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34 macaroni and cheese recipes for the ultimate comfort food

Gooey, crisp and decadent, mac and cheese is an iconic duo .
Kelly Vaughan

Macaroni and cheese is an iconic duo. Whether it comes from a box or is made from scratch, there are seemingly endless renditions of this comfort food classic to please every palate and culinary skill level.

Making macaroni and cheese with fresh ingredients (not the neon powdered stuff) can be just as quick and easy. Once you master the basics, homemade mac and cheese is rife for variations — combine different types of cheeses and spices in the mornay sauce, fold in various veggie or protein mix-ins and play around with noodle shapes.

To get you started, these 34 macaroni and cheese recipes include a range of macs, from vegan imitations that are almost too creamy to be plant-based to baked casseroles that can be an entire meal or the starring side of a larger spread.

Pro tip: if you’re grating the cheese yourself (instead of using pre-shredded cheese, which lacks flavor), freeze the blocks of cheese for 20 to 30 minutes before grating, so that the cheese firms up and grates more easily. A food processor can also work to grate cheese quickly in a pinch. 

All of these recipes are celebration-worthy, but can also make quick, affordable weeknight dinners that still feel special. After all, mac and cheese is always worth celebrating. Here are some of the best macaroni and cheese recipes to make at home ASAP.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

If gooey-ness is the goal, stovetop mac and cheese should be the go-to house recipe. This quick recipe starts with a basic roux, but levels up with mustard powder for a touch of tang and blends a duo of cheddar and Parmesan cheese for a sharp, salty bite. Any short noodle such as elbows or shells will work with this sauce. 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

If you’re looking for an ooey-gooey cheese pull, this classic baked macaroni and cheese is for you. Super cheesy and crispy on the top, this baked mac and cheese works as a side or main and can be prepared in advance to bake or reheat just before serving. Spiral-shaped pasta is key here, as it latches on to the cheese like a zipper. 

Pizza Mac and Cheese

Combining two of the best foods in one dish is an automatic all-star. This fun recipe swaps out traditional pizza crust for macaroni and cheese, which is baked in a cast iron pan and topped with sauce, pepperoni, sausage and more cheese. Play around with the toppings in this one and it will always be a showstopper. 

For a jaw droppingly decadent mac and cheese, try this Southern-style recipe. A trio of rich, creamy ingredients — heavy cream, cream cheese and sour cream — create a custardy base to hug the macaroni noodles. This cheddar mac and cheese is baked until golden brown, adding an extra element of crisp cheesiness to the bubbling top. 

Stouffer's-Style Macaroni and Cheese

Homemade mac and cheese may be the tops, but sometimes you just crave the nostalgic frozen dinner version. This recipe combines the best of both worlds, utilizing Velveeta to create a sticky, voluptuous orange sauce to cradle the noodle. A quick bake in the oven firms everything up but keeps the dish gooey.

This fancy macaroni and cheese still tastes and looks so classic. Fresh corn kernels add a lovely sweet pop to this mac and cheese while bacon brings the salty crunch. Pair with any summer dish or bring to a barbecue to be the star of the meal. 

Make-ahead macaroni and cheese gives you something to really look forward to for dinner. And Ina Garten’s recipe is nearly foolproof, so you can sleep soundly knowing something delicious awaits. No roux is required for this pasta dish — the noodles simply absorb the cream, Gruyère and cheddar cheese in the fridge and then bakes up to perfection just before it’s time to serve. 

Lobster Mac and Cheese

This mac and cheese is elite but not too difficult to master. Start by poaching the lobster in butter, which keeps it tender and flavorful (if you’re not a lobster fan, you can swap in shrimp, scallops or crab). Pepper jack cheese accentuates the soft meat and a rich garlic cream makes this dish wonderfully savory and luxurious.

Four types of cheese — extra-sharp cheddar, shredded mozzarella, smoked gouda and Colby Jack — combine for an over-the-top macaroni and cheese that has a pleasant smokiness in every bite. A beaten egg helps bind everything together in the casserole dish, where the cheesy noodles are topped with even more shredded cheese before baked. Serve with hot sauce for an extra kick. 

Mac and cheese’s sophisticated older sibling is here, and she’s ready to show off. Sweet potato and miso pair together nicely, adding umami and just a touch of sweetness to this adult-friendly dish. Shells are really the star here, since they can hug the succulent cheese sauce. 

French Onion Mac and Cheese

Inspired by the French bistro staple, rich and brothy onion soup gets a pasta-centric upgrade with this mac and cheese recipe. Gruyere, Asiago and Parmesan cheeses combine to create the soup’s signature stringy melted cheese, and caramelized onions plus beef stock pay homage to the dish’s roots. A homemade garlic panko topping ties everything together. 

Homemade mac and cheese doesn’t always require a lot of hands-on time, as evidenced by this slow-cooker recipe. Butter, noodles, shredded mozzarella and cheddar come together over several hours for this unbelievably easy mac and cheese. Half-and-half is stirred into the mixture to form a viscous sauce. Top with something crunchy, like fried onions or toasted bread crumbs, for another layer of texture. 

Craig's Mom's Mac and Cheese

There’s perhaps no mac and cheese like mom’s mac and cheese, and Craig Melvin’s mom was generous enough to share her secret recipe. Evaporated milk is one of the starring ingredients here, which pairs with whole milk to create a creamy cheese sauce. This dish bakes for 90 minutes until it’s super bubbly and cheesy all over. 

Gruyère Mac & Cheese

This mac and cheese is the perfect winter warm up, thanks to a fondue-like sauce made with Gruyère, fontina and cream cheese, plus sautéed mushrooms. We like to use classic elbow noodles, but they can be swapped out for orecchiette or another small, bite-sized noodle, depending on what you have in your pantry. 

Jack'd Up Vegan Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese can totally be free of dairy products. This plant-based version makes the most of two types of vegan cheese to create a decadent cheese sauce that’s dressed up with vegan pesto for extra flavor. With crumbles of vegan sausage, this meat-free meal has it all. 

Mac and cheese is a classic barbecue side, so why not just combine pulled pork and noodles in one irresistible main course? This creamy mac and cheese uses three types of cheese — American, white cheddar and yellow cheddar — and is topped with a homemade pulled pork that is excellent left over. Pickled jalapeño makes the best topper for this kid-friendly dish, which is worth the effort to make. 

Just a few ingredients unite to create this homemade slow-cooker mac and cheese. Cheddar and mozzarella are the stars here, and when the pasta is almost done cooking, and extra sprinkle of cheese livens things up. Mix-ins like frozen peas or broccoli florets may be added to the mixture as well, and gluten-free or whole wheat pasta could be subbed in place of regular elbow macaroni. 

Emptying the cheese drawer never tasted so good. Mozzarella, smoked gouda, Parmesan, fontina, sharp cheddar and jack cheese unite in this pasta dish, which is enhanced with truffle oil. A crisp panko topping adds crunch to the cream-based sauce, bringing everything together.  

Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese

Why shouldