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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216 comments on “Stovetop Mac and Cheese”

  1. So… I don’t even like Mac and cheese. Making this was a gift of love for my pregnant daughter, but, OH MY!!! It was so easy to make AND it was delicious. I only had shredded cheese in hand so I ended up added some extra milk. I look forward to making it with yummy cheese!

  2. Made this and turned out really good! I did a few things differently –
    I only added 2 cups of water & 3 cups of milk only because of the reviews saying it was soupy. I could’ve added the 4th cup of milk to make it more creamy. It still turned out great.
    I used a 16oz block of velveeta cheese because I didn’t have sharp
    I used dijon mustard as a substitute for the mustard powder (didn’t have any)

    Turned out great & very cheesy!!! Only other thing I recommend is using a big pot! This will easily feed a family of 5-6.

  3. 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!

  4. 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 ;)

  5. 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!

  6. this recipe is god-like, i highly recommend.

  7. Just finished making this for dinner, with some tweaking of ingredients and adding other flavors this turned out perfect. Like others I reduced the water to 2 cups and I did a mixture of milks, 2 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of heavy cream and I used Colby Jack and sharp cheddar both grated fresh.. This is definitely the perfect base for creating a mac and cheese that fits your tastes.

  8. I’ve made this at least 10 times. Excellent recipe. Just be careful not to use more cheese than recommended. I normally substitute half gruyere cheese instead of parmesan cheese. If you decide to try it, just get one large slice from the deli instead of packaged. That will save you around five dollars since a half pound of gruyere cheese runs around eight dollars. At the deli one large slice I think it’s a number 10 thickness will run less than three dollars and you can use it all in the mac and cheese. You will love it.

  9. If you’re GF for whatever reason – this works with Cup4Cup flour and GF pasta! Don’t skimp on the liquid (I honestly have no idea what other reviewers were doing? The liquid is necessary, esp for GF noods) and amp up the garlic powder/mustard. This was delightfully indulgent and exactly what I needed today.

  10. I used your recipe to pull together a last minute dish with stuff that I had on hand. It worked really well! Thanks! I used some fresh Mozzarella cheese and it made it extra stringy, but I knew that would happen.

    • This is my new go to recipe! I used what I had on hand (a combo of oat milk and 2% lactaid) and ran out of block cheese, so used a mix of freshly shredded and pre-shredded cheese, and rotini instead of elbows. This was so easy and delicious. It’s true that it will be a little runny at first, but if you give it a few minutes, it will thicken up into a rich, creamy sauce. I had a lot of leftovers, and the leftovers were even better, since the sauce had even more time to set up! Loved it!

  11. The best Mac N Cheese recipe ever!!!

    A big hit with the kids, they just loved it, and fewer pots to wash which is a bonus. I would however use only two cups of water instead of three. We used a mix of red sharp cheddar, red medium cheddar, a bit of mozzarella and kashkaval, and of course parmesan.

    This is our favorite recipe for Mac N Cheese and will be our recipe from now on.

  12. I rate a 5 because if this were up against Mac n chz it tops it. I kid u not, so easy, super creamy (don’t forget to take it off the heat b4 adding chz), super gone. Thank you Gimme!

  13. Was super delicious but I had too much sauce as well. Had to boil some xtra pasta, tossed it in & it was perfect. Might dbl the pasta next time

  14. I made this for the first time last night and I was worried because of previous comments about “soupiness” and a flour taste. I followed the recipe and I have to say this is the most delicious stovetop mac I have ever had. I made sure to let the flour mixture thicken before I started adding water and milk….which I added very slowly, while stirring constantly. The whole gang loved it! I used cavatappi pasta, half white sharp cheddar and half yellow sharp cheddar (plus the parm, of course). I seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, and Cholula hot sauce. We will be eating leftovers today! Merry Christmas.

  15. I have this recipe memorized because I have made it so many times. My kids love mac and cheese and they declare this one the best mac and cheese.

  16. This was fantastic! My kids loved this version.

  17. Quick and easy! I love it

  18. My boyfriend and I made this for dinner and it was hands-down the best mac and cheese we’ve ever had. We used a mixture of 5 different kinds of cheeses: cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican blend, Colby-jack blend, and Parmesan cheese. We loved how easy it was and that it was all done in one pot!

  19. Thanks for the recipe. It is super easy and quick to make.
    I had cooked pasta so I just made the sauce portion. Followed the recipe but use 1 cup of milk instead of all the liquid listed. I was lazy to shred the cheese so I just broke it into piece and continuing stirred on the stove until all melted. Then added pasta and mixed really well. My kid love it.

  20. this was AMAZING!!!
    I substituted half of the milk with Half and half. Even though I do not have the original to compare either to, ours was super creamy and delish!!
    a quick easy side dish to whip up, and tastes SO. MUCH. BETTER. than boxed!
    Our little one gives it 2 thumbs way, way up!!

