The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese

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This truly is the BEST stovetop mac and cheese recipe!  It only requires one pot (no extra pot to cook the pasta), it’s ready to go in about 20 minutes from start to finish, and it’s perfectly creamy and cheesy and delicious.

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

This weekend, Barclay and I went to a food festival here in Barcelona that was fabulously, deliciously, entirely devoted to CHEESE.

And it was just about the best thing ever. ♡♡♡

Literally everywhere you turned, ooey gooey cheesy dishes were being served.  And you’d better believe we took full advantage of them.  From freshly-scraped raclette toasts, to the most amazing Korean-inspired mushroom grilled cheese sandwiches, to Spanish (slightly different than French) onion and smoked cheese soup, to vegan Mexican cheesy quesadillas, to the best ricotta I’ve ever sampled, to the most dreamy Italian gyoza-ish dumplings filled with potato and cheese and served in a pecorino-sage sauce…the day was all of our cheesiest dreams come true.  And we left feeling so happy.  And soooo full, ha.

That said, there was one dish notably missing at the festival.  But, it just so happens that I’ve been on a mission this month to nail down my all-time favorite recipe for it.  So yesterday, we decided to round out our cheesy weekend by taste-testing a final version of this recipe.  And ohhh guys, I think we’ve got it.  I’m humbly calling it…

The Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe.  Ever.

The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe | 1-Minute Video

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

I should probably say right now that this recipe is the real deal.  Because on the special occasions when I indulge in creamy mac and cheese, I’m not interested in healthy shortcuts.  Gimme all the carbs + all the cheese, please.  🤗

Even better?

Let’s talk about this delicious recipe that’s ready to go in about 20 minutes from start to finish (seriously!) and only requires one pot.

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

For most of my homemade mac and cheese making life, I’ve always done the two-pot method — one for cooking the pasta, and one for making the cheesy sauce — which totally works!  But dishes have always been the bane of my existence.  AND when I started posting on Instagram about my macaroni and cheese recipe experimenting this month, I heard from many of you who recommended the one-pot method.  Because apparently cooking the pasta in the sauce itself releases all of those starches into the sauce…which makes it extra creamy…and also helps bind the sauce to the pasta even better.  Also, the entire process only takes about 15 minutes to cook.  And also, no need to wash the extra pan.

Sounded like a win-win-win…win…win to me.

Sure enough, after testing a few batches, I’m now a total convert to the one-pot camp.  Works like a cheesy charm!  👏

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

Also, let’s talk about your cheese options here.

I kind of feel like mac and cheese is the savory equivalent to chocolate chip cookies when it comes to people’s Very Strong Food Opinions.  Everyone seems to have their cheese of choice (or blend of cheeses) that they prefer with their mac and cheese!  So if you have a strong preference here, this recipe is totally flexible when it comes to cheeses, so I say go for it.

As for me?  I have always fallen firmly in the sharp cheddar camp.  Sharp…because extra cheesy flavor is always a win in my book.  And cheddar…because it’s my nostalgic favorite when it comes to mac and cheese.  Nowadays, I usually opt for extra sharp white cheddar, mostly because it’s affordable and awesome at Costco (and also at Lidl, our ALDI-ish favorite grocery store here in Barcelona).  But feel free to use your favorite brand.

Also, if you want an even creamier mac and cheese, you’re welcome to use half cheddar, and half gouda or fontina (two of my other creamy faves).  But 99% of the time, I keep things simple with straight cheddar (plus a handful of Parmesan) and never regret it.

🌟🌟🌟 That said, I do have one non-negotiable tip that goes for all types of cheeses — always, always, always use freshly-grated cheese for mac and cheese.  Most all of the pre-shredded cheeses at the store have a coating on them that prevents them from melting smoothly.  So while it’s a bit of extra work, be sure to buy block cheese at the store, and then shred it at home just before using. 🌟🌟🌟

Seriously the BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! It's ready to go in about 20 minutes, only requires one pot, and is totally creamy and cheesy and delicious. | Gimme Some Oven #macandcheese #pasta #recipe #comfortfood

As always, feel free to stir in any of your desired mix-ins as well if you’d like, such as:

  • Proteins: cooked chicken, bacon, shrimp, etc.
  • Veggies: I’m obsessed with adding roasted veggies to my mac and cheese!  Also, greens like baby spinach, or sun-dried tomatoes, or artichokes are delish.
  • Nuts: Pine nuts, toasted almonds, etc.
  • Seasonings: Some faves include Cajun seasoning, Italian seasoning, a sprinkle of za-atar…you name it.

The sky’s basically the limit here.

But if you’re on the hunt for an irresistible, cheesy, creamy, classic homemade mac and cheese recipe, here you go.  Enjoy, everyone!

