Mac and cheese is quintessential comfort food. It’s creamy, rich, cheesy, and soothing. Whether it’s a big casserole topped with crunchy breadcrumbs or a quick stovetop recipe, homemade mac and cheese is always consoling and never refused.
The traditional homemade version is made with luscious cheese sauce scattered with buttery breadcrumbs and baked until crisp and bubbling. Milk is gradually whisked into a roux of melted butter and flour to make the smooth and creamy béchamel sauce. Melt in some grated cheese, and now you have a velvety cheese sauce called mornay. But you don’t always have to make a cream sauce.
What I love about these simple and classic recipes is that they’re so easy to modify. It’s almost second nature to reach for the cheddar cheese and elbow macaroni, but there are endless variations. You could try using another cheese or a blend of cheeses, like Monterey Jack, Fontina, Gruyere, or mozzarella.
Another easy swap is the pasta. You could use cavatappi, campanelle, orecchiete, rotini, penne, or fusilli. Easy swaps can make an old recipe seem new again. There are so many ways you can vary the flavor with add-ins too.
The recipes here run the gamut from the classic baked mac and cheese to sophisticated and flavorful adaptations. Whether you're searching for a quick weeknight version or a decked out comfort food mash-up there’s always a mac and cheese recipe meet your needs.
Easy Chicken Mac and Cheese
Chicken and cheese are a match made in comfort food heaven. This mac and cheese recipe is a great way to use up leftover chicken or to create an easy meal out of a rotisserie chicken from the deli. It can be cooked on the stove or baked like a casserole, making it easy to fit into your rotation as a weeknight meal or a weekend treat.
Civil War Macaroni and Cheese
Serve dinner with a side of history with this mac and cheese recipe that dates back to the 1860s. The macaroni is boiled directly in the milk, essentially kickstarting the cheese sauce right in the first step. A lot has changed in the last 160 years, but not our taste for cheesy pasta with crispy breadcrumbs.
Ham and Cheese Pasta Bake
This is a casserole-style mac and cheese with mozzarella, parmesan, ham, and herbs. It uses swirly fusilli, a corkscrew pasta that soaks up and holds on to the creamy sauce. It reheats beautifully and keeps well in the fridge, so you can make a big batch ahead of time for easy meals throughout the week.
Cauliflower Pasta Bake
This cauliflower pasta bake is an elevated mac and cheese with nutty cauliflower, rich gouda, lemon, and thyme. It’s hearty enough to be a meal in its own right, but it’s also a wonderful side for roast chicken or grilled steak.
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Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
This is the classic baked mac and cheese recipe that everyone needs, whether it’s part of your regular rotation or saved for special occasions. This version skips the fussy roux, but it’s still so creamy, so cheesy, and topped with a crispy canopy of breadcrumbs.
Quick Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
Have you noticed that the secret behind a lot of comfort foods is the long cooking time? Not here. You can have homemade mac and cheese in just 20 minutes. It’s cooked on the stove so you don’t even need to heat up the oven. It’s easy and quick and kids will love it even though it’s not from a box.
Chorizo Mac and Cheese
If you’re the type of person to carry around a bottle of hot sauce wherever you go, you might also like your mac and cheese with a kick. This chorizo mac and cheese is loaded with sharp and spicy pepper jack cheese and spicy Mexican chorizo. You can cool it down with some avocado slices on top.
Creamy Basil Artichoke Mac and Cheese
Love for mac and cheese doesn’t have to disappear as you grow up. This version of mac and cheese is for a more sophisticated palate. It combines fresh herbs, four types of cheese, and tangy marinated artichokes. Oh, and it’s a quick stovetop top recipe too.
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Maria Lichty’s Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese
With greens and whole wheat pasta, this is a mac and cheese recipe you can feel good about serving but still guaranteed to be a kid favorite. It’s as easy as the box but upgraded with creamy Havarti, garlic, fresh basil, and spinach. It’s just grown-up enough for you to enjoy along with your kids.
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
Classic mac and cheese actually has a lot of moving parts (and dishes): boiling pasta, making béchamel, and baking in a casserole dish. This slow cooker mac and cheese gives you the best of mac and cheese, but it’s hands-off and one pot. Simply combine everything in the slow cooker, set it, and maybe get some time to relax before dinner.
Chili Mac and Cheese
This mac and cheese recipe brings together two of your favorite comfort foods in one skillet. It fuses the best of a pot of chili, spicy ground beef and tomatoes, with pasta and a creamy Mexican cheese blend. Serve this for the next game and you won’t care what team wins.
Green Chile Mac and Cheese
Whether you’re enjoying summer’s harvest of fresh chiles or pining for warmer days, this recipe is here to give mac and cheese a Southwestern kick. It’s loaded with roasted green chiles, sweet corn, mild jack cheese, and a splash of lime.
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Green Goddess Mac and Cheese
A riff on the famous green goddess dressing, this mac and cheese blends sharp cheddar béchamel flavored with garlic and herbs with a healthy portion of vibrant leafy greens. This is a flavorful and adult-friendly mac and cheese your kids won’t turn their noses up at.
Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Broccoli and cheddar is a classic combo and a great way to get a green vegetable on the plate. This mac and cheese recipe takes inspiration from comforting broccoli and cheddar soup with steamed broccoli florets, sharp cheddar, and a good grind of black pepper. This will easily become a family favorite.