The Best Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Ever

The best macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

Total Time: 1 hour

This recipe for classic baked macaroni and cheese is far and away the most popular on Kitchen Treaty. It’s super creamy – not dry like some homemade mac and cheese can get. It’s cheesy. Oh yes. Very cheesy. It’s rich, ooey, gooey, and, yeah – in my humble opinion – the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Seriously. This macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off. Then go put ‘em back on and run a marathon, quick!

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The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Ever - Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

I say it’s the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever not because I have tried every single macaroni and cheese recipe in the world (though I have tried many) (and wouldn’t it be an incredibly noble cause to try every single one?!). It’s because whenever I take a glorious melty bite, I simply cannot imagine a better classic mac and cheese.

I can also say it’s the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever because this one is not really even my recipe. I tweaked it a tiny bit – basically made it even more fattening – but otherwise, it’s someone else’s. It’s from someone named Bev, who posted her recipe on Recipezaar and to whom I am eternally grateful.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Ever - Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

Macaroni and cheese is pretty much my all-time favorite food. Always has been. Cases in point:

  1. One of my first-ever memories is of sitting down in front of the TV with a bowl full of macaroni and cheese and watching Emergency! – and feeling pure bliss.
  2. Not long after that was when I realized that a single macaroni and cheese noodle was actually not called a “macaroni and chee.” Major epiphany.
  3. Every birthday, my wonderful Gran actually used to wrap up boxes of Kraft dinner for me. Best presents ever!

I should probably stop there. I have a sneaking suspicion I’m coming off like a total freak.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Ever - Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

So back to Bev. Bev posted a recipe that will forever be my go-to recipe for homemade mac and cheese. Before that, I had only experienced dry homemade mac and cheese. Goes into the oven wet, comes out dry. So annoying! But no more. I love you Bev!

Bev is probably totally creeped out now too.

Anyway, mac and cheese lovers, come hither – this is the real thing!

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Ever - Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

Add cooked and crumbled bacon to the top for your resident carnivore. He or she will declare undying love to you forevermore. Guaranteed.

Print Recipe

The Best Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Ever

The best macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Seriously. Creamy, cheesy, straightforward, ooey, gooey - this macaroni and cheese will knock your socks off.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. (1/2 pound or about 1 3/4 cups) macaroni or other medium tubular pasta (like penne or conchiglie)*
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 3 cups grated medium cheddar cheese*

Directions:

  1. Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, and return to the pan you boiled it in. Set aside. (Mix in a little butter to keep the noodles from sticking if it's going to be awhile before you make the sauce)
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika. With a wooden spoon or whisk, stir constantly for three minutes.
  4. Add the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Continue to stir constantly until the sauce thickens, about 10-12 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss gently until all of the pasta is coated.
  6. Add half the pasta to a two-quart casserole dish (I like a tall 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish). Sprinkle on half the cheese. Add the rest of the pasta. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, then dust lightly with the smoked paprika.
  7. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the mac and cheese starts getting a slightly dry and a tiny bit brown on top. Serve, topping individual servings with cooked, chopped bacon if desired.

*Please resist the urge to add more noodles to stretch the recipe. You need a lot of sauce with that pasta because the pasta soaks so much and it otherwise cooks down. Over-dry mac and cheese is such a disappointment - don't do it!

**Also resist the urge to add more cheese to the sauce. This can do weird things. Sprinkle more in between and on top if you must have more cheese.

Adapted from the Bev's Macaroni and Cheese recipe on Food.com

This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a portion of the proceeds.

Karen Raye

Kare is a vegetarian and home cook with a passion for developing delicious and flexible recipes that help multi-faceted families keep the peace in the kitchen.

463 Responses to “The Best Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Ever”

  1. Jackie posted on November 5, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Can this be done a day ahead? for like Turkey Day?

    • Karen Raye posted on November 22, 2014 at 11:07 am

      I’ve assembled it a day before, to the point before baking. The end result is a tad drier but it’s still delicious!

  2. Hima posted on November 15, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Would this recipe be enough servings for a thanksgiving meal with multiple sides? Or should I double it? Thank you!

    • Karen Raye posted on November 17, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Depends of course on how many people will be at the table, but personally I’d double it to be safe!

  3. Mila posted on November 16, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Hi. 
    This Mac and cheese actually turned out amazing in the end but I had a little hiccup. Are you sure you’re supposed to stir the flour and spices into the butter and THEN add milk? The first time I did this and the flour and butter just turned into a solid ball. Then when I poured the milk in, no matter how much I stirred, it wouldn’t mix in. I ended up throwing it out and starting the sauce over, this time melting the butter, then putting the milk, and then mixing the flour and spices in with the milk. It turned out perfectly, thickened just right, and melted deliciously with the cheese. Overall a great success. Was just wondering about the order of those two steps. Otherwise, great recipe. Thank you!

