This creamy mac and cheese is an EASY family favorite recipe. Ready in just 20 minutes cooked on the stove top. A perfect holiday side dish!
Get ready for the creamiest and easiest mac and cheese! I'm not against a boxed version, but once you try this creamy mac and cheese recipe you might never go back. Plus, everyone should have a homemade mac and cheese recipe in their collection, right? Save this one!
This recipe is a combination of one I found in my ancient Better Homes and Garden (BHG) cookbook and another from my Paula Deen cookbook. Paula tosses all the cheese and cream into the pot with the boiled pasta, but I like to make the sauce in a separate pot then pour at once onto the macaroni similar to the BHG version.
📋 Grocery List
The obvious ingredient here is elbow macaroni, but you can also use any other shape of pasta. I love wheel pasta and curly pasta, too! Then all you need is cheese and cream with a couple other pantry items.
Ingredients for Creamy Mac and Cheese:
- Macaroni (2 cups uncooked)
- Unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
- Flour (2 tablespoons)
- Heavy cream (1 1/2 cups)
- Cheddar (6 oz.)
- American cheese (8 slices)
- Salt and pepper
- Optional spices (like ground mustard, onion powder, garlic powder)
You read that right. We use slices of American cheese -- yep, the wrapped kind we all love for our burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches! Also, buy the block of cheddar, not a bag of pre-shredded. It melts much more beautifully and includes less grease. You can decide between sharp, mild and medium.
Click here for full recipe ingredients and instructions.
This recipe is perfect for the holidays because it's quick on the stove and frees up your oven. It's one of our favorite side dishes for Thanksgiving, Christmas AND Easter, but also delicious for a weeknight family meal!
👩🏽🍳 How to Make Creamy Mac and Cheese
The trick to keeping mac and cheese creamy is not skimping out on the fat. Fat protects against curdling so be sure to use heavy cream and not regular milk, although you can use evaporated milk.
On the same note, do not use low-fat cheese. This goes for both the cheddar and the American.
🧀 Best Combination of Cheese
The combination of cheddar and American is a favorite for classic mac and cheese recipes. However, you can use this base recipe to make your own variations of your favorite cheese! Try subbing out the American for Gouda with cheddar, or sub all the cheese with a combination of your four favorite for a four-cheese macaroni! Get creative, but make sure you like the cheese combination before you decide on it.
🍽 More Mac and Cheese Recipes
Creamy Mac and Cheese
- Large pot
- medium pot
- wooden spoon
- 2 cups elbow macaroni , uncooked
- 4 tablespoons butter , divided
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt , more or less to taste
- 6 oz. block cheddar cheese , shredded
- 8 slices American cheese
- Boil pasta in large pot according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter until melted; meanwhile, make the cheese sauce.
- In separate medium sauce pan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the flour and let cook 1 minute. Stir in heavy cream. Heat over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly around the edges. Add cheese a little at a time, continuing to stir until the cheese is completely melted and creamy. Pour over the drained pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
- For best results, do not use pre-shredded cheese.
- Add optional spices such as 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, etc. Use more or less to your taste preference.
- It is not recommended to use regular milk or lower fat cream which may cause curdling. Fat protects against curdling. You may, however, use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream.
- Nutrition information is an estimate only.