Baked Mac and Cheese

12 Servings
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate classic side dish for any meal with three cheeses, perfect for the holidays and for BBQ’s!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese is a classic kid-approved Side Dish, perfect for any dinner.  Goes great with barbecue dishes like BBQ Pulled Chicken! Your family will also love Easy Corn Casserole (Just 5 Ingredients!) and Collard Greens for the perfect Southern style meal. 

People go crazy for a good macaroni and cheese. This baked version will be your favorite because it is comfort food at its finest. The cheese sauce with the sharp cheddar cheese and the freshly shredded cheese in the sauce, plus the use of pre-shredded cheese as a topping means you have the creamiest, best mac and cheese recipe that would make any Southern cook proud. 

Mac and cheese noodles used are traditionally called elbow macaroni due to their shape. The cheesy dish we know today is an adaptation of what is believed to have originally come from Europe. We have taken a good dish and have made it great with our recipe here! 

This recipe goes best with chicken recipes like Super Crispy Fried Chicken or Oven Fried Chicken alongside a good potato side like KFC Potato Wedges. If you’re having a barbecue, this recipe pairs well with BBQ Chicken Wings and Easy Cole SlawEasy Macaroni Salad and Baked Beans for your best summer cookout ever. Then serve an Easy Fruit Salad for dessert for a healthy option.

Honestly, Baked Mac and Cheese could probably go well with whatever dinner you’re having tonight. This recipe can also be adapted so many ways you’ll want to make it every week.

How to Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The process is surprisingly easy and everyone can do it at home.

  • Noodles are cooked until almost ready. 
  • Then the dry seasonings are whisked together (for best flavor, make sure to use powdered mustard, not a prepared mustard mix).
  • Milk is added to the bowl for the noodles to fully cook in. 
  • Next, an egg is added in a specific way. This helps to ensure the dish is the right consistency – not too thick and not too runny.
  • Right after that we’ll mix all the cheese together. 
  • Combine everything in the baking dish, 
  • Bake until ready and enjoy

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Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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. You still want to 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?

We highly recommend against it for anything but the topping. Pre-shredded cheese has added ingredients in it which help to prevent the cheese from sticking together. This also creates a less smooth and creamy texture to your macaroni and cheese.

Why do you rinse the pasta?

Rinse the pasta to remove the starchy coating that is in pasta water. You don’t need any help in thickening the cheese mixture. 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.

How Long do you Bake Mac and Cheese?

Baked 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.

Key Ingredients for Baked Mac and Cheese

  • Cheese: For the best taste, find a big block of the cheddar cheese, Monterey jack cheese, and whole mozzarella to shred at home.
  • Milk: The creamier the milk, the better the dish will be. It is important to note that this is not a recipe to substitute for goats milk, almond milk, or anything like that. Use cows milk!
  • Macaroni: The elbow macaroni is the most popular. This one holds the sauce really well.

Alternative Cooking Methods

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Variations for Baked Mac and Cheese

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?

  • Cheese: Feel free to swap out any of the cheeses with another creamy cheese like pepper jack cheese or gouda. Of course, any processed cheeses like Velveeta or American cheese are popular options as well to create a more creamy filling. Note: Adding a harder cheese like Parmesan as anything other than a topping will result in a grainier mac and cheese filling. 
  • Bacon: If you’re familiar with Dinner, then Dessert’s recipes, you won’t be surprised to see bacon as an option – Bacon Mac and Cheese has more directions on this.
  • Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese: 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 ½ 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.
  • Boston Market’s Version: This copycat version is made with different noodles and blue cheese for a fun flavor: Boston Market Mac and Cheese (Copycat).

Easy Baked Mac and Cheese scoop on spoon

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How to serve Baked Mac and Cheese

Serving Baked Mac and Cheese can be a fun way to delight your family and/or your guests. It can be served in a bowl as a side dish to the main course. You can also lightly oil a measuring cup, fill it with the mac and cheese,  flip it upside down on the plate, and serve it in the shape of a dome with room for other foods. 

Additionally, top it off with a sprinkling of crushed corn flaks. We also 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.

