This ultra creamy mac and cheese is made in just one pot on the stovetop, and uses less than 10 ingredients! So much better than mac and cheese from a box, this is a family-friendly meal that comes together quickly on a busy weeknight.
This is one of my One Pot recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
There’s nothing my kids love more than a big bowl of mac and cheese. Sound familiar?
And not just any kind of mac… the ultra creamy and gooey kind.
Normally, we go for my baked mac and cheese, but I wanted to share a recipe that can be made completely on the stove, and with no additional kitchen appliances.
This recipe uses just a handful of real ingredients, is made with no fancy roux to worry about, and the entire thing is truly made in one pot.
That’s right, the pasta cooks right in the same pot. Less dishes, same amazing flavor you crave!
What do I need to make this recipe?
- Pasta – this recipe was tested with standard elbow macaroni (Barilla brand).
- Milk – whole milk is the milk we found worked best.
- Salt – salt enhances the flavors, as well as seasons the pasta itself as it cooks.
- Cheddar – we really love the flavor of sharp cheddar.
- Gouda – gouda pairs nicely with the sharpness of the cheddar.
- Mustard powder – mustard may sound odd, but it really enhances the cheese flavors.
- Garlic powder – garlic adds some additional savoriness.
- Black pepper – this adds a small amount of spice.
How to make stovetop mac and cheese?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Heat milk. Bring the milk and salt to a boil.
- Boil pasta. Once you add the macaroni, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.
- Add cheeses. Stir until the cheeses are melted and saucy.
- Season. Of course you can add whichever seasonings you’d like, but we prefer garlic powder, mustard, and black pepper.
- Stir and serve.
For the best results, make sure you keep an eye on your stovetop burner heat, and make sure it’s only high enough to keep the milk at a simmer. Cooking the milk at too high of a temperature can potentially lead to the sauce being a bit gritty.
Variations of this recipe
- Pasta – you can use any short cut of pasta (such as shells, penne, etc), but keep in mind that different types of pasta will have different cooking times, so you may need to alter the amount of milk used and regularly test the pasta for doneness as it cooks.
- Dairy – if you don’t want to use whole milk, you could use 2%, but I wouldn’t go lower than that in terms of fat percentage. Using ultra low fat milk won’t yield a very creamy sauce.
- Pre-packaged cheese – in general, shredding your own cheese is the best way to ensure a smooth and creamy sauce. However, this recipe did test well with Tillamook and Sargento pre-shredded cheese.
- Cheeses – instead of sharp cheddar, you could use medium or mild cheddar, or even a white cheddar. In place of the gouda, I recommend gruyere.
- Mustard – if you don’t have mustard powder, you could substitute with about 1/2 Tbsp of dijon mustard.
- Seasonings – the amount of seasonings can be personal, so I advise tasting as you go, to make sure your mac and cheese is perfect for you.
- Hot sauce – for some extra flavor, try adding a couple of shakes of your favorite hot sauce. It doesn’t make the dish spicy, just adds a little zippy flavor.
While this recipe wasn’t developed to be made in a slow cooker, it can be kept warm in one. I would add a bit of milk when you add it to the slow cooker, to keep the sauce nice and, well, saucy.
Mustard is actually really common in mac and cheese recipes, as it accentuates the cheesy flavor. If you need to replace the dried mustard powder, use about 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard. Yellow mustard is a bit too brine-y and tangy.
Making mac and cheese ahead of time
Personally, I find this recipe tastes best when made right before serving. However, it can be made ahead of time if you’d like.
When reheating, I suggest doing so on the stovetop, and adding a splash of milk as you reheat.
You can also prep ahead!
Ways to prep ahead for this recipe:
- Cheese – the cheeses can be shredded ahead of time and kept refrigerated.
- Spices – all the spices can be pre-measured and kept at room temperature.
Leftover mac and cheese should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoyed within 2-3 days.
I recommend reheating on the stovetop (or in the microwave), and adding a splash of milk while stirring and heating.
My Favorite Dutch Oven!
This is my secret weapon in the kitchen! I use mine for making bread, soups/chilis, frying and more. Since LeCreuset is expensive, this is a more economical option that’s still a great pot!
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 6 1/2 cups whole milk plus some extra to thin sauce if necessary
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 lb. dried elbow macaroni
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz)
- 2 cups shredded gouda cheese (8 oz)
- 1/4 tsp dried mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper plus more for serving
Boil the pasta
- In a large pot (we like to use a dutch oven), add the milk and salt, and bring to a boil over HIGH heat.
- Once boiling, add pasta, stir, and lower the heat to MED (or whatever temperature is needed to maintain a gentle simmer).
- Continue to cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for about 6-8 minutes (or until macaroni is cooked to al dente and most of the milk has been absorbed).
- Adjust the heat to MED LOW, then add the cheddar and gouda cheeses. Stir constantly, until cheeses are melted and saucy. This will likely take about 2 minutes or so.
- If the cheese sauce is too thick, add additional milk a Tbsp or two at a time, stirring until desired consistency is reached.
- Stir in the mustard powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Once stirred in, give the mac and cheese a quick taste and see if you'd like to add any additional salt or pepper.
- Serve hot, sprinkled with a bit of black pepper if desired.
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- I’ve estimated that this recipe will serve approximately 6 people, but as always, feel free to divide this recipe up into as many servings as you’d like.
- If the mac and cheese is super thick and almost gummy, feel free to add more milk, a splash at a time, stirring it in, until it’s the consistency you’d like.
- If the mac and cheese is more watery than you’d like, you can whisk 2 tsp of cornstarch and 3 tsp of cool water or milk. Whisk this in a small bowl until smooth, then stir into the mac and cheese. Cook, stirring often, for a few minutes, and it should thicken right up.
- Shredding your own cheese is recommended, however I’ve tested this recipe with Tillamook and Sargento pre-shredded cheeses, and they worked well. Other brands have not been tested.
The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.
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