This is the best and easiest recipe for stovetop mac and cheese! Made in one pot and ready in less than 30 minutes, this recipe always delivers perfectly creamy, cheesy results.
When it comes to comfort food, what is better than creamy, cheesy macaroni and cheese? My daughter would tell you NOTHING. But it better be homemade!
I think we can all agree, that Homemade Mac and Cheese trumps the boxed version hands-down in terms of flavor. Orange packets of dried cheese flavoring just can't compete with freshly grated cheese.
And while you may think that making macaroni and cheese from scratch is hard or time-consuming, this recipe for Stovetop Mac and Cheese proves otherwise. It comes together in JUST one pot in under 30 minutes! No need to make a roux. No need to drain noodles. So simple.
But most importantly, the results are spectacular. Perfectly cooked pasta and the sauce is incredibly creamy, rich, and oh so cheesy. This One-Pot Mac and Cheese is easy enough to be a weeknight staple, but delicious enough to be served for a holiday feast. Everyone just LOVES it.
Notes On Ingredients
- Noodles: For mac and cheese, elbow noodles are the classic choice. However, you can use corkscrew noodles or small shells.
- Broth: You can use either chicken broth/stock or vegetable broth in this recipe. It is best to use low-sodium broth so that you can control the level of sodium in the overall dish. Do not use water in place of the broth, as the dish won't be as flavorful.
- Butter: This recipe uses significantly less butter than other stovetop mac and cheese recipes, as there is no roux in this recipe. You only need to add a tiny bit of butter which helps to add a bit of richness to the dish, but the flavor and richness truly come from the addition of lots of cheese--just the way mac and cheese should be!
- Milk: While any fat percentage of milk can be used to make this recipe, for the richest mac and cheese use whole milk.
- Nutmeg: Adding a bit of nutmeg to the cream sauce, adds a nice earthy depth of flavor to the sauce. However, do NOT use ground nutmeg which can overwhelm the dish, instead use a Microplane to grate whole nutmeg. The flavor is superior.
- Cheese: Cheese is the MOST important ingredient in homemade mac and cheese. You want to use a variety of cheeses that melt well and have a strong, yet not overwhelming flavor. I recommend using a combination of sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, and parmesan cheese. Feel free to use either white or yellow sharp cheddar and gruyere or fontina in place of the Swiss cheese.
#1 Tip for the Best Mac and Cheese
In order to have the creamiest mac and cheese that is not grainy or gritty is to grate the cheese yourself rather than using bagged shredded cheese. Bagged cheese is coated in an anticaking agent that will prevent a smooth, creamy sauce. Do not ignore this tip! It is key to perfect homemade mac and cheese.
While cheese grates best when cold, it is best to let your grated cheese come to room temperature before adding it to the pasta. That will help to ensure a nice even melt as well. I begin this recipe by grating the cheese and letting the cheese sit out at room temperature while the noodles simmer. Perfect results every time!
How to Make One-Pot Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine the pasta, broth, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and butter.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-low once simmering.
- Simmer until the pasta has absorbed most of the broth. Be sure to stir often the noodles often to allow them to cook evenly.
- Once most of the broth has been absorbed, add in the milk and nutmeg.
- Continue to cook, stirring often, over low heat until the pasta is tender and the majority of milk is absorbed.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring after each addition until melted. The mac and cheese may look a little loose, but it will thicken up quickly.
- Give the mac and cheese a quick taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
- Serve immediately for best results.
- Add Veggies: Stir steamed broccoli or cooked peas into the macaroni and cheese right before serving.
- Top with Bacon: To add a nice salty finish and textural contrast to your soft mac and cheese, sprinkle each serving of macaroni and cheese with crumbled baked bacon right before serving.
- Add Ham or Chicken: Diced grilled or shredded chicken or leftover cubed ham adds a nice savory note to the macaroni and cheese, along with a boost of protein.
- Spice it Up: If you want a little kick to your Mac and Cheese, stir up to ½ teaspoon of hot sauce into your macaroni and cheese when you add the cheese. OR allow each person to top individual servings with hot sauce as desired.
- Gluten-Free: I have had success with making this recipe with Barilla gluten-free pasta. Unfortunately, I have not had success making this mac and cheese with other varieties of gluten-free pasta. They tend to release a lot of starchy liquid that leaves an undesirable film on the sauce.
Serve this One-Pot Mac and Cheese as a quick lunch with a side of fruit or as a meatless entree with Green Beans Almondine or Copycat Panera Greek Salad. And of course, you can go wrong serving macaroni and cheese as a side dish for a holiday meal or family dinner. Below are a few of my favorite entrees to pair with this Stovetop Mac and Cheese.
Tried this recipe for Stovetop Mac and Cheese? I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces elbow noodles
- 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2-3 cups whole milk
- ½ teaspoon whole grated nutmeg optional
- 16 ounces sharp white or yellow cheddar cheese shredded by hand
- 8 ounces Swiss cheese shredded by hand
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Using a box grater or food processor fitted with a grating blade, grate the cheddar and Swiss cheese. Use a Microplane to grate the Parmesan cheese. Set the cheese aside and allow it to come to room temperature as the noodles simmer.
- In a large stock pan, combine the noodles, broth, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and butter. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring often, over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-low once simmering.
- Simmer for about 7-8 minutes, stirring often, until the pasta has absorbed most of the broth.
- Once the majority of the broth has been absorbed, add in 2 cups of milk and nutmeg and continue to cook, stirring often, over low heat until the pasta is tender and the majority of milk is absorbed. If you notice the milk is being absorbed faster than the pasta is cooking, add additional milk. ¼ cup at a time, as needed.
- Once the noodles are tender, remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring after each addition, until melted.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately for best results.
Excellent! I used 4 cups of chicken broth (because I buy it in 4 cup cartons) and 2 cups 1% milk (it is what I have). I substituted chicken bullion powder for the salt but used maybe 1/2 tsp.
For cheese I used 8 oz. Extra sharp Cheddar, 8 oz. Swiss, 6 oz. Pepper jack, and the end of a loaf of Queso Blanco to use it up (2-3 oz.).
The recipe does not need to be altered as you shared it but 🙂 . My wife said she was hungry for macaroni and cheese before she laid down for her nap so I am excited to have her try it when she wakes up.
Fabulous! I love hearing you (and your wife) enjoyed the Mac and Cheese so much, Henry! Thanks for sharing!
I love this recipe! I usually double the garlic and onion powders then add a 1/4-1/2 tsp of Chipotle chili powder for a little kick. 😉
I love hearing you enjoy the Mac and Cheese Becky! I also think it is a great idea to add a little chipotle for kick!
Journa Liz Ramirez
I followed this mac and cheese recipe last night, everyone was filled and satisfied. Highly recommended!
Thanks for sharing! I love hear you enjoyed
So easy to make and yummy. All of my family loved it. I just wish I doubled the recipe!
Next time you can double it 🙂 Thanks for sharing you enjoyed this Mac and Cheese.
The whole family loved this Mac and cheese recipe. I was a little hesitant adding nutmeg to the recipe, but I went and ahead and did it, and I'm so glad I did. The flavor and texture of this Mac and Cheese and perfect!
So happy to hear you enjoyed--and gave the nutmeg a try! It really does add a nice warming flavor.