This is the creamiest, cheesiest stovetop mac and cheese you’ll ever eat! Ready in just 30 minutes, it’s the perfect weeknight recipe. Whether you make a meal out of it or serve it alongside your favorite entree, this simple macaroni and cheese will become your go-to.

Overhead photo of a white bowl filled with creamy mac and cheese.

A big bowl of macaroni and cheese ranks right up there with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for me when it comes to comfort food. My go-to recipe is my favorite baked mac and cheese version – I love the buttery crumb topping and crusted bits of macaroni and cheese around the edges! And, of course, I turn to my beloved crock pot mac and cheese when feeding a crowd.

However, there is something that feels so good about scooping creamy mac and cheese out of a pot on the stove. It took me what felt like eons to nail this recipe, but I’m convinced that this might be THE creamiest and cheesiest stovetop recipe EVER. Case closed.

Simple Ingredients

This is an incredibly simple, basic cheese sauce made with butter, flour, milk, and cheese, but the ratios result in one HECK of a cheese sauce. It’s super thick and cheesy, which basically equates to perfection when you’re talking about macaroni and cheese. Here is what we use:

Ingredients for stovetop mac and cheese prepped and labeled: American cheese, flour, milk, elbow macaroni, salt, pepper, butter, and cheddar cheese.
  • Pasta: Elbow macaroni is the classic mac and cheese shape, but any other short noodle will work like small shells, cavatappi, gemelli, campanelle, or radiator.
  • Unsalted Butter + All-Purpose Flour: The combination of these creates a roux, which thickens the cheese sauce.
  • Milk: The base of the cheese sauce! I recommend using whole milk for a richer, thicker sauce, but 2% will also work.
  • Cheese: We use a combination of American and cheddar cheeses for a classic, creamy flavor. However, you can play around with other varieties, such as white cheddar, Muenster, gruyere, fontina, gouda, colby, Monterey jack, mozzarella, etc. Also be sure to buy your cheese in a block (and slices of American cheese) and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese is coated to prevent it from clumping, but this also prevents it from melting well and can cause your macaroni and cheese to be grainy.

Step-by-Step Overview

This comes together quickly and easily with only a few steps required. 

Step #1: Cook the Pasta – Boil the pasta according to the package directions, then drain and set aside.

Step #2: Make the Roux – In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture is light brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the milk. Simmer and whisk occasionally until thickened, about 5 minutes.

A series of three photos showing elbow macaroni before cooking and making a roux in a Dutch oven.

Step #3: Add the Cheese – Add the cheese a handful at a time and whisk until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Step #4: Add the Cooked Pasta – Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Serve immediately!

Series of three photos showing the making of a cheese sauce and cooked pasta being added to finish the mac and cheese recipe.

Mac and Cheese Variations

My favorite way to enjoy macaroni and cheese is with a simple grind of fresh pepper on top, but there are countless ways you can modify the recipe. Aside from changing up the cheeses (see some ideas in the “Ingredients” section above), below are other ways you can customize the recipe:

  • Add Meat – Chopped-up ham, bacon, turkey, or even cut-up pork chops!
  • Add Veggies – Onions and peppers for a southwestern flair; broccoli florets, cauliflower, mushrooms, and spinach are all great options, too.
  • Add Seasonings – While I keep the recipe pretty plain, feel free to add extra flavor by using garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc.
  • Add a Topping – Crush up some Ritz crackers or toast some panko breadcrumbs in butter and sprinkle on top of each serving.

Make-Ahead, Storage, Reheating, and Freezing

  • Make-Ahead – You can shred your cheese ahead of time and store it in an airtight container or ziploc bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before you prepare the mac and cheese.
  • Storage – Store the prepared mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Reheat – This reheats like a DREAM! Simply re-warm in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove; while it stays nice and creamy, you can always add a splash of milk when reheating if you think it needs to smooth out a bit.
  • Freezing – This mac and cheese freezes beautifully. Store in an airtight ziploc bag (or airtight container) for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Close up photo of a bowl of stovetop mac and cheese.

Serving Suggestions

While I wholeheartedly believe that mac and cheese can be a bona fide main dish, it is most often served as a side dish. The following are great pairings for creamy mac and cheese:

Watch the Recipe Video

If you make stovetop mac and cheese and love it, remember to stop back and give them a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

This is the creamiest, cheesiest stovetop mac and cheese you'll ever eat!
4.33 (258 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup (49 g) + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups (1200 ml) whole milk
  • 24 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces American cheese, sliced and chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions 

  • Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box, then drain; set aside.
  • In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine, then cook for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture is a light golden brown color and beginning to emit a nutty smell.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the milk until smooth. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.
  • Add the cheese, a handful at a time, whisking well after each addition and not adding more until the previous handful is fully melted and incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to combine, breaking up any clumps of macaroni. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes

  • Pasta: Elbow macaroni is the classic mac and cheese shape, but any other short noodle will work like small shells, cavatappi, gemelli, campanelle, or radiatore.
  • Milk: I recommend using whole milk for a richer, thicker sauce, but 2% will also work.
  • Cheese: You can substitute other cheeses, such as white cheddar, Muenster, gruyere, fontina, gouda, colby, Monterey jack, mozzarella, etc. Also, be sure to buy your cheese in a block (and slices of American cheese) and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese is coated to prevent it from clumping, but this also prevents it from melting well and can cause your macaroni and cheese to be grainy.
  • Add Meat – Chopped-up ham, bacon, turkey, or even cut-up pork chops!
  • Add Veggies – Onions and peppers for a southwestern flair; broccoli florets, cauliflower, mushrooms, and spinach are all great options, too.
  • Add Seasonings – While I keep the recipe pretty plain, feel free to add extra flavor by using garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc.
  • Add a Topping – Crush up some Ritz crackers or toast some panko breadcrumbs in butter and sprinkle on top of each serving.
  • Make-Ahead – You can shred your cheese ahead of time and store it in an airtight container or ziploc bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before you prepare the mac and cheese.
  • Storage – Store the prepared mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Reheat – This reheats like a DREAM! Simply re-warm in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove; while it stays nice and creamy, you can always add a splash of milk when reheating if you think it needs to smooth out a bit.
  • Freezing – This mac and cheese freezes beautifully. Store in an airtight ziploc bag (or airtight container) for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Nutritional values are based on one serving
Calories: 693kcal, Carbohydrates: 43g, Protein: 31g, Fat: 43g, Saturated Fat: 26g, Cholesterol: 130mg, Sodium: 860mg, Potassium: 358mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 1375IU, Calcium: 878mg, Iron: 1.4mg

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!