How to Make the Perfect Mac and Cheese

4.75 from 8 votes

Sharing the Best Mac and Cheese recipe today! My easy homemade mack and cheese is incredibly creamy, cheesy, and delicious comfort dish that you will fall in love with. Even the mac and cheese sauce is made from scratch!

The BEST Mac and Cheese Recipe

There’s nothing like homemade mac and cheese, am I right?  What makes the perfect mac and cheese in your opinion? Good ol’ Kraft right out of the box? Homemade thick and cheesy on the stovetop? Baked with a crispy topping and lots of ingredients inside?

I think it’s a bit different for everyone, but let me tell you about my perfect mac and cheese. I like a thick and creamy perfectly flavorful cheese sauce like my picture above shows. If that sounds good to you, then you will LOVE this recipe too 🙂

See my Bacon Mac and Cheese Recipe too! Be sure to follow Picky Palate on Instagram for daily recipe inspiration!

making roux in pot for mac and cheese

What You’ll Need

  • small dry pasta– Elbow pasta is most common for classic mac and cheese, but you can use any small pasta of your choice.
  • salted butter– Salted butter gives a little extra flavor. In general, I use salted butter for most of my cooking and baking.
  • kosher salt– Kosher salt is a course salt that works great for cooking.
  • black pepper– Use fresh cracked black pepper for best results.
  • all-purpose flour– The flour in the recipe is used to prepare the roux.
  • 2% milk– You want to use a higher fat milk when making mac and cheese. 2% or higher is preferred.
  • shredded cheddar cheese of your choice. I use mild for my family.

How to Make Mac and Cheese

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. I recommend cooking the pasta a minute less than the directions. Drain and set aside for a few minutes.
  2. To prepare roux, melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes until color of roux gets slightly darker. Slowly whisk in milk, stirring continuously until thickened, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in cheese until melted.
  3. Transfer cooked pasta to large dutch oven or pot over low heat. Pour cheese sauce over top, stirring to combine. This is a thick and creamy sauce. To thin the sauce, add a few tablespoons of milk at a time until at desired consistency.

adding salt and pepper to roux

How To Make Homemade Roux for a Creamy Sauce

To make a simple and flavorful roux, start by melting a stick of butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the salt and pepper. A very important step is to continue stirring for a good 2-3 minutes until roux turns a bit darker in color. It becomes richer and even more fabulous.

adding milk to roux for homemade mac and cheese

Slowly whisk in the milk until mixture is thick and creamy. This step will take a couple minutes over medium heat.

adding cheese for mac and cheese sauce

Stir in cheese until creamy and cheese is melted through. I prefer a finely shredded mild cheddar. It melts quickly and has a perfect “cheddar” flavor.

Can I Use Other Cheeses?

Yes, use your favorite cheeses such as freshly shredded gruyere, smoked cheddar, mozzarella and even provolone.

add cooked pasta to sauce for homemade mac and cheese

Cooking on the Stovetop

Add cooked pasta back to cheese sauce stirring to combine. If needed, add splashes of milk to thin sauce. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Can I Bake this Recipe?

At this point of stovetop mac and cheese, you can choose to transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, top with more cheese and other toppings of choice, bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes for a baked mac and cheese. This is another fantastic option. Adding buttered bread crumbs and bacon is another winning option before baking to add a nice crunch. Try adding cooked beef or chicken for more dinner options too.

best mac and cheese recipe in serving bowl

Serving Suggestions

Serve mac and cheese as a main dish with a side salad or as an appetizer with your favorite protein. It’s also great on your Holiday dinner menus!

How To Store Leftovers

Store leftover mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Re-heat as needed. Note, sauce thickens once chilled. Add splashes of milk to thin as needed.

