Best Easy Baked Mac and Cheese

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
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Loaded with Gruyère and mozzarella cheese with a crispy onion topping, this is the best baked mac and cheese recipe you will ever eat! It’s super creamy and cheesy, but thankfully still easy to prepare in just a few simple steps.

Why You’ll Love This Easy Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • Crowd-Pleaser: This baked mac and cheese will have everyone drooling at Christmas, barbecues, and basically any gathering. You can bet it will disappear in a flash!
  • Easy to Make: In just a few simple to follow steps, this easy baked mac and cheese is guaranteed to turn out creamy and cheesy every time.
  • Ultra-Cheesy: Mozzarella and Gruyere cheese give this easy baked mac and cheese allllllllll the cheesy flavor. This combo makes the best creamy cheese sauce ever!
  • Super Flavorful: French-fried onions and simple, but robust, seasonings bring out the best in this cheesy classic.

Love this easy baked mac and cheese? You’ll also enjoy our spiced up taco mac and cheese too! You can also add veggies with this mac and cheese with broccoli, or save time with this easy stovetop mac and cheese!

Ingredients for baked mac and cheese recipe arranged in bowls. From top to bottom: butter, elbow noodles, flour, mozzarella cheese, milk, heavy cream, fried onions, onion powder, gruyere cheese, garlic powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

What You’ll Need

You will only need a handful of ingredients, some of which are simple pantry staples you likely already have on hand! Scroll down to the recipe card for exact amounts.

  • Pasta: I used elbow macaroni as it perfectly grabs onto the cheesy sauce. You can substitute any other small pasta, like small shells, if needed.
  • Butter and Flour: To make a roux to thicken the sauce.
  • Seasonings: Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and a little freshly ground nutmeg.
  • Milk and Cream: I use mostly milk with a small amount of cream for extra richness, but you can up the ratio of cream if you like!
  • Cheese: Gruyere and mozzarella, both freshly shredded. Check the tips section below for more cheese options.
  • French Fried Onions: The perfect crispy and flavorful topping! If you aren’t an onion fan, use seasoned bread crumbs instead.

How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese

Making this decadent baked macaroni and cheese is easier than you might think! Here’s how to do it in just four simple steps. Scroll to the recipe card at bottom of the post for full detailed instructions. 

  • Prepare and Boil Pasta: Spray a baking dish with cooking spray (or butter it). Preheat the oven, and boil the pasta, until al dente.
  • Make the Cheese Sauce: Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and the seasonings. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly, then whisk in the milk and cream. Add the cheese and let it melt.
  • Assemble the Casserole: Mix together the sauce and macaroni and spread into the prepared baking dish. Top the cheesy pasta with the crumbled French fried onions.
  • Bake and Enjoy: Bake for 25 minutes, until hot, bubbly, and golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes and then serve!

Chef’s Tips and Variations

  • Freshly Shredded Cheese: Pre-shredded cheese is coated in anti-caking agents that act as a thickener in sauces and can also make it grainy. I know it’s an extra step, but I highly recommend shredding your own cheese!
  • Al Dente Pasta: Cook the pasta al dente to prevent it from becoming too soft and mushy during baking. Prefer to use veggies instead of pasta? Try my cauliflower mac and cheese!
  • Mix-Ins: Feel free to add tasty mix-ins like crispy bacon bits, roasted chopped veggies or sautéed onions.
  • Crispy Topping: If you don’t want to use French fried onions, you can also use seasoned Panko bread crumbs in their place.
  • Different Cheeses: You can also try out any good melting cheeses in this baked mac and cheese recipe. White cheddar, smoked gouda or sharp cheddar cheese are other personal favorites, but Colby jack, Monterey Jack, or pepper jack cheese are also good!
  • Ground Mustard: Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground mustard to your cheese sauce to give it a little more depth of flavor. It won’t taste mustard-y, but it helps make the cheese flavors pop.
  • Add Even More Cheese: If you like a melty, cheesy topping, add more shredded cheese on top of the macaroni, but underneath the fried onions.
A bowl of baked mac and cheese.

What to Serve With Baked Mac and Cheese

Enhance your homemade baked mac and cheese experience with these easy serving suggestions:

Lifting a bite of macaroni out of the bowl.

Can I Prep This Baked Macaroni and Cheese Ahead?

You can prepare this mac and cheese ahead of time, making it a great side dish for a potluck, the holidays, or a dinner party!

  1. Transfer mac and cheese to the casserole dish and let cool completely. Do not add any toppings.
  2. Wrap dish tightly with saran wrap or foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  3. Let casserole warm up at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking. Top with fried onions, and bake according to recipe directions.
A casserole with some of the macaroni scooped out.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

While this homemade mac and cheese recipe is best eaten fresh out of the oven, it makes pretty good leftovers too.

  • Fridge: Transfer to an airtight container, or cover casserole dish tightly with a lid or foil, and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat: Reheat individual portions in the microwave. Heat the entire casserole dish, covered with foil, in the oven at 350°F until heated through, about 15 minutes.
  • Freezer: Transfer cooled mac and cheese to a freezer-safe container (or tightly wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap, foil etc). Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
Close-up of baked mac and cheese.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Recipe
Yield: 8 servings

Best Easy Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

This is definitely the best Baked Mac and Cheese you will ever eat! Super creamy and cheesy, it's a gourmet take on the classic. The crispy topping puts it over the top!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups freshly shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella
  • ¾ cup French fried onions, or seasoned Panko breadcrumbs

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray (or butter) a 9×13 inch casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Cook the noodles until just al dente, according to the package directions. Drain then add 2 tablespoons of butter and stir into the hot noodles.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons of butter, then stir in the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook for one minute.
  • Whisk in the milk and heavy cream and cook until the sauce has thickened.
  • Stir in the shredded Gruyere and mozzarella cheese until melted and smooth. Pour the sauce over the noodles, then spread them into the prepared dish.
  • Using a food processor or plastic zip top bag with a rolling pin, crush the French fried onions until they are very small crumbs. Evenly spread over the top of mac and cheese.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve!

Video

Notes

Store: Transfer to an airtight container, or cover casserole dish tightly with a lid or foil, and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Reheat: Reheat individual portions in the microwave. Heat the entire casserole dish, covered with foil, in the oven at 350°F until heated through, about 15 minutes.
Freeze: Transfer cooled mac and cheese to a freezer-safe container (or tightly wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap, foil etc). Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
Prep Baked Mac and Cheese Ahead:
  1. Transfer mac and cheese to the casserole dish and let cool completely. Do not add any toppings.
  2. Wrap dish tightly with saran wrap or foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  3. Let casserole warm up at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking. Top with fried onions, and bake according to recipe directions.
Freshly Shredded Cheese:Pre-shredded cheese is coated in anti-caking agents that act as a thickener in sauces and can also make it grainy. I know it’s an extra step, but I highly recommend shredding your own cheese!
Melted Cheese Topping: If you like a melty, cheesy topping, add more shredded cheese on top of the macaroni, but underneath the fried onions.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 504kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 20g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 20g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 96mg, Sodium: 615mg, Potassium: 243mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 1013IU, Vitamin C: 0.1mg, Calcium: 518mg, Iron: 1mg

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Jessica
For the past 15 years, Jorge & Jessica have loved getting to share their families' favorite recipes with all of you. They live in Florida with their 3 kids.