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

Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese

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.

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.

Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese

More Easy Recipes

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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39 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Mary Clayton November 22, 2021, 3:50 pm

    If I wanted to make double amount, would I double everything the recipe calls for? Would like to make this for thanksgiving!

    Reply
  • Fantasia November 22, 2021, 10:30 am

    I’m wanting to make this for thanksgiving but I have a large group to serve. Will doubling everything still come out right? Thanks (:

    Reply
    • Joanne November 24, 2021, 2:30 pm

      Oh yes, this recipe doubles easily.

      Reply
      • Fantasia November 25, 2021, 12:57 pm

        Thank you!

        Reply
  • Ann November 21, 2021, 11:28 am

    Can you make this the night before, refrigerate then bake the next day?

    Reply
    • Joanne November 24, 2021, 4:06 pm

      Hi Ann, You can absolutely do this!

      Reply
  • Home Depot November 15, 2021, 3:25 am

    Can’t wait to add this to my Thanksgiving menu

    Reply
  • Anna November 11, 2021, 7:58 am

    Excellent! I made this on the stove. Yes you must thicken the roux. I would like to bake for my grandsons. They like it browned. Will this dry out ? I was wondering if any ingredient needs to be added to prevent drying out.

    Reply
  • D September 3, 2021, 8:14 pm

    Awesome mac and cheese recipe. If it comes out watery you aren’t allowing the milk to thicken enough before you put in the cheese. The milk and flour should look like a thick sauce, before putting in the cheese.

    Reply
  • Tami August 30, 2021, 3:28 pm

    This is the most amazing stovetop Mac and cheese I have ever had! Everyone in the family loves it! I cook a big pot and then several “add-ins” (bacon, mushrooms, onions, red peppers, etc) to individualize for each person.

    Reply
  • Marie Schuler March 5, 2021, 12:17 pm

    This was super easy to make and soooooo delicious. My version: I cut the recipe in half. I only had 6 ounces of sharp cheddar so I added 3 slices of provolone cheese and about 2 ounces of 1/3 fat cream cheese (all I had on hand).

    Reply
  • Cindy Dumont January 18, 2021, 9:22 am

    Best mac and cheese I have ever made! Very creamy. Definitely recommend.

    Reply
  • Debbie October 14, 2020, 2:02 pm

    Would it not be as creamy if I added ground beef to make it like a cheeseburger mac and cheese.

    Reply
    • Joanne November 2, 2021, 4:29 pm

      Yes, the sauce will still be creamy.

      Reply
  • p afono October 2, 2020, 6:03 pm

    Came out super watery way too much milk. Worst mac and cheeese i have ever made.

    Reply
    • Michelle April 14, 2021, 7:54 pm

      Definitely the creamist mac and cheese I’ve ever made. I cut everything in half because I wanted a smaller batch. A thing to note with the bechamel sauce, the flour should be added a little bit at a time and fully incorporated before adding more; its the same with the milk. It doesn’t have to be warm; it just has to be added slowly. It gives the flour time to absorb the butter without lumps, and it gives the flour in turn time to absorb the milk before more is added. If too much milk is added at once the flour will clump and the milk will remain watery.

      Reply
  • Max September 27, 2020, 8:32 pm

    I’ve tried many mac and cheese recipes to look for my favorite….and this one wins hands down! AMAZING

    Reply
  • Kate Wolfe September 25, 2020, 11:51 pm

    I wish I never made this mac and cheese. It broke all of my mac and cheese go-to-recipes that I had used before. IT IS ADDICTING! The creamy dreamy cheesy of this dish is bananas. Adjust the cheeses to your liking but don’t skip the cream cheese!

    Reply
  • Lisa September 13, 2020, 2:39 pm

    5***** Recipe! Simple, easy to follow directions and yummy!!! I added 1/2 of chardonnay and grated garlic. Devine?

    Reply
  • Lisa September 13, 2020, 2:39 pm

    5***** Recipe! Simple, easy to follow directions and yummy!!! I added 1/2 of chardonnay and grated garlic. Devine?

    Reply

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