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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. 

a bowl of creamy mac and cheese on a striped napkin with a stack of small white plates on the side

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: 

Baked macaroni and cheese

a bowl of creamy mac and cheese on a striped napkin with a stack of small white plates on the side

A little kick:

Spicy baked macaroni and cheese

a spoonful of macaroni and cheese with sliced jalapenos on the side on a wooden table


Three cheese stovetop macaroni and cheese

one pot macaroni and cheese in a skillet with a wooden spoon

Something hearty and different: 

Baked mac and cheese with tomatoes

cast iron skillet with tomatoes and a spoon on a plaid tablecloth

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Undercook your pasta—cook one minute less than the package directions to avoid a mushy mac and cheese.
  3. Swap rich cream for all or half of the milk in the recipe.
  4. Cook your pasta in salted water.
  5. 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.
  6. Choose noodle shapes that will hold on to the sauce—this includes shells, corkscrews, rotini or anything with ridges.
  7. Add the cheese to the milk and flour mix with the heat off so the mixture doesn’t separate.
  8.  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.
  9. 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.
  10. Consider a dash of dry mustard powder. 
  11. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat .
  12. Spice it up with jalapenos, a little salsa and pepper jack cheese.
  13. Swap out your cheeses. Cheddar is best but add a melter like fontina, Monterey jack or some parmesan.
  14. Bake your mac and cheese in a more shallow, wider dish if you want more of that crunchy top.

a baking dish of macaroni and cheese with sliced jalapenos and a block of cheese on the side

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

Asiago                                                                                Gruyere

Pepper Jack                                                                      Mascarpone

Provolone                                                                          Mozzarella

Bleu cheese                                                                        Meunster

Gorgonzola                                                                        Velveeta

Anything smoked                                                              Monterey Jack

Romano                                                                               Swiss

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.

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    1. I don’t personally like cream cheese in my mac and cheese Rose, but if you do, mascarpone will have a similar flavor. It wouldn’t be my first pick though. –Rachel

  1. 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?

    1. 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

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.