    • Karen Raye posted on November 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Hi Mila, yes, you are supposed to cook the flour and the butter together, this is called a roux and that three minutes is to help negate the taste the flour may impart. However, if you found a way that works for you, by all means, stick with it! If you decide to try it the way the recipe is written, perhaps start with a little less flour – the texture should be paste-ish, not a big ball! Thank you for asking :)

  4. Patrick S posted on November 24, 2014 at 8:37 am

    This recipe is “Kickin”!!  I wonder how it would taste with Smoked Gouda rather than cheddar?  Has anyone tried this yet?  Would appreciate any feedback.  Thanks Karen!!!

  5. Jennifer Lee posted on November 24, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Hi there!

    I will be making a triple batch for a large thanksgiving we are hosting on Saturday. Can this be prepped ahead, baked day of then transferred to a crock pot to keep warm? I am concerned it may get greasy.

    Thanks!

  6. SHAWN posted on November 24, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    This has been on rotation the last 2 years at my family’s Thanksgiving. It is now on DEMAND from parents, siblings, kids and extended family!
    Thank you for this!!!

    • Karen Raye posted on November 25, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Awesome! I think mac and cheese is a must at Thanksgiving. So glad you and your family like it. :)

  7. Amy posted on December 2, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    This Macaroni and Cheese is freaking amazing.  I’ve made this so many times in the last year, that I’ve got the dang recipe memorized.  This easily gets made at least once a month, either for myself and the hubs or for someone in need of a meal.  Seriously, its amazing.  I’ve sent quite a few people this way! So basically, thanks Karen! You’ve helped me convince people that I have some type of cooking skills, when in reality, this is all I can make! :P

  8. Samantha posted on December 13, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Hey, 

    If I hate mustard can I just skip it or should I try and use something in its place?

    Thanks!

    • Karen Raye posted on December 16, 2014 at 7:56 am

      Yes, you can absolutely skip it – it just might not have quite the flavor without it.

  9. Barbara Tanner posted on December 15, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    This is a great recipe and and old standby in our family I’ve been making it this way for over 40 years . This is the FannyFarmer recipe. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it a little to avoid some of the pitfalls of cooking with a roux. First thing , try just a smidge less flour. Start whisking as soon as you add the flour. Go slow making sure to totally incorporate all the flour. Then let it cook a little until the flour starts to take on the lightest beige color. Add the liquid and whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. A word on cheeses..  The harder (sharper) the cheeses, the greater chance it will separate. Use a mild cheese till you get the hang of it.  Amish style mild Swiss is a wonderful addition once you feel confident in your technique. 

    • Karen Raye posted on December 16, 2014 at 7:53 am

      These are such awesome tips! Thank you so much, Barbara!

  10. Africa S. posted on December 17, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Ahhh. I made this for the first time today and it turned out so well. Instead of a 8 by 8 square pan I used just 9 inch circular pan and sharp cheddar instead of medium. It didn’t get as crispy as I wanted but god it was good. I don’t think I can go back to the old box kind!

  11. Emily Stone posted on December 19, 2014 at 8:58 am

    This looks so good! Do you think using white cheddar would be good?

  12. Brittney M. posted on December 25, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    I made this today for Christmas and it was a hit! I used a larger pan cause that’s what I had on hand so I only had a single layer, but it didn’t matter. Cheesy goodness! The whole pan was gone quickly. Lol so easy to make. This will definitely be my go to Mac and cheese recipe from now on.

    • Karen Raye posted on December 27, 2014 at 8:56 am

      I’m so glad you liked it! :)

  13. Nicole posted on January 2, 2015 at 10:41 am

    OMG, this was amazing the 2nd time I made it. I did something wrong the 1st time, and it was dry. Decided to try it again, and Im so thrilled I did. My boys went crazy over it and are begging me to make it again a week after Christmas. I plan on using this recipe for the rest of my life!! LOVE it! 

  14. Jason posted on January 2, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    I’ve tried to make this twice and each time I got a gritty texture when finished baking. I followed the directions to a T, the flavor is great, but the texture makes it inedible. I rarely cook and feel like it’s something small I am doing wrong…maybe something related to mixing the flour, butter, and milk.

    My other theory about the grittiness is related to the cheese. I used the recommended “medium cheddar cheese”, but I used the Albertson’s store brand called essentials or something like that. Should I use more of a premium cheese? I assumed there wouldn’t be much difference.

