18 Secrets to the Richest, Creamiest Mac and Cheese
Ever wondered why your mac and cheese failed to perform? Too soft, too thick, too eggy…and you’re tired of trying recipe after endless recipe in search of the right one. Good news for you: I’m a master of the successful mac and cheese and today you’ll learn my 18 proven secrets to the richest, creamiest mac and cheese you’ll ever put in your mouth.
Macaroni and cheese isn’t a hard dish to make, but there are so many versions, cheeses and variations, how in the WORLD do you know which one is right? To get you started, check out my most popular versions:
The creamy classic:
A little kick:
Spicy baked macaroni and cheese
Three cheese stovetop macaroni and cheese
Something hearty and different:
Baked mac and cheese with tomatoes
Now that you have the basics to choose from, here are the 18 secrets for the richest, creamiest mac and cheese that I put in to play each and every time I make it for anyone. They never fail me, and I know they’ll work for you, too:
- Cook your butter and flour together for about one minute to remove any raw flour flavor before adding the milk or cream to your recipe.
- Undercook your pasta—cook one minute less than the package directions to avoid a mushy mac and cheese.
- Swap rich cream for all or half of the milk in the recipe.
- Cook your pasta in salted water.
- Season every layer of your sauce: the roux, after the milk is added and after the cheese is melted in. Just a little sprinkle of salt is plenty–it will add up. You can even take the total amount of salt recommended in the recipe and just add a bit to each step. That works just fine.
- Choose noodle shapes that will hold on to the sauce—this includes shells, corkscrews, rotini or anything with ridges.
- Add the cheese to the milk and flour mix with the heat off so the mixture doesn’t separate.
- Don’t add all your noodles at once; see how much sauce you have and add more noodles as needed OR Make more sauce than you think you’ll need for a super creamy final product.
- Avoid over baking. Bake only for the time recommended, or when the center is bubbling and you see some golden edges. Cooking it too long will give you a mushy final product.
- Consider a dash of dry mustard powder.
- Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat .
- Spice it up with jalapenos, a little salsa and pepper jack cheese.
- Swap out your cheeses. Cheddar is best but add a melter like fontina, Monterey jack or some parmesan.
- Bake your mac and cheese in a more shallow, wider dish if you want more of that crunchy top.
And speaking of toppings, you might try:
15. Breadcrumbs with garlic and parmesan
16. Crispy panko style crumbs with herbs
17.Add a little melted a butter into your bread crumbs before topping your mac
Now pick your cheeses:
(this is #18 for all of you keeping track)
For the best results, choose at least one flavor cheese and one melting cheese.
Flavor cheeses Melting Cheeses
Sharp cheddar Fontina
Pepper Jack Mascarpone
Bleu cheese Meunster
Anything smoked Monterey Jack
Colby Jack American
So there it is: every tip and trick I keep under my belt to make one of the most loved family favorites. How will you make your mac and cheese unique? Drop a comment here and and let me know what changes you’ve made and how your family likes theirs.
I assume you mean to swap IN cream vs swap out?
I see lots of recipes that already have cream….is all cream ok or should it be about 50/50?
I probably did Jim. I’ll have to go in and check it. For me personally all cream is just too rich and too thick. A 50/50 split is much better. –Rachel
what if i do not not swiss, what can I use instead?
Hi Rita, if you are using cheddar already you could try Gruyere, Monterey Jack or Muenster. –Rachel