How to Store Baked Mac and Cheese

  • Serve: You can keep Baked Macaroni and Cheese out at room temperature for up to two hours.
  • Store: Cover Baked Mac and Cheese with cling wrap and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Freeze: You can keep Baked Mac and Cheese in the freezer for up to 3 months in a sealed container.

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Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate classic side dish for any meal with three cheeses, perfect for the holidays and for BBQ’s!
Yield 12 Servings
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 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 cheese
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar , divided


  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Shred the cheeses, keeping 2 cups of the cheddar off to the side for the topping.*
  • 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)
  • Add the butter to a large stockpot and melt on medium-low heat.
  • Add the flour, mustard, cayenne and paprika and whisk together until fully combined, cook for an additional 15 seconds.
  • Add the milk slowly while whisking to keep the mixture well combined.
  • Add in the salt and pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat.
  • 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.
  • Add the egg to the cooled milk and whisk it well until fully combined.
  • Turn the heat on the pot back on to medium-low.
  • Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture into the rest of the milk while whisking very well.**
  • Add in the Monterey jack, mozzarella and 1 cup of the sharp cheddar and whisk until combined.
  • Add the cooled macaroni back into the pot and toss with the cheese sauce.
  • Pour into a 9×13 baking dish and top with the remaining 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.



* 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 which can produce a texture that is not as creamy 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.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 485kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 734mg | Potassium: 302mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 990IU | Calcium: 473mg | Iron: 1.2mg
Baked Mac and Cheese

Photos used in a previous version of this post.

Baked Mac and Cheese Collage
Baked Mac and Cheese in baking dish
Baked Mac and Cheese in baking dish before baking
Baked Mac and Cheese collage
Cheesy Baked Mac and Cheese collage
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.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. This is that Mac n Cheese recipe I’ve been looking for. It reminds me of the recipe my Nana used to make: creamy and very cheesy. One point I wanted to make about it turning out grainy: take the pot off the heat and then add your cheeses. Most chefs will tell you to never, ever add cheese to a white sauce with the heat on beneath the pot. I have produced a grainy cheese sauce about 75% of the time if I added the cheese on the heat. Off the heat, it never turns grainy.

  2. Mine came out really runny. Looked nothing like yours. Followed the instructions. Did it twice to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Not sure what im doing wrong.

    1. Hello Chris, I’m sorry this recipe has been difficult for you. I’m not sure what’s happening here but the only thing I can think of is the time the mac and cheese have baked for. You say it’s runny, maybe it wasn’t fully done yet. I hope that’s the only problem and I hope it works out in the end.

      1. Hi, Sabrina. Had the same issue. The white sauce needs to thicken on the top of the stove before you add the shredded cheeses and cooked macaroni

  3. I was shocked, when I moved Idaho and someone made me this version of baked mac & cheese. Wasn’t bad, but reminded me of just mixing up good old Kraft Mac & Cheese and baking it.
    I don’t know where my family’s recipe comes from, but takes less time and I prefer it. Seem more of a treat. Especially if you’ve eaten a lot of Kraft. I’ll have to check it out. But haven’t made it for several years.

  4. This was my first time making Mac & Cheese for a holiday dinner and this has got to be the best baked Mac and cheese recipe on the internet! Thank you so much ?

  5. This is the best Mac and cheese I’ve ever had. It’s the only recipe I’ve ever reviewed on Pinterest before. I left a review a few months back, but I’m here again to say that, due to health issues, I’ve had to to gluten free. Needless to say I knew I needed this recipe in my life. I tweaked it to make it gluten free and it is just as delicious. Instead of flour, I used 6 Tablespoons of arrowroot powder. I used barilla gluten free elbow macaroni. Cooked it al dente according to the box. I made sure to add plenty of salt to the boiling water. Then rinsed well with cold water. Everyone enjoyed it, even the kids! Thanks again!

    1. Oh, wow! Thanks for the GF suggestions as I’m sure it’ll help other people. I’m so happy to know you love it so much!

      1. Hi Adam, there shouldn’t be any single pop-up ads on the site, I’ve disallowed them. If you can screen capture it for me and send it to contact @ dinner then dessert . com that would be helpful for me to track down any sort of rogue ad you’re seeing on the site. Thank you!