Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese

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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! 

overhead photo of homemade mac and cheese in a pot with a spoon taking a scoop


I have six 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 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 over and over 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.

a fork taking a bite of mac and cheese in a bowl

Homemade Mac and Cheese: Ingredients & Substitutions 

Here are some notes on the ingredients in this mac and cheese recipe, as well as possible substitutions. 

overhead photo of the labeled ingredients in this Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe
  • 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 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.
  • 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. Also, to avoid grainy mac and cheese, I suggest buying a block of cheese and shredding it yourself. This ensures there are no stabilizers or additives in your cheese sauce.
  • 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! 
homemade macaroni and cheese in a bowl with a fork

How do you make Mac and Cheese?

This homemade mac and cheese recipe is very easy to make and comes together in 15 minutes flat. As always we’ll walk through the process step-by-step, and don’t forget to watch the video.

Gather & Measure the ingredients

This easy mac and cheese recipe is fast-paced once you start cooking, so it’s important to have all the ingredients measured and ready to go.

Cook the Macaroni

Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions. Be sure to add a generous amount of salt to the boiling water. It may seem like an insignificant step, but it makes a huge difference in the overall taste of this mac and cheese (or any pasta dish for that matter)!

salting water to make homemade mac and cheese

Drain the macaroni when it is cooked but do not rinse it.

two photos showing how to make Mac and Cheese - cooking macaroni and draining it

Make the Cheese Sauce

While the macaroni (or your noodles of choice) 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).

two photos showing butter melting in a pot

Then whisk in the dry ingredients (flour, salt and garlic powder) until the mixture is smooth. Let it cook (you will see it bubbling) for about 60 seconds.

two photos showing how to make Mac and Cheese - making the roux for the cheese sauce

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.

two photos showing how to make Mac and Cheese - making the cheese sauce

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.

two photos showing how to make Mac and Cheese - making the cheese sauce

Add the cheese & whisk until smooth 

Then, 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 cheese sauce and adjust the salt/garlic according to your tastes!

two photos showing how to make Mac and Cheese - whisking in the cheese until melted

Add the 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!

two photos showing how to make Mac and Cheese adding macaroni to the cheese sauce

Serve

Serve this homemade mac and cheese recipe all by itself for an easy lunch or dinner. I often serve it with roasted broccoli. 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.) (check out my vegetable mac and cheese recipe)
  • 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 
overhead view of Homemade Mac and Cheese in a pot with a spoon taking a scoop

FAQs about Homemade Mac and Cheese

This mac and cheese recipe is one of my most popular, so here are some of the commonly asked questions.

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 homemade chicken nuggets or healthy Sloppy Joes.

Can you make this mac and cheese gluten-free? 

Yes! Making this mac and cheese recipe gluten-free is very 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!

a bowl full of Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe

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Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe

Laura
This Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe is made with 6 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! 
5 from 1015 votes
Course dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Servings
Calories 271.1
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes

Ingredients 
 

Cheese Sauce:

Instructions 

  • 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.

Assemble & Serve

  • 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!

Video

Notes

How to Store Mac & Cheese
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
Reheat
Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. You may need to add another 1-2 Tablespoons of milk to make the mac and cheese creamy again after storing.
Ingredient 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! 
 

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 271.1kcal | Carbohydrates: 25.3g | Protein: 12.3g | Fat: 13.8g | Saturated Fat: 8.5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3.5g | Cholesterol: 41.7mg | Sodium: 351mg | Potassium: 102.8mg | Fiber: 1.1g | Sugar: 2.6g | Vitamin A: 460IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 252mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Have a question? Leave a comment below!
overhead photo of homemade mac and cheese in a pot with a spoon taking a scoop

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641 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Yum!!! Wanted a quick easy dinner to make & not have to run out to the store for ingredients. This was perfect & cheesy! Definitely a go to homemade Mac n cheese recipe for me! Think I’ll make as a side for Christmas dinner!

  2. 5 stars
    Laura ~ Thank you for this delicious recipe!! I had all ingredients on hand… I used White Sharp Cheddar Cheese… Cream, instead of milk… It was very easy to assemble. My husband better hurry & get home soon, or there might not be any left for him. 😉
    I will make this Mac & Cheese recipe again, and again. Nim, Num.

  3. 5 stars
    Delish!!! Needed a quick and easy dinner with things we had on hand in the kitchen. Used heavy whipping cream instead of whole milk because we only had 2%, and I figured go big or go home. Used an assortment of cheese, which worked well. So good!!! Brightened our evening; we will definitely have this again! Thank you!

  4. 5 stars
    I tried your recipe today. I’ve never made it homemade and not only was it easy to follow but it turned out delicious. I used 1 cup of sharp cheddar, 1/2 cup of Gruyere and 1/2 of Swiss cheese. I also used garlic infused olive oil after I cooked the pasta instead of the garlic powder. Super delicious. I’ll be making this dish again and again. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe with us. Aloha~ Cynthia

    1. Super yummy ! Fed and made happy myself and 4 teenagers. I increased the pasta and sauce accordingly, added bacon bits and veg to serve. Yum!

    1. I do not recommend skipping it, as it adds to the rich and creamy flavor. If you do skip it you will need to increase the amount of milk to still achieve the correct moisture level!