Best EVER Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Did you know that you can make creamy, rich, and saucy stovetop mac and cheese from scratch in the same amount of time it takes to cook boxed mac and cheese?

And I’m happy to say that this pasta is infinitely tastier than the boxes of mac and cheese that used to have a home in our pantry.

Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

I’ve tried countless mac and cheese recipes over the years and never found one that I truly loved. This recipe though is absolutely foolproof and it turns out wonderfully creamy every time.

I am so very happy to have a new favorite dinner and my kids are pretty excited about it too. I’ve made this creamy mac and cheese at least a half dozen times over the past few months and we absolutely love it.

The recipe below is loosely adapted from a mac and cheese recipe that I found over on Cookie & Kate. The spices here are the game-changer – adding the garlic, onion, ground mustard, and a pinch of cayenne makes such a lovely difference.

Everyone has their own opinion on the best mac and cheese recipe. For me, the best mac and cheese is creamy as it possibly can be.

While lots of people swear by baked mac and cheese, I’m a stovetop mac and cheese girl for life.

Homemade Mac and Cheese is a kid and adult favorite!

Mac and Cheese with Heavy Cream

Want to make this even easier? Or would you prefer to skip the step with the flour? Replace the milk with additional heavy cream (for a total of 1 ½ cups heavy cream). Skip the flour. Just warm the cream and spices to steaming and add the cheese as directed in the recipe.

Alternatively, while you can certainly skip the heavy cream in macaroni and cheese, that isn’t my favorite way to make this. The heavy cream adds a richness that can’t be mimicked with simply milk and flour.

close up photo of cheesy macaroni in blue bowl

Gluten Free Mac and Cheese

This recipe can be made gluten-free by substituting brown rice flour and GF pasta. It is tasty that way, but to be 1000% honest, it is not quite as creamy as the traditional recipe. GF pasta and flours simply are not equal in this case.

If you desire a thinner pasta sauce, an additional splash or two of milk (up to ¼ cup) will thin it nicely.

a whisk rests in the metal pan with a cream and spice mixture fully combined

Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese

You’ll need the following ingredients to make this recipe:

  • dried pasta
  • whole milk
  • heavy cream
  • all-purpose flour
  • garlic powder, dry mustard, granulated onion, cayenne pepper
  • shredded cheddar cheese, Pepper Jack, or Monterey Jack cheese
  • salt and pepper
Wonderfully smooth and creamy cheese sauce is possible in just minutes!

Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe

In a large pot (this one is my favorite for pasta!), bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil. Bring the water to a boil and then add 2 tablespoons of salt (trust me on this, salted water makes ALL the difference when cooking pasta.)

Add the pasta. Cook the pasta to al dente, being careful not to overcook. The pasta should still have a nice chew to it. Drain and do not rinse.

In the same pot used for the pasta, add half of the milk and cream over medium heat. In a separate bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the remaining milk and cream with the flour and spices. Whisk until smooth.

Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese is so much better than the box!

When the milk on the stove begins to steam (not boil!) add the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until the milk thickens slightly, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the shredded cheese, a handful at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to melt. Remove from the heat once all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Taste and add salt, only if needed.

Add the toppings of your choice, if desired.

Homemade Mac and Cheese with Pulled Pork

Mac and Cheese Add-Ins

Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese is a huge favorite with my family. I always have some Pulled Pork stashed in the freezer, especially for mac and cheese. There is something irresistible about a forkful of cheesy pasta alongside tender pulled pork with tangy bbq sauce. I just love it.

Broccoli is another popular mac and cheese add-in in my house. Even my non-broccoli-loving children enjoy it when it’s covered in a cheesy sauce and mixed into this mac and cheese. (Who wouldn’t, right?)

Truffle Oil, yes I did that, and it is amazing! Creamy, rich Truffle Mac and Cheese is a fancy spin on the ultimate comfort food. If you’ve never tasted this awesomeness, you’ve been missing out and I can not recommend it highly enough.

Creamy Mac and Cheese topped with BBQ Pulled Pork is a dinner favorite!

Best Ever Taco Meat makes a frequent appearance stirred into mac and cheese around here too. Cooked and crumbled bacon is always a hit as a topping. (We cook our bacon in the oven, it’s the best thing ever for easy bacon!)

Brussels Sprouts are my favorite vegetable to add to cheesy pasta. I slice them thin and give them a quick saute in a skillet to soften them a little before adding them. (If you have a few extra minutes, these roasted Brussels would be awesome too!)

What are your favorite things to add to macaroni and cheese?

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Servings: 6 servings

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  • In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil. Bring the water to a boil and then add 2 tablespoons of salt (trust me on this, salted water makes ALL the difference when cooking pasta.) Add the pasta. Cook the pasta to al dente, being careful not to overcook. The pasta should still have a nice chew to it. Drain and do not rinse.

  • In the same pot used for the pasta, add half of the milk and cream over medium heat. In a separate bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the remaining milk and cream with the flour and spices. Whisk until smooth.

  • When the milk on the stove begins to steam (not boil!) add the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until the milk thickens slightly, about 4-5 minutes.

  • Add the shredded cheese, a handful at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to melt. Remove from the heat once all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Taste and add salt, only if needed. 

Want to make this even easier? or prefer to skip the flour? Replace the milk with additional heavy cream (for a total of 1 ½ cups heavy cream). Skip the flour. Just warm the cream and spices to steaming and add the cheese as directed in the recipe.
This recipe CAN be made gluten-free by substituting brown rice flour and GF pasta. It is super tasty that way, but to be 1000% honest, it is not quite as creamy as the traditional recipe. GF pasta and flours simply are not equal in this case.

Calories: 623kcal · Carbohydrates: 60g · Protein: 25g · Fat: 31g · Saturated Fat: 19g · Cholesterol: 99mg · Sodium: 647mg · Potassium: 282mg · Fiber: 2g · Sugar: 4g · Vitamin A: 1004IU · Vitamin C: 1mg · Calcium: 484mg · Iron: 1mg

originally published 1/9/20 – recipe notes and photos updated 3/4/24

Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese that is so much better than the box!

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