Stovetop Mac and Cheese is a quick and easy weeknight meal that will please even the pickiest eaters in your home! Macaroni noodles are perfectly cooked and doused in a gorgeous, creamy cheese sauce and served in under 15 minutes.
Nothing beats homemade; and after trying this one pot mac and cheese recipe, you’ll never go back to the box!
Reasons You’ll Love This
Kid Approved – This easy mac and cheese recipe is very kid friendly and so simple to make. I think it’s safe to say that this recipe is probably the most requested dish in our home.
Homemade – While a box of mac and cheese is good in a pinch, there is nothing quite like the taste of homemade stovetop macaroni and cheese.
One Pot – You will LOVE that this can be made all in one pot. Not only does it make for easier meal prep, but the less dishes to wash after dinner
Flourless – No more grainy texture! There is no flour or making a roux, which can be the most annoying part of making a mac and cheese.
Customizable – Depending on the crowd you are feeding, you can add a lot of mix-ins or toppings to really make this mac your own.
This easy recipe makes for a fabulous side dish. It also makes the perfect, easy weeknight dinner for when you’re tired of cooking, but also want to make something fresh, and delicious. Plus, have I mentioned how creamy, cheesy and just downright amazing this recipe is?
Let’s discuss how to make stovetop mac and cheese, as well as the ingredients that are needed. Please take note that below you will find discussion, expert tips, and answers to frequently asked questions about this recipe to help you recreate it in your kitchen. If you *just* want the recipe itself, scroll down. The full printable recipe itself, with exact measurements and instructions, is found at the bottom of this page.
- Elbow Macaroni – This is the classic pasta shape for this beloved recipe, but feel free to use a different pasta shape if you like. You can use Rotini, shell, bowtie, Penne, Rigatoni, Ditalini, or really anything you can think of instead. As long as you make sure to cook the noodles until they’re al dente, you’ll be golden.
- Cheddar Cheese – Freshly grated cheddar cheese is ideal because pre-shredded cheese has added starches and anti-caking agents that will make it difficult to use in this recipe. You can also shake up the flavors with different cheeses depending on your taste preference. Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, Swiss, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, white cheddar, sharp cheddar or a mix or blend of any of those cheeses will work.
- American Cheese – American cheese melts perfectly, and this recipe won’t come out the same without it. You can use Velveeta cheese, because they’re very similar, or you can use a mix of both! If you use American cheese, I HIGHLY recommend getting it fresh from the deli instead of using the pre-wrapped singles, but either one will work.
- Cream Cheese – Thanks to the cream cheese, it’s very creamy, which is always the request in my house.
- Butter – You can use salted or unsalted, it really just depends on your taste preference.
- Milk – Milk works great, or if you want the texture to be a bit thicker, and richer you can use half and half instead.
- Seasonings – For the main seasonings, you will need salt, pepper and garlic powder. If you want a little extra flavor in your mac, you can also add any of the following optional ingredients; hot sauce, dijon mustard, fresh garlic, paprika & Worcestershire sauce.
Step by Step Instructions
- Start by putting a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. Generously salt the water and let it come to a boil. Once it’s boiling add the pasta, and cook the noodles according to package directions. Once cooked to al dente, drain the pasta from the pot. Turn off the stove.
- Before adding the noodles back into the pot, place butter, cream cheese, and your grated cheese into the pot.
- Pour the drained pasta back into the pot on top of the cheeses and butter.
- Cut your American cheese slices into smaller pieces, add them into the pot on top of the noodles. Pour 1 cup of the milk into the pot.
- Return the pot to the stovetop and bring the burner over a low heat. Stir everything together. It may take a couple of minutes to fully melt and combine.
- After a few stirs, add in salt, garlic powder and any other optional spices or mix-in ingredients you choose to use. Once the cheese begins to melt, add in the remaining ¾ cup of milk. Continue to stir over a low heat until everything is melted and combined. This may take a few more minutes, so be patient with it and keep stirring. If you need to add any extra milk, do so after everything is combined. Once it’s ready, remove the pot from the heat, serve immediately topped with fresh black pepper and enjoy!
Tips And Advice
Storage – Let the leftover mac and cheese cool to room temperature before adding it to an airtight container. Let it stay in the fridge for about 3-4 days, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months! If you want to reheat, you can place the leftovers back in a pot with a few splashes of milk and stir until reheated!
You can also use the refrigerated leftovers to make Mac and Cheese Bites!
MAC AND CHEESE MIX-INS
To make this a whole meal, you can add in some proteins, some greens, or extra sauces and spices to make this your own. Some good add-ins could be grilled or fried chicken, steak bites, grilled shrimp or lobster is you’re feeling fancy, or even some cut up hot dog!
Add a handful of spinach or broccoli for extra nutrients. You can even add peas, or sautéed mushrooms. For sauces and spices you can add some buffalo sauce, pesto sauce, red pepper flakes, cajun seasoning, and so much more.
I don’t recommend substituting water for milk in this recipe because the cheese may separate, your dish will come out watery, and lose a lot of flavor. In some recipes you might be able to, but for this one stick with milk.
This recipe should only take you a total of 15 minutes! It may take a bit longer depending on how much you’re stirring, and how well your cheese melts down.
If you’re using regular milk, and not half and half, I would stick with whole milk. At the very least you can use 2% milk but I don’t recommend using skim milk, or any non-dairy milks for this recipe. Half and half is the best choice for this recipe when it comes to texture and flavor, but whole milk will work just as well.
Serves Well With
Serve this as a main dish with sides like:
- Broccoli Cornbread
- Homemade Dinner Rolls
- Cucumber Salad
- Italian Salad
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green Beans
Serve as a side dish along side some foods like:
- BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
- Pork Tenderloin
- Cranberry Chicken
- Parmesan Crusted Chicken
- Shake and Bake
- Fried Chicken
- And so much more!
Stove Top Mac And Cheese
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni other shapes can also be used
- 3 1/2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese sharp cheddar cheese works well – you can use other semi-hard cheeses as well
- 4 slices American cheese cut into smaller pieces, fresh sliced from the deli case is highly preferred
- 4 ounces cream cheese cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted
- 1 3/4 cups half and half or milk half and half will give a richer flavor
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Hot sauce a few drops
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Drain pasta.
- Prior to placing pasta back into the pot, place butter, cream cheese and grated cheese into the pot.
- Pour drained pasta back into pot, on top of the ingredients. Add cut up slices of American cheese, and approximately 1 cup of half and half or milk into the pot.
- Return pot to stove and turn burner to low heat. Use the same burner already used to cook the past as it will still be warm. Give a good stir.
- Sprinkle in salt (and optional mix in items if using) and stir well. As cheeses start to melt, add an additional 1/2 cup of milk or half and half.
- Continue stirring over low heat until all ingredients have melted and have combined with pasta. It may take some time and stirring for it to all incorporate, just keep stirring.
- Add additional half and half or milk as needed to reach desired level of creaminess. If desired you can add more milk than is called for in the recipe.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Nutrition information is estimated as a courtesy. If using for medical purposes, please verify information using your own nutritional calculator. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.