Everyone needs a go-to homemade mac and cheese recipe in their back pocket, and this one is ours. It’s simple to make, tastes fantastic, and makes super creamy macaroni and cheese. Jump to the Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe
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How to Make the Creamiest Macaroni and Cheese
You’re only looking at six ingredients (plus salt and pepper). It can even be made in under 30 minutes (maybe less!). 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.
We’re going to call this our basic mac and cheese — not because it isn’t incredibly delicious, but because it’s 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: It’s 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. It’s flavorful and melts beautifully. For more cheese suggestions see our notes below. Whatever cheese you use, it’s best to grate it yourself. I know it’s 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, we’ll 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.
- Salt and Pepper: Nobody wants an unseasoned cheese sauce! Make sure that you taste the sauce before serving. If it doesn’t pop, add a touch more salt to the pot.
Macaroni and Cheese Variations
This recipe is easy to adapt to other variations. Here are some of our favorites:
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. We shared this Baked Macaroni and Cheese a while back.
Garlic Mac and Cheese: Fresh garlic and roasted garlic are excellent in this recipe. Add either to the butter just before adding the flour. For fresh, I’d use 2 to 3 cloves. For roasted garlic, you can increase to 6 cloves or more. See our recipe for making roasted garlic.
Use a Variety of Cheeses: Cheddar isn’t the only cheese to use. Try easy melting Gruyere, Fontina or Monterey Jack. For more flavor, a bit of parmesan or pecorino cheese is lovely, and for a more adult dish, try blue cheese!
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. Here’s how we make roasted broccoli.
Lighter Mac and Cheese: Swapping half of the cheese sauce for pureed cauliflower cuts calories and still tastes incredible.
More Easy Recipes
- This Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese swaps some of the cheese sauce for pumpkin puree. It’s delicious.
- Try our Creamy White Chicken Lasagna — Nothing says comfort to us like baked lasagna loaded with creamy sauce, chicken, and cheese.
- For a lighter take on pasta with cheese, try our Orzo Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Parmesan or these Easy Buttered Noodles!
- Serve this Homemade Caesar Salad on the side or try our Easy Coleslaw for some crunch.
Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese
This is our quick and easy homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. 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. Thanks to butter, flour, and milk the sauce is like velvet and super creamy. To the sauce, we add a whole pound of cheddar cheese (the sharper, the better) as well as a bit of cream cheese. The cream cheese is optional, but it does add tanginess and even more creaminess.
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will Need
1 pound dried pasta like elbow macaroni, shells or penne
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons (45 grams) all-purpose flour
5 cups (1180 ml) milk, warmed, whole or 2% reduced fat preferred
1 pound white cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese, 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 the boil, add the pasta 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. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk the butter and flour together and around the pan until they smell toasted and look light brown; 2 to 3 minutes.
3While whisking, pour in the warm milk. Continue to cook, constantly whisking until the sauce begins to simmer and thickens. (The sauce only thickens after it has reached a simmer.)
4Turn the heat to low then stir in the cheddar and cream cheeses, salt, and black pepper. When the sauce is smooth and velvety, stir in the cooked pasta. If the sauce looks wet/thin, don’t worry, the pasta absorbs some the extra moisture as it cools. Turn the heat off, and then cover with a lid. Leave for 5 minutes, stir once more, and then serve.
- Baked Mac and Cheese
1After adding the pasta to the cheese sauce, spoon into a large baking dish, scatter breadcrumbs (optional), and more shredded cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, in a 375-degree Fahrenheit 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-degree F oven for about an hour. Or, thaw overnight and reheat on the stove (if it seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of extra milk).
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste
We were so excited to try this recipe and were very disappointed with the outcome. We followed the recipe exactly and the sauce was plain awful and tasted like floury paste, not cheesy at all. Also it made way too much sauce for the amount of pasta in the recipe. We just threw the sauce out because it tasted so bad. Do not recommend this at all.
Hi Michael, we are sorry that you didn’t find the recipe enjoyable. It’s puzzling why the sauce didn’t have a cheesy taste despite the substantial amount of cheese used (a whole pound!). Personally, I’ve had great success with this recipe by using sharp white cheddar, which adds an intense cheesy flavor. Give it a try, and hopefully, it’ll make a noticeable difference in the overall taste.
Have made this a couple of times…I make the batch and divide into several aluminum pans and freeze…when I want one just take out of the freezer and bake…always delicious…making my own frozen Mac and cheese I know what is in it.
I used 1 pound of velveta cheese it was amazing. Great recipe.
First time I made this and we really loved it! Simple and without oil is the best. Sharing this recipe to friends. Thank you 🙂
I was looking for a creamy mac & cheese recipe, and this one didn’t disappoint. I was a couple of tablespoons short of cream cheese, so I added some leftover brie (without the rind) and it worked very well. This recipe is a keeper for sure.
Adding the brie sounds delicious! Glad you loved it 😀
Went into this recipe with great excitement and came out slightly disappointed. Next time I make this I will use WAY less cheese. I know that is quite ironic because the star of the dish is cheese but this had way too much cheese I had a few bites and had to stop for it was way to rich. Thank-you for the recipe though Adam and Joanne ☺️
Hi there, Thanks for sharing your experience with us! This is a very creamy, very cheesy mac and cheese. Next time, feel free to cut back a bit. It might also be the kind of cheese you used — I love white cheddar and fontina.
Thanks so much for confirming my ideal for making candied pecans. I like the cayenne ideal.
5 cups of milk seems like a lot.
Hi Kathy, 5 cups is correct.
I made your Mac & cheese recipe and it was absolutely delicious!! My Son loves Mac & cheese and he loved your recipe and now I’m making this again for him. My son said this recipe was his favorite. Nice and creamy and very flavorful. Thanks for sharing and for your tips ! We wish your family a wonderful holiday season.