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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96 comments on “The BEST Stovetop Mac and Cheese”

  1. 5 stars

    This is the best ever, no cooking the pasta before hand, no baking . Followed your recipe and just added some panko that I had salted with butter. Gave it a bit of crunch. Delicious

    Rating: 5

  2. If you wanted to make this in advance for a party and reheat it would that still be ok? Trying to come up with some sides for a child’s birthday party that I can do in advance!

  3. I made 2 batches of this last night for a potluck for my son’s Highschool football team. Everyone loved it and there were no leftovers!

  4. 5 stars
    The whole family loved this recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    Always been looking for a stove top mac n cheese recipe and THIS IS IT. We decided to do 2 cups of smoked gouda instead of full cheddar, and that sold this recipe for my boyfriend who was convinced his mom’s recipe is unbeatable. ;) Thanks Ali for another winner!

  6. 5 stars
    Where in the world has this Recipe been? I made it for our “All Nations” Church Service, OMG! No more boxed Mac-N-Cheese for our family. I’m hoping to make it again, for Thanksgiving, God willing. I decided to make a larger amount, used Sharp & American Cheeses and it was so creamy. I was so surprisingly, pleased. Thank you for sharing.

  7. 5 stars
    I’m a believer, just made this and it turned out great. I alwayz make baked mac& cheese but was feeling lazy today. I had packaged sharp shredded cheddar & Some sliced cooper sharp and figured what the hell its worth a shot, so glad i did. Thanks you so much for this recipe!!

  8. I use to HATEmac and cheese until the last few years. That’s when I discovered sharp cheddar mac and cheese. But this 1 pot recipe is simply the best!!!♡♡♡♡♡♡

  9. I followed the recipe very carefully and it ended up extremely soupy- pretty much inedible. Any ideas on what I did wrong? I thought 3 cups water + 4 cups milk was a lot of liquid. I even added in a little more than a pound uncooked pasta.

    • Tayler, Did you ever get an answer to your question? I’m thinking the same thing and am reluctant to make this recipe with soooo much liquid. Thanks! Cynthia

    • Easy and soooooo delicious ! Next time I’ll add less water though.

  10. Absolutely delicious, however I did substitute the 1/4 tsp of Ground Mustard with 1/4 tsp of Ground Italian seasoning.I also used Colby Jack Cheese and Sharp Cheddar Cheese;then I garnished the done dish with Ground Italian Seasoning no extra salt was needed for me.I will be using this recipe whenever I cook Macaroni and Cheese.

  11. Made this for a class of 3 year olds & they loved it! I used whole wheat macaroni & reduced the water down to 2 cups based on comments that it was soupy & it turned out perfectly!

  12. just wanted you to know that now when I go online to look up a recipe I look to see if you have one. you’re recipes are consistently awesome. the first one I found was your pad thai recipe. thanks! ami

  13. Hands down the best stovetop macaroni and cheese in my book! Super creamy, reminds me of macaroni that you would get out and about – except you know what’s in this one, and it makes a whole bunch more. Absolute keeper :)

  14. I made this for my neighbor who was recovering from a recent surgery. It turned out perfect, and I loved the “one pot”. start to finsh 30 min max. Tonight the neighbors daughter came over to thank me and ask for the recipe.

    Thannk you for sharing!

  15. I just made this recipe for my family and it’s amazing! I initially added 2 cups of water because I was worried about it being too runny but by the time the pasta had cooked the sauce looked a little thick so I added another half cup at the end. The next time I make it I’ll use the 3 cups the recipe called for.

  16. The best recipe by far – and one pot only! I’m on dreamland. Been looking for a go to for Mac and cheese forever. This is definitely it. Amazing. Thank you !

  17. Oh my! I just tasted this, made it for a party and it is devine! So simple yet amazing! I reduced the water to 2 cups and added a little fresh Parmesan and Italian blend cheese as I only purchased on block of cheddar to grate and it’s awesome! Thank you!

