Easy Creamy Mac and Cheese

This easy creamy mac and cheese recipe takes 30 minutes and tastes amazing. Serve it as stovetop mac and cheese for super creamy results, or bake it for a crisp golden brown top.

Watch the Video

Easy Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe Video

My family’s creamy mac and cheese recipe is easy with a short list of ingredients. I often serve this as stovetop mac and cheese, but it bakes really well, too!

The cheese sauce is like velvet and super creamy!

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese (served as stovetop Mac and Cheese)

Key Ingredients

  • Pasta: The shape and size are entirely up to you. Look for pasta that has nooks and crannies that will hold onto the creamy sauce. Elbow macaroni and shells are great options.
  • Butter and flour: The combination of butter and flour thickens our cheese sauce.
  • Milk: I use whole milk or reduced-fat milk when making this recipe. For the best sauce, gently warm your milk before using it to make the cheese sauce.
  • Cheese: I love sharp white cheddar cheese for macaroni and cheese. It’s flavorful and melts beautifully. I also prefer to grate the cheese myself. It melts better than the bags of pre-shredded cheese.
  • Cream cheese: To make this mac and cheese extra creamy, we add a little cream cheese to the sauce. It adds a lovely silky texture.

How to Make Mac and Cheese

This mac and cheese recipe is really easy to make. First, you’ll cook your pasta. While that cooks, you can make the creamy cheese sauce.

The base is a Béchamel sauce made with cooked flour, butter, and milk. You’ll make a roux with the butter and flour in the bottom of a large pot. Make sure you stay close and whisk until the mixture of butter and flour turns light brown. Then, whisk in warm milk. Adding the milk warm makes this go quickly. As the milk heats with the roux, it will thicken.

Making the best Mac and Cheese sauce with cheddar, cream cheese, and milk

Now it’s time for the seasonings and cheese. Our simple recipe has salt, pepper, shredded white cheddar, and cream cheese. When the sauce is velvety and smooth, stir in your cooked pasta, and then cover with a lid so that it absorbs some of the sauce. From there, you can serve (for baked, see the recipe below).

Storing and Reheating Mac and Cheese

Store macaroni and cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Keep in mind that when freezing creamy sauces like this, the texture may change when you reheat them. Thaw the frozen mac and cheese in the fridge overnight and reheat gently.

When reheating your mac and cheese, you want to do it low and slow. Otherwise, the sauce might become grainy and greasy. I use a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, add my mac and cheese and an extra splash of milk, then heat, stirring often until warmed through.

If your mac and cheese sauce breaks on you, try stirring in a little more cheese (cheddar or cream cheese), which helps re-emulsify the sauce.

What to Serve with Mac and Cheese

Our family loves mac and cheese. Here are a few of our favorite main dishes to serve next to it:

Mac and cheese is really good with other sides, such as a simple salad, roasted broccolini, and roasted green beans. As a kid, I loved my mac and cheese with ketchup (is that weird). Anyway, if you do as well, here’s our recipe for homemade ketchup!

Bowl of creamy homemade mac and cheese

Macaroni and Cheese Variations

  • Baked Mac and Cheese: Once the pasta and cheese sauce are combined, add it to a baking dish and bake with a little more cheese and breadcrumbs sprinkled on top (see this baked macaroni and cheese for reference).
  • Garlic Mac and Cheese: Stir mashed roasted garlic into the sauce. Here’s how to roast garlic.
  • Use a variety of cheeses: Try Gruyère, Fontina, or Monterey Jack. For more flavor, a bit of parmesan or pecorino cheese is lovely.
  • Spiced macaroni and cheese: Mustard (Dijon or mustard powder), nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne pepper are classic additions to the cheese sauce. Smoked paprika is also delicious.
  • Broccoli Mac and Cheese: A kid favorite! Stir roasted broccoli or steamed broccoli into the pot before serving.
  • Lighter Mac and Cheese: Swapping half of the cheese sauce for pureed cauliflower cuts calories and tastes incredible. You might also enjoy our pumpkin mac and cheese.
Easy Creamy Mac and Cheese

Easy Creamy Mac and Cheese

  • PREP
  • COOK

This is our quick and easy homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. It’s extra saucy and very creamy. It’s made on the stovetop and does not require any baking. That’s not to say that you could not bake it. We’ve shared how in the recipe below. Cream cheese is optional but adds tanginess and even more creaminess to the sauce.

