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 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 Slaw, Easy 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.
- Can you make Macaroni and Cheese in the slow cooker? Yes, yes you can: Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese.
- Can you make Mac and Cheese on the stovetop? Yes, yes you can: Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese.
- Does this Mac and Cheese taste like Boston Market’s? No, it doesn’t, but this one does! Boston Market Mac and Cheese (Copycat).
Perfect Holiday Main Courses to Serve with Baked Mac and Cheese
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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.
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.
MORE GAME DAY RECIPES
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.
Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 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 9x13 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 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.