Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese is the perfect homemade holiday side dish with no processed cheese, ready on the stovetop in 30 minutes!
This easy Side Dish Recipe is perfect for your holiday feast alongside classics like Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, and fluffy, Easy Dinner Rolls.
Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese without any processed or American cheese is the homemade macaroni dish you can feel great about feeding to your family. Finding the right mixture of ingredients has always been a battle when it comes to working without processed ingredients, and this favorite recipe finally gets it right without compromising the creaminess.
You want to feed your family the delicious, comforting food you loved as a kid, but you know that those pre-packaged favorites are full of sodium and preservatives. You’re left scratching your head wondering how to turn all those foods into the perfect food memory without the actual ingredients used.
This recipe is the result of many trials to replicate that creamy, full flavored macaroni and cheese that your mom probably served piping hot from the microwave. We found something that has all the flavor and creaminess you’d expect but without the use of the easy melting processed cheese products. Best of all, this homemade Mac and Cheese recipe is ready on the stovetop in just 30 minutes start to finish.
Try serving this Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese at your next cookout or potluck with other classic BBQ sides like Coleslaw, Baked Beans, and Cornbread.
How to Make Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
- In a blender add the cottage cheese, half and half, dry mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together until the mixture is completely smooth.
- In a large pot (the one you drained the pasta in, don’t rinse the pan before adding the ingredients), add the unsalted butter, cheddar cheese, milk and cooked pasta.
- Stir together until the butter is fully melted, then add in the cottage cheese mixture.
- On a very low heat simmer the pasta a few minutes until it is as thick and creamy as you like, then serve immediately.
More Mac and Cheese Recipes
Frequently Asked Questions
Whole milk and half and half are hugely important here. The milk is carrying this Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese on it’s back and absorbing the starch of the pasta as well as the minimal amounts of spices that are added. The important thing to keep a note of when it comes to keeping this recipe creamy is FAT. I know how much you would love it if I could tell you all that this recipe is a healthier creamy option. I can’t because science won’t allow me to keep the creaminess with natural products unless fat comes into play. So no low-fat products here, if you use them it will alter the texture.
If you are sodium sensitive feel free to halve or omit the salt, I am going for rich, indulgent Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese and that means a full bodied flavor. I have had clients who were averse to salt have me make this for them and the natural sodium in the dairy was plenty for them.
You can replace the elbow noodles with gluten free macaroni noodles to make this Macaroni and Cheese recipe friendly for a gluten-free diet. You’ll want to cook the gluten free noodles until just al dente before following the rest of the macaroni directions.
Mustard powder has natural compounds that helps to emulsify the ingredients in high fat recipes. This means it makes the oils in the cheese become creamy instead of greasy when it melts, which is why dry mustard is the perfect addition to Macaroni and Cheese sauce. It also has a very subtle acidic flavor that gives a tangy balance to the rich and creamy dish without being noticeable, and the bright yellow color enhances the cheesy macaroni.
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Key Ingredients in Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
- Cheese: A whole pound of sharp cheddar cheese is melted into the creamy sauce to give your Creamy Stovetop Macaroni its rich, cheesy flavor. Purchase good quality blocks of cheddar cheese and grate it yourself. Pre-shredded cheeses often have additives like cellulose to keep it from clumping, which can make a creamy sauce like this taste grainy.
- Dairy: There’s another unexpected type of cheese snuck into this dish: cottage cheese. By blending the cottage cheese with half and half, you’ll have the base of your Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese sauce with just the right balance of mild and creamy to go along with the sharp cheddar. Unsalted butter and whole milk also help make the delicious pasta dish super creamy. Use full fat ingredients for the best flavor and texture.
- Pasta: Classic elbow macaroni noodles are perfect for holding onto all that creamy cheese sauce. Cook the pasta noodles three minutes less than the package instructions, because you will finish cooking the pasta with cheese sauce on the stove.
- Seasonings: Your guests won’t know what surprising seasonings you’ve added to your Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese in addition to salt and white pepper. A pinch of nutmeg and cayenne pepper will add a subtle layer of flavor that brings out the sweet and tangy flavors of the other ingredients. Finally, a teaspoon dry mustard helps to bring your homemade cheese sauce together.
Variations on Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
- Cheese: Swap all or half of the grated cheddar for your favorite shredded cheese like Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Gouda, Colby Jack, Gruyere, Swiss, or Fontina. You can also sprinkle in small amounts of stronger flavored gourmet cheeses like blue cheese, Parmesan, or smoked gouda. We suggest to use real cheese instead of processed products like Velveeta Cheese or American cheese, although you can certainly use a mixture of anything that you’d enjoy!
