100% this is my go-to best selling creamy mac and cheese recipe. I reach for it every time we have company at the house, going to a bbq, or just need a comfort food weeknight type of meal. This mac and cheese with chicken broth is creamy underneath with plenty of stringy crispy cheesy perfection on top.
This macaroni casserole is definitely a favorite for kids. In our house, for a bit more fun, we make stripes with the cheese and call it zebra mac and cheese! The kids love it.
Baked casseroles make the ultimate comfort food meals! Rich, hearty and so satisfying. Since everything cooks up in one pan, usually all you need as a side is a simple veggie such as broccoli or some French bread. This copycat Sizzler cheese toast also makes a tasty side for casseroles.
Need more family-favorite casseroles for some inspiration? I think you'll love three cheese Italian pasta bake and this chicken veggie quinoa bake.
Why This Recipe Works
- Family favorite meal. Kid and adults love creamy baked mac and cheese.
- Easy preparation and simple ingredients.
- Makes a hearty main dish or a side dish for Instant pot chicken and other comfort food meals.
What makes this mac and cheese better than others? We know how to create the ultimate creaminess with perfect balance of flavor. Let me tell you how.
- Pasta: Elbow macaroni is the traditional noodle for mac and cheese but you can use any short pasta you prefer.
- Cream cheese: We like the extra cheesiness and flavor from cream cheese but if needed you can sub sour cream.
- SHARP cheddar cheese: It's essential that you use sharp cheddar cheese for the best flavor. We use half white cheddar and half yellow cheddar to create the stripes on the top!
- Roux: Use real butter and flour to create the base of the cheese sauce. Butter adds a richness of flavor right from the start.
- Milk and chicken broth: Added to the roux to make the sauce for creamy mac and cheese. Chicken broth isn't commonly used to make mac and cheese, but we find it works great in place of half the milk and adds more flavor.
What's the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?
Repeat after me... SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE. Let sharp cheddar cheese be your BFF when making dishes like mac and cheese, cheesy soup or anything that involves a roux+cheddar (like this Wisconsin cheddar cauliflower soup).
WHY? because by the time you make your roux, add your milk, broth, and cheese the cheddar flavor will be quite flavorless if you don't use a cheese that really packs a punch!
How to Make Creamy Homemade Mac and Cheese
SO easy, and pretty darn fast. Let me tell you how.
- Start by melting your butter on medium heat and whisking in your flour. Whisk and let cook until the flour butter mixture (the roux) has bubbled for about minute. This helps the flour taste to cook out.
- While whisking stir in your broth.
- Add in the cream cheese and let it melt. If you are in a pinch you can sub cream cheese with sour cream.
- Continue storing until cream cheese melts into roux and smooths out.
- Now that you have your base lets add the cheese!
- Stir over medium heat, careful to NOT LET THE SAUCE BOIL. Stir until the cheese melted and combined with base.
- Dump in your cooked noodles!
Mix everything together!
Add you mac and cheese to a 9x13 pan (or individual bake proof dishes) and top with cheese. If you're making zebra mac and cheese alternate the cheddar and mozzarella.
But what's also incredible? Adding a bit more cheese on top and browning it juuuuust right. SO GOOD.
Place in the oven and BAKE! Bake just till the noodles are warm inside and the cheese is melted. For a little extra crispiness broil the dish for a few minutes.
What Goes with Mac and Cheese?
Everyone loves creamy mac and cheese and it goes with a wide variety of meals!
- Serve it up for cookouts or BBQs along with Instant Pot Country Style Ribs, Smoked Turkey, or Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork.
- As it a side dish it pairs well with Instant Pot Pinto Beans, Grilled Lamb Burgers, and Chicken Fried Chicken.
- Make it the center of a vegetarian meal. Add a simple salad such as Apple Gorgonzola Salad or a cooked vegetable, like Grilled Vegetable Skewers.
Cook the pasta in chicken broth or at least half water and half broth. This adds much more flavor to the final dish.
Use SHARP cheddar cheese for the BEST flavor!
No! on many occasions I've stopped right here with the recipe and served it straight from the pan. IS INCREDIBLE!
YES! Use gluten-free pasta (like pictured above) cook it just till it is al dente according to package. For the roux use a gluten free flour like cup-4-cup flour. I've tested this out and it works amazing. No one will even know it is gluten-free. In fact the photos are all made with gluten-free ingredients.
More Pasta Dinners for Families
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Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1- pound elbow pasta cooked in equal parts chicken stock and water, or all chicken stock - this is a must!!
For the sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup cream cheese
- 4 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper
For the topping
- 1 cup grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese
- 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes (this is called a roux). Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken broth. When the milk begins to steam, whisk in the cream cheese until smooth.
- Turn off the heat and add the cheddar, stirring until melted and smooth. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir until thoroughly mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste
- Put the macaroni into small, individual oven-proof pans or ramekins. Top each ramekin with the yellow and white grated cheeses, alternating each to create a striped 'zebra' pattern.
- Place the ramekins under a broiler or in a warm oven until the cheese is just melted. (Don't let it sit too long, or the cheese will run together).
- Cook it on 350 for about only 15 minutes, then put the oven on broil for just a few minutes to brown the top....it's the best part!! Now go make it!
Char Bessler says
Looks like this will be a five star mac and cheese dish!!!
Char Bessler says
Both of you are very inspiring and I look forward to trying your recipes. For starters your creamy mac and cheese looks yummy and I'm sure the grandkids and church folks will enjoy! Thanks Ladies!!
Emily Kemp says
What a fun way to make mac n cheese, looks so delicious!
Great post! I'm so excited to try this. Can I ask what brand of cheese you use?
Nice seeing you the other day. Sounds like things are going well for you guys. Thanks for sharing all your secrets for mac and cheese. Whenever my kids eat boxed kind they always come home from a friends place and say "mum your home made mac and cheese is way better than the box" and it makes me happy. Adding the stock is a great idea that I'll add to my recipe. Xx
Darlene Lemons says
Where does a person find the recipes? I've looked at several dishes posted but nothing about ingredients or directions.
Darlene- Thanks for bringing this to my attention, there was an error in our website. they should be working fine now! So SORRY!!