How To Thicken Mac And Cheese
Usually, mac and cheese come with tomato sauce and bacon, which gives the dish a smoky and salty flavor. However, sometimes you are looking to make your mac and cheese more creamy to get that gravy-like texture.
Its not very difficult to accomplish this and its also not very time-consuming. The question then arises: how do you thicken mac and cheese?
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The Best Cheeses To Use In Your Homemade Mac & Cheese
Instant macaroni and cheese might pass the college dorm test and we all know there’s a time and a place for that blue box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
But we all learn eventually that nothing beats the real stuff. When it’s done right, homemade mac and cheese has the potential to be truly transformative the stuff dreams are made of. If you don’t agree, then you haven’t had the good stuff.
Luckily for all of us cheesy carb lovers, this meal is simple to whip up from scratch. Like most dishes you’ll cook, half the battle is won when you’re choosing your ingredients in the grocery aisles. Whether it’s baked for an irresistibly crunchy top, or cooked on the stovetop for maximum creaminess, this perennial comfort food requires the right cheese in order to fulfill its dinnertime destiny. To help you get started on your mac game, here’s a down-and-dirty guide to the major players at the market.
These are the best cheeses to use in your homemade mac and cheese.
Ingredients For Stovetop Mac And Cheese
This healthy mac and cheese recipe requires just 8 simple ingredients most of which are likely already in your kitchen, including:
- Pasta: Macaroni is our favorite- and traditional- shaped pasta for mac and cheese . However, you can use any short pasta that can hold sauce penne, fusilli, bow ties, etc. Feel free to use whole wheat, white, or gluten-free pasta .
- Broth: Use low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth for extra flavor but barely any calories .
- Milk: I recommend using whole milk for the creamiest results . Dairy-free will also work .
- Butter: All you need is two tablespoons of salted butter for this low-calorie mac and cheese recipe!
- Cheese: I use a combination of marble or cheddar cheese and parmesan. For vegetarian mac and cheese feel free to sub the parmesan for another sharp cheese. Make sure to use cheese blocks, not pre-shredded for the best melting.
- Seasonings: I used a combination of garlic powder, mustard , and salt and pepper.
Keep reading below for more instructions on healthy macaroni and cheese add-ins and seasoning variations!
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Perfect Mac And Cheese In 5 Steps:
Ultimate Creamy Baked Mac And Cheese
Making your own homemade ultimate mac and cheese bake is so rich and creamy, but also very easy with our step-by-step instructions that can walk any home cook through the process. Give this recipe a try, and discover your new favorite!
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And Dont Forget, if youve made this recipe, leave a comment and please give it a star rating!
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Tips For Making The Best Mac And Cheese
There are two key elements that make a really GREAT mac and cheese. First, choose the right cheese for a creamy, velvety sauce. Ive used cheddar, Parmesan and other hard cheeses in my mac and cheese recipes, but with this one, with soft and flavorful gouda, delivers just the right mild cheese flavor and the ultra creamy havarti makes for an incredibly silky sauce.
Second, you need great pasta. My favorite is from another partner of mine, DeLallo Foods. Their premium elbow noodles are made in Italy with semolina flour so they have a perfectly toothsome bite. Perfect for cheese sauce to drape and snuggle in each pasta crevice.
Freezing Mac And Cheese
Macaroni and cheese may be frozen if you wish. To freeze, prepare until the macaroni and cheese is ready to be baked. Then wrap securely in plastic wrap, and place into the freezer for up to three months. For best results, when making to freeze, add extra cheese sauce so that it does not become dry.
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Brie Is Creamy Decadent Mac And Cheese Dream Come True
Named after a region in France and literally eaten by kings, soft-ripened Brie is buttery, runny, and creamy like you wouldn’t believe. Its flavor ranges from mild to extremely nutty and tangy, depending on what you get your hands on at the store.
This creamy wonder is the right way to go if you’re looking to make mac and cheese that’s sure to impress. Luxurious and decadent, this rich cheese promises to instantly take your humble mac and cheese to the next level.
Buffalo Chicken Mac And Cheese
The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
Give your mac and cheese a taste of Buffalo chicken wings with this fun recipe. Shredded chicken is cooked with a spicy sauce, while the cheese sauce includes a little hot sauce of its own, along with pepper jack. It’s a memorable dish and an entertaining way to spice up family dinnertime.
If you’re looking to spice things up, try this jalapeño macaroni and cheese, try adding jalapeño peppers. They provide a little bite and will transform your baked macaroni and cheese. We are sure it will quickly become a family favorite.
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This Is The Best Cheese For Mac And Cheese
Give this unique cheese a chance.
