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Ooey, gooey and oh-so-cheesy! This creamy, easy baked mac and cheese is the best mac and cheese recipe that you’ll ever taste. A made-from-scratch sauce with two different types of cheese creates the smoothest, richest, creamiest casserole. Kids and adults devour this old-fashioned, homemade side dish, which pairs nicely with everything from Thanksgiving turkey to Christmas ham, fried chicken to meatloaf and pork chops.
How to Make Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese | 1-Minute Video
Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipes
There are as many different baked macaroni and cheese recipes as there are home cooks. In the South, baked mac and cheese is typically just a simple combination of pasta, eggs, butter, milk, and cheese. The eggs set up to create a firm casserole that you can slice into squares to serve. If you prefer that style, try my favorite Southern baked mac and cheese recipe. This recipe, by contrast, uses a roux to make a creamy béchamel sauce that coats the noodles. If you’re looking for the ultimate creamy, easy baked mac and cheese recipe, then you’ve come to the right place!
How to Keep Mac and Cheese Creamy
I’m sharing a handful of tips to help keep your easy baked mac and cheese creamy, smooth, and saucy.
The Best Cheeses
As I mentioned above, the secret to creamy baked mac and cheese is Velveeta cheese! This American cheese just melts smoother than other cheeses and gives the sauce that creamy mouthfeel that we’re all looking for. I’ve found that an equal ratio of cheddar cheese and Velveeta cheese yields the best of both worlds — a smooth, creamy mac and cheese with plenty of rich, sharp cheddar flavor.
If you like a combination of other cheeses, you can feel free to replace some of the cheddar (or even some of the Velveeta) with other good melting cheeses. Try Gruyere, Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack, gouda, smoked gouda, Swiss, or mozzarella. The options are endless, so pick your favorites!
Do you need to bake mac and cheese?
Creamy mac and cheese recipes that start with a roux-based sauce (like this one), do not need to be baked before serving. A creamy stovetop mac and cheese recipe is designed to go straight from the pot to the plate — no oven necessary. You could also serve this mac and cheese without baking — it will just be really saucy. By contrast, Southern-style mac and cheese recipes must be baked in order to cook the egg and help the dish set.
This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pan of easy baked mac and cheese. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.
How to Make a Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe
This homemade mac and cheese is an ideal side dish that you can prep ahead for special holidays like Thanksgiving or for large family suppers. Assemble it in advance and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days! You can also serve the mac and cheese as a main course for dinner. Throw in some shredded chicken or diced ham, add veggies like steamed broccoli or frozen peas, and you’ve got a delicious and satisfying meal in one pan. The simple, old-fashioned combination of pasta and cheese is always crowd-pleasing!
Serve this easy oven baked mac and cheese as a lunch or main-dish dinner and your family will be thrilled. It’s total comfort food! Just add a house salad, tomato salad, Caesar salad, roasted broccoli, Southern-style green beans, or collard greens on the side. We also love a basket of flaky biscuits, blueberry muffins, apple bread, cornbread, or corn sticks on the table to round out the meal.
If you’re serving the mac and cheese as a side dish, here are some entrées that go well with the casserole:
To prep the dish ahead of time, assemble as instructed — but do not bake. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 1-2 days. When ready to bake, allow the dish to come to room temperature on the counter for at least 30-60 minutes. Remove the cover and bake at 325°F for 20-30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
Store leftover baked macaroni and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I do not recommend freezing this mac and cheese. The texture of the pasta will be mushy when thawed, and the dairy-based sauce will separate or break.
Can you bake leftover mac and cheese?
Yes, you can reheat leftovers in the oven or in the microwave. Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and reheat in a 325°F oven just until warmed through. You can remove the foil cover during the final few minutes to allow the top to brown or the edges to get crispy.
To reheat individual servings, just cover loosely and microwave for about 30 seconds (or until warm).
Tips for the Best Mac and Cheese Recipe
More Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipes to Try
Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
5 from 20 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings 10 – 12 (as a side dish) or 6-8 (as an entrée)
Calories 572 kcal
Ooey, gooey and oh-so-cheesy! This Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese is the best mac and cheese recipe that you'll ever taste.
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To prep the mac and cheese ahead of time, assemble the dish as instructed, but do not bake. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 1-2 days. When ready to bake, allow the dish to come to room temperature on the counter for at least 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake at 325 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
Can you use half and half in mac and cheese?
Heavy whipping cream (or half and half) is the perfect substitute for milk in mac and cheese. This is actually a great option! The thicker consistency will produce a dreamy, creamy sauce that everyone will love. The flavor is bolder and richer, too, and you may enjoy it more than the original.
Can I use half and half instead of heavy cream in mac and cheese?
Half-and-half is often used in cream-based desserts with a light richness, such as panna cotta. Half-and-half also lends extra creaminess to dishes calling for milk, including cream sauces, mac 'n' cheese, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and baked goods.
How do you keep macaroni and cheese creamy?
You want equal amounts of butter and flour by weight. This is key. Throw in too much flour, and sure the sauce might get thick, but it also might taste floury and be lumpy. Even if you get the roux right, use too much or reduce your sauce down too far, and the macaroni and cheese will turn out dry.
What is the best cheese combination for mac and cheese?
For a mac and cheese recipe, consider the combination of sharper cheddar cheeses and a flavorful Parmesan. This cheese adds a boost of fruity, nutty notes to your favorite macaroni recipes. Parmesan is also ideal for grating on top of mac and cheese before you bake it to add golden color.