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White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

This White Cheddar Mac and Cheese is the ultimate in cozy, warm, and comforting food. Both kids and grownups will love it! It’s perfectly creamy, rich, superbly cheesy, and big on flavor.

Closeup shot of a spoonful of steaming white cheddar mac and cheese being served from a baking dish with a golden crust.
Cheesy, creamy baked white cheddar macaroni and cheese the whole family will love!

1-Minute Video: White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

Specific CheeseS Make A Difference

This macaroni and cheese is perfectly creamy, rich, superbly cheesy, and big on flavor. And it all starts with using the right kind of cheese. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Sharp white cheddar, like we use in these cheddar scones, makes all the difference, with its super creamy and smooth texture upon melting. We prefer sharp cheddar for its bolder, more pronounced flavor, thanks to being aged for more years than mild cheddar.
  • If you prefer a more orange hue, you can use sharp yellow cheddar, like we do in homemade cheese crackers; the only difference is the annatto coloring typically added to yellow cheeses.
  • Pecorino Romano is deliciously savory and adds an important umami flavor.

Pro Tip: Buy a good quality block of cheese, rather than the pre-shredded bags, as bagged shredded cheese often contains additional ingredients that hinder its ability to achieve a melty-smooth texture.

Why This Recipe Stands Out

We’ve tested a mountain of homemade macaroni and cheese recipes, and this one is a real winner.

  • Nothing Artificial: This recipe uses all-natural ingredients like our Homemade Ranch Seasoning.
  • Perfectly Creamy: The combination of whole milk and three types of cheese results in creamy, dreamy, and cheesy mac and cheese.
  • Big on Flavor: Garlic powder, onion powder, and ground nutmeg add a ton of flavor to every bite!
  • Great for Reheating: It’s fabulous right out of the oven, and it manages to reheat surprisingly well, like our Wild Rice Pilaf. This makes it a perfect recipe for meal prep or large gatherings.

Key Recipe Ingredients

Overhead shot of ingredients to make white cheddar mac and cheese on a dark surface.
  • Elbow Macaroni – This classic pasta is perfect for holding onto the creamy cheese sauce, giving you a deliciously cheesy bite in every forkful.
  • Whole Milk – The base of our cheese sauce, whole milk makes it creamy and rich.
  • Sharp White Cheddar – We highly recommend grating your own from a good quality block. It melts into the creamiest sauce and has a deliciously smooth texture.
  • Pecorino Romano – Freshly grated Pecorino Romano adds a savory, cheesy dimension that takes this dish over the top.

Substitutions And Variations

Here are some of our favorite ideas for changing up this classic recipe:

  • Cheese: While we love sharp white cheddar for its bold flavor, you can absolutely experiment with other types of cheese. Sharp yellow cheddar will work just as well. Try adding freshly grated parmesan on top for an extra cheesy kick.
  • Pasta: Try shells, penne, or rotini for a fun twist.
  • Spices: A pinch of cayenne could add a nice kick.
  • Optional Bread Crumbs: For a crunchy topping sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole before baking.

Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions

  1. Boil macaroni for 2 minutes less than what the package states for al dente. Rinse and set aside.
  2. Heat milk in a saucepan. In a separate large pot, melt butter and add flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring.
  1. Add hot milk to the flour-butter mixture, and whisk constantly for about 10 minutes until it thickens. 
  2. Turn off heat and add spices and most of the cheese. Stir until melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.
  1. Add cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir well. Pour into a greased casserole dish. 
  2. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.

For full list of ingredients and instructions, see recipe card below.

How to Prep Ahead

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese is ideal for prepping ahead of time:

  • Prep the Cheese: Grating the cheese can be done up to 2 days in advance. Just store it in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Make the Cheese Sauce: The cheese sauce can also be made in advance. Follow the recipe up to the point of making the cheese sauce, then let it cool and refrigerate. When you’re ready to assemble the dish, gently reheat the sauce while stirring constantly, and continue with the recipe. This can be done up to 2 days ahead of time.
  • Prep Entirely Ahead: The entire dish can be assembled a day ahead and stored in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, just pop it in the oven. Keep in mind that you may need to add a little extra time in the oven if the mac and cheese is going into the oven cold from the fridge.
Steaming spoonful of macaroni and cheese being served from a baking dish with a golden crust.
This White Cheddar Mac and Cheese is fabulous right out of the oven, and it manages to reheat surprisingly well!