Print

The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

This truly is the BEST stovetop mac and cheese recipe!  It only requires one pot (no extra pot to cook the pasta), it’s ready to go in about 20 minutes from start to finish, and it’s perfectly creamy and cheesy and delicious.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 pound uncooked pasta (I used cavatappi)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 45 cups (16-20 ounces) freshly-shredded* sharp cheddar cheese (I used sharp white cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup freshly-shredded* Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add flour, and stir until combined.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.  Then pour in 1 cup of the water, and stir (or whisk) until the mixture is completely smooth and begins to thicken.  Gradually pour in the remaining water and milk, stirring until evenly combined.
  2. Stir in the pasta, salt, garlic powder, and mustard until combined.  Then continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture just reaches a simmer.  (Btw, I recommend grating your cheese while the pasta cooks to save time!)  Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain the low simmer.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 9-10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.  (Be careful not to overcook the pasta!)
  3. Remove from heat, and stir in the cheeses until melted.  Taste, and season with additional salt (and black pepper, if you’d like), as needed.
  4. Serve immediately, and enjoy!!

Notes

Instant Pot Option: If you would like to make this recipe in the Instant Pot, see my tutorial here.

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169 comments on “The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese”

  1. Wonder if those who ended up with soupy pasta may have pre cooked their pasta???

    • This recipe is a WINNER. I followed everything except the milk and cheese part. Instead of 4 c milk, I used a 3-cup mixture of whole milk, heavy cream and oat milk (roughly equal portions). For cheese, all I had was almost 8 oz of extra sharp shredded and almost 8 oz of Italian cheese mix (pre-shredded). It came out perfect. I think that extra cup of milk would’ve been too much (the only reason I didn’t use the full amount is because that’s all I had on hand). And the blend of cheeses was delicious. This will be out new go-to for quick mac and cheese.

  2. I added sauteed 2 tablespoons of chopped white onion on the butter, three slices of American processed cheese for a more traditional cheesy flavor and seasoned the sauce further with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and Lawry’s seasoning salt. I also found a liitle extra liquid, about 1/4 cup , was necessary because the sauce got a bit thick. Very quick and easy.

  3. Felt like the recipe is good using your favorite shredded cheese or cheeses. The sharp cheddar mixed in with my usual of the Mexican mix and Colby jack mix ruined the meal for me. Will try this recipe again with the cheeses I know and love. Love how quick it took to prep and cook though! 😊

  4. Followed to a T…mine came out a little too soupy. However, the flavor was great! And it was the easiest Mac & cheese I’ve ever made. I strained out some of the sauce when I served it up…not a big deal at all. I’ll probably cut the water by a cup next time. Easy & yummy!

    • Very nice recipe, my son highly enjoyed! Mine was a bit on the soupy side too, but after I allowed it to sit in the pot (top off) for about 10 minutes, the pasta did absorb the extra liquid. Will keep this recipe in my rotation. Thank you!

  5. A real winner — delicious and oh-so-homemade! I cooked it in the new Pampered Chef 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet and start-to-finish, ready in 30 minutes. Add a side of broccoli. Quick, easy and super delicious!

  6. Super easy and fast. I add some chopped onion, Lawry’s seasoning salt and did put it in the oven with buttered bread crumbs at 325F for about 15 minutes. It did a little more dry, but I revived it with a splash of milk.

  7. Way too much liquid. I only did 2 cups of water and 4 cups of milk and its still way too soupy. I strained off some of the liquid to save for another try. Very good otherwise.

  8. Halved the recipe and added crab!! Homestlye decadence!!

    • Was delicious. Perfect thickness. Had an issue with my cheeses which cursed in the pot once mixed together. Maybe should’ve waited for the pasta/milk mixture to cool a bit before mixing in the cheeses? I added bacon, red pepper flakes and a dash of cayenne pepper.

  9. I made this tonight. It was pretty good by my standards and excellent by my childrens’ – age eight and nine. I read the comments about being soupy and it wasn’t. I followed the recipe exactly and didn’t hustle (it took less than 30 minutes). I made sure the first mix of flour and water was thick and then added the rest of the water and milk per instructions. I did wait for a slight boil before adding the pasta. Per the reviews, I thought a little more seasoning might be necessary so I doubled the garlic powder, mustard powder and added worchestershire sauce. I made the mac & cheese first, put a lid on it and made my main – salmon. When I served it 20 minutes later, the texture was perfect.

    I think the dish could have benefited from a sharper cheddar. I had only regular cheddar on hand and it was pre-grated. The thing I didn’t like (which my kids did not notice) was the taste of flour. It is only 3 T but I could taste it and it bothered me.

