Baked Mac and Cheese

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!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese is a classic kid-approved Side Dish, perfect for any dinner.  Goes great with barbecue dishes like BBQ Pulled Chicken!

Baked Mac and Cheese in baking dish
Baked Mac and Cheese

People go crazy for a good macaroni and cheese. This baked version will be your favorite though hands down because it is comfort food at its finest. The cheese sauce, the sharp cheddar cheese, the freshly 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 any Southern cook proud.

What to serve with Mac and Cheese?

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 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.

Perfect Holiday Main Courses to Serve with Baked Mac and Cheese

Easy Baked Mac and Cheese scoop on spoon

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: If you’re familiar with Dinner, then Dessert’s recipes, you won’t be surprised to see bacon as the first mix in option – Bacon Mac and Cheese has more directions on this.
  • 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.



  • 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.

Baked Mac and Cheese in baking dish before baking

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Baked Mac and Cheese
4.92 from 23 votes

Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

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!
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword Baked Mac and Cheese
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 12 Servings
Calories 485 kcal
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


  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 Facts
Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 485 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Fat 27g42%
Saturated Fat 16g100%
Cholesterol 91mg30%
Sodium 734mg32%
Potassium 302mg9%
Carbohydrates 38g13%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 21g42%
Vitamin A 990IU20%
Calcium 473mg47%
Iron 1.2mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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.

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 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 ?

  2. 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!

  3. So it’s around noon on Turkey Day 2020. My neighbors INSISTED that I make this AGAIN for our dinner. They LOVE it!! I tried an “easier” recipe a few months ago, but they were underwhelmed, so…

    I don’t think you answered Arlissa’s question (below) about making ahead and baking the next day, Sabrina. So can it be completely assembled (with the cooked sauce and pasta) the day before and then just popped into the oven?

    Thanks for this great recipe. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Wow thank you for the kind review Christine! No, I would not add the liquid and store overnight because the pasta will soak it all up. Pasta is notorious for it. You *could* make the pasta, toss with a bit of oil and store in a ziplock bag. Then make the sauce and store separately. Add both to a bowl and toss well (this helps remove some of the oil coating on the pasta) and add to your baking dish. If the sauce is too firm, thin with 1/2 cup of milk on medium heat in a saucepan. Then add to baking dish and bake as directed. You may need an additional 5-10 minutes to account for the chilled ingredients. Happy Thanksgiving!

      1. Happy Day After Thanksgiving, Sabrina! I am amazed that you replied yesterday, of all days. Wow! I didn’t check back until just now. Thank you for that info and the detailed steps. It’s a fairly time-consuming dish, but so very worth all the time and attention.

        I wanted to add for the so many folks who think the amount of milk is *wrong,* the sauce comes out absolutely PERFECT per the recipe. If your heat isn’t high enough (perhaps a solid medium, rather than med-low), you may need to keep it on the heat around 15mins, but if you turn it up to med or a tad higher, it will thicken to a beautiful velvety consistency in about 10mins. (If it takes 15mins+, don’t panic. It will still thicken!) You MUST allow it to thicken before proceeding. And whisk frequently. It absolutely WILL thicken! Keep the faith!

        Thanksgiving 2020 has come and gone. Now for days of glorious leftovers… 🙂

        1. You are so kind! I thought it would be a positive and helpful thing to be here for folks on such an important cooking day. We were home having a quiet night so we watched movies and the kids ate way too much dessert. I kept the comments handy to pop in and answer as they came up. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Happy holidays!

    1. Yes, though you want to let the sauce cool for about 30 minutes before mixing it with the pasta (it should be just warm to the touch) otherwise the pasta will lose it’s texture. Hope this helps. Enjoy!

  4. Made a double batch of this for back-to-back gatherings this weekend, and From other comments I was worried about adding 2x the milk (12 cups), but I stirred a little longer on med heat and am so happy with how it turned out. My guests were raving!

  5. Okay, So I made this last year for our potluck and it was perfect. The best recipe ever and loved by everyone at my work. So of course I wanted to make it again for my daughter’s nursing school potluck. Like last time, I followed the directions but unlike last time it came out not only very running, but once it did thicken it was grainy/chunky. I was wondering if you may know if it was maybe cooked wrong or are some cheeses just poor quality? Though I just love cooking but not by any means a chef I am hoping someone may know what causes this? I really want to make this again for Christmas but scared to death of messing it up again! 🙁 Btw, I never use shredded cheese. Always blocks that I do myself. 😉

    1. That does sound like it might be a cheese issue. Did you use the same brand of cheese blocks you usually do? If not, go back to your original brand and you should be ok. Good luck!

  6. I never ever leave ratings or comments on recipes, but this…THIS IS AMAZING! The absolute best BEST Mac and Cheese ever. Every time I make it people rave about it. I have people request me to specifically make this and bring it to parties, church dinners, etc…I followed everything you put exactly. Added toasted ritz cracker crumbs as a breading. AMAZING!

  7. I used pre shredded cheese instead of the block and it melted perfectly. This is amazing!!

  8. Oh my gosh!!! My daughter made this and it is Dee-licious!! The year-and-a-half grand-baby scarfed it down. And the left-overs are just as delicious!!
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Can I cut this recipe in half? Does it reheat well? Can portions be frozen? Can’t wait to try but 1 pound of macaroni is a lot for 2 peeps.

    1. Yes, you can cut the recipe in half I would just recommend using a smaller dish. I wouldn’t recommend freezing it as the cheese can get grainy once reheated.

  10. My husband made this for thanksgiving, but used 3.5 cups of milk instead. My family now insists he brings this to all family gatherings. 🙂 It’s soooo good!

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