This simple 5 ingredient macaroni and cheese recipe is the base of all great cheesiness. Eat it straight from the pot or bake it in the oven for an easy baked mac and cheese. Either way, it's delicious!
I love mac and cheese; I mean, who doesn't? It's a comfort dish that gets thousands of searches per month as people seek out the perfect recipe.
I love this one best, though! It's just creamy and smooth enough to taste great while not making a pile of cheesy soup on my plate.
This recipe is meant as a "base recipe" meaning it's perfect or adding your own flavorful variations and twists. If you've never made mac and cheese from scratch before, this is the perfect recipe for getting the experience and confidence needed.
Check out all of the flavorful suggestions below for delicious ways you can customize your mac and cheese.
And don't forget that you can even turn the leftovers (assuming there are any) into some tasty Mac and Cheese Quesadillas the next day!
🍯 Why This Recipe Works
- It takes less than 30 minutes. With this fast and simple creamy stovetop mac and cheese recipe, you can have a tasty dish in no time.
- It's ready for anything! Serve it as a main dish or a side dish, and enjoy this quick and easy comfort dish for any occasion!
- Perfect consistency. It's filled with great cheesiness, it's an easy recipe, and it's not too wet or too dry. In my opinion, these things are what make it perfect!
Butter- You'll need to use butter (although margarine works too) to start the homemade roux sauce. You can use salted or unsalted butter, depending on what you have on hand.
Shredded Cheese- I like to use sharp cheddar cheese, but any good melting cheese works perfectly here!
Milk- To make the sauce smooth and creamy, use a fattier milk. Unsweetened almond milk, evaporated milk, or even soy milk may be used in a pinch, but it just doesn't feel the same.
For specific ingredients and measurements, please see the recipe card below.
This mac and cheese recipe is very basic and plain because it's a great BASE recipe to build up from. Perfect for first time cooks or those wanting to add their own flavor spin to things.
Adding salt and pepper is a personal preference, and these noodles should be seasoned to taste.
Sometimes I like to add a few dashes of cayenne pepper to the cheese sauce. Not enough to make them spicy, but just enough to add in a little color and help bring the flavors of everything out that much more (like an enhancer).
You can add in or change up the flavors however you wish. For a quick reference of ideas, feel free to add in some:
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Cayenne powder
- Black pepper
- Smoked paprika
- Ground mustard
🧀What cheeses to use
I personally love medium or sharp cheddar cheese in my mac and cheese recipes. They give that strong flavor and color that I like to look for. That said, you can use any cheese you prefer (or a mixture of cheeses).
Colby jack, mozzarella, and other shreddable cheese work great depending on the flavor and color you're looking for.
Add in up to another cup of cheese for a richer taste if that's what you'd like. You can even combine different cheeses into the sauce. I often use 8 ounces of cheddar cheese in the sauce and then add in random bits of unused cheese from the week prior.
Meaning I could have 8 ounces of cheddar, a few slices of deli cheese, a chunk of mozzarella, or a handful of shredded parmesan in my sauce. This is one of my favorite ways to use up random cheeses!
Step 1: Boil noodles according to package directions.
Step 2: Drain into a colander and set aside.
Step 3: While the noodles are cooking, melt your butter over medium heat in a medium-sized pot.
Step 4: Add in the flour and whisk until combined. It will create a few flour lumps. This is okay.
Step 5 Slowly add in the milk and whisk together until smooth.
Step 6: Keep whisking until the mixture thickens (about 2-3 minutes).
Step 7: Add in the cheese.
Step 8: Continue whisking until it's well-mixed and smooth.
Step 9: Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles.
Step 10: Stir to combine.
Scoop and serve.
🍴 Recipe Tips
How to bake macaroni and cheese in the oven
These cheesy noodles taste great baked or from the stovetop. If you plan on baking it, use half of the requested flour because the noodle starches will help the sauce thicken. If you serve it from the stovetop, it's perfect as-is.
Place the cheesy noodles in a baking dish and then top with additional cheese (optional). Bake in the oven at 350F degrees for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
⏲️Make Ahead Instructions
If you plan on making it in advance (like a few hours or a day in advance of dinner), you'll want to keep it covered in the fridge until you're ready to heat and eat. In this case, I'd keep it in a covered baking dish and heat it in the oven because it's super simple to do.
Also, make sure to reduce the flour in the sauce by half (so only use 2 tablespoons) and cook the pasta until al dente, so it doesn't become too soft before serving.
Mac and cheese can be left well covered or in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 or 5 days in the fridge. You can reheat it a single serving at a time on a plate in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes.
This is a great dish to make and freeze for future meals! Simply make it as directed and then place it in a freezer friendly baking dish, covered in the freezer, until you're ready to eat.
You can bake it from frozen or let it thaw in the fridge overnight or on the counter for a few hours before baking.
Oh, that's a tough question! Making mac and cheese with whatever noodles you have on hand can always be a winner with the kids. Even crazy rainbow rotini noodles can be seen as fun and exciting (although I'm not a fan of the color combination). Use whatever is on sale or that you have on hand and you can't go wrong.
Yes, you can! I often find myself using rice noodles when my sister comes over for dinner and I swap out the flour for gluten free flour instead of all-purpose. This would make the dish gluten free (and celiac friendly).
No, you shouldn't need to cover your macaroni when baking it. You want the top to become a nice golden brown color. If you notice the top is getting too dark for your liking, you can gently lay a piece of foil over the top to prevent further browning.
❤️ More Delicious Pasta Recipes
If you tried 5 Ingredient Mac and Cheese, please leave a ⭐️ star rating and share your feedback in the 📝 comments section below. I would truly appreciate it!
5 Ingredient Mac and Cheese
- 8 ounces Cheddar Cheese (2 cups) ($1.99)
- 1 box (16oz) elbow noodles ($1.00)
- 2 cup Milk ($0.38)
- ¼ cup All purpose flour ($0.02)
- 2 Tablespoons Butter ($0.18)
- Make the noodles according to the package directions, drain and then set aside.
- While the noodles are cooking, begin making your cheese sauce. In a small sauce pot, melt your butter over medium heat.
- Add in the flour and then whisk to combine. It will create a few flour lumps, but this is okay.
- Slowly add in the milk and whisk to combine. Whisk until the flour has dissovled and the mixture is smooth and thickened. (About 2-3 minutes)
- Add in the shredded cheese and continue to whisk until melted and thick.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked noodles and stir to combine. Scoop and serve.
For baked mac and cheese
- Place the cheesy noodles in a baking dish and then top with additional cheese(optional). Bake in the oven at 350F degrees for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.