This Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe is just as easy to make as the box mix, but oh-so-much tastier. We use wholesome ingredients like milk, butter, flour, cheddar cheese and seasoning to make a creamy dreamy cheese sauce to mix with elbow macaroni pasta.
Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Time to ditch the box mix - this is the best Homemade Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe of all time. It can be made from start to finish in just about 20 minutes and has none of the chemical additives of the stuff from the store. Kids love it, adults love it - it truly is comfort food at its finest.
There are plenty of super easy ways to upgrade your Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese if you want. You can add ham, sausage, hot dogs, peas, broccoli, onions, etc. The sky’s the limit! We’ve also given you directions on how to easily turn this into a baked mac and cheese dish if that’s your jam.
What to Serve with Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Depending on who is eating it, how much and what else you are serving, this recipe can either be a main course or a side dish. It also works for BBQs, holidays or quick weekend lunches for picky eaters. Honestly, people will be happy no matter what you serve with it. It's like a secret weapon!
Here are a few sides and proteins that taste great with mac and cheese:
- Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Best Cornbread Muffins
- Sausage and Apple Stuffing
- Slow Cooker Pot Roast
- Oven-Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings
And if you love mac and cheese, be sure to try this Baked Mac and Cheese too.
Homemade Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Elbow Macaroni - of course you can use another shape of pasta, but this is the traditional mac and cheese shape. We will often use mini shells, too.
- Butter - you can use salted or unsalted butter. If you choose to use unsalted, you may want to reduce the additional salt in the recipe slightly.
- Flour - this is added to the butter and cooked to make a roux. It helps thicken and bind the sauce.
- Salt and Black Pepper
- Milk - we recommend that you use either whole milk or 2%.
- Dijon Mustard - this adds a great punch of flavor.
- Cayenne Powder - this is optional, but tastes great. There is a very small amount in the recipe and it is definitely not an overpowering spiciness.
- Nutmeg - this spice could also be combined with a touch of garlic powder if you’d like.
- Cheddar Cheese - we like to use sharp cheddar, but really any cheddar will work. You could also mix it up and use white cheddar, monterey jack, colby, havarti or even gouda cheese. Keep in mind that the better quality cheese you use, the tastier the Homemade Mac and Cheese will be!
How to Make Homemade Mac and Cheese
- Cook pasta. Cook macaroni according to package instructions, then drain and set aside.
- Make the cheese sauce. In the meantime, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 3-5 minutes stirring constantly to form a roux. Add salt and pepper, then slowly add the milk, stirring well after each addition. Cook and stir until simmering, then add the dijon mustard, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Cook for an additional minute before stirring in the cheese. Reduce the heat and stir until the cheese has completely melted.
- Mix together. Add the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce and stir to coat.
- Serve. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
I personally love to use sharp cheddar cheese, or any other kind of cheddar cheese, to make Homemade Mac and Cheese. With that being said, you can also add other cheeses for flavor such as Parmesan, Gruyere, Brie, and Fontina.
One of the best ways to to make super creamy mac and cheese is to be sure and shred your own cheese. The pre shredded kind has anti-caking agents that don't allow it to melt down like regular cheese does.
It is possible to freeze mac and cheese, although we recommend you make it fresh since it is so simple and tastes so much better that way! If you choose to freeze, ensure it is completely cool before transferring to an airtight container and freezing for up to 2 months.
Quick Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe Variations
- Three-Cheese Blend: Use a combination of cheddar, mozzarella, and Gruyère for a rich and gooey texture. Experiment with different cheese ratios to find the perfect blend for your taste.
- Bacon and Jalapeño Mac and Cheese: Add crispy bacon bits and finely diced jalapeños for a smoky and spicy kick. Mix them into the mac and cheese just before serving.
- Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese: Toss shredded cooked chicken in buffalo sauce and fold it into the mac and cheese. Top with blue cheese crumbles and chopped green onions for a complete buffalo chicken experience.
- Pesto Mac and Cheese: Swirl in a spoonful of basil pesto for a fresh and herby flavor. Garnish with pine nuts or fresh basil leaves.
- Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese: Drizzle truffle oil over the mac and cheese just before serving for an elegant touch. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan for extra richness.
- Sundried Tomato and Spinach Mac and Cheese: Add chopped sundried tomatoes, wilted spinach, and feta cheese for a Mediterranean twist.
Storing and Reheating
- Refrigerator: you can store leftover Homemade Mac and Cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Freezer: it is possible to freeze this, although we recommend you make it fresh since it is so simple and tastes so much better that way! If you choose to freeze, ensure it is completely cool before transferring to an airtight container and freezing for up to 2 months.
- Reheating: to reheat, transfer the mac and cheese to a pot and add a splash of milk. Warm over medium-low, mixing to be sure it doesn’t burn. Taste and add a touch more seasoning, milk or a bit more shredded cheese if it needs.
Homemade Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 8 oz Elbow Macaroni
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 pinch Black Pepper
- 1 ½ cup Milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 pinch Cayenne Powder
- 1 pinch Nutmeg
- 2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded (you can sub any other kind of cheddar cheese)
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, then drain and set aside.
- In the meantime, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 3-5 minutes stirring constantly to form a roux. Add salt and pepper, then slowly add the milk, stirring well after each addition.
- Cook and stir until simmering, then add the dijon mustard, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Cook for an additional minute before stirring in the cheese. Reduce the heat and stir until the cheese has completely melted.
- Add the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
More Simple Pasta Recipes To Try
- Easy Baked Ziti
- Homemade Lasagna
- Creamy Garlic Tortellini Alfredo
- 4 Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells
- Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Tomato Feta Pasta
- Lemon Ricotta Pasta
- More Easy Weeknight Dinner Ideas
- More Pasta Recipes
This Best Homemade Mac and Cheese is comfort food at its finest. It uses wholesome ingredients like milk, butter, flour and cheddar cheese and can be ready in just about 20 minutes flat.