4.75 from 8 votes

How to Make the Perfect Mac and Cheese

This recipe makes The Perfect Mac and Cheese every time! It's an incredibly creamy, cheesy, and delicious comfort dish that you will fall in love with.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 451kcal
Author: Jenny
Cost: $20
Print Pin Rate

Equipment

  • Stove or Dutch Oven
  • saucepan
  • whisk
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound dry small pasta I used elbow
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2-2 1/2 cups milk I use 2%
  • 2 cups finely shredded mild cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. I recommend cooking the pasta a minute less than the directions.  Drain and set aside for a few minutes.
  • To prepare roux, melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes until color of roux gets slightly darker. Slowly whisk in milk, stirring continuously until thickened, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in cheese until melted.
  • Transfer cooked pasta to large dutch oven or pot over low heat. Pour cheese sauce over top, stirring to combine. This is a thick and creamy sauce. To thin the sauce, add a few tablespoons of milk at a time until at desired consistency.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 451kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 661mg | Potassium: 282mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 510IU | Calcium: 375mg | Iron: 1.5mg
Keywords: best homemade mac and cheese, best mac and cheese recipe, best macaroni and cheese recipe, how to make mac and cheese

Pin Perfect Mac and Cheese

best mac and cheese recipe photo collage

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124 Responses
  1. Renee @ Awesome on $20

    You have a pretty ridiculous gooeyness factor going on up there, my dear. I like the way you think. Sometimes pure mac and cheese is the absolute best.

  2. Orla

    In Ireland NO ONE eats mac and cheese :O I used the Pioneer Woman’s recipe a few months back and ever since it’s what my boyfriend always asks me to make for dinner! 🙂 It’s so delicious and I can’t wait to try out this recipe as you use less cheese and no egg! 🙂 My tummy’s rumbling looking at the great photos! 🙂 x

  3. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking

    OMG, those layers of cheese cascading over the hot macaroni. Swoon! Mac and cheese is my favorite and yours truly does look perfect!

  4. Stacie

    You have the best recipes! I am sure this is going to be delicious!!! What do you recommend at the fair this year?

  5. Carol

    I have been making this exact recipe for many years (married 47 years now). I learned to make it in high school cooking class and it is always a hit. I personally find mac & cheese a comfort food for those times when stressed or during cold winter days.

  6. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes

    I want to eat about 6 servings of this right now!! Seriously, mac n cheese is my favorite..in all shapes and forms 🙂

  7. Maggie

    I’ll save you a pot to wash! Pour the macaroni right into the pan you used for the sauce. Just make sure it’s large enough to start. We make ours in much the same way but use half Monterey Jack and half Muenster. Love it!

  8. Pru

    This is so awesome. I’ve been on a quest to make the perfect macaroni and cheese. I’m going to try this!! thank you!!

  9. Larissa

    This is almost the same way that I make it. I only use 3 tblsp butter and 3 tblsp flour with 2 cups of milk, though. Sometimes I use an 8 oz brick of cheddar, sometimes I add more…depends on my mood. Also, when I have it, a pinch or two of ground mustard kicks up the flavor without tasting mustardy. I may have to try this with your proportions just to see. I may make this tonight!
    Can’t wait to see what you add next time!

  10. Alaina @ Fabtastic Eats

    oh myyy..that CHEESE!! You can never have enough…I just want to eat the cheese sauce by a spoon! This seriously looks like my perfect mac & cheese!

  11. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl

    I love all mac and cheese, box, stove top, oven baked, give me it all! This looks like a winner, yum!

    1. Julio

      I am making the grocery list for this recipe and your creamy goat cheese and spinach pasta.

      We are going to OD on pasta this weekend!

  12. Lori @ RecipeGirl

    Yep, you’re right- it’s perfect! I think people would be amazed how easy it is to make a homemade mac and cheese like this with virtually little more effort put forth than making the box version.

    1. Amelia

      So true, Lori – the homemade kind takes virtually the same amount of time as the boxed kind and with such a better result!

  13. Deon@iPinnedIt.com

    This is almost identical to our fave mac and cheese recipe except this recipe uses a lot more butter than mine which makes this one quite superior to mine, haha! Love it!

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