Baked Mac and Cheese

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Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate side dish for any meal made with three cheeses, this classic is perfect for the holidays and for summer cookouts!

We love a good summer side dish. This recipe pairs perfectly with our BBQ Pulled Chicken and Easy Cole SlawEasy Macaroni Salad and Baked Beans for your best summer cookout ever.

Baked Mac and Cheese Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

We LOVE a good macaroni and cheese. This baked version is our favorite though hands down because it is comfort food at its finest. The cheese sauce, the sharp cheddar cheese, the freshy shredded cheese in the sauce and the use of pre-shredded only as a topping means you have the creamiest, best mac and cheese recipe that would make a Southern cook proud.

What to serve with Mac and Cheese? Serve my Super Crispy Fried Chicken or Oven Fried Chicken and KFC Potato Wedges. Then serve an Easy Fruit Salad for dessert to feel healthy.

But really, it all comes back to this one. It’s easy, cheesy, creamy, and perfect for potlucks or bbqs or the holidays. This recipe can also be adapted so many ways you’ll want to make it every week.

How long do you bake mac and cheese:

Macaroni and Cheese is typically baked for 30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees when using an egg to help set the milk and cheese mixture. If you aren’t using an egg, additional cook time will be needed, from 45 minutes to up to an hour.

What are the best cheeses for Mac and Cheese? Sharp cheddar, jack cheese, pepper jack cheese, mozzarella and gouda are all top favorites. Adding a harder cheese like Parmesan as anything other than a topping will result in a grainier mac and cheese filling. Of course any processed cheeses like Velveeta or American cheese are popular options as well to create a more creamy filling.

Easy Baked Mac and Cheese

Frequently Asked Questions about Baked Mac and Cheese:

  • Do you Cover Baked Mac and Cheese with Foil? No, you don’t cover it with foil as it will steam the insides instead of giving it a baked texture.
  • What toppings can you put on baked mac and cheese? We love a good buttered panko or buttered ritz topping. Melt the butter in your skillet then toast the panko/ritz crackers in the melted butter until slightly toasted.
  • Can you skip adding the egg? Yes, if you would like you can certainly skip the egg, just either cook the milk mixture for an additional 5 minutes or bake the macaroni and cheese for an additional 15-20 minutes.
  • Can you skip the powdered mustard? Can you substitute regular mustard? I wouldn’t do either. Skipping the powdered mustard removes a dimension of flavor that you know but may not be able to single out and adding prepared mustard would be too strong of a flavor.
  • Can you eat this Baked Mac and Cheese without baking it? If you want to enjoy this without baking, leave the egg out. I’d still at least cover it with the remaining cheddar cheese and broil it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheddar. Also be prepared to cook the milk mixture an additional 6-8 minutes to account for the lack of baking.
  • Can I use pre-shredded cheese? I highly recommend against it for anything but the topping. Pre-shredded cheese has added ingredients in it which help to prevent the cheese from naturally sticking together. This also creates a less smooth and creamy texture to your macaroni and cheese.
  • Why do you rinse the pasta? I rinse the pasta in this recipe to remove the starchy coating that is in pasta water. We don’t need any help in thickening our cheese mixture. I also let the pasta cool because using hot pasta is like adding a sponge to your mixture. Freshly cooked pasta finished in sauce is generally so delicious because hot pasta likes to soak up any liquids it can.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

The first time you make this mac & cheese you should make it exactly as written in the recipe because that is the best homemade mac and cheese ever. Next time you want mac n cheese you can mix up the flavors and add in some new ingredients! You can even mix up the pasta shapes to keep things fresh. Who said elbow pasta has the market cornered on baked macaroni?

Additional Flavor Mix-In Ideas for Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe:

  • Bacon: This wouldn’t be my site if I didn’t immediately offer bacon as an option.
  • Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese: I use either fresh (for more of a punch) or pickled jalapeños, bacon, and 8 ounces cream cheese cut into larger cubes and dotted on top.
  • Tex Mex Mac and Cheese: Swap the mozzarella for pepper jack. Add in a can of diced chilis (4 ounces) and roasted corn. Also add 1/2 teaspoon more cayenne powder, 2 teaspoons cumin and 2 teaspoons chili powder.
  • Italian Mac and Cheese: Add in 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil and minced garlic (3 cloves) to the butter mixture in the beginning. Swap the sharp cheddar for white cheddar cheese and top with shredded Parmesan cheese in addition to the white cheddar cheese.

