This is an easy recipe for creamy white cheddar mac and cheese made with just a handful of ingredients and ready to serve in about the time it takes the pasta to cook.
Who doesn’t love a hot, comforting bowl of creamy mac and cheese? This white cheddar mac and cheese is one of our favorite versions, pure comfort food perfect for any day of the week. For more cheesy goodness, check out the Gouda Mac and Cheese, 5-Cheese Mac and Cheese, Mac and Cheese with Cream Cheese, and Tuna Mac and Cheese.
While I do love an Old-Fashioned Baked Mac and Cheese, I choose to make a stovetop mac and cheese version most of the time. It’s much faster, it uses one less dish, and the results are as creamy as they can possibly be.
But I must admit that the main reason is the speediness; baking a dish means you will need at least 20-30 extra minutes and waste more energy.
Recipe ingredients and substitutions
- Elbow macaroni noodles. However, while this pasta is the standard for making this dish, another short pasta is excellent. Try fusilli, farfalle, penne, or cavatappi pasta.
- White cheddar: Sharp white cheddar is regular cheddar cheese that hasn’t been colored orange with natural orange dye. It tastes and feels just like good-old cheddar, which means you can replace it with orange-dyed cheese.
- Other dairies: Whole milk, heavy cream, and sour cream.
- You can replace the milk AND the heavy cream with their total amount of evaporated milk, which usually contains about 8% fat (this might make the sauce a bit thinner, but it will be ok).
- It’s preferable not to use skim milk; it will make the sauce runny and affect its creaminess.
- You can replace sour cream with crème Fraiche or full-fat cream cheese.
- Ingredients for the roux: Salted or unsalted butter and all-purpose flour.
- Seasoning: Garlic powder, fine sea salt or Kosher salt, ground black pepper.
- Add some nutmeg or dried herbs for a bit of extra flavor or cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (to taste) for a bit of heat.
How to make white cheddar macaroni?
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water according to the package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, make the bechamel-white cheddar sauce.
- Roux: Melt butter in a large saucepan or a medium Dutch oven (1). Add the flour and let it get lightly golden while stirring continuously; it will take about 2 minutes. Don’t let it brown (2,3).
- Gradually and constantly whisking, add the milk and heavy cream (4).
- Keep whisking on medium heat until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon; it will take 3 to 5 minutes (5).
- Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Turn the heat to low and add the grated cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Turn off the heat (6).
- Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water and drain the rest.
- Combine the cooked pasta with the white cheddar cheese sauce and stir to combine (7,8).
- If the sauce is too thick, gradually add some reserved hot pasta water to help loosen it. Add just as much water as needed; you don’t have to add it all.
- Adjust the taste of the homemade macaroni and cheese with salt and pepper.
This white cheddar mac n cheese recipe uses just a few ingredients, which means you can add a lot of stuff. Make white cheddar mac with:
- Bacon: Fry 4-5 slices of thin bacon in a pan until crispy. Drain it on paper towels and chop it into pieces. Add it to the finished dish.
- Broccoli: Add about 2 cups of tiny broccoli florets to the pasta during the last 2 minutes of the cooking time. You can also use roasted broccoli.
- Peas: Add about 1 cup of frozen peas to the pasta pot during the last 2 minutes of the cooking time.
- Chicken: Add some leftover chopped chicken or turkey.
- Sausage: Add chopped leftover cooked sausage.
Don’t use pre-shredded cheese; its anti-caking agents will prevent the cheese from melting nicely, making the sauce grainy and chalky.
Use a box grater to grate the cheese; it doesn’t take more than 1 or 2 minutes, and it makes all the difference. You can also shred the cheese in the food processor, but that always means an extra gadget I must clean.
Cup measuring: Here is a fun fact about measuring 1 cup of grated cheddar in grams. If you google it, you will get answers from 83.5 g to 113.5 g to 235 g!!!. I measured myself to be sure, and 1 cup of freshly grated cheese (grated on a box grater) weighed 93 g/ 3.3 oz. I rounded up 2 cups to 200 g/ 7 oz.
You can easily make a double batch of white cheddar mac n cheese to serve more people.
Sure, this is a rather classic mac and cheese recipe, meaning that you can also use other great melting cheeses. Regular cheddar, Gouda (smoked or regular), Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Pepper jack, Colby, or a combination of different cheeses.
Don’t try to make mac and cheese using only Parmesan or only mozzarella, however. You can add them to any of those mentioned above, but don’t use them on their own.
A cooked mixture of butter and flour that will make the base of the cheese sauce. It ensures that the sauce is extra creamy and that the cheese will melt nicely without the risk of separating.
Refrigerate leftover macaroni in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Freeze in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge. However, defrosted mac and cheese tends to be a bit grainy, definitely not as creamy as it was before freezing.
Reheat before serving.
Microwave: Combine the leftovers and a splash of milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and continue reheating at 30 seconds intervals and stirring until the leftovers are hot.
Stovetop: Mix leftover mac and cheese and a splash of milk (enough to loosen the dish). Warm macaroni in a saucepan (preferably nonstick) on low heat and stir frequently.
How to serve?
- Stovetop mac and cheese recipes are best served immediately, but leftovers can be easily reheated (See Recipe FAQ).
- Main course: Serve with a fresh salad or vegetables on the side. If served as a main dish, the recipe will serve 2-3, depending on appetite.
- Side dish: A perfect side dish for roast chicken (for instance, our Thanksgiving Roast Chicken), roast drumsticks, or thighs. Or try it with Garlic Butter Chicken Wings, Hot Lemon Pepper Wings, or other chicken wings recipes.
- White cheddar mac and cheese is excellent as a side dish for pork chops or Air Fryer Pork Roast. It will probably be enough for about 6-8 people in this case.
Check out the web story for this recipe: Instructions for White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
More mac n cheese recipes
- Creamy Ricotta Mac and Cheese
- Mac and Cheese without Milk
- Simple Mac and Cheese without Flour
- Mac and Cheese Burger Recipe
- Chick-fil-A Mac and Cheese
- Easy Thermomix Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Large pot
- Large saucepan or Dutch oven
- ½ lb elbow macaroni 9 oz/ 250 g Notes 1, 2
- ¼ cup butter 2 oz/ 60 g, Note 3
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 1.4 oz/ 40 g
- 1 ½ cups whole milk 350 ml
- ¼ cup heavy cream 60 ml
- ¼ cup sour cream 60 ml, Note 4
- 2 cups white cheddar 200 g
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- fine sea salt or Kosher
- ground black pepper
- a splash of pasta cooking water
- Cook pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and macaroni. Cook them according to the package instructions.
- While the pasta cooks, make the white cheddar sauce.
- Grate the cheese on a box grater and set it aside.
- Roux: Melt the butter in the saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the flour and stir it into the butter for about 2 minutes; it should get golden but not brown.
- Gradually add the milk and heavy cream while whisking continuously to avoid clumps. Keep whisking on medium heat until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon; it will take 3 to 5 minutes.
- Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Add cheese: Turn the heat to low. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Turn off the heat.
- Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water and drain the rest.
- Combine macaroni with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add a little of the reserved pasta water and stir again. Add just as much water as needed; you don’t have to add it all.
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
- The recipe can be easily doubled.
- Use any other short pasta, for instance, farfalle, fusilli, cavatappi, or penne.
- Salted or unsalted and use salt accordingly.
- You can replace it with crème Fraiche or cream cheese.