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Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese

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Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is the definition of comfort. Macaroni and a creamy cheese sauce, finished with a crumb topping and baked. Great to make ahead and for leftovers, and perfect for holiday entertaining, weeknight dinner, potlucks, and more

This post and recipe card updated November 11, 2019
close up shot of finished baked homemade mac and cheese in a white bowl with a scoop of mac and cheese on a spoon

I’ve only eaten boxed mac & cheese once in my life. There. I said it. My mom’s theory was, you can make the real thing in the same amount of time, so why buy the box?

Most of the time my mom went simple, adding butter and shredded cheese to macaroni. However, for special occasions and when I requested it she made baked mac and cheese (also called macaroni pie). My parents are from Trinidad, and macaroni pie is a staple at every event/family gathering.

I never learned to cook until I moved out of my parents’ house. And of course, the first recipe I learned from my mom was Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
  • It’s easy enough for a weeknight meal, yet elegant enough for entertaining
  • It’s a great make-ahead dish, and perfect for a crowd
close up shot of finished mac and cheese in a white bowl, with a spoon in the bowl
INGREDIENT TIPS FOR BAKED HOMEMADE MAC AND CHEESE

Elbow macaroni is my favorite shape to use. Another good option is Cellentani, a double-curved elbow shape.

I use full-fat Evaporated Milk but you could substitute whole milk. If you use 2% or lower, the sauce consistency will be too thin.

Onion and garlic add so much flavor. I use fresh and mince both very finely so they practically melt into the dish. If you’ve got picky eaters, then use onion powder and garlic powder.

Yellow mustard may seem like an odd addition but trust me, it works. You don’t need a lot, and you won’t taste the mustard in the final dish.

I top the Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese with Corn Flake Crumbs just before baking. Seasoned bread crumbs are a good substitute. The crumbs create a beautiful golden crust that adds another subtle layer of flavor.

ABOUT THE CHEESE

I’ve always used Cheddar for Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese. My preference is a Sharp or Extra Sharp variety, as it adds a wonderful bite. You can use yellow or white Cheddar, whichever you prefer.

Some recipes use a mix of cheeses, and that is on my list to try at some point because there’s no such thing as too much cheese. Just make sure to use cheeses that melt well.

overhead shot of finished mac and cheese in a white baking dish on a green/yellow plaid towel
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot of salted, boiling water cook the macaroni for 9 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Sprinkle in flour, whisking constantly, until smooth and no lumps.

Slowly add evaporated milk to the saucepan. I add the milk about 2 ounces at a time, whisk for about 5 seconds, and repeat. This helps thicken the sauce properly.

Add minced onion and garlic, salt, pepper, and mustard. Whisk well to fully combine.

Add shredded cheese and mix well.

overhead process shots: melted butter and flour in a sauce pan on the left; milk and seasonings added in the middle; cheese added on the right

Mix the sauce slowly until thickened. You want a rich sauce that clings to the back of the spoon and, when you slide your finger down the spoon, the sauce doesn’t come back together.

Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and fold together.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and add the mac and cheese mixture. Top with corn flake crumbs.

overhead process shots: thickened sauce in pan on the left; macaroni added to sauce in the middle; mixture added to bowl and topped with crumb topping on the right

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until set.

MAKE-AHEAD AND LEFTOVERS

Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is perfect as both a make-ahead option and for leftovers. Which makes it ideal for holiday entertaining, weeknight dinner, parties, and more.

MAKE-AHEAD

You can prepare Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese 1 day ahead. I have never done it further ahead than that.

Prep the dish until just before adding the crumb topping. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil, and transfer to the fridge.

Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before baking. Top with crumbs and butter and bake as normal.

LEFTOVERS

We ate a TON of leftovers growing up, so when I moved out I swore them all off…except Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese. It is practically the perfect leftovers recipe, so I intentionally make a large batch.

Allow the dish to fully cool, and cover tightly with foil or a lid if the dish comes with one. Store in the fridge for up to one week.

I reheat it in portions, so it heats faster. Heat in the microwave, at 60% power, for 2 minutes at a time, until it’s as hot as preferred.

close up shot of finished baked mac and cheese in a white baking dish with a scoop out; white  plate with a serving of mac and cheese in the background

Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite dishes on earth. It’s a very indulgent dish so I don’t make it very often…but when I do, I make it count. It gets rave reviews from all my friends, and I get regular requests for it at parties.

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Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese

Yield: 6 people
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Pasta and creamy cheese sauce, topped with crumbs and baked to perfection. This is the perfect dish for holiday entertaining, weekday dinner, potlucks and more. Great for make-ahead and leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces dry elbow macaroni
  • 2 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 Tablespoon finely minced onion
  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (black or white)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • Corn flake crumbs (for topping)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (if you do not use fresh onion)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (if you do not use fresh garlic)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F
  2. In a pot of boiling, salted water cook macaroni for about 9 minutes. It will still be quite al dente, but will finish cooking in the oven later. Drain macaroni and set aside.
  3. In large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 Tablespoon of flour, whisk until combined. Repeat. There should be no lumps! 
  4. Slowly add evaporated milk. I add about 2 ounces at a time, whisk for 8-10 seconds, repeat. This will ensure a thicker sauce. If you dump all the milk at once, the roux will be very thin
  5. Add salt, pepper, mustard, onion and garlic. Whisk well to combine. 
  6. REMINDER: for onion & garlic. You will use either fresh OR powder, not both! 
  7. Add cheese to roux, and whisk until cheese is fully melted. Continue stirring slowly and constantly for another 2-3 minutes
  8. CHEESE SAUCE CONSISTENCY: you want the cheese sauce to have a rich consistency. The sauce should hold to the back of a spoon and, when you swipe down the spoon with your finger, the sauce does not come back together
  9. Add macaroni to cheese sauce, and mix well. 
  10. Spray baking dish generously with cooking spray. Add macaroni and cheese sauce. Sprinkle with corn flake crumbs, plus a little bit of cheese. If desired, add a few bits of butter
  11. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is set. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.  Enjoy!

Notes

I use full-fat Evaporated Milk but you could substitute whole milk. If you use 2% or lower, the sauce consistency will be too thin.

Yellow mustard may seem like an odd addition but trust me, it works. You don’t need a lot, and you won’t taste the mustard in the final dish.

The key to the cheese is to use what melts well. I've always used Cheddar, and prefer the bite of sharp or extra sharp. Yellow or white Cheddar is totally your personal preference. I've also substituted some Gouda cheese for another layer of flavor.

MAKE-AHEAD

You can prepare Baked Homemade Mac and Cheese 1 day ahead.

Prep the dish until just before adding the crumb topping. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil, and transfer to the fridge.

Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before baking. Top with crumbs and butter and bake as normal.

LEFTOVERS

Allow the dish to fully cool, and cover tightly with foil or a lid if the dish comes with one. Store in the fridge for up to one week.

Reheat in portions, so it heats faster. Heat in the microwave, at 60% power, for 2 minutes at a time, until it’s as hot as preferred.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 437Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 940mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 22g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, etc

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