Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese

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

Watch The Video

Easy Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe Video

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.

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

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.
Serving Stovetop Mac and Cheese

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.

Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese

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

Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese

Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

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.

Makes 8 servings

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

Directions

    Bring 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.

    Meanwhile, 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.

    While 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.)

    Turn 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
    • After 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

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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59 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Katie November 21, 2022, 4:30 pm

    Hi!! This recipe sounds so delicious. I would love to make it ahead of time for Thanksgiving. I’m curious if it will stay creamy if I make it the day before, refrigerate it, then warm it the next day?

    Reply
    • Joanne November 21, 2022, 4:33 pm

      Hi Katie, You should be good! The cream cheese in the sauce helps it to stay smooth and creamy. When you do reheat, do it slowly over lower heat.

      Reply
  • Deborah November 12, 2022, 2:33 pm

    This looks amazing! Can it be made in a crockpot? Traveling for thanksgiving and would love to bring this fabulous meal.

    Reply
    • Joanne November 21, 2022, 2:57 pm

      Hi Deborah, You can definitely keep it warm in a crockpot. As far as making it from scratch in the crockpot, we would need more testing to say for sure.

      Reply
  • Amy H October 16, 2022, 1:50 pm

    This was delicious! I have a big family and we like it extra creamy, so I tripled the sauce and doubled the noodles. I used gruyere and added some cayenne as well. I also crushed up Ruffles Jalapeño Ranch chips with bread crumbs and sprinkled on top. Incredibly delicious!

    Reply
  • Lori October 16, 2022, 7:26 am

    Any suggestions for keeping this warm in a crockpot but keeping it creamy? I am going to add some fresh green chilis.

    Reply
    • Joanne November 21, 2022, 2:56 pm

      Hi Lori, You should be able to just add it to the crockpot and use the warm setting. The cream cheese in this recipe should keep it creamy.

      Reply
  • Kate October 2, 2022, 7:01 am

    This was great. I did not skip the cream cheese and I baked mine. If you bake it you can cook your noodles al dente. I did add a little mustard, onion, and garlic powder to the sauce which turned up the flavor. Add the milk slowly as you whisk it into the butter flour mixture! My whole family loved it and I will be making it as a staple from now on. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Amy H October 16, 2022, 1:53 pm

      Agreed, cream cheese made a wonderful difference

      Reply
  • Kathy August 21, 2022, 4:12 pm

    This is the best Mac & cheese I have ever made. Today is my second time making this recipe and I chose different cheeses this time…it’s still the BEST!

    Reply
  • Nina May 16, 2022, 9:06 pm

    Cut down the grated cheese a bit because the mixture has the consistency of polenta. But still super creamy and good! I added some spices (paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, and oregano) and made it with egg noodles. Definitely saving this recipe!

    Reply
  • Terry March 31, 2022, 2:25 pm

    Daughter and I made Mac and cheese. Was very creamy And good. We’ll make it again. We give it a 5 star.

    Reply
  • Veronica P Mangham March 6, 2022, 6:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I plan to try this soon. I have been looking for a good creamy mac and cheese.

    Reply
  • Kristin February 25, 2022, 11:20 am

    Have folks tried it with the pureed cauliflower? I have a 4yo who is obsessed with creamy mac and cheese and is offended if I try to sub even half the noodles for cauliflower. I’m wondering if he would notice the cauliflower blended in with the cheese sauce. I’d love to hide a vegetable in his diet somewhere!!

    Reply
    • Joanne July 15, 2022, 6:09 pm

      You can definitely add some pureed cauliflower to this! I bet you wouldn’t notice it much, at all.

      Reply
  • Nicole Rivera February 13, 2022, 8:39 pm

    I just made this, and its very good. I did use 2 and half cups milk and 2 and half cups heavy cream, and also salted butter instead. Turned out very creamy n good.

    Reply
  • Catlett February 10, 2022, 6:42 pm

    We made this recipe, altering it a little. My son is allergic to a lot of things, so we used cassava flour, pure butter and a cassava noodle. My wife and I thought that it was great. My son liked the sauce, but wishes he could have a normal noodle again. Had to order the noodles online, since they are the only ones that he can eat now, but I thank you for your recipe.

    Reply
  • Sheila Stein January 5, 2022, 8:03 pm

    Hi, I made this delicious recipe again and it was absolutely wonderful. My son said it was his absolute favorite!!! My thanks to everyone for such great recipes . Happy new year and stay safe! Take care, Sheila Stein 😃

    Reply
  • Sheila stein December 15, 2021, 2:08 am

    This recipe looks and sounds delicious. And my son who is 34 absolutely loves Mac & cheese. This is exactly how we love it nice and creamy. I am making it for Christmas dinner and can’t wait to eat it . Thank you for a wonderful recipe. Happy holidays to everyone.

    Reply
  • Cathy A Kramer November 24, 2021, 8:26 pm

    This was so easy to make and SO DELICIOUS! It will be on my Thanksgiving table tomorrow. I am grateful for you and your excellent recipe! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Reply

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