- Meat: Take the flavor to the next level by mixing in crumbled bacon, Italian sausage, lump crab, diced grilled chicken, or ground taco or hamburger beef.
- Vegetables: Stir in cooked green peas, wilted spinach, diced red bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, or sautéed mushrooms for a yummy side dish that adds nutrition and color to your plate.
- Pasta: Instead of elbow macaroni, use your favorite short pasta noodles like penne, rigatoni, fusilli, rotini, or farfalle bowtie noodles.
- Baked Macaroni and Cheese: If the idea of a slightly less creamy, but amazing golden crust option sounds good to you, add it all to a casserole dish, cover with an additional half cup of cheddar cheese and bake for 15-18 minutes.
- Crunchy Topping: For an extra crunchy topping, serve Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese in a baking dish with a toasted bread crumb topping. In a pan with 2 tablespoons melted butter, toast regular or panko bread crumbs until fragrant and browned and sprinkle over finished Macaroni & Cheese.
- Seasonings: Kick up the flavor by adding in your favorite spices or seasonings like garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, thyme, onion powder, truffle powder, or hot sauce.
Tools Used to Make Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Blendtec Blender: This blender can be used for everything, and it is a total workhorse. Everything is creamy coming out of it. If you have a blender that gives you super creamy smoothies then skip this, if you have one that leaves things a bit grainy, then let the blender keep working longer until you get your ingredients as creamy as possible.
What to Serve with Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
How to Store Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
- Serve: Do not leave Macaroni & Cheese at room temperature for longer than 2 hours before refrigerating.
- Store: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat gently on the stove, adding additional milk if needed to loosen the homemade cheese sauce.
- Freeze: Freeze Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese in an airtight freezer safe plastic bag for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- 1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 pinch cayenne
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup whole milk (not 2%, 1% or skim)
- 1 pound sharp cheddar , do not buy pre-grated, the additive will make pasta grainy
- 1 pound elbow pasta , cooked three minutes shy of the directions on the box but don’t rinse the pasta or the pan
- parsley for garnish , optional
- In a blender add the cottage cheese, half and half, dry mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together until the mixture is completely smooth (even if you think it is smooth, give it an extra 15 seconds, you want it smooth or your pasta will taste grainy).
- In a large pot (the one you drained the pasta in, don’t rinse the pan before adding the ingredients), add the butter, cheddar cheese, milk and pasta.
- Stir together until the butter is fully melted, then add in the cottage cheese mixture.
- On a very low heat simmer the pasta a few minutes (I would say no more than 5) until it is as thick and creamy as you like, then serve immediately.
- Leftovers won’t be as creamy since the pasta will soak up liquids as it sits.
Photos used in a previous version of this post.
“In a large pot (the one you drained the pasta in, don’t rinse the pan before adding the ingredients), add the butter, cheddar cheese, milk and pasta.”
I don’t understand this statement. Are you saying that when you drain the cooked pasta in the large pot you then leave the drained liquid in the pot and continue?
Sorry for the confusion James. You drain the liquid from the pot. Without washing the pot, add the butter, cheddar cheese, milk and pasta.
Looks good I would like to try it
Would love to see more cheese and hamburger recipes
Wasn’t what I expected. Won’t be making it again
So sorry you didn’t enjoy it! Hopefully there’s something else you’d try and enjoy!
My toddlers and husband loved it. I steamed broccoli florets in the microwave and it made the best mix-in. I can’t believe something so delicious is so fast to prepare. Thank you for another favorite!
The cottage cheese you’re calling for is it the creamed cottage cheese or the the uncreamed and what % butter butter fat.
Could ricotta be substituted for the cottage cheese?
This recipe looks great! Excited to try it. Question though – cottage cheese makes me wanna barf ? Can I substitute full fat Greek yogurt? I have that on hand already. I also have cream cheese and sour cream, but the textures are different
I haven’t tested it but that’s usually a good substitute. If you decide to try, I’d love to know how it turns out.
It looks just like Mac & Cheese box.
I made this for my girls tonight, best recipe I’ve used! I didn’t have half and half so I substituted heavy whipping cream. It mixed in to the butter, cheese and milk so thick, creamy and easy. I didn’t need to simmer long at all! Very very good! Thank you!
Perfect substitution! So glad you all enjoyed it.
Sabrina: I do not own a blender. Can I substitute with a food processor??
I don’t think it would be able to get it as smooth as you need it to be, sorry.
The directions don’t mention cubing or crumbling the cheddar, so do you put the whole block in the pot with the butter, milk, and pasta?
