This Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe is made with 8 ingredients in 15 minutes on the stovetop (no baking required)! Time to ditch the boxed mac and cheese for this irresistibly creamy, smooth & cheesy homemade recipe!
I have five kids and a husband with a taste palate of a 12-year-old-boy, which means we eat a lot of mac and cheese in our house. A lot of mac and cheese.
So naturally I created this super easy homemade mac and cheese recipe so that we could consume less of the boxed varieties. Because I really care about feeding my family healthy meals that they actually enjoy! And did I mention that they love mac and cheese?! 😉
Once you taste this homemade mac and cheese you and your family will say “goodbye” to powdered cheese forever, and say “hello” to this creamy dreamy real-cheese version again and again!
This homemade mac and cheese recipe is made with only 8 ingredients in 15 minutes! That’s the same amount of time it takes to make the boxed varieties, but with no preservatives or artificial ingredients!
How do you make Homemade Mac and Cheese?
Step 1: Gather & Measure the ingredients
This easy mac and cheese recipe is super fast-paced once you start cooking, so it’s important to have all the ingredients measured and ready to go! As you can see there are only eight, common ingredients in this recipe that most of us have on hand at all times! We will discuss the ingredients and possible substitutions later in this post (right above the recipe card).
Step 2: Cook the Macaroni
Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions. Be sure to add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt to the boiling water. It may seem like an insignificant step, but it makes a huge difference in the overall taste of this easy homemade mac and cheese (or any pasta dish for that matter)!
Step 3: Make the Cheese Sauce
While the macaroni is cooking, make the cheese sauce! It’s really easy but there are a few notes that we’ll go over to ensure your success!
Make a Roux.
This homemade mac and cheese sauce starts with a roux. What is a roux? It’s a mixture of fat (usually butter) and flour that is used to create thick sauces. Start by melting the butter (do not let it brown) and then adding the dry ingredients (flour, salt and garlic powder).
Use a whisk to combine the ingredients until the mixture is homogenous (uniform throughout). Let it cook (you will see it bubbling) for about 60 seconds before moving on!
Add wet ingredients.
After the roux has cooked for 60 seconds, add the milk and whisk the mixture really well. Add the sour cream or Greek yogurt and whisk again. At this point the mixture will be fairly runny. Cook over medium heat whisking every 10-15 seconds until the sauce starts to thicken.
Do NOT let this mixture boil! If you do you may end up with a mac and cheese sauce that is too thick. Once the sauce has thickened enough to stick to a spatula, turn the heat to low. Then it’s time for the next step…
Add the cheese & whisk until smooth
Add the cheese and whisk until the sauce is smooth and all the cheese is melted. This will take 1-2 minutes over low heat! At this point it is important to taste the homemade mac and cheese sauce and adjust the salt/garlic according to your tastes!
Step 4: Combine the Cheese Sauce & Cooked Macaroni
Once the cheese sauce is silky smooth, turn off the heat, add the cooked pasta and stir to combine. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so keep that in mind!
Step 5: Serve!
Serve this homemade mac and cheese recipe all by itself for an easy lunch or dinner! My kids love it with chopped up hot dogs. I enjoy eating a small portion with a giant salad! You can also serve this homemade mac and cheese as an easy side dish for a BBQ or potluck!
What can I add to Mac & Cheese?
If you’re looking for an extra special way to serve this easy mac and cheese recipe, here are some suggestions for delicious add-ins:
- cooked & crumbled bacon
- hot dogs (a kid favorite, as mentioned above)
- Vegetables (broccoli, peas, carrots, etc.)
- Minced garlic and diced onions (cook them in the butter before adding the flour when making the roux, you may need 1 extra TBS butter if you’d like to add this)
- Hot sauce, ketchup or BBQ sauce
FAQs about Homemade Mac and Cheese
How do you store mac and cheese?
Store the leftovers of this homemade mac and cheese recipe in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Since it thickens as it cools, you may need to add 1-2 TBS of milk when it’s reheated it to restore its original creaminess.
Can homemade mac and cheese be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze this homemade mac and cheese, however I don’t recommend it. Since this mac and cheese recipe is so easy to make, there’s really no need to freeze it. If you’re looking for a freezer-friendly mac and cheese recipe check out my baked mac and cheese!
What main dish goes well with mac and cheese?
If you’re looking to serve this mac and cheese recipe as a side dish instead of the main event, here are some suggestions for other dishes that pair well with it:
- meatloaf (recipe coming soon)
- BBQ (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, etc.)