  18. Wow this is so good – halved recipe and worked perfectly!

  19. I made this gluten free by using gluten free all purpose flour and using brown rice noodles, it was so good. Everyone really liked it .

  20. My sauce never thickened and I’m not sure where I went wrong since I followed to a t ☹️

  21. Why would you do this to people? I actually tried this recipe and it’s awful

    • What do you think went wrong. I just made this and it was awesome. No really. The best mac & cheese I have ever produced. I’m like a rock star in this house. What didn’t you like about it, if you don’t mind my asking?

    • I tried this recipe as well. I am an experienced cook and baker. This came out like soup and very little flavor (even though I sauteed minced shallots in the butter before making the roux). I ended up straining the pasta, reserving the cheesy milk soup, and doctoring with more flour, a lot more seasoning, and simmered for at least 15 minutes. Eventually it was usable, let it cool a bit, and mixed it back into the pasta. So much for one pot!

  22. This is my favourite mac abd cheese. I was hesitant to make it with dry noodles directly in the pot, but after a couple times I tried it and it was life changing. Loveee and add my own spices. Also half a stock cube

  23. I used chickpea pasta and it was way too soupy, but could be because it needs the starch regular pasta releases. Overall it’s okay but I would definitely adjust and maybe add less liquid. I ended up adding more cheese but it’s just too much sauce for the amount of pasta. And I usually LOVE a saucy Mac and cheese. Not a bad base recipe, but definitely adjust the amount of liquids, especially if you’re using alternative pastas.

  24. That was so good, and so easy. Win-win! Way better than any other mac & cheese recipe I’ve made, and I have made a bunch. Didn’t change a thing (except halving the recipe cuz that’s all the pasta I had). Love your site! Love your recipes! And love your chicken enchiladas (only made that like 20 times). Sorry, I got distracted. This is a keeper! Thanks. You’re inspiring! Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.

  25. Hi Ali, how do I incorporate vegetables into the dish? Do I cook it separately? When should I add it in? Thank you

  26. This was delicious! I used a combination of sharp cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese along with the parmesan. The leftovers also reheated great; no curdled, greasy mess. After warming up in the microwave, it was creamy and smooth and oh so tasty! Will definitely be making this again!

  27. I made this today! It’s so easy. Pretty much followed the ingredients and instructions. I used a combination of sharp cheddar and white American cheese and added a bit more Parmesan. This is so much easier than the baked mac and cheese recipes I’ve used over the years. I’ll definitely make this again. It makes a lot too. That’s nice because we’re self quarantining and sharing food with our family members that live close by

  28. Made tonight it came out very good. Use bagged cheese. I’m not a Mac and cheese lover. Very easy to make like the use of one pot.

  29. Amazing Mac n Cheese! The 3 boys and husband loved it. I highly recommend it.

  30. I am a mac and cheese snob and I LOVED this. This is perfect comfort food – creamy and cheesy and easy. I made a half batch (it’s just my fiance and I) and the ratio, including the amount of liquid, was perfect. I saw some comments that said it was too soupy, but TRUST. When you add in the cheese, if made as directed, the sauce comes out perfect. This is my new go to mac recipe.

  31. Excellent!! Very quick and easy to make as well. I was told that my Mac & Cheese “was the bomb” this time, what did you do different mom!?
    Highly recommend!!

  32. Super good but i added about 2 Tablespoons more flour as it was super watery then it was perfect!

  33. This came out perfectly.
    For those having some issues with soupiness:
    1. Make sure the first cup of water you whisk into the roux has blended into a nice thickened, bubbling mixture. Then gradually add a little water and milk at a time while simmering until it’s all incorporated. Don’t rush it. Before you add the pasta, make sure the liquid is simmering a bit.
    2. When you put in the pasta, kick the heat up to get a boil going, then reduce to a good simmer. Stir several times during cooking.
    3. I stirred in a couple handfuls of fresh spinach and chunks of artichoke bottoms during the last few minutes of cooking, and it came out great.

  34. Delicious! Turned out great!!!

  35. So glad I found this, it’s now our all time fav Mac n cheese recipe! Love it!