You want to grate the cheese. Hope this helps! Let me know how it turns out 🙂
Ahhh, thanks! Maybe that should be included in the directions because it sounds like the reviewer Kelli also was confused about adding the cheddar. I made the recipe and my family liked it. I did not taste it since I do not like cheese.
I will try to update if it will let me! Thanks for the feedback and glad your family liked it 🙂
Help. I’m so frustrated I want to cry. The cheddar cheese mixture was melted until I added in the cottage cheese mixture, now it looks like slime and won’t stop sticking to the fork as I stir it. I’m getting a soupy mess with orange goop. I followed the directions with whole milk, block cheese etc. I just don’t understand how you get this to be creamy. And in 5 mins? ?
So sorry to hear that it didn’t work out for you and that I didn’t see this until today! You can always email me at contact @ dinnerthendessert .com and we can troubleshoot and see what went wrong. The 5 minutes is about what it takes once you add the cottage cheese but sometimes it make take a little longer.
I’m a little confused- I add in the unmelted cheese at the same time as I add the pasta? How does that take only 5 mins to become creamy?
Am making this recipe for second time tonight as it was a big hit. The main change I made was to omit cayenne and nutmeg, instead adding a generous helping of chopped Hatch chilies (grilled/broiled, peeled and seeded). The Hatch chilies add a nice subtle kick of flavor.
What a great addition, especially during Hatch chilies season! Thanks for sharing.
I made this exactly the way recipe calls for. Once I had everything mixed together the sauce was (like soup) but we planned on putting it in the smoker. I poured into baking dish and placed in smoker for 30 minutes. Came out perfect. It was for work party and everyone absolutely loved it! The sauce thickened with the heat from smoker and I couldn’t of asked for a more perfect consistency.
Using the smoker sounds like an easy way to add a ton of flavor! Happy to hear it came out so well!
Excellent! Not too runny at all. Just didn’t use all the cheese mixture and added a little more Cheddar. Perfect. Will definitely make again!
Thanks for the 5 star rating Carol. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
I won our annual Mac N’ Cheese cook off with this recipe. Served it hot creamy fresh topped with a few toasted sunflower seeds, a dash of radish micro greens and a drizzle of sriracha.
No matter how smooth you sauce starts out, it only takes 15 minutes before it starts turning grainy
Did you use bagged pre-shredded cheese or grate your own? That does make a difference.
Just made it and it was delicious! I heated up the cheese sauce nice and slow then turned up the heat a tad as it looked a little soupy. I added the cooked noodles once I thought the cheese sauce was a good consistency. As I let my bowl cool a little, the cheese sauce thickened up perfectly! My son commented that this is better than the roux version. Thank you very much for sharing this recipe!!!
I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it! Thanks for coming back to let me know!
I had the same problem with the over liquidity nature. One step that may need clarification is if you boil the pasta ahead of time. I had to assume to boil it and drain it. I followed the recipe exactly and cook all the time. It was the perfect consistency until I added the cottage cheese and half and half mixture. Possibly drain the cottage cheese?
I’ve tested this many times with no issue. Sounds like maybe you needed to let it cook a bit longer to thicken up. Hope this helps for next time.
My first time making Mac and cheese. Totally messed up and added the milk to the cottage cheese mix. Then I had preshredded cheese and saw they had added potato starch to stop it from sticking, so I washed the cheese. ? I had some Velveeta so when I mixed it all it came out SUPER. Great recipe!
So glad you were able to save it! Thanks for coming back to let me know how much you enjoyed it.
Made this and it’s the best homemade Mac n cheese I’ve personally ever made. My family thought it was tasty. Thanks for the recipe. Definitely make again.
You’re welcome, Josh!
Made it just now to accompany Christmas dinner. I only had heavy whipping cream as opposed to half n half. Worked out fine and maybe even helped with thickness. Add everything slowly and allow to melt before adding more. That seems to be the trick. I upped the seasoning as I went and used some smoked Gouda along with sharp cheddar. Very good and easy recipe! Did I mention it was my first time ever making Mac n cheese? A+
Well done!! Thanks for dropping by to let me know! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
This was such a hit at thanksgiving and I’m looking forward to making it again for Xmas! SO easy 🙂 I love all your recipes, Sabrina, I’ve never made one that wasn’t a crowd pleaser. Happy Holidays!
Thanks so much, Renee! Happy holidays to you too!
So creamy and delicious!!!
Hi Sabrina! I’m thinking of making this for the kids to have an extra side on Thanksgiving. If I prepare it ahead with the cheese on top to reheat/bake in the oven, do you think that would work? I’m concerned about the sauce separating when reheated because I tend to experience that with creamy pastas. Let me know if you have any tips!
Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to recreate or find a mac and cheese recipe that works with making it ahead. The noodles always end up soaking up all of the sauce and it comes out dry. Sorry.
As always, your recipe is easy, delicious, and impresses a crowd! Thanks for another hit! I
Just a question. I want to make this for thanksgiving dinner. How long will it stay creamy? I don’t want to take it to my brothers house and have it end up being hard.
I wouldn’t let it sit for too long because the longer it sits the more the noodles will soak up the liquid. Make sure to give it a good stir before serving.
I like very creamy macaroni and cheese. Recently I read the key is making on stove top and not baking it. Can I use your recipe but make on the stovetop?
This is a stove top version. Enjoy!
I just made this tonight for a family our family of 5. As others mentioned, mine came out soupy. I stirred in the milk very slowly and simmered for 5 minutes. I really liked the flavor and the soupy thing wasnt a big deal and something I think I can fix next time by adding less milk. The thing that bothered me was that it still tasted grainy. I have an awesome blender and the cottage cheese mixture was completely smooth so I think the graininess came from the cheese mixture. I hand grated the cheese, it wasnt pre grated. Bummer. With that being said, it was still really good and I appreciate the recipe!
This sounds delicious. How would you recommend adjusting this so that I can make it in a larger quantity for a holiday party?
In the recipe box, you are able to adjust the serving size up or down to fit your needs. It’ll adjust the ingredients for you as well. Hope this helps!
Total failure! Its like the cheese disappeared and left soup behind. I think Ill try a recipe for cheese sauce that is complete before adding to the noodles.
So sorry to hear that it didn’t work out for you. You can always email me at contact @ dinnerthendessert .com and we can troubleshoot and see what went wrong.
I just made this and, oh my goodness, it’s so SO good! I even used pre-grated cheddar and it turned out! This is my new go-to mac & cheese recipe. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I just finished making this for the second time to improve on the first time.FIRST TIME: I prepared per instructions up until the “On a very low heat simmer the pasta a few minutes (I would say no more than 5) until it is as thick and creamy as you like, then serve immediately.”First, very low simmer did not work for me at all – had heat to Medium to get a simmer.Very deceiving to gauge thickness. Simmered at least 10 minutes to get consistency I wanted, then with noodles in so long, they became too soft. I’ve been searching high and low for a creamy mac ‘n cheese I can make in bulk and in advance. That’s predominantly how this first attempt was consumed – reheated in microwave and topped with some grated parmesan cheese. Perfect for packed lunch or quick snack.Note on recipe: 1) does not specifically say to shred cheese 2) the “pinches” of cayenne and nutmeg I first used were too small to even taste (I prefer measurements)SECOND TIME: I doubled the recipe (again primarily for reheating). I increased the size of my “pinches” – probably about 1/4 teaspoon and used 3 pinches instead of 2. [If I make again as double batch I would use 3x cayenne and 2x nutmeg]SIGNIFICANT CHANGE TO PREP to try to manage thickness and not overcook pasta:I DID NOT add pasta to cheese mixture initially. Still did cheese sauce in two steps (melting butter, cheese, milk) then added cottage cheese mixture. Simmered on Medium for about 10 minutes. Turned off heat (gas stove) then folded in cooked macaroni. Much better outcome to serve as warm than first attempt (still like adding the grated parmesan for texture and taste). Confident it will reheat well, too, as the last batch did.My one negative on the recipe is the amount of clean up with various tools needed for prep (also why I doubled the batch – too much effort/clean-up for one batch).Worth the effort for a make-ahead bulk comfort food, side dish or quick hunger-satisfying snack.
I cooked this recipe with your suggestions…It was yummy but still couldn’t get it to thicken up without adding a TBS of corn starch.
Made this for dinner. It was a super hit with my family.
Yay! So glad everyone enjoyed it!
Thank you for the recipe! My husband loves macaroni and cheese but other from scratch recipes I tried where not nearly as creamy. I love that it is free of processed ingredients. Definitely will be making this again when I want to show my hubby some love via food ?
My kids loved this and they’re very picky with Mac and cheese! I was on the phone so I made some mistakes but they turned out well 🙂 I accidently added heavy whipping cream instead of half and half. I didn’t have dry mustard so I left that out. I forgot to add the milk and it ended up turning out perfectly for our tastes. Thank you so much!
Thanks for dropping by to let me know! I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it!
I had the same issue as some previous comments mention of it turning out like soup! I shaved 1 head of broccoli to make it broccoli mac and it looks like broccoli noodle soup. Next time I would modify and use 1/2c of half & half and 1/2c of milk. Other than having to eat it like soup the flavor is delicious!! I was surprised at how how great a flavor the cottage cheese mixture gave it.
