This is an easy, creamy baked mac and cheese recipe made in minutes with just a few staple ingredients! Make the BEST baked macaroni and cheese with very little hands on time.

Homemade mac and cheese is the best! There’s just no comparison. Fortunately making it from scratch is quicker and easier than you think!

This classic dish is so versatile – there are so many ways to mix things up!

Baked macaroni and cheese in a white dish with a wooden spoon.
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Baked Mac and Cheese

For me, it’s the deliciously buttery crumb topping along with the silky texture of the pasta and cheese.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Make Ahead – This recipe is wonderful for holiday entertaining because it can be made ahead.
  • Crowd Pleaser – This one is a surefire success for your Thanksgiving table and all year long.
  • So Creamy – Once you make homemade baked mac and cheese, you’ll have a hard time ever going back to a box!
Baked macaroni and cheese in a white dish with a wooden spoon.

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Pasta – Use your favorite shape! Classic elbow noodles, corkscrew, cavatappi, fusilli or cellentani are all perfect for mac and cheese.
  • Butter – Salted or unsalted, your preference.
  • Garlic – Minced (bought in the produce section of your grocery store for a shortcut) or freshly minced garlic cloves.
  • Flour – All purpose flour to make the roux.
  • Milk and Heavy Cream – Evaporated milk can be substituted to provide creaminess without the fat.
  • Cheese – Learn how to grate cheese here. I like to use a combination of white cheddar and gruyere, but you can use Monterey jack, mozzarella, gouda, parmesan, and more.
  • Seasoning – Salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder.

Optional Topping

  • Panko – Fine bread crumbs toast to make a crunchy crumb topping.
  • Oil – Melted butter, olive oil or canola oil.
  • Parmesan – Fresh grated parmesan adds a hint of toasted cheesy flavor to the crumb topping.

Variations

  • Top with crushed Cheetos or Doritos just before serving – this is one of our kids’ favorite ways to enjoy mac and cheese! It’s unbelievably good!
  • Add Bacon – For our Bacon Mac and Cheese spin.
  • Add protein – ham cubes, prosciutto, bacon, sausage, ground beef, baked chicken and lobster all go well with mac and cheese!
  • Add veggies – caramelized onions, sautéed peppers, roasted mushrooms, the options are endless!

How to Make

  1. Prep – Preheat oven and grease baking dish.
  2. Boil Pasta – Slightly undercook noodles, drain and set aside.
  3. Optional Crumb Topping – In a small dish, combine panko, parmesan and oil.
  4. Make Sauce – Create a roux, add cream and bring to a low boil, remove from heat, fold in cheese, seasonings, and prepared pasta. Toss with sauce and top with optional panko mixture. mac and cheese on stovetop
  5. Bake – If you add the bread crumb topping, bake until bubbly and golden brown. Otherwise it’s ready to serve!
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Tips

  • Cheese is the main ingredient in this easy dish, so it’s important to let it shine. Use a block rather than pre-shredded for the creamiest mac and cheese. It yields a creamier consistency, guaranteed.
  • Slightly undercook pasta so noodles don’t tear when combining with cheese. You’ll especially want to undercook if you’re adding additional time in the oven!

Serving Suggestions

  • Garnish with herbs – thyme, parsley, chives and green onion are all great additions.
  • Serve in your casserole dish or dutch oven.
Delicious macaroni and cheese on a white plate, made using a baked mac and cheese recipe.

Make Ahead

To make this baked Mac and Cheese recipe ahead, prepare and instead of putting it in the oven, cover and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 3 months before baking. 

To reheat from frozen, thaw in the fridge and bake as directed.

Shortcuts

  • Make in a dutch oven for an easy one pot meal!
A deliciously baked macaroni and cheese dish, served in a white ceramic dish with a wooden spoon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is mac and cheese grainy?

Grainy mac and cheese is usually the result of adding cheese to a bubbly mixture, breaking emulsifiers and coagulants in cheese down.

Remove mixture from heat before folding in cheese. Add cheese slowly for best results. It can also be caused by using low quality or pre-shredded cheese.

What is the best cheese for mac and cheese?

Cheddar, gruyère, gouda, brie, goat cheese, parmesan, brie and even blue cheese!

How to Store

  • Room Temperature – Serve up to 2 hours.
  • Refrigerate – Store refrigerated in an airtight container up to three days. Add a touch of heavy cream or milk to reheat.
  • Freeze – Store in an airtight container in the freezer up to three months. Transfer to refrigerator to thaw before reheating.
Macaroni and cheese in a white dish, served with a wooden spoon.

What to Do with Leftovers

Dietary Considerations

  • Gluten Free – Omit bread crumbs and use gluten free pasta
  • Nut Free
  • Vegetarian
Baked macaroni and cheese on a white plate.

More Pasta Inspiration

mac and cheese piled on plate
5 from 42 votes

Baked Mac and Cheese

Creamy baked mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food! This easy recipe is great for dinner or as a crowd pleasing side dish! It's topped with crunchy, buttery breadcrumbs for irresistble texture and flavor!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 12
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Ingredients  

Pasta

  • 16 ounces pasta

Crumb Topping

  • cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter melted or olive oil or canola oil
  • ½ cup parmesan grated

Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese shredded
  • 2 cups gruyere shredded
  • teaspoons onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9×12 casserole dish.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta. Prepare noodles al dente. Drain, drizzle with oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine panko, butter or oil and parmesan. Set aside.
  • Melt butter in large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
  • Whisk in flour. Whisk continuously until golden, about 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk in milk and heavy cream until smooth. Whisk about 5 minutes.
  • Add onion powder, paprika and pepper.
  • Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in cheeses until smooth.
  • Fold in pasta. Stir until well combined. Transfer to casserole dish or bake in dutch oven.
  • Spread panko mixture evenly over the top.
  • Bake approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Tips

Make In a Slow Cooker

  1. Eliminate heavy cream and add 1 can evaporated milk.
  2. Whisk milk, flour and seasonings in a 5-6 quart slow cooker.
  3. Add uncooked pasta and 4 cups of shredded cheese.
  4. Cook on low until pasta is tender, approximately 3 to 4 hours.
  5. Cover and cook until cheese is thoroughly melted.

How to Store

  • Room Temperature – Don’t leave out more than two hours.
  • Refrigerate – Store in an airtight container up to three days refrigerated. Add a touch of heavy cream or milk to reheat.
  • Freeze – Store in an airtight container up to three months in the freezer. Transfer to refrigerator to thaw before reheating.
Calories: 679kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 26g | Cholesterol: 132mg | Sodium: 624mg | Potassium: 278mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1321IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 652mg | Iron: 1mg

Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.

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14 Comments

  1. I always purchase in a block and shred…the quality of cheese is higher and it isn’t as dry. I generally use Kraft or cheese purchased from Trader Joe’s.

  2. I’m curious to know which brand of cheese you use. I’ve found that they are NOT all created equally, lol!

  3. Julie…the recipe is on my bloggy home page under popular posts. 🙂
    Thepearsonfamilee.blogspot.com
    🙂

  4. Thank you…this looks divine. Next time I make homemade Boursin, this will be on the menu!! Happy 4th of July!!