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

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Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

5 from 14 votes
  • Yield: 12 Servings
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Course: Side Dish
  • Cuisine: American
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate side dish for any meal made with three cheeses, this classic is perfect for the holidays and for summer cookouts!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons powdered mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 6 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces Monterey jack cheese
  • 4 ounces mozzarella
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar divided

Instructions

Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Shred the cheeses, keeping 2 cups of the cheddar off to the side for the topping.*
  3. Cook the pasta two minutes shy of the instructions, rinse and let cool. (We don't want the extra starch of the water making the mac and cheese too thick)
  4. Add the butter to a large stockpot and melt on medium-low heat.
  5. Add the flour, mustard, cayenne and paprika and whisk together until fully combined, cook for an additional 15 seconds.

  6. Add the milk slowly while whisking to keep the mixture well combined.
  7. Add in the salt and pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

  8. Turn off the heat.
  9. Remove 1 cup of the milk  mixture and let cool for a 3-5 minutes in the refrigerator in a larger glass measuring cup or bowl.

  10. Add the egg to the cooled milk and whisk it well until fully combined.
  11. Turn the heat on the pot back on to medium-low.
  12. Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture into the rest of the milk while whisking very well.**
  13. Add in the Monterey jack, mozzarella and 1 cup of the sharp cheddar and whisk until combined.
  14. Add the cooled macaroni back into the pot and toss with the cheese sauce.
  15. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and top with the remaining 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.
  16. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.

Recipe Notes

* I use blocks of cheese for my mac and cheese because shredded cheese is coated in a powder that prevents the cheese from sticking to each other. This also results in cheese that may not melt as fully and result in as creamy of a texture as we'd like.

** Removing the cup of milk, cooling, then adding in the egg allows for us to temper the egg which prevents it from immediately scrambling in the hot milk mixture.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 12 Servings, Amount per serving: 485 calories, Serving Size: 1 , Calories: 485g, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 21g, Fat: 27g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Cholesterol: 91mg, Sodium: 734mg, Potassium: 302mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 19.8g, Calcium: 47.3g, Iron: 6.5g

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Keyword: Baked Mac and Cheese
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Cheesy Baked Mac and Cheese

Baked Mac and Cheese
Easy Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

About the Author

Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

See more posts by Sabrina

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Comments

  1. Hi, I love your recipes. Mac and cheese is my comfort food. I grew up on mac and cheese and the way my mom made it was as follows: She used cheddar cheese, macaroni and tomatoes. I believe tomatoes as it gave it flavor so I and my whole family have been making it like she made it for years. If there was ever any left over we fried it and I absolutely loved it that way. Just saying.

  2. Ok, here I am again! Just wanted to add that I have my husband’s grandmother’s grater from the 1930’s that I plan to use to grate my cheese with. You wouldn’t believe how well it works to this day!!

  3. Ok, I am psyched to make this recipe. I have been making 2 types of mac/cheese for upwards of 40 years. One was my mom’s w/Velveeta (awesome but time consuming). The other from an in-law old woman in Mississippi & I still make it to this day! The quintessential baked macaroni all the people make in the south! It’s awesome but I am ready to try yours. I will write to you when I make it for our Easter family gathering. Wish me luck!!!

  4. This was delicious I used smoked mozzarella instead because it’s what I had on hand and my
    Whole house hold was upset that I didn’t cook enough for leftovers (I did but they finished it). I think the key is shredding your own cheese in baked Mac and Cheese.

  5. I agree that as written, recipe comes out WAY too runny/milky. I cooked my bechamel for at least 10 minutes, but stopped before it thickened properly even though I really knew better because I was unfamiliar with using an egg to thicken and thought it may have been intentional. What a waste of cheese and time. No way 6 cups of milk can thicken properly over med/lo heat in 5 minutes.

  6. This baked Mac and Cheese recipe was delicious!!! It was very similar to my own recipe except I wanted to try something different this year. I found this one and followed it exactly except I sautéed 1/2 cup chopped onion in the butter before adding the flour. My recipe only uses salt, pepper, ground mustard and sharp cheddar and jack cheeses but the addition of the cayenne pepper, paprika and mozzarella cheese really deepened the flavor. Oh my my my, scrumptious! This is now my new way of making baked Mac and cheese!

    1. I haven’t tested it but I’m sure you could. It would be a little thicker but still taste amazing. If you decide to use milk, I used 2% but it doesn’t really matter if it’s whole, low fat, etc.

      1. I made and tasted this MAC and Cheese and only deviated by adding a little garlic powder and a squeeze of mustard and it was awesome!! The flavor and everything Sabrina said as far as amount to use was on point. I did cook everything one at a time (didn’t separate some of the milk mix in order to add the egg) slowly adding the egg after the milk milk was stirred in then added the cheese. The sauce was amazing. Thank you for this recipe as I’ve save it…

    1. I try to make it the same day so keeps the noodles from soaking in all the liquid but I understand having to juggle many dishes, especially during the holidays. You could probably prep it the day before and bake it the next day. Save topping it with cheese until right before baking.

