How to Make the Perfect Mac and Cheese

4.75 from 4 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!

homemade mac and cheese in a bowl

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

*See bottom of post for entire recipe in recipe card.

  • small dry pasta
  • salted butter
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • all-purpose flour
  • 2% milk
  • 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.

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.

adding salt and pepper to roux

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 4 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
Print Pin Rate

Equipment

  • Stove or Dutch Oven
  • saucepan

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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114 Responses
  1. Jennifer M.

    I tried this recipe last night and I found it has too much flour. It looked so yummy – but the taste of flour was just too much – it probably needs at least 1/2 the amount.

  2. Drucifer Green

    A+… By far the best Mac and Cheese I’ve ever eaten… I followed every direction and it was Amazing.

    THANKS FOR SHARING 🙂

    Dru.

  3. bellini

    I like my mac ‘n’ cheese slowly baked in the oven if only for the crunchy bread croutons on top that are a memory from childhood. However, I do love a creamy, luscious stove top version too. Decisions, decisions.

  4. JoAnna

    Made this with some chicken and mixed veggies for myself and the fiance tonight, so I halved the recipe. AMAZING! He told me not to lose this recipe, so I have it printed and stuck in our family cookbook. 🙂

  5. Julio

    This one is going into the recipe bookmark! I will be trying it this Thursday for our Pee Wee football tailgate.

    I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

  6. kenny

    I made this! OMG it is so good!!! I also added 1/2 stick cream cheese to the sauce… hehe… and… I may or may not have substituted 1 cup of milk with heavy cream 🙂

    IT IS IMPORTANT to cook the roux for a few minutes before adding the milk…. I made the mistake of not doing so (out of impatience), and was left with an EXTREMELY thick sauce, which I had to add more considerably more milk to thin-out. (Cooking the roux lessens the thickening power… required & beneficial in this scenario)

  7. Megan {country Cleaver]

    I LIVED off of mac and cheese as a kid – it was my favorite meal and to this day – still totally is. Your roux and cheese sauce looks like heaven in cheese form Jenny! I can’t get over it!

  8. Tenns @ New Mama Diaries

    This mac n’ cheese look delicious! I’m typically not one to like pot versions of mac n’ cheese when I make it homemade, but I would be willing to give this one a go. The ooey gooey cheesiness makes my mouth water!

  9. Trysha

    I add a pinch of nutmeg. Makes a difference and I really miss it when I forget to add it. and now i’m craving mac n cheese at 11o’clock at night.

  10. Kimberly

    I’ve already seen this comment by someone else, but you definitely don’t need an entire stick of butter and half a cup of flour to thicken two cups of liquid enough to make a sauce for mac and cheese (or gravy or anything else thickened by a roux” 🙂 So if you want to reduce the fat because of calories or because you just don’t have it, it would be fine. I also would never personally use pre-shredded cheese. They put cellulose on the shreds to stop it from sticking together and I hate that. I think it makes things taste weird, but I don’t want to eat wood even if it tasted fine. I love putting spinach and artichokes in my mac and cheese. Or hamburger mac and cheese with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and lettuce on top. Yum! Oh yeah, saw someone else mention ground mustard too…I do that too. Definitely makes a difference. Love the blog!

  11. Brandib

    You had me until I saw you buy pre-shredded cheese. You’re supposed to grate your own! Aside from that, it looks lovely. Yum

  12. Hope @ With A Side Of Hope

    This mac and cheese looks fantastic! I’ve been looking for a good recipe for a while now and I think this is it! Will be trying for sure! 🙂

  13. Theresa Smahlik

    This is awesome! I am so happy you posted this. For the last month I’ve been searching for the perfect easiest Mac and cheese recipe for my daughters 4th birthday party. It’s an under the sea theme and I wanted to use pasta shells. I’m for sure using this recipe! Now I need to figure out how much to make.
    Thanks for all the great recipes!!

  14. Erin @ Texanerin Baking

    I just made this for lunch! I have portion control issues with mac & cheese (and everything else that isn’t veggies) so I only made half of the sauce because I didn’t really want to eat half a stick of butter in one sitting (and I knew I’d eat at least half the pot…) So I did half the sauce and 9 ounces of pasta and it was still perfectly creamy and saucy! And I love how simple it was. Thanks so much for the recipe. 🙂 LOVE it!

  15. Dalila G.

    Mac & Cheese is always a big hit in our house. One more mac & cheese recipe is always accepted with joy! This is one recipe that does have the hubby very happy, thanks for sharing and really liking your step-by-step……neat!!
    Looking forward to part two.

  16. Larissa

    OK, so I made mac and cheese last night your way. OMG! It was the best ever, hands down. My son said so, too. I guess the extra butter put it over the top. 🙂 Thanks, Jenny!!

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