Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

baked mac and cheese with wooden spoon scooping it

This Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate classic comfort food. It combines some of my favorite things: pasta, lots of cheese, and golden brown breadcrumbs to top it off!

This recipe was originally published in March 2018 – I updated the photos and gave better details in the recipe instruction!

I’ve always loved any kind of mac and cheese. I remember when I would come home from school, I would always warm up those little packages of Easy-Mac. You know, the ones that you put in the microwave and mixed in that terribly processed but delicious cheese powder? Oh yes. My love from there transferred over to boxed mac and cheese when I learned to cook things on a stove-top.

Now that i’m 27, I can finally say that I make my OWN mac and cheese. No more of that boxed stuff. Except a box of Annie’s Organic every once in a while. Now that stuff is good.

creamy mac and cheese in pot

I usually always go for my classic Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe…but there are sometimes when you want something a bit more hearty with more texture, you know? Something you can bring as a covered dish to a party and it stays warm and delicious. Enter: Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese!

Why You’ll Love this Dish: 

As you all know, Spring cookouts are upon us! I really wanted to up my game for my side dishes this year. So, in addition to this mac and cheese being delicious creamy, I had to add some golden crunchy breadcrumbs on top! 

Real talk: why does it seem like adding breadcrumbs and baking things always makes them better? I guess there is no harm in adding more carbs to anything. Hehe.

extreme close up of golden crunchy breadcrumbs

With the crust on top, it makes this Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese so spectacular. You have pockets of creamy cheese sauce waiting to be exposed underneath this buttery golden glowing crust that provides the most delectable bite! 

You could truly just eat the creamy mac and cheese by itself BUT….why not bake it up with those delicious breadcrumbs?! It makes it crunchy, soft, gooey, delicious! Your whole family will love it, I’m sure! So, let’s get started!

Ingredients You Need for Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese: 

  • elbow macaroni noodles
  • shredded cheese of your choice (I used a combo of sharp cheddar and pepper jack)
  • milk
  • butter
  • all purpose flour
  • breadcrumbs
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes for spice

How to make Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese: 

Preheat the oven to 375. Start out with regular elbow macaroni noodles and cook them in salted water (remember, salty as the sea!) Cook them al dente according to the directions on the back of the box. When the noodles are al dente, drain them and set them aside.

inside look of creamy baked mac and cheese in the pan

Begin making the sauce! The sauce requires lots of dairy. Main ingredients are: whole milk, salted butter and cheese. So, to begin, use the same pot as you did to cook the noodles in. On medium to low heat, you want to melt the butter and make a roux! Which is a fancy word for mixing flour in with butter and cooking until it’s fragrant. Next, slowly add in the milk a little at a time and whisk until thickened.

You’ll probably whisk it for about 10 minutes – and it’s totally worth it! I’ve been impatient with homemade mac and cheese before and the sauce always turned out grainy and gross because I didn’t allow the sauce to thicken. Make sure to NEVER let the milk come to a boil or it will curdle. If it begins to bubble, immediately turn down the heat and take it off of the eye and let it cool down for a few seconds.

Once the sauce has thickened, turn the heat down to low and add in your cheese! I used a combination of cheddar, pepper jack and gouda. Let the cheese melt and stir to combine using a wooden spoon. Try not to eat it all with a spoon. Add in your drained noodles. Stir it all together. Once again, try not to eat it all right then and there. Add plenty of seasoning (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes etc.) and taste to adjust.

3 side by side photos - one with creamy mac and cheese in pan, the second topped with breadcrumbs, the third baked with crispy breadcrumbs

Next, add the finished mac to a greased casserole dish. 

Next, if desired, add breadcrumbs to a bowl and season them with salt, pepper and garlic powder! Then sprinkle on top of the creamy mac and bake for 25 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown!

After I made this for the first time, by the end of the day, more than half of the dish was gone. Benjamin and I just kept sneaking bites throughout the day. It’s a little bit dangerous it’s so good!

garnished mac and cheese in bowl

So, this Spring, why not try and step up your mac and cheese game? I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Did you enjoy this recipe? Here are some more you might like: 

Tortellini Pasta Salad 

One Skillet Taco Chili Mac and Cheese

Summer Vegetable Farro Salad 

Thank you so much for following along here, friends! Want to see more? Be sure to follow ourbalancedbowl on Instagram and tag me with your photo if you end up making a recipe! You can also post a photo of your recipe to the Our Balanced Bowl Facebook page! Like a recipe that you saw? Follow me on Pinterest here! I always love to see your re-creations! If you do make a recipe, it would make my whole day if you were to rate and comment so I can get your feedback! Lots of love! – Haylie

5 from 3 votes

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

This creamy baked mac and cheese is the ultimate classic comfort food. It combines some of my favorite things: pasta, lots of cheese, and golden brown breadcrumbs to top it off!

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword baked mac and cheese, easy homemade mac and cheese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8


  • 12 oz elbow macaroni noodles
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (i used a combo of sharp cheddar and pepper jack)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Begin making your noodles. Liberally salt your water, bring it to a boil and add in the noodles. Cook al dente, using the directions on the box. 

  2. Strain your noodles when done. Set aside. Begin making your sauce in a large pot. Add in your butter. Let it melt on medium heat. Once melted, add in your flour and stir to make a roux. Cook for 1 minute. 

  3. Whisk ⅓ of the milk in until thick (about 2-3 minutes) whisk in another 1/3 of the milk and whisk until thick (another 2-3 minutes), slowly whisk in last 1/3 bit of milk. Total whisking time should be 10 minutes of constantly whisking. This will provide you with the creamiest sauce ever!

  4. Once the sauce is thickened, turn the heat to low and add in the cheese. Slowly stir it with a large spoon until melted. Add in your noodles, stir to combine and season with salt, pepper and cayenne if you would like. 

  5. Grease a baking dish and add in your finished macaroni and cheese. Mix breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the baking dish to cover the mac. Bake for 25 minutes. Broil for an additional 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately! 

12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Oh, this looks scrumptious!! I do believe I’ll be making this tomorrow, or having someone in my house make it for me ;-)!!

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve always been more of a fan of stovetop Mac n cheese but this recipe made me think differently!! YUM!!

  3. I’m making this for a 4th of July gathering my husband & I are having at our house. I was tired of the stiff casserole type baked Mac n Cheese & this came out beautifully, creamy & so tasty! Everyone loved it! Excellent recipe! I think I might add some chopped ham next time I make it! Yummm!! 🤗

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