That does sound delicious! Next time, you may just need to simmer it longer to allow it to thicken more. So glad you still enjoyed it though. 🙂
Great recipe for a rich and creamy Mac n cheese without flour. Slow. Summer is what is needed to get this creamy but it did happen ! Only recommendation is use a non stick pot ..Thank you
So glad you enjoyed it Patty!
Just made this and tasted delicious, but you most certainly need to simmer…full simmer on low heat (took a while to get to this point) after adding milk and cottage cheese mix. Then simmer at least 5 minutes.. mine was finally thick and creamy…. low and slow ?
make sure you grate the cheese! i just cut it up and it took ages to melt. super tasty though!
This recipe is excellent! I’ve made it 3x now and each time I change up the cheeses to get different flavors. The favorite thus far has been Colby jack, medium cheddar, and sharp cheddar. My family LOVES this. I think maybe everyone is eating the Mac and cheese too fast or something. Because mine is never runny or soup like. Other than the cheese I follow the recipe to the letter. Thanks for a wonderful dish!
I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it! Thanks for coming back to let me know!
My cheese didn’t cream in like I thought it would. I didn’t use pre graded cheese either. Any suggestions?
So sorry it didn’t cream up as expected. My suggestion would be to add the milk very slowly next time and whisk it really well. Also add the cheese in a little bit at a time to ensure it stays a creamy mixture. Hope this helps!
I made this recipe, and I don’t know what I did wrong either, but similarly to other users who have tried to make this recipe, the cheese part of the macaroni and cheese came out really soupy, curdled, and gross. I was trying to find a good alternative to roux that doesn’t use flour, but this recipe is not it.
If you decide to try again, try pouring in the milk very slowly and whisk it really well. Also adding the cheese, little by little at a time might help with it staying smooth. So sorry it didn’t turn out the first try.
I don’t like to use any kind of low fat products anyway. I am all about full fat cheese and other dairy products. Fat IS healthy for you! What isn’t are the things that are added to foods to make them taste good once those fats are removed. So while this may not be a health food, a small portion as a side dish won’t hurt 🙂 I will definitely be making and will comment when I do 🙂
I couldn’t agree more! Looking forward to your review 🙂
Can you sub out the cottage cheese with a different cheese?
What did you have in mind? I suppose you could use a ricotta? Cream cheese would change the taste a bit more than I would like.
I made this for Christmas and had the same problem that Jennifer commented about: it never thickened up. Are you sure you make it with only 8 oz. of macaroni. I added 8 additional ounces of macaroni and it was perfect. It was delicious and reheated well too.
Yes! I actually made the recipe again this weekend and added in more and more of the pasta and at the whole pound it was still creamy and delicious. I updated the recipe, thanks so much for commenting on it too!
What is half and half??
You’ll find it in the dairy or cream section (usually by the milk). It’s a simple blend of equal parts whole milk and light cream. It’s heavier than milk but lighter than a cream.
Maybe I just did it wrong, but there was way too much milk.
How long did you let it cook? You can let it thicken to your tastes as it cooks.
I don’t know what I did wrong but my finished product came out like soup. I followed the recipe to a T. Time to order pizza
Sorry this comment took so long to get to, it ended up in my spam filter somehow! Like a full on soup? Can you email me to trouble shoot? I’ve never had it be anywhere that liquidy. You certainly simmer until it thicken a bit but it should at no point look too soupy.
Are the directions incomplete? When do you add the blended cottage cheese mixture to the pasta? Thank you!
yikes! It is updated now, thank you so much for pointing that out. I even read the directions multiple times on different days to make sure they make sense and somehow that escaped me. I think I need to go back to having my husband review the directions. He doesn’t cook so if anything doesn’t make 100% perfect sense it hits him right away!
Loving this version. For sure it looks super creamy and superb.
This looks super rich and creamy. The ultimate comfort food!
Holy moly, that does look super creamy and I’m drooling over this! I’ve never added cottage cheese to it before, what a great idea!
I can’t get over how creamy this looks!
I love that you used cottage cheese in this mac ‘n cheese! I would have never thought of that, but it sounds incredible! Seriously. YUM. I cannot wait to make this for my family!
Cheesy comfort doesn’t get much better than this!
It’s crazy how some people want food that tastes like it came from a box! This mac and cheese though…I want a bowl full of this!
Hi Amy, It’s not that we want it to tasye like it’s from a box. I have this same issue, sometimes I don’t want baked Mac n Cheese… I want a creamy cheesy Mac n cheese, kind of saucy. The best way to describe it is the box mix.