What To Serve With White Cheddar Mac And Cheese

Protein

Vegetables

Bread

Did you make this?

Please give us a rating and comment below. We love hearing from you!

Closeup shot of a spoonful of steaming white cheddar mac and cheese being served from a baking dish with a golden crust.

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

4.94 from 16 ratings
This creamy white cheddar mac and cheese is cozy, warm, and comforting. Your family, both kids and grownups alike, will adore this baked and cheese recipe.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 12
Author: Amy Dong

Ingredients  

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni, dry
  • 6 TB butter, regular
  • 5 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp black pepper, fresh ground
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard
  • 4 ½ cups white cheddar, sharp, freshly grated, from a good quality block
  • 1 ¼ cups Pecorino Romano, freshly grated, from a good quality block

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 375F with rack in middle position. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish and set aside.
  • Fill large pot with salted water.  Bring to boil, add macaroni and cook 2 minutes less than the package states for al dente. You want the pasta a bit undercooked, as it will continue to cook in oven. Transfer macaroni to colander, rinse well with cool water, and set aside to drain.
  • In saucepan, heat milk until hot and set aside – watch that it doesn't spill over. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. When butter starts bubbling, add flour and cook 1-2 minutes, constantly stirring.
  • Add hot milk into flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking/whisking on medium heat until mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 10 min.
  • Turn heat off.  Stir in garlic and onion powder, nutmeg, black pepper, and dry mustard.  Add 3 cups of the white cheddar and 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano. Mix thoroughly until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.
  • Add cooked macaroni into cheese sauce and stir to combine well.  Pour mixture into greased casserole dish, distributing evenly.
  • Sprinkle top with remaining 1 1/2 cups white cheddar and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano. Bake until top is golden brown, about 30 min. If needed, set under broiler for 1-2 minutes for more browning. Let rest 5 minutes and serve.

Notes

  • Optional bread crumbs:  Cube 6 slices of good quality (crust removed) bread into small pieces.  Place in bowl and mix with 2 TB melted butter. Scatter breadcrumbs over top of casserole right before baking. 
  • Be sure to cook the macaroni 2 minutes less than the package instruction for al dente. Macaroni will finish cooking in the oven. 
  • To get the creamiest and smoothest cheese sauce, make sure to whisk constantly when adding the hot milk into the flour-butter (roux) mixture. This will help your sauce stay velvety and prevent a slightly gritty texture.
  • Always use freshly grated cheese from a good quality block of cheese. This will melt more smoothly and give your mac and cheese a rich, creamy texture. 
  • Packaged shredded cheeses from the store usually contain additives that prevent it from melting as smoothly as a block of cheese does. 
  • If you’re a fan of extra crispy cheese topping, set your casserole dish with breadcrumbs under the broiler for 1-2 minutes after baking. Keep a close eye on it to prevent burning.
  • For prep-ahead tips and variations, see original article. 
  • This recipe yields about 12 servings as a side dish and pairs well with with classic barbecue dishes like Honey Mustard Grilled Pork Chops and BBQ Ribs.
 
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating. We ❤️ hearing from you! 
 
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Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 450kcal | Carbohydrates: 39.6g | Protein: 20.7g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 13.1g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 66.5mg | Sodium: 373.7mg | Fiber: 1.4g | Sugar: 7g
Course: Main, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegetarian
Method: Stovetop

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Recipe Rating




32 comments

    • epicureantease

    Mmmmm! I love homemade Mac n’ Cheese! Comfort food at it’s finest!! 🙂

    • Samantha @ The Ascension House

    Classic Mac! Looks scrumptious! 🙂

    • Lynette

    This looks great! Ive made mine with a smidge of cream cheese to get a nice creamy consistency. I also like to add ham and broccoli to mine, just to have a contrast of textures and colors. Besides, that way I can get my 6 year old to say “More broccoli please”. 🙂 Ive never tried Romano, so I will give that a shot. Thanks!

    • Liz
    • 5 stars

    Not getting any warmer here in MN, so mac-and-cheese seems a find dinner choice:-) Yours looks yum. Btw, made your teriyaki meatloaf last week. Very very good!

      • chewoutloud

      Yay, glad you liked the meatloaf… different, but yummy 🙂 It’s finally “warming” up a little around here!

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