When I think of comfort food the very first thing that comes to mind (especially from my childhood) is the luscious combo of macaroni and cheese. Mac and Cheese brings back memories of Sunday family dinners – as a child and as an adult. If there was dinner on the table there was Mac and Cheese on it. There is something about it that feeds my soul.
Since it transports me straight to my childhood – and I like it there (no bills!) – I’ve gathered 13+ of the Greatest Mac and Cheese recipes on the planet. Note: some of the following links may be affiliate links. That means I may make a small commission at no cost to you. For my full disclosure please go here.
The Mac and Cheese Recipes of Families
One thing I’ve learned from going to many, many family dinners – my family, church family, and others’ families is that nearly every family has their own preferred version of this unassuming dish and THEIRS IS THE BEST EVER!!
And you know what? They’re right.
One of my favorite things about Mac and Cheese is that you can make it as simple or as complex – plain-Jane or first-date worthy – as you like! Week-night easy or fancied-up weekend, it’s all good. Some folks swear by lightened-up versions with skim milk and light cheese while others go whole-hog (pardon the pun) with heavy rich cream and butter blue crab or lobster.
I grew up with 4 brothers and 3 sisters so ours was a huge casserole made with powdered milk and sharp government cheese. You didn’t spoon it out – you cut it into squares and it had slices of cheese mixed throughout. Some of the macaroni had cheese on it and some didn’t but that’s all we knew – I had no idea that there were other ways to make it.
Many people make a roux to create a lovely creamy sauce. It looks LOVELY. Plus, you don’t have to bake it if you don’t want to.
I don’t make mine the way my mother did – I make it the way The Commodore likes it – cheesy throughout every single piece of pasta. I dump the hot pasta (al dente) and a bag of shredded cheese into a bowl and mix it instead of making a sauce. Mine needs baking.
I’ve actually recently realized that what my mom made – and what my husband likes – is referred to as “Macaroni Pie”. It’s solid and can be cut.
Since I started researching these recipes I’m open to experimentation, though!
True Confession – My Mac and Cheese Story
I never made Mac and Cheese when I was growing up and then when I was on my own, I thought it looked very labor intensive.
I was wrong.
In the meantime, I discovered the stuff in the blue box with the powdered cheese. I made it a couple times a week. All that sodium! When the kids came along they LOVED it. I would make real Mac and Cheese for The Commodore now and then but it was VERY few and far between.
I recall one of our girls – don’t remember which one but she was somewhere between 10 and 12 – was making the box Mac and Cheese. She put the empty pot on the stove and turned on the burner. She went to the sink and got a glass and started filling the pot with water, one glass at a time. It doesn’t sound so bad when I write it from a position of 20 years later but, at the time, I think I may have screeched a bit.
You Know You’re Here For the Mac and Cheese Recipes, Right?
So here is what I did – I split the recipes into 5 categories:
- Slow Cooker
- Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker
- As a Meal – with a protein
You’ll see that I have baked AND stovetop recipes. Once you have assembled the dish using your stove, it’s actually ready to eat as long as all the components are cooked. You can bake it or not from there. If you’re pressed for time you can make the determination to proceed with baking or not. You can add meat to every one of these recipes and make it a complete meal – perfect for taking to work for lunch.
What You Need to Make Great Mac and Cheese
I’m sure you already have what you need but we all love to window shop, right?
You need, depending on the recipe and method:
- A really good heavy bottomed pan for even heating (to cook the pasta)
- A good oven-proof dish
- A slow cooker that has a locking lid for travel (once folks know you have an awesome recipe you’ll be traveling with it!)
- An Instant Pot
Your pan needs to be large enough to cook your pasta properly – it needs to hold enough water for the pasta to cook freely. I like the one above because you can use it as a dutch oven and even go from stovetop to oven and do it all in one pan.
If you have an oven-proof lid for your dish you can get away with using no tin foil to cover it.
Baked Mac and Cheese Recipes:
You’ll love this awesome recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese from Rachel at Feast and Farm. I have to put her first because I’m a country girl and we stick together! She has some great tips on how to make it fool-proof too!
Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipes
My daughter made this for Easter dinner and it was so awesome! I was the designated stirrer of kinds of milk and cheeses and did darn skippy if I may say so! Thanks for this Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese from Aimee at Shugary Sweets!
I have to admit to being a chicken when it comes to cheese – cheddar is my go to but I really want to try more and this Ultimate Three Cheese Gruyere Mac and Cheese from Allie at Through Her Looking Glass fits the bill! Plus this – Allie is from the ONLY state smaller than mine! Go Little Big States!
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese Recipes
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipes
I have a confession to make. I do have an Instant Pot but I haven’t made Mac and Cheese in it yet. I know, I know. Flog me with a wet noodle.
I’ve used the thing to make chicken breasts for chicken salad and exploding eggs. I’m quite sure the eggs weren’t supposed to do that. My theory is that they were deviled before I ever put them in the pot.
Anyway, I am resolving to do better. Starting now.
Now on with the show!
Becca from My Crazy Good Life has packed a lot into this recipe for Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese! It’s suitable for Weight Watchers and 21 Day Fix plus she has high altitude times figures out too. This one is a keeper!
I have to confess that I’m not a beer drinker but I know several – and they will be guinea pigs at our next family gathering! (Oops! I think I just outed them!) This one – Instant Pot Guinness Mac and Cheese – comes from Ashley at I Don’t Have Time For That – and we’ll be trying it with Shiner Bock instead of Guinness. If my math is correct my hubby will get a little bit of the leftover beer!
I’m fairly certain that I’ve missed the perfect family recipe for many folks. (I await your emails and letters)
Do you have a favorite family Mac and Cheese? Let me know!!!