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How to Make Mac and Cheese

Updated September 7, 2017
After tasting this creamy, four-cheese recipe for our Ultimate Mac and Cheese, you’ll never settle for the boxed version again.

Whether it comes from a box, your trusty Betty Crocker cookbook or your grandmother’s vintage recipe card, mac and cheese is a comfort food beloved by children and adults alike. Our favorite has everything you could ever want in mac and cheese—four cheeses, plus the creamy, crunchy and chewy textures everyone loves—all in a recipe you can have on the table in under an hour.

Homemade Mac and Cheese

We’re just going to call it: Homemade mac and cheese is the best of all. You get to choose everything: the pasta, cheese, toppings and cooking style are all up to you!

Slow-Cooker Mac and Cheese: Looking for a scratch recipe for easy mac and cheese? Betty’s Slow-Cooker Mac and Cheese recipe couldn’t be easier. There’s little more to it than adding your ingredients to the slow cooker and letting it cook low and slow for a couple of hours. There’s even a crunchy breadcrumb topping that’s made easily on the stovetop while the mac and cheese is on its way to cheesy perfection in your slow cooker.

Slow-Cooker Mac and Cheese

Slow-Cooker Mac and Cheese

The ultimate in cheesy indulgence! This ultra-creamy spin on classic mac gets topped with a can’t-skip-it sprinkling of toasty breadcrumbs that delivers a crunchy contrast in textures.

Baked Mac and Cheese: Baked mac and cheese is our favorite because it has all the textures we love. It starts on the stovetop with the ultimate cheesy sauce, then gets poured into a dish and baked till golden for that irresistibly chewy top layer.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese 

Nothing's as comforting as tender pasta topped with creamy cheese!

This recipe also has two tasty twists to choose from: 

  • Three Cheese: Replace 1 cup of the Cheddar with 3 oz cream cheese, cubed, and 4 oz shredded Gruyère cheese. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese and ¼ teaspoon chopped Italian parsley over the top of each ramekin.
  • Mex Mac and Cheese: Substitute 8 oz cubed process cheese spread with jalapeño peppers for the sharp Cheddar cheese. Stir in ¼ cup salsa, and top with ½ cup corn chips, crushed.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese: Cooking it on the stovetop is the quickest way to get mac and cheese to the table, but you don’t have to reach for the boxed variety to do so. With our recipe for Turkey and Broccoli Cheeseburger Macaroni, you can cook up a complete meal all in one pan!

Turkey and Broccoli Cheeseburger Macaroni

Turkey and Broccoli Cheeseburger Macaroni 

Try adding turkey and broccoli to your favorite double cheeseburger one pot meal!

Take your stovetop mac and cheese up a notch with mix-ins like veggies or hot sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Pro Tip: Add in one cup of chopped cooked chicken and ¼ cup of buffalo wing sauce.

Veggie Packed Mac and Cheese

Pro Tip: Sneak some extra veggies into dinner by stirring in half a bag of cooked frozen mixed vegetables.

In a pinch (when we need dinner now), we reach for Annie’s Homegrown, which offers macaroni and cheese for pretty much everyone. We’re talking organic, vegan, gluten free, white cheddar, shells, grass-fed, non-GMO and so much more.

Best Pasta for Mac and Cheese

The “mac” in mac and cheese comes from the noodle classically used in the dish: macaroni. But you can have fun with your favorite noodles or whatever you happen to have on hand. Rotini, cavatappi, shells and penne pasta are all good options. The best pasta shapes for mac and cheese are ones with ridges or a hole (like macaroni) to fill with the best part: the cheese sauce! For kids, farfalle (bow ties) or wagon wheel pasta can both be fun options.

Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese

Family-Favorite Macaroni and Cheese

Classic mac and cheese is typically made with Cheddar cheese, but making it from scratch is an opportunity to experiment for a dinner your family will love. Who doesn’t love three-, four-, or even five-cheese macaroni? There are so many cheeses that work well in mac and cheese, based on your preferences. Betty also has recipes calling for Parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, fontina, gruyère and more!

For creamy mac and cheese, it’s best to shred your cheese by hand because it melts easiest. If you need to speed up the process, you can use pre-shredded cheeses, but they may not melt quite as well.

Looking for more tips on how to serve and cook with cheese? We’ve got answers right here.

Meat or No Meat?

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Meatballs

Traditional mac and cheese does not include meat, but we’ve been known to throw in sliced hot dogs or meatballs for the kids and grilled chicken for adults from time to time. Another favorite is cheeseburger mac, which is an excellent way to boost protein. This recipe for California Cheeseburger Macaroni boasts 23 grams of protein per serving.

Bacon Mac and Cheese

We’d be remiss not to mention bacon mac and cheese, which is a perfect pairing. Let’s face it, pretty much everything is better with bacon and this Bacon-Pepper Mac and Cheese proves it.

Bacon Pepper Mac and Cheese

Bacon-Pepper Mac and Cheese

Enjoy this cheesy pasta casserole made using bacon, Gold Medal® flour and Progresso® bread crumbs - perfect for dinner.

Chili Mac and Cheese

Another way to boost the protein in mac and cheese is to make it into chili mac. This Chili Mac and Cheese is ready in 30 minutes, calls for just five ingredients and adds a little zest to your dinner. Bonus: 28 grams of protein per serving.

Chili Mac and Cheese

Chili Mac and Cheese

This almost-instant main dish combines the flavors of two favorite comfort foods. Taco-flavored cheese and mild chilis add an extra kick without too much spice.

How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese


What You’ll Need:

  • Ingredients for Ultimate Mac and Cheese
  • Cooking spray
  • 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish
  • 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven
  • Wire whisk
  • 6-inch skillet

How To:

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package.


2. Meanwhile, in 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, melt ½ cup butter over low heat. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently. With wire whisk, stir in flour and salt until smooth. Increase heat to medium; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Gradually stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in cheeses. Cook until melted, stirring occasionally. Stir pasta and parsley into cheese sauce. Pour mixture into baking dish.


3. In 6-inch skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat; stir in bread crumbs. Cook and stir until crumbs are golden brown. Sprinkle over pasta mixture.


4. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.


Lighter Mac and Cheese

Let’s not kid ourselves—mac and cheese isn’t what we’d call a light food. But there are ways to reduce the amount of fat and calories, for example replacing some of the dairy with pureed vegetables.

Don’t knock it till you try it! You’ll be surprised this recipe doesn’t sacrifice on creaminess or cheesiness, but offers a lighter option when you’re trying to be a little more mindful with dinner.

Skinny Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

Skinny Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

The savory version of having your cake and eating it too, this slimmed-down, super-creamy mac and cheese gets a veggie boost from 2 cups of cauliflower florets, which add wonderful flavor and texture.

Creative Twists on Mac and Cheese

Classic mac is great as it is, but we love to step it up a notch with clever twists. Whether it’s mini or Mexican, we’ve got a recipe for everyone.

More creative twists on mac and cheese right this way.

What to do With Leftover Mac and Cheese

Couldn’t finish all your mac and cheese? Leftovers should be promptly transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated. Leftover mac and cheese should be eaten within 3-4 days if it’s in the refrigerator and within 1-2 months if it’s been frozen. As always, be sure to thaw frozen leftovers overnight in the fridge and reheat until 165°F.

Now that you’ve mastered mac and cheese, try your hand at one of these other comforting family dinners.