The time has come to graduate from Cheddar. Don’t get us wrong, Cheddar’s rich mouthfeel and sharp and mild varieties make it a wonderful cheese to use. But, there is a better cheese that you should be using to revolutionize your mac and cheese: Gruyère.
Gruyère is a Swiss cheese known for its creamy, nutty, and earthy flavor. While Cheddar is punchy and bold, Gruyère is smooth and at first offers tangy-sweet fruit notes before lending rich subtle hints of mushrooms and nuts. Not only is the flavor unique, but cheese experts agree that the “Alpine cheeses” are the ideal cheeses for melting because little salt is added in the cheesemaking process, allowing the cheese to retain its meltability. In baked dishes like mac and cheese, this characteristic texture of Gruyère means that it will meld into the rest of the ingredients, creating a lusciously smooth cheesiness in every part of the dish. To put it simply, swapping in Gruyère for Cheddar makes for an aromatically complex and extra-creamy mac and cheese.
Are you ready to take the Gruyère leap? Simply follow our Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe and where the recipe calls for Cheddar, use 10 oz of Gruyère instead. Make sure you buy a block of the cheese and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheeses contain additives and preservatives that take away from the flavor and texture of a once excellent cheese. Also, see tips for preparing the pasta for your mac and cheese here.
Can I Freeze Macaroni And Cheese
I get asked that a lot and my answer is always no. As the pasta and cheese sauce sit, it will thicken and when you thaw it and bake it, the creamy consistency is just gone. Its thick and gloppy. Plus if you freeze it and its still a bit warm, water crystals will form and then thaw into your dish and could make it separate when you bake it. Besides, its so fast to make, theres not really a reason to freeze your macaroni and cheese.
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Homemade Macaroni And Cheese: What Kind Of Cheese Should I Use
I honestly use different cheese combinations almost every time I make this mac and cheese recipe but the one I always come back to is sharp cheddar and Gruyere. If you cant find Gruyere, Jarlsberg Swiss cheese is the best substitute. Other cheese that work: mozzarella, jack cheese or pepper jack for a little zip, American and Velveeta as well for a creamier cheese sauce. This baked mac and cheese uses 6 cups of cheese so just
To add even more flavor to my homemade mac and cheese, I add Parmesan to the Panko topping so good!
Can I Use Mild Cheddar Instead Of Sharp Cheddar
There is just one answer. Melting cheddars are milder in flavor. It is common to see them in dishes such as grilled cheese sandwiches, chili toppings, nachos, and quesadillas, among other things. They dont require the full-bodied taste of a sharp cheddar for these applications, but they do require the ability to melt down into soft, gooey, creamy bliss.
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How Do I Make The Cheese Sauce For Five Cheese Baked Macaroni And Cheese
While I dont knock anyones method, I find that many folks over complicate macaroni and cheese. Sure, a béchamel sauce is nice, but you dont need a béchamel to make a creamy mac and cheese. I mean, if Im a culinary stickler, its not a béchamel sauce most folks are using. Its a mornay sauce.
Lets keep things simple here. Add the evaporated milk, the seasoned salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion powder, ground mustard, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to the pot. Next, add the crumbled chevre. Stir in the chevre, still with the stove set to medium, to heat the chevre until its nearly melted.
Finally, add in the beaten egg. I add an egg to my mac and cheese because it, along with the starch from the pasta, gives the casserole body and helps bind it together.
How Can I Spice Up Mac And Cheese
Spice Up Your Plain Mac Throwing in spices to your macaroni and cheese might be the easiest and most affordable way to add in additional flavor. Basic spices that you may already have in your pantry that would work well include red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning, chili, onion, and garlic powder.
What do you eat with baked mac and cheese?
Baked mac and cheese can be served as a main dish or side dish. What to Serve with Baked Mac and Cheese
Mac And Cheese Sauce Versatility
Love this sauce and want to mix things up? Here are some ideas on how to repurpose this sauce for something other than mac!
Use on any noodle all out of macaroni noodles? You can literally use 1 lb. of any noodle under the sun!
Nachos we love using this sauce on top of nachos. Think loaded nachos with all the fixings + this cheese sauce.
Burgers/Sandwiches how good would this easy mac and cheese sauce be on top of a burger or sandwich?! Im drooling.
Chili Mac and Cheese mix this cheese sauce with 1 lb. of noodles and a batch of homemade beef chili for some chili mac! Check out our sister sites Chili Mac and Cheese recipe!
Dip when I dip you dip we dip. Grab your favorite tortilla chip and dip away!
More of our Favorite
Can I Make This Five Cheese Baked Macaroni And Cheese Ahead
You can make this mac and cheese ahead. Its also freezer-friendly after baking. In the past, Ive prepped this entirely and wrapped the pan in foil to freeze for 6 months.
Granted, when freezing, I suggest preparing and baking it in a disposable aluminum pan. This is to prevent your ceramic dishes from being held hostage for long periods. It also allows you to toss the pan of macaroni into the oven straight from the fridge without fear the cold dish will shatter.
If you need to make this ahead of time, follow the instructions all the way up to baking. Wrap the pan in foil and store it in the fridge for up to 48 hours or in the freezer for up to 6 months. If youre taking the freezer route, youll need to remember to thaw it for 24 hours in the fridge before baking it.
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How To Make The Toppings: Tips And Techniques
The first thing you need to do is crush whatever crunchy topping youve chosen. If youre using potato chips, crackers, or cheese crisps, you can either place them in a zip top bag and roll over the bag with a rolling pin , or whir them in a food processor. If youre going the rolling pin route, be sure to push out any air in the bag before zipping it closed.
To make your own breadcrumbs from leftover bread, start by removing any particularly tough or thick crusts. Tear the bread into pieces, place it in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and pulse until your desired crumb size is reached.
This works best with stale bread. If your bread is particularly fresh and soft, you can dry out the torn pieces in the oven. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 300-degrees F for 15-25 minutes. Watch the bread closely so it doesnt toast or burn.
How Long To Bake Mac And Cheese
There is only one rule that you need to remember when baking mac and cheese: dont bake it too long otherwise youll bake away the sauce leaving you with a dry mixture.
Baking it at around 20 minutes at 375 degrees F guarantees you that same stretchy cheesy baked mac and cheese with all the heart-melting sauce. Or you can also bake it at 30 minutes at 350 F
Although weve tried a couple of Mac and Cheese recipes, nothing compares to this one which has a smooth silky sauce that permeates every inch of elbow macaroni there is.
Youd fall head over heels with the brimming Southern flavors of what this baked mac and cheese has to offer. Its got a note of heat and smokiness. Youd need a bigger a spoon, for sure!
This would be delightful at any time. Oh, especially during these cold winter months. So dont wait for special occasions to whip up a pan of this.
Heck, you could even make this on the daily. You can also explore different southern comfort food ideas to prepare every day! Go ahead, take a bite, nobodys looking.
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How To Make The Creamiest Macaroni And Cheese
Youre only looking at six ingredients . Itcan even be made in under 30 minutes .
I love that you can keep this as a quick stovetop mac and cheese or slide it into the oven to get bubbly and browned. I love it both ways.
Were going to call this our basic mac and cheese not because it isnt incredibly delicious, but because its the perfect base for other variations. Take a look below for some suggestions.
To make our go-to macaroni and cheese, you will need the following:
Pasta: The shape and size are entirely up to you. Look for pasta that will hold onto the creamy sauce. Elbow macaroni and shells are great options.
Butter and Flour: Its the combination of butter and flour that thicken the sauce. We like to use unsalted butter for this and then adjust salt to taste when making the sauce. That said, salted butter will work if that is all that you have.
Cheddar cheese: Whenever we make macaroni and cheese, we reach for sharp white cheddar cheese. Its flavorful and melts beautifully. For more cheese suggestions see our notes below. Whatever cheese you use, its best to grate it yourself. I know its extra prep time, but hand-grated cheese melts so much easier into the sauce.
Cream cheese: The mac and cheese would be excellent with just cheddar cheese added, but to make it ultra creamy, well stir in some cream cheese. It adds a lovely silky texture, and since it has a little zinginess, it brightens up the flavor a bit.
Tips For The Best Macaroni And Cheese Youll Ever Eat
Feel like you may still need some help? If you have time, jump over to this post for the juicy details: 18 Secrets to the Richest, Creamiest Mac and Cheese Youll Ever Eat or focus on these tips:
Never stop stirring your milk once it hits the pan. If your skillet is too hot or you walk away and for a minute you could scorch the white sauce and it will curdle. It doesnt really hurt the taste, but it will look sort of clumpy. Some readers have called it grainy. It only takes 5 minutes. Just hang out and stir until that sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.
Use good cheese in your baked macaroni and cheese. That means avoiding bagged, pre-shredded cheeses because they contain cellulose that can in some cases cause your cheese not to melt as it should. -And speaking of cheese, you have so many options! My favorite is sharp cheddar and Swiss.
Do taste as you go. Taste your cheese sauce before you add your pasta. Is it bland? That can be because of the cheese you used or even the kind of salt you seasoned with. If it doesnt have enough flavor, add a pinch more salt, stir it in and taste it again until it suits you.
-Feel free to add more pasta if you want to. Some people say that this recipe doesnt have enough noodles in it, but Ive never had that problem. And yes, you should cook your pasta before adding it to the cheese sauce.
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