Best EVER Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

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Did you know that you can make creamy, rich, and saucy stovetop mac and cheese from scratch in the same amount of time it takes to cook boxed mac and cheese?

And I’m happy to say that this pasta is infinitely tastier than the boxes of mac and cheese that used to have a home in our pantry.

Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Creamy Mac and Cheese

I’ve tried countless mac and cheese recipes over the years and never found one that I truly loved. This recipe though is absolutely foolproof and it turns out wonderfully creamy every time.

I am so very happy to have a new favorite dinner and my kids are pretty excited about it too.

I’ve made this creamy mac and cheese at least a half dozen times over the past few months and we absolutely love it.

The recipe below is loosely adapted from a mac and cheese recipe that I found over on Cookie & Kate. The spices here are the game-changer – adding the garlic, onion, ground mustard, and a pinch of cayenne makes such a lovely difference.

Everyone has their own opinion on the best mac and cheese recipe. For me, the best mac and cheese is creamy as it possibly can be.

While lots of people swear by a baked mac and cheese, I’m a stovetop mac and cheese girl for life.

Homemade Mac and Cheese is a kid and adult favorite!

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Want to make this even easier? Or would you prefer to skip the step with the flour?

Replace the milk with additional heavy cream (for a total of 1 1/2 cups heavy cream). Skip the flour. Just warm the cream and spices to steaming and add the cheese as directed in the recipe.

This recipe can be made gluten-free by substituting brown rice flour and GF pasta. It is tasty that way, but to be 1000% honest, it is not quite as creamy as the traditional recipe. GF pasta and flours simply are not equal in this case.

If you desire a thinner pasta sauce, an additional splash or two of milk (up to 1/4 cup) will thin it nicely.

Wonderfully smooth and creamy cheese sauce is possible in just minutes!

Mac and Cheese Add-Ins

Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese is a huge favorite with my family. I always have some Pulled Pork stashed in the freezer, especially for mac and cheese.

There is something absolutely perfect about a forkful of cheesy pasta alongside tender pulled pork with tangy bbq sauce. I just love it.

Broccoli is another popular mac and cheese add-in in my house. Even my non-broccoli loving children enjoy it when it’s covered in a cheesy sauce and mixed into this mac and cheese. (Who wouldn’t, right?)

Homemade Mac and Cheese with Pulled Pork

Best Ever Taco Meat makes a frequent appearance stirred into mac and cheese around here too.

Cooked and crumbled bacon is always a hit as a topping. (We cook our bacon in the oven, it’s the best thing ever for easy bacon!)

Brussels Sprouts are my personal favorite vegetable to add to cheesy pasta. I slice them thin and give them a quick saute in a skillet to soften them a little before adding them. (If you have a few extra minutes, these roasted Brussels would be awesome too!)

What are your favorite things to add to macaroni and cheese?

Creamy Mac and Cheese topped with BBQ Pulled Pork is a dinner favorite!

Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe

  1. In a large pot (this one is my favorite for pasta!), bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil. Bring the water to a boil and then add 2 tablespoons of salt (trust me on this, salted water makes ALL the difference when cooking pasta.)
  2. Add the pasta. Cook the pasta to al dente, being careful not to overcook. The pasta should still have a nice chew to it. Drain and do not rinse.
  3. In the same pot used for the pasta, add half of the milk and cream over medium heat. In a separate bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the remaining milk and cream with the flour and spices. Whisk until smooth.
  4. When the milk on the stove begins to steam (not boil!) add the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until the milk thickens slightly, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add the shredded cheese, a handful at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to melt. Remove from the heat once all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Taste and add salt, only if needed.
  6. Add the toppings of your choice, if desired.

Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese is so much better than the box!

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Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese is so much better than the box!

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

5 from 1 vote
Did you know that you can make creamy, rich, and saucy stovetop mac and cheese from scratch in the same amount of time it takes to cook boxed mac and cheese?
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Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb dried pasta: cavatappi, shells, or large elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp granulated onion
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 oz freshly shredded cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 oz freshly shredded Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  • In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil. Bring the water to a boil and then add 2 tablespoons of salt (trust me on this, salted water makes ALL the difference when cooking pasta.) Add the pasta. Cook the pasta to al dente, being careful not to overcook. The pasta should still have a nice chew to it. Drain and do not rinse.
  • In the same pot used for the pasta, add half of the milk and cream over medium heat. In a separate bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the remaining milk and cream with the flour and spices. Whisk until smooth.
  • When the milk on the stove begins to steam (not boil!) add the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until the milk thickens slightly, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the shredded cheese, a handful at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to melt. Remove from the heat once all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Taste and add salt, only if needed. 

Notes

* want to make this even easier? or prefer to skip the flour? Replace the milk with additional heavy cream (for a total of 1 1/2 cups heavy cream). Skip the flour. Just warm the cream and spices to steaming and add the cheese as directed in the recipe.
** this recipe CAN be made gluten-free by substituting brown rice flour and GF pasta. It is super tasty that way, but to be 1000% honest, it is not quite as creamy as the traditional recipe. GF pasta and flours simply are not equal in this case.

Nutrition

Calories: 623kcal · Carbohydrates: 60g · Protein: 25g · Fat: 31g · Saturated Fat: 19g · Cholesterol: 99mg · Sodium: 647mg · Potassium: 282mg · Fiber: 2g · Sugar: 4g · Vitamin A: 1004IU · Vitamin C: 1mg · Calcium: 484mg · Iron: 1mg
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Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese that is so much better than the box!

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Larry says

    Looks delicious Mary. Growing up, the stove top version was all I knew as mom just cooked elbow macaroni and stirred in some Velveeta and while I use different cheese now I still prefer stove top.

  2. Chris Simmons says

    When combining the butter and flour to make the roux, I also add a tablespoon or so of spicy brown mustard. Before the sauce is ready to combine with the pasta, I stir in a small jar of chopped pimiento. This adds a nice flavor, also.

  3. Gretchen says

    I haven’t made this yet, but I wonder if half and half could be used instead of the combination of milk and cream?

  4. Rachel says

    I used different cheeses (and a mixture of heavy cream and 2% milk because it’s what I had), but this recipe is solid. So delicious.

  5. Scott Mackay says

    Great Mac’n Cheese recipe! I fried sliced Andouille Cajun Sausage, Bell peppers, and sweet onions together, to add to the Mac’n cheese. Mixed them together after.. for leftovers!5 stars