂

  22. 5 stars
    I made this mac n cheese In 2017 fOr thanksgivIng. It has been requested at every family gathering since then. So good and so easy! Travels well and reheats great!

  23. 5 stars
    If theres ever a favorite meal that our kids love it would be macaroni and cheese. Much better than the box version this recipe does not disAppoint. Easy and yummy!

  24. Hi! Im following the “make ahead” directions and have a quick question… When you say “make completely” does that include baking it Or Complete all the steps Except for baking and bake it the next day?

    Thank you!

  25. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for the recipe. This was my first time making Mac and cheese. The intructions were easy to follow and above all it was delicious. I Made on thanksgiving, and half of it was gone BeFore dinner time. Thank you again

  26. 5 stars
    I love good mac and cheese, I would add a little American cheese with the sharp cheddar cheese, and use “GARLIC POWDER” and NOT “GARLIC SALT”, too much salt is not good for you, especially people with blood pressure problems as myself.

  27. 5 stars
    I Made this last night for our minute to win it christmas party and it was a hit! Love it!! I was thinking of adding crab meat to it when i make it for Our christmas (7 fish) dinner!

  28. 5 stars
    This recipe is must when the kids are out of school- They absolutely love it! Great flavor and real cheese! Delicious

  29. 5 stars
    This is the only way I will eat mac & cheese, now! It is incredibly cheesy & I love the panko on top! I would have never thought about adding it, but now I can’t imagine it without it!

  30. 5 stars
    I was probably the only child ever who did not like boxed mac n cheese. I still wont eat it, but i do enjoy homemade mac n cheese. This is such a yummy and easy recipe. Also, thanks for all the tips.

  31. 5 stars
    made this yesterday for a family gathering it was a hit! Easy to follow directions. Very creamy and yummy!
    This was my first time making Mac and cheese from scratch and this recipe was simple and easy to follow. It turned out so creamy and cheesy everyone loved it. Thank you!

  32. 5 stars
    I have been searching for a long time for a good macaroni & cheese recipe. I made this for Easter dinner & I will no longer be searching for another Mac & cheese recipe! It was easy to make & the taste is fabulous!

  33. 5 stars
    I make mac n cheese often, almost for every event i go to where i bring a dish but also for my boyfriend who loves it. This is my go-to recipe because it is easy, cheesy and people go crazy for it! Its so rich and creamy. By far the best mac N cheese recipe ive tried!