    And just to clarify, for step 4, I whisked the flour, milk, and other required ingredients for the recommended time until it turned it into paste.

    Any and all thoughts welcome. Thanks! :) 

  15. Deb posted on January 4, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Our family has been on a quest for the best macaroni and cheese recipe for years and although it’s one we really enjoy, your recipe may have just ended it! I doubled it, used 4 year old cheddar and it was beautiful and sooo delicious. Browned crunchy bits on the top, luscious velvet cheese sauce and ‘ronies below. Thank you!

    To the person having trouble with the roux, maybe try whisking in heated milk. 

  16. Tara posted on January 20, 2015 at 7:20 am

    White or yellow cheddar cheese???

    • Karen Raye posted on January 23, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Either one should work just fine.

  17. linda posted on January 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    I’ve tried half a dozen recipes, this by far was the best! Creamy cheesy and still decent the next day. To the one that found it gritty when your butter and flour (roux) is like a crumbly texture then you add the milk till its like a cream soup,  not pasty. Good luck. That sauce is a base for most cream soup and sauces.

  18. noel posted on January 30, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Try fresh garlic with onions also spring onions when layering the cheese

  19. Colin posted on February 7, 2015 at 7:17 am

    I tried to mix in some healthier stuff by pulsing a 1/4 cup of broccoli in a mini food processor, and mixing it in after I added the cheese. Maybe it’s like getting a diet coke with your super-sized McDonald’s meal, but it made me feel a little better. Plus, the kids never batted an eye.

  20. Dizee posted on February 17, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for this! The other mouth in the house said it was the Best. Ever. And we’ve been trying a lot of recipes. I made a double batch (to use the whole box of pasta). This more than doubled the amount of time to make the roux, and to thicken the roux+milk mixture. Patience paid off!

    Also, I’ve found that multiple kinds of cheeses give greater depth of flavor (if one likes the cheeses to begin with):
    1 cup store-brand pre-shredded Mexican blend
    1 cup -year aged Vermont cheddar, grated
    1 cup orance supermarket cheddar, grated
    1 cup Gruyere, grated
    2 cups Fontina, grated

    Thanks again for this – it'[s a keeper.

    • Karen Raye posted on February 20, 2015 at 7:04 am

      So glad you liked it! Love the cheese ideas – thanks!

  21. Jake posted on February 21, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    NOT even close to best mac and cheese way to much milk, way to much. It just doesn’t taste right.

  22. jibbs posted on March 5, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    I am sorry, but my family did not like this. My 16 year old said that the microwave stuff was better than this. I may have done something wrong but I do not know what. I made the roux the same way I do for other recipes without any problems and I used the ingredients called for. The only thing I did different was that I used 1% milk because that is what my family is used to. I wish we had enjoyed it as much as the others seem to have.

  23. Rylie posted on March 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Just made this recipe.. I added some minced peppers for a little bit of a kick. it turned out fantastic. 

  24. Peggy posted on March 30, 2015 at 11:15 am

    I just made this to freeze and use this weekend for some house guests and I’m worried I screwed it up. I doubled the recipe which brought my milk to 5 cups and although everything was doubled, it looked way to soupy as I poured it into the pan. Will all that liquid be absorbed? it looks like it is going to be way too soupy to serve. Just curious if it was suppose to look like that and, if not, should I just dump the whole thing. Not sure if anyone is still posting here but I would sure appreciate it. Thanks!

    • Karen Raye posted on April 1, 2015 at 8:43 am

      It does seem like a lot of sauce at first, but the pasta tends to absorb it. By the time it sits and bakes, it should set up nicely. I have noticed that freezing can make it a tad drier, so keep that in mind.

  25. Melissa posted on April 5, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    My search is over–I found a delicious Mac & cheese recipe!!! This is so good!!

  26. Karen posted on April 9, 2015 at 5:41 am

    We LOVE this mac and cheese. I started making it last summer while my mother in law was dying of cancer. It was her favourite dish and could only handle soft foods. I always double the recipe as I only make it for a special occasion. Had a problem with it only once where it was grainy. Research told me it was because the sauce mixture was too hot when I added the cheese. Now I always remove the pan from the stove and let it sit a minute or two before adding the cheese. Never a problem since then. Thanks for a great recipe! I follow it exactly using medium cheddar and topped with some old. Sometimes I add buttered bread crumbs to the top but really doesn’t need the extra calories, its delicious enough as is. I’ve always hated the boxed kind, there is no comparison.

  27. A. Chicko posted on April 15, 2015 at 10:13 am

    This is still my go-to. I have never found a better recipe! You changed my life! Hahaha thanks for the recipe!

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