- large salad (like this burrata salad)!
- fried chicken (classic)
- This balsamic pot roast(one of our favorite main dishes)!
- Serve it alongside this avocado chicken salad!
- For a truly kid-friendly dinner, serve it with these healthy Sloppy Joes!
Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe: Ingredients & Substitutions
Here are some notes on the ingredients in this easy mac and cheese recipe, as well as possible substitutions.
- Macaroni. I have used just about every noodle variety under the sun to make this mac and cheese recipe and it always turns out delicious! I do recommend a shape (bowties, rotini, etc.) instead of spaghetti noodles, but they do work if it’s all you have! You can also use gluten-free pasta, whole wheat pasta, chickpea pasta, etc. etc.
- Butter. There really isn’t a substitute for butter in this recipe. However you can use either salter or unsalted with great results!
- All-Purpose Flour. There are a few substitutions that work well for the flour including corn starch, tapioca starch/flour, and all-purpose gluten-free flour. I do not recommend whole wheat flour, as it give this mac and cheese recipe a wheaty taste.
- Milk. Any kind of liquid dairy works well in this recipe. Just remember the higher the fat content, the creamier your homemade mac and cheese will be (so I do not recommend using fat-free milk). 2% milk, whole milk, half and half and cream all work well! My favorite is whole milk!
- Sour Cream. I have used Greek Yogurt in place of sour cream with excellent results. I would save I’ve made it equally with sour cream and Greek yogurt and my family can never tell the difference! Sure you could use a low-fat variety of either one of these ingredients, but you will be sacrificing the creaminess of the final result.
- Cheese. NOTE: The quality of the cheese that you use in this homemade mac and cheese recipe really matters. If you wouldn’t eat it by itself, then don’t use it to make mac and cheese! I recommend a high-quality medium to sharp cheddar cheese for the best flavor!
- Salt & Pepper. Add these ingredients to taste!
- Garlic powder. This ingredient is optional but I think it adds just a touch of flavor that takes this mac and cheese recipe up a notch without making it unpalatable to kids. Adjust the amount to your family’s tastes!
Can you make this mac and cheese gluten-free?
YES! Making this mac and cheese recipe gluten-free is SO easy! Just use your favorite gluten-free pasta and all-purpose gluten free flour, and presto! You have delicious creamy gluten-free mac and cheese!
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Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 8 oz elbow macaroni uncooked
- Cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Be sure to add ¼ tsp salt to the water used to boil the noodles. Drain, and set aside.
Make the cheese sauce:
- Mix flour, sea salt, and garlic powder together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add flour mixture and whisk to combine.
- Cook for 1 minute until mixture is slightly brown.
- Add 1 cup milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
- Add sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and whisk until smooth.
- Cook on medium-high heat until the mixture is thickened (about 3-5 minutes). Do not let it boil.
- Once mixture is thick (sticks to the back of the spatula), reduce heat to low and add cheese. Whisk until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth. Taste and add more salt/seasoning if desired.
- Add cooked pasta to the pot of cheese sauce and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed.
- Let the mac and cheese cool for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese sauce has thickened a little bit and sticks to the noodles. Serve warm!
Storage & reheating
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. You may need to add another 1-2 TBS of milk to make the mac and cheese creamy again after storing!
Ingredient Substitutions:Here are some notes on the ingredients in this easy mac and cheese recipe, as well as possible substitutions.
- Macaroni. I have used just about every noodle variety under the sun to make this mac and cheese recipe and it always turns out delicious! You can also use gluten-free pasta, whole wheat pasta, chickpea pasta, etc. etc.
- All-Purpose Flour. There are a few substitutions that work well for the flour including corn starch, tapioca starch/flour, and all-purpose gluten-free flour.
- Milk. Any kind of liquid dairy works well in this recipe. Just remember the higher the fat content, the creamier your homemade mac and cheese will be. 2% milk, whole milk, half and half and cream all work well!
- Sour Cream. I have used Greek Yogurt in place of sour cream with excellent results.
- Cheese. I recommend a high-quality medium to sharp cheddar cheese for the best flavor!
- Garlic powder. This ingredient is optional but I think it adds just a touch of flavor that takes this mac and cheese recipe up a notch without making it unpalatable to kids. Adjust the amount to your family's tastes!
MORE DELICIOUS MAC AND CHEESE RECIPES:
- For a low-carb version, try this spaghetti squash mac and cheese!
- This baked mac and cheese can be made gluten-free!
- Add some nutrition and make this Vegetable Mac and Cheese!
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