  7. I also followed to a T and it’s way too liquidy. I had to drain a good amount of sauce . Hoping it will thicken after it cools.

  8. Made this and it was amazing ! Very creamy and perfect. .Didnt have mozzarella so threw in some Parmesan and it was still great. Thanks for a great recipe.Saving this one for sure.?

      1. Oh, no, the cayenne overpowered it for you? I’m so sorry to hear that. I try to play it pretty safe with heat levels but I know people have different tolerances for spice. Reheat it with some cream or whole milk and cheese and stir until its the right consistency. A tiny bit of sugar will also help (work in pinch quantities, you don’t want it to taste sweet, just less heat). My apologies for the trouble.

  9. First time making this recipe and I doubled it! Well most things. I used only 6 cups of milk for the bechamel and subbed 6oz of the sharp cheddar for extra sharp (because I like a saltier Mac). It turned out delicious! I will say, if you aren’t familiar with the consistency of a bechamel (the butter, flour,spices, milk mixture) it should thicken and if it doesnt within the 5 minute time frame turn the heat up a little or cook it longer. I ended up cooking mine for about 15 minutes on medium heat whisking constantly until it was thick and creamy.

    Overall this is a great traditional tasting mac and cheese, I have no doubts it will charm the bbq crowd I am bringing it to! I think next time I will add maple bacon to it! Yum!

  10. I am literally making this right now! One modification im going to try is saving that beautiful pasta water and let it boil down slightly and substitute 1/2 c to 1c of the milf and flour with it. My hope is that it acts just like a thickener too. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

  11. Question: when I use a bechamel I always cook the flour, butter, and milk mixture for at least 15 minutes or until it thickens. Your recipe calls for 5 minutes. At this point, should the mixture be thickened or do we just stay with the 5 minutes and go from there?

  12. I have to make a vegetarian casserole for 20 people for my daughter’s dance team tomorrow night. I think I am going to try this and just double the recipe!

    1. I haven’t tried it yet but I wouldn’t think it would make a difference. I’d love to know how it turns out if you decide to try!

  13. I am looking for a mac & cheese recipe that freezes well with hopefully the same results as baked fresh. Does this recipe qualify?

    1. I wouldn’t recommend it. The pasta will continue soaking up the liquid as it freezes and it’ll become dry. If you’re going to try, you’ll have to increase the liquid in it before freezing. Good luck!

  14. I tried this and ended up with a crazy amount of the sauce. I ended up leaving most out. What did I do wrong? I put the 6 cups of milk and it was just way too much!

    1. Hey Tamara let’s troubleshoot. Did you use the same amount of pasta and the same size pan? I’ve tested it three times with the 6 cups and didn’t have an issue, but if you followed the directions closely and had a problem, maybe we should decrease to 4 cups milk.

      1. I had this same problem – doubled this recipe, so I used 12 cups of milk. Ended up pulling 4 cups of the sauce out before cooking because the noodles were drowning in it. It’s baking now. I hope it turns out ok and I didn’t just waste 2 hours of my time an $30

      1. When you say “cup” do you mean 4oz instead of 8oz? Because your recipe calls for 12oz of cheddar, but refers to them as 3 “cups.” That would mean your 6 cups of milk is actually 24oz instead of 48oz… Could explain this problem… I’m going to try halving everything than says “cups” to see what happens.

  15. This is a really good recipe, especially for those that love cheesy goodness. I added a pinch more mustard and cayenne pepper. The flavor and consistency is perfect, although a little rich but to be expected using three cheeses.

  16. Yum! I need to try this recipe soon! Thank you for providing the extra information for the recipe. I often wonder about covering/not covering, omissions etc with most recipes and you answered them all for me already 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Is this a serious comment? Aside from the headers in each section, there is literally one word that’s in all caps. Even if the whole thing was written in caps, how does that impact the recipes? This genuinely confuses me.

      Sabrina, you can type however you want, I will still make your recipes, because they are DELICIOUS! ( <– see what I did there? :-P)

  17. I’ve tried similar recipes and the cheese always separates and becomes oily and gritty regardless of I take the chz off the heat or not. Any suggestions?

    1. The trick to not having that happen is shredding your own cheese. Packaged shredded cheese has ingredients added which doesn’t really allow it to stick and becomes gritty instead of smooth. Hope this helps!