This stovetop mac & cheese is one of the creamiest, smoothest I’ve tasted anywhere. It was born out of a distaste for gritty mac & cheese, and wanting to make the best mac & cheese my nephew had ever tasted.
My nephew’s favorite dish has always been macaroni and cheese. It still is, even as he’s about to start college. He often ordered it at restaurants and made it at home from a box or an oven-ready carton. But I never thought it was very good. It was always gritty or stringy or not very cheesy.
I knew I could make a better mac & cheese. And since I’ve never lived near him, I wanted it to be something he could reproduce himself at home, any time he wanted to.
The recipe I ended up creating is both exceptionally creamy and easy enough for a kid who never cooks to make without assistance. It doesn’t require expensive ingredients. It doesn’t require a lot of time or effort.
The secret is in the sauce.
How to Make Creamy Stovetop Mac & Cheese
Of course the secret is in the cheese. It has to be!
If you use the right cheese – one that melts really well and is sharp enough to add flavor but not texture – your mac & cheese will be amazing every time. You don’t want to use a mild cheese, nor do you want to use a vintage cheese. A sharp cheddar works perfectly. If you pair it with a little bit of velvetta or American cheese slices, it’ll come out perfect. Trust me.
But there is one more ingredient that I’ve found helps make the sauce just a little extra creamy, and a whole lot smoother.
It’s evaporated milk. (Not condensed milk, but evaporated!)
Now, I know you probably don’t often have evaporated milk in the cupboard with which to make this dish whenever you’re craving mac & cheese, but I do think it’s worth it to stock it, just in case. A small can takes up very little space in the kitchen.
Be sure to get the pasta cooking before you start the sauce so it’s ready to add at the end.
If you’ve ever made a roux before, this will be an easy sauce to make. You just allow the butter to melt in the pan over medium heat, then add the flour and whisk it together. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes, then add the evaporated milk and the regular milk (or half and half, if you’re using that instead). Whisk that all together.
Now comes the best part. Add the cheese to the sauce and stir it until it becomes light and creamy, like in the photo below.
Next you’ll add the cooked noodles into the sauce. Stir, stir, stir until it’s all incorporated. You’ll want to serve it right away, when it’s at its creamiest. The longer it stays on the stove, the drier it will get.
Why the Stovetop and Not the Oven?
I personally really prefer mac & cheese made on the stovetop because it turns out creamier and richer. If you choose to bake it, it often turns dry and the cheese sort of bakes into the pasta. It’s not nearly as creamy. I think you have to add a lot more cheese to get the same great taste.
I always add a few buttery bread crumbs to the top of the mac and cheese before serving it. I’ve also been known to add chopped jalapenos or bacon to kick it up a bit. You choose your favorite toppings!
You can, of course, bake this mac & cheese after you’ve prepared it on the stovetop. Just put it into a baking dish and put it in the oven at 325 for 25 minutes. However, it won’t end up being the creamy, deliciousness I promise it to be.
The first time I made this creamy mac & cheese for my nephew, he loved it. Years later he was making it for his high school friends when they came over. It became a classic for him. That was all I could have asked for.
Wondering what to serve this with? Try our favorite BBQ Chicken Wings!
Other recipes to try
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Creamy Stovetop Mac & Cheese
- 3 cups macaroni pasta cooked according to package instructions
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 cup milk (or half and half)
- 3/4 cup evaporated milk
- 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese shredded
- 8 ounces medium cheddar cheese shredded
- 3 slices velvetta or American cheese
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- Cook and drain the pasta.
- Add the butter to a medium-sized pot over medium heat, allowing it to melt but not sizzle. Add the flour and whisk together. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the regular milk and evaporated milk and whisk together.
- Add the cheese stirring constantly until melted.
- Once the cheese is melted and fully combined, add the pasta and stir well to incorporate everything. Serve immediately.