  21. Loved this recipe. I added monterey jack and colby with my cheddar and parmesan. We will definitely make this again.

  22. Made it for my 16 year old sister, her boyfriend, and my 12 year old brother they loved it! I used Pepper Jack, Mozzarella, and Velveeta cheeses. Pepper jack for bite (they’re teens it’s not fun if it doesn’t bite), velveeta for creaminess, and mozzarella to make sure the creaminess is well balanced

  23. Made this tonight because my 9 year old was craving mac and cheese. It was excellent. There will be a repeat performance later in the week for school lunches! Smile. Thank you or a delicious recipe.n Cooking the elbows in the milk sauce does make a difference. The pasta is soaked in the sauce. Also I used fresh garlic because, I did not have dried garlic at home. Still fantastic.

  24. I also do not understand what others are doing. I used all the water and milk and its spot on! Everyone loves this. It’s our new go to mac n cheese!
    Thanks so much!

  25. Yum 😋😋😋 thanks :D

  26. Hi just wanted to watch the video but can’t find it?Please let me know how to thanks!

  27. It was alright. My husband said it was good, but I and my 2 year old son didn’t really like it. I have made the 2 pot method before and prefer that, but I wanted to give this one pot method a try.

  28. I just made this and it was so good! The whole family loved it! I followed the recipe exactly, but using penne. I used sharp cheddar, smoked Gouda, and Parmesan. I think if you follow the recipe EXACTLY, and are patient with your roux and adding the water to the roux slowly and really let it thicken before adding the rest of the liquid, there shouldn’t be an issue. Also, the sauce thickens a lot while the pasta cooks if it is simmering correctly. It makes a lot of sauce but it is super creamy, not soupy at all. And as with all recipes, don’t skip the part where you season to taste. Adding the right amount of salt at the end brings out the delicious cheese flavors. Will definitely make this again!

  29. First time ever making stove top mac n cheese and its the best quick easy and convenient my family and I love it

  30. This was the first time I’ve ever made macaroni and cheese from scratch. It came out so good!! I used my own raw milk straight from the farm and instead of sharp I used mild cheddar and used four cups. Other than that I didn’t change anything from this recipe. Turned out super good and flavorful. Will be using this recipe again!!

  31. Outstanding! My family loved this dish, I added some bacon bits and I definitely will make it again!

  32. Weirdest way I have ever made Mac n’ cheese, but oh my gosh SO GOOD!! I love it, it’s a nice thick creamy sauce.

  33. I have never rated a recipe before, except on the AllRecipes app, but I gotta chime in here. I was so nervous about adding 7 cups of liquid to pasta and expecting it to become mac and cheese, but this is perfect.

    The multiple reviews calling it soupy didn’t help alleviate my concerns, so I have to admit that at first I was cautious about adding my liquids. I started with 2 cups of water and 2 cups of milk, dumped in the DRY, UNCOOKED pasta, and within a few minutes of simmering it became apparent that my skeptical liquid amount wasn’t going be enough.

    If you’ve ever made a mornay sauce (which is essentially what this is: roux>béchamel>mornay) for mac, you probably have an idea of how much your cheese thickens up your béchamel. By the time the pasta started to swell, I was rushing to add the omitted liquids and get it back to a simmer.

    And it is GREAT. This isn’t a baked casserole cafeteria-style mac, this is a stove top mac. It’s gooey, creamy, the ultimate comfort food. You can obviously amp up the flavor with herbs, spices, and different cheeses, but as written with sharp white cheddar you’re looking at an unpretentious homestyle classic comfort mac. It’s basically what Stouffer’s is trying to be, only Stouffer’s sucks because it’s soupier, plasticky, and less flavorful.

    I would highly recommend using large elbow noodles or cavatappi (which is what the author uses) to achieve the best pasta vehicle-to-sauce ratio.

    Don’t be anxious about it being soupy, DON’T cook your pasta before adding it to the pot, and DO enjoy your steaming bowl of cheesy comfort. I will absolutely be making this again–fearlessly.

  34. I’ve been making mac & cheese for too many years to count and since I am 70+ you can figure it out. Well, boys, I was skeptical about the Barcelona connection not thinking why a so-called all-American dish would be perfected across the pond but, nevertheless, I must concede that indeed this is one of the best mac & cheese recipes I have ever encountered! [Just an historical note: Incidentally, we all know that it was originated in Italy, but, in 1802, President Thomas Jefferson first served Macaroni and cheese at a state dinner thereby introducing it as an American dish.]

  35. This recipe turned out and tasted great! I followed the recipe exactly and this turned out awesome. It was not runny, but a nice smooth, cheesy texture. I’m not quite sure what the other recipe users may have been doing incorrectly. I even used shell noodles and it was almost like eating Panera mac and cheese!

  36. Really cool recipe. I added about 1/2 cups homemade taco seasoning at the step where you add the mustard, and added thinly sliced chorizo at the step where you add the cheese, and turned out super well. I also replaced one cup of the milk with heavy cream because I like my mac and cheese a bit heartier/thicker, and added 2 tsp turmeric at the end for color.

  37. THIS AMAZING!!! I would recommend this recipe to everyone I know!!!!!!!!! <)

  38. I may never go back to baked Mac n cheese again. I mixed cheddar and gruyere cheeses (plus the Parmesan as indicated) and added about 2 tbsps of nutritional yeast powder for extra cheesiness. Followed the directions and it came out perfectly. Thank you!