Best Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is my all-time favorite baked macaroni and cheese recipe. I’ve been making it for years (I originally published this recipe in 2012 and very little has changed).

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Why do I love this recipe so much?

  • It’s simple. The “craziest” ingredients you’ll find here are cayenne and pepper jack cheese.
  • It’s easy. From start to finish you could make this dish in under an hour.
  • This is a classic! No eggs. No evaporated milk. Just a basic recipe that’s truly delicious.
  • Small batch. This isn’t a giant casserole made to feed 50. You can bake this in an 8×8 pan.

There are a few things that really elevate this baked macaroni and cheese recipe. Make your own breadcrumbs! It’s worth it, it really is. And you can use up old bread or get fancy by using something special like sourdough or rye.

And second, I use both cayenne and pepper jack cheese, so this baked macaroni and cheese is a little spicy. It’s not overly spicy. But sometimes baked mac and cheese recipes are, well, super bland and flavorless. This isn’t one of those recipes.


Can you make baked macaroni and cheese ahead?

Yes. I will often make this up to adding the breadcrumbs and baking. If you keep the breadcrumbs stored separately, you can cover this dish and keep in the refrigerator and then bake (adding the breadcrumbs) the next day or even the day after.

What is the best cheese to use for macaroni and cheese?

For this recipe, I like a mix of sharp cheddar and pepper jack. You can use other cheeses instead— just be sure to use something with low moisture (not fresh mozzarella) and plenty of flavor.

Should you cover your mac and cheese when baking?

Yes. I cover the top of the dish in aluminum foil for the first 20 minutes of baking. Then, I uncover the dish and let it bake another 8-10 minutes.

You want the casserole to bake but you do not want the breadcrumbs to burn in the process.

I mentioned this on our podcast recently, but this is my ultimate comfort food! I love this for holidays, like Thanksgiving. But I also really love to make this now and again alongside a protein for a special dinner.

This makes 4-6 servings, so at our house it lasts for a few meals. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Best Baked Macaroni and Cheese

classic baked macaroni and cheese with no eggs or evaporated milk
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword macaroni and cheese, pasta
Prep Time 12 minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Emma Chapman

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces macaroni noodles
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ cups pepper jack cheese shredded
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs see note for how to make your own
  • 2 teaspoons chives chopped

Instructions

  • In a pot, heat enough water to cover the pasta plus a few teaspoons salt over high heat until boiling. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Stain and set aside.
  • In the meantime, in a large pot, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  • Add the cayenne and a big pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, so it bubbles as it cooks. Stir every so often and allow to cook for a few minutes. This is called a roux. It's the texture of a paste.
  • Now, pour in the stock and milk. Reduce the heat to a medium/low and whisk so the roux becomes well incorporated.
  • Stir in the pepper jack cheese and half the cheddar and stir until melted. 
  • Add the pasta and pour into your baking dish. Top with remaining cheese, chives and then breadcrumbs. 
  • Bake (covered in foil) at 350°F for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and continue to bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and edges bubble.

Notes

To make your own breadcrumbs, take 3 pieces of bread and bake them at 350°F until very toasty on both sides. I sometimes do this while the oven preheats and I’m preparing the rest of this recipe. Just keep an eye on it. 
Once toasted, pulse in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. 
  • i made this last night for some friends who i found out were coming over just a few hours before. i had every ingredient that i needed already in the apartment. it was delicious, it was spicy (which i was not expecting but a welcome surprise!) and my friends devoured it. thanks for a great recipe share.

  • Looks so yummy! That looks way better than regular kraft dinner 😉

    X

    http://kendra-genevieve-rose.blogspot.com

  • I`m a maccaroni lover to!And it`s such a easy meal to do and practically always turns out good!
    Your`s made me hungry going to prepare diner now 🙂

    xoxo

  • i made this last night for dinner! i baked a double batch and added bacon and broccoli. it was delicious. thanks for sharing your recipe!

  • Ohhh noooo, will make me more fat. Coz it,s sooo yummy, i love macarony baked so much.