    It was a pretty good mac & cheese but I will look around for a better stove-top version. That being said, if you are not looking for amazing, this is a good recipe.

    • I agree I could taste the flour and I let it cook for a minute or so to cook out that taste. But was a little bland I added more black pepper when I ate it. I felt as if it was missing something to take it To the next level. It was super easy and I did like the one pot method. I did not have extra liquid at all it was very creamy.

    • Maybe skip the flour in the beginning. Right before you add the cheese, stir in a slurry with cornstarch.

    • Elizabeth,
      I think it’s possible that you tasted the flour because you used pre shredded cheese. As I understand it pre shredded cheese has flour and or potato scratch to keep it from clumping. Most recipes recommend shredding the cheese yourself to avoid this. The flour/starch combo can also prevent a smooth melt.
      Having made this recipe multiple times I have never tasted the flour! If you cook it enough in the thickening stage as the directions describe you shouldn’t taste it.
      I recommend following her directions and trying again and rating it fairly. You have given a mediocre review to your recipe, not hers.
      It’s such good and easy Mac and cheese, I highly recommend it!
      Best,
      Jen

  10. Has anyone substituted with almond milk?

  11. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I tried it to save time, but the pasta cooked in sauce thing just doesn’t work. It took much longer to cook till al dente and the macaroni turned out much smaller than how the pasta would usually be if cooked separately in a pot of water. The noodle texture is unusual, too. I am not sure what went wrong.

  12. This really is THE BEST mac n’ cheese I’ve ever had! I’ve tried for years and years to make a decent mac n’ cheese and always failed miserably. THIS recipe was a game changer! Thank you!

    • I loved it! I used evaporated milk and truffle oil because I enjoy rich and fancy flavor.

  13. I’m not sure how people ended up with soupy sauce— maybe you used too-quick cooking pasta?

    I used Orecchiette, and I had to add water part way through to give it more time to soften. I also made sure to let each stage really thicken before adding more liquid. I think I over did it a bit cooking off the liquid at the end— the sauce thickened up more than I expected as it cooled.

    I quartered this recipe and it was plenty for two adults for our main dinner course. This was quick, easy and delicious (sharp cheddar, Gruyere, Romano) I think it could be improved by some shallots and peas— it is really rich and would have benefited from something to lighten up the flavor and add some texture— but that would make it no longer one pot.

  14. This recipe was amazing!!! Worried about the soupy comments, I reduced the amount of liquid to my dismay. Thankfully, I had some heavy cream laying available and was able to remedy my misguided attempt before I ended up with dry pasta…fyi, the starch from the pasta also acts as a thickening agent which is why the amount of liquid reconmended is required. Amazing bechemel sauce even before adding the cheese. I recommend everyone stick to the recipe as recommended as it is extremely good as is even though I just used the sharp cheddar I had on hand. Thank you for such an amazing and quick recipe. My entire family loved it along with many of the other recipes on your page. Thanks again and I look forward to trying many more of your recipes.

  15. this was so good I didn’t add enough cheese though so if you are going to make this make sure you add the full amount of cheese or else there’s barely any flavour!

  16. It’s great actually

  17. Been looking for a recipe to make my Grandma’s Cremettes and Cheese. This is it! Thank you so much.
    Soooo good and fun to play around with different cheeses (usually just use what I have).

  18. Tried for the first time. THE BEST!!!! only one pot and you can measure to your exact needs and make the way you like exactly.

  19. it was fab!

  20. I’ve used this recipe at least 10 times. The only one that I don’t modify

  21. Whole family loved it! We had to use store bought cheddar but added freshly grated provolone. Excellent! Making it again today. Thanks!

  22. !

  23. I made this recipe but added
    Chili powder with the spices and
    Heavy cream, sour cream and mozzarella balls at the end and stirred till mixed.

    Came out amazing!

  24. Loved it !!! My boys woke up at 2am and ate Mac and cheese. They are always after me to make it

  25. I never leave reviews for recipes that turn out bad, but… this recipe did not even resemble a Mac and cheese. I read several other reviews about it being too liquidy but decided to try it anyways. I used almost double the dry pasta amount recommended. It was literally soup. As in, I couldn’t even see the pasta there was so much liquid. Really not sure how this has a 5 star rating. I’m not picky about Mac and cheese, but this was inedible.

  26. I have made this many times and really enjoy everything about it . It is a game changer when you shred your own cheese!

  27. This was perfect. I used New Zealand cheddar and it was great. This will be my go to stovetop mac and cheese recipe. Especially for nights when it is too hot to turn on the oven. Thank you so much for sharing!

