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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked macaroni and cheese topped with an extra layer of golden, bubbly cheese. This delicious side dish is creamy, comforting and loaded with flavor. 

Baked macaroni in glass dish.
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Easy Baked Mac & Cheese

If you want to take your homemade mac and cheese up a notch, try baking it in the oven. It’s still super creamy and tastes amazing baked with a little extra cheese on top. Trust me, it makes all the difference!

This delicious side dish is what dreams are made of. It’s creamy, super cheesy and has amazing flavor and texture. It quickly takes your mac and cheese from ordinary to extraordinary.

The creamy macaroni gets poured into a baking dish, then topped with another layer of fresh shredded cheese. As it bakes, the cheese gets perfectly golden and bubbly. And don’t worry, baking the macaroni doesn’t dry it out! It still tastes just as creamy and delicious as the regular version.

This dish tastes great served with a classic comfort meal like meatloaf, or as a Thanksgiving side dish alongside a roasted turkey. It’s perfect to serve when entertaining and is something both the kids and adults will love!

Recipe Ingredients

Blocks of cheese on counter.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Elbow noodles: The noodles get cooked twice, so only boil to al dente the first time.
  • Salted butter: This is the fat needed for the roux, and I like to use salted to elevate the flavors.
  • All-purpose flour: Toasted with the butter, flour is the thickening agent that makes the sauce creamy.
  • Whole milk: Don’t swap out for a lesser-fat milk as the sauce won’t be as rich.
  • Mustard: Yellow of Dijon mustard give the mac and cheese a little tang.
  • Cheese: I like to use a mixture of cheddar cheese and gruyere that is freshly grated from the block, as it melts easier than the pre-shredded.
  • Seasoned salt: This salt adds that little bit of extra flavor to bring everything together.

Best Cheese to Use

I usually grab a block of sharp cheddar cheese, as well as a block of gruyere cheese. The two taste delicious together and give the macaroni the perfect flavor and texture. You may also use mild cheddar if preferred, as well as substitute the gruyere with jack, colby, fontina or mozzarella.

The key to the best mac and cheese is to grate the cheese yourself. The pre-shredded bags at the store contain extra ingredients that make the cheese more difficult to melt. So grating your own will ensure your mac and cheese is perfectly smooth and creamy.

How to Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Whisking cheese sauce.
  1. Cook noodles. Add the elbow noodles to a pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions. I like to add a Tablespoon of salt to the water to help enhance the flavor. Then drain the noodles.
  2. Make a roux. Melt the butter in a large pot, then whisk in the flour. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure to stir constantly so that the mixture doesn’t burn.
  3. Make the cheese sauce. Pour in the milk and mustard and continue whisking. Let the mixture come to a simmer, then remove the pot from the burner. Add in both of the shredded cheeses and stir until smooth and melted. Then mix in the cooked noodles until coated completely with the sauce.
  4. Bake in oven. Pour the mixture into a greased 9×9″ baking dish and sprinkle another layer of shredded cheese on top. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top layer of cheese is golden and bubbly.
Mac and cheese in white pot.

Make-ahead Instructions

You can make this dish a day in advance, although I wouldn’t recommend any longer than that so the sauce doesn’t dry out. To make ahead, follow these simple steps:

  1. Prepare on the stove as directed, then pour into a baking dish.
  2. Let cool, then tightly wrap with plastic wrap or foil. Then store in the fridge.
  3. When ready to bake, allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Then sprinkle the extra layer of cheese on top of the noodles and bake according to directions.

TIP: I like to cook my noodles al dente, so that they don’t get super mushy when baking the next day.

Macaroni in casserole dish.

Tips + Modifications

  • Because the noodles cook twice (on the stove and in the oven), you don’t want them to get too mushy. Cook them al dente on the stove first, then they’ll continue to cook in the oven until tender.
  • Before baking, feel free to sprinkle 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or Ritz cracker crumbs on top for an added crunch. You may also add some chopped bacon for even more flavor.
  • To brown the top a little more, you can broil for about a minute or so at the end. Just be sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
  • Feel free to add a dash of hot sauce for some heat.
Spoonful of baked macaroni and cheese.

Recipe FAQs

Should you cover macaroni and cheese when baking in the oven?

Some casseroles definitely require foil on top while baking, but we like to leave it off this mac and cheese so the gets really gooey and melted.

What toppings can you put on baked mac and cheese?

You can totally tailor this to your taste, but I like to sometimes add 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or Ritz cracker crumbs on top for an added crunch. You may also add some chopped bacon for even more flavor.

More Mac and Cheese Recipes to try

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spoonful of baked macaroni and cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

5 from 4 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Baked macaroni and cheese topped with an extra layer of golden, bubbly cheese. This delicious side dish is creamy, comforting and loaded with flavor. 
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
Servings: 12

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups elbow noodles (use 2 1/2 cups if using large elbow noodles)
  • ¼ cup salted butter
  • 3-4 Tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons yellow or dijon mustard
  • 2-3 cups medium or sharp cheddar cheese (shred from block)
  • 1 cup gruyere or jack cheese (shred from block)
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • Ground black pepper , to taste

Optional: 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

    Instructions

    • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×9-inch baking dish. Cook your noodles in a large pot of salted water (I like to add 1 Tablespoon salt) according to package. Drain once cooked.
    • In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat and whisk in flour. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, whisking consistently. 
    • Whisk in milk and mustard. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat.
    • Whisk in 2 cups cheddar cheese and 1 cup gruyere and stir until smooth and melted. Add in salt and pepper, to taste. 
    • Stir in cooked noodles until combined.
    • Pour into prepared baking dish and sprinkle additional cheddar cheese over the top. Add breadcrumbs, if desired. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Broil 1 minute, if desired. 

    Notes

    Cheese:
    • You can also substitute the sharp cheddar cheese for a milder one.
    • I love using gruyere as it adds a wonderful flavor and smooth and creamy texture, however you can substitute it for jack, colby, fontina or mozzarella. You could even just use all cheddar, if preferred. 
    Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 to 4 days. Reheat by stirring in a little bit of milk and microwave partially covered with plastic wrap.
    Freezing: Freeze after it is assembled but before baking. Thaw  on the day of, bake per .

    Nutrition

    Calories: 271kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 328mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 445IU | Vitamin C: 0.002mg | Calcium: 260mg | Iron: 1mg

    Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: American

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