  • i’m constantly looking for cast iron skillet recipes – i will be making this one soon!
    -ale

  • Curse my evil diary allergy. I miss cheese so much. My mouth is watering reading this post. Thanks a bunch. XOX

  • I’ve been in the mood for baked mac & cheese for a week or so now – will definitely have to try your version, it looks delicious! I see other commenters have already covered the “roux” pronunciation, so I will skip the French lesson!

  • Roux is pronounced “Roo” and means something like russet in french. Thanks for this hearty recipe !

  • hmmm… how to make this vegan… maybe some Daiya and Earth Balance? oh Emma, this is so tempting to eat in full cheesy goodness…

  • Its “roo”!And its the best way to thicken any dairy sauce (alfredo, bechamel, ect). Beautiful pictures!

  • Roux = Roo. I think its a southern thing. We have lots of words that end “oux” in texas/Louisiana. 🙂

  • We just had some baked mac & cheese at a local restaurant that was less than savory – and we normally LOVE Mac & Cheese! THis looks DELISH, and I’m TOTALLY going to try to make this at home soon! Thanks!

    XOXO
    -Daisy Nguyen from the PS BANANAS! fashion blog: http://psbananas.com

  • I use crushed up Weetabix and grated cheese to top my macaroni. It’s a texture sensation!

  • Gosh that looks sooooo good. Comfort food. I will definitely be making this!

    http://run2thewild.blogspot.com/

  • this looks amazing! baked macaroni is one of my favorite guilty pleasure foods, i love emma’s twist on recipes!

    b

    http://www.seacreaturess.blogspot.com

  • Nice idea ! I’ll try !
    (and yes, as Julie said, “a roux” is pronounced “roo”. And it is also a type of red / orange color 🙂 )

  • I know how it’s said (“roo,” as in “kanga-“), but I don’t know how to do it…despite the written directions. And that’s killing me because there are SO many recipes I’ve stumbled upon recently that call for a roux. (I, too, believe the world should be covered in cream and cheese.)

    So, maybe, for your next Kitchen Basics, you could post a video of roux-forming? Roux-making? Rouxing? I’d watch that.

  • I came to comment to share the pronunciation, but it’s covered above. A roux is one of the three “mother sauces” of French cooking–meaning, most of French cooking is based on one of the three. A “roux” is the sauce, of course, and it is also the word for a russian man or a redheaded man in French. Just a little FYI in case you’re interested.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I love baked macaroni and cheese and always love to try out new versions. I’ve not heard of using stock in it, so I’m definitely going to try this. Thank you! I love the blog, too.

  • Who isn’t a creamy cheesey crab lover?! Haha! This looks absolutely delicious! xo

    http://www.jenventure.blogspot.co.uk

  • Emma, that looks so delicious! I love you recipes, they always look so yummy and makes me wanna start learning how to cook! x

  • I believe “roux” is French for a type of red color, but I’m definitely sure it’s pronounced “roo.”

  • This looks so yummy! I can’t wait for homemade food when I go home for the holidays.
    Carlee
    http://almostendearing.blogspot.com/

  • Mmmmm… that looks amazing! 🙂
    love,
    Pili.
    http://inavintageworld.blogspot.com.es/2012/12/hummus-recipe-receta-de-hummus.html

  • I know what I’ll be cooking as soon as my final exams are over! These photos are going to make me drool!!!

    xo kelsey @ Time Stand Still

  • I’ve made it with stock (because we ran out of milk) and it wasn’t too bad 🙂

  • Is it a bad thing if I don’t think I’ve ever tried baked macaroni… maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of the boxed kind. Your recipe looks delicious though, because it’s made with REAL ingredients, and it look so rich, flavorful and cheeeeesy. Yum!

    M.

  • Sounds yummy, will definitely try this! With pepper jack! (And you say “rue”.)

  • Looks yummy! Roux is pronounced “roo,” like Kanga’s baby from Winnie the Pooh.

  • delicious! But you know what, its the photography on this blog that I really love. Those colors, textures and contrasts.

    Keep up the good work

    Laura x

    www.coffeetoastandlondon.com

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