  28. Amazing! Honestly tastes like something you would get at a restaurant. It is creamy and cheesy. I recommend using cheeses with stronger flavors (sharp cheddar), in order to really bring out some flavor. Also, adding some hot sauce or chili powder can be a good idea for those who like things spicy. As long as you follow the recipe there is really nothing to worry about and I didn’t have any problems! This is delicious and way better than store bought mac and cheese that is from the box or frozen.

  29. Made this tonight with a few tweaks. I used whole wheat pasta shells, just cooked for about a minute longer. Then I omitted the mustard and garlic, and added a few splashes of Tabasco at the end while mixing in the cheeses. So yummy!!!

  30. I’ve made many mac and cheese dishes but when it comes to pure comfort food, this beats them all. I’ve also added additions such as broccoli or chicken. It’s so good. This is the best recipe out there.

  31. Just made this recipe and it is incredibly tasty. Followed the instructions and the one pot method worked great with the timing described.

  32. I tried it , it was a little different from my normal mac and but it wasn’t bad

  33. It was good. Might let the mixture come to a simmer before adding pasta next time, especially with a faster cooking pasta, but the flavors were great!

  34. Taste great but too soupy. I recommend using half the fluid.

  35. Very flavorful

  36. I cut the recipe in half because I’m only cooking for myself. I tweak it a bit, adding minced garlic instead of garlic powder, and some Old Bay instead of the salt. I prefer whole wheat pasta, and have no issues with the elbows when cooking them to al dente. Lastly, I added some leftover brisket for some awesome brisket Mac and cheese. Great one pot recipe.

  37. This was fantastic! I’ve tried a couple Mac n cheese recipes and this is by far the easiest and most tasty. I was looking for a one pot recipe be causing time. I used the cheese I had on hand which was medium cheddar and pepper jack . The only thing I added was a small amount of paprika, fresh garlic and about 3 tbls of cream cheese. Really fabulous. This will be my go to recipe from now on!

  38. Fast, easy & awesome! Turned out perfect!

  39. Good flavor! Makes a LOT of soupy cheese sauce. Prepared recipe with a pound of my gluten free rotini pasta & able to scoop out enough cheese sauce for a half pound of regular elbow pasta for husband as well! Will use less water next time. Added in cooked green peas when recipe was finished for some color & texture!

  40. Creamy, quick, and easy. Winning combination.

  41. I followed the recipe exactly and it look great. However, it didn’t have much flavor and my cheese sauce had a fine grainy texture. Has anyone else had this problem?

  42. Did anyone else end up with like a strange grainy, soupy cheese sauce? I swear, this always happens whenever a roux is used to make the sauce! Flavour is great, but I can’t get past the grainy texture!

  43. This is pretty darned good and easy, too. Thanks for posting.

  44. I made this. Only used 3 cups milk, and substituted one of the cups with heavy cream. I added more garlic powder (Lawry’s brand) and should have used sharp cheddar, but medium was still good. Will try sharp and gruyere next time.

  45. Have made this twice now, doubling the recipe for a crowd. It got rave reviews each time. Very creamy, cheesy, best Mac & cheese recipe I’ve found.

  46. Was excited about the one pot recipe, but had a couple issues:
    1) like others, I found it very soupy. I used 4 cups of 1% milk (all I had at the time) and 2 1/2 cups of water. So I realize up front this could have been a big reason why it didn’t thicken more. I was planning on using even less, but thought the extra liquid was needed to cover the pasta while simmering.
    2) I used about 4 1/2 cups of shredded cheese extra sharp cheddar – going off the 4-5 cup recommendation in the recipe – and thought it could have used 6 cups for texture and flavor.
    3) though the sauce is flavorful and good, it’s not cheesy and rich like the mac and cheese from, say, the hot bar at Whole Foods or from delis that we have bought before. It’s reminiscent of the cheese sauce my mom used to make for us as kids to get us to eat our broccoli. (Speaking of which, I think it would be awesome to add broccoli florets!)
    I’ve made this in advance for thanksgiving tomorrow, so I’ll see how it is after resting for 12 hours or so, and hopefully absorbing some of that extra liquid! Thanks for the easy recipe to follow, and for the one-pot technique!

  47. Awesome recipe! Made some minor modifications: no mustard, only 1 T flour, and added 4oz mozzarella. Was kind of soupy at first but after it cooled in the fridge it was perfect when warmed up! Topped with crushed flamin’ hot Ruffles ;)

  48. I agree, this is the best. I just threw away all the others I had tried. This is the creamiest and passed the picky eater test AND the ‘grew up on mac and cheese’ person.
    When you have to get dinner on the table quickly, this is great too. With COVID, dinner is getting to be a chore and recipes like this are wonderful, so helpful.
    But it’s good!
    (Evaporated milk works too, if need be.)
    thanks!