*In the video, we add the cream cheese after the cheddar, but since sharing and testing again, we now prefer to the cream cheese before the cheddar.

Makes 8 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

1 pound (450g) dried pasta like elbow macaroni, shells or penne

5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter

1/2 cup (65g) all-purpose flour

5 cups (1180ml) milk, warmed, whole or 2% reduced fat preferred

1 pound (450g) white cheddar cheese, shredded

4 ounces (113g) cream cheese, softened, optional

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


    1Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and then follow package directions, but cook 1 minute less than the package calls for. Drain.

    2Meanwhile, make the creamy cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large, high-sided pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

    3Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk it into the butter (it will be thick). Continue to whisk until it smells toasted and looks light brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

    4While whisking, pour in a third of the warm milk. Whisk until smooth (it will thicken), then whisk in another third until smooth, and finally whisk in the rest.

    5Continue to cook, constantly whisking until the sauce begins to simmer and thickens. The sauce only thickens after it has reached a simmer.

    6Turn the heat to low then stir in the cream cheese. When the cream cheese is mostly melted into the sauce, stir in the cheddar a handful at a time, until it melts into the sauce. Season with salt and black pepper. If the flavor does not pop, add a bit more salt.

    7Stir in the cooked pasta. It will look like there is too much sauce, don’t worry. The pasta absorbs the extra moisture as it sits.

    8Take the pot off the heat, then cover with a lid. Leave for 5 minutes, stir once more, and then serve.

    9For baked mac and cheese: After adding the pasta to the cheese sauce, spoon it into a large baking dish, scatter over some breadcrumbs (optional), and add more shredded cheese. Bake, uncovered, in a 375°F (190°C) oven until bubbling and browned on top, 25 to 30 minutes.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Storing: Keep covered in the refrigerator up to 3 days. To freeze, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze up to 2 months. Bake, covered, in a 350°F oven for about an hour. Or thaw overnight and gently reheat on the stove (if it seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of extra milk).
  • Less sauce: Some of our readers prefer this recipe with less sauce. Make the recipe as stated, and then remove 1 to 2 cups of the cheese sauce before mixing in your pasta. Then, you can adjust with more sauce as you need it. You can store the leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Reheat gently over low heat and serve over veggies.
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/8 of the recipe / Calories 571 / Total Fat 31.9g / Saturated Fat 18.2g / Cholesterol 89.6mg / Sodium 564.7mg / Carbohydrate 48.7g / Dietary Fiber 2g / Total Sugars 2.3g / Protein 21.8g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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88 comments… Leave a Review
  • Angeleena December 13, 2023, 12:53 pm

    If I use evaporated milk instead of whole milk or I do 50/50, will it matter?

    • Joanne December 18, 2023, 3:56 pm

      Hi there, we have never used evaporated milk in this recipe so unfortunately, we are unable to say how it will turn out.

  • Jmbcomp November 23, 2023, 10:27 am

    Quick and easy. Delicious to top it off. Definitely do cream cheese. Big family hit.

  • Evelyn November 22, 2023, 3:57 pm

    Can I add the orange cheddar?

    • Adam November 23, 2023, 1:00 pm


    • Sue January 10, 2024, 12:48 pm

      Been looking for this recipe all my life!
      Fast, easy and turns out creamy! Family ate the bowl clean (that has never happened) !!! Yummy!

  • Evelyn November 22, 2023, 3:54 pm

    Would it be okay if I add the orange cheddar? I don’t want to mess up the recipe.

    • Joanne November 22, 2023, 3:56 pm

      Hi Evelyn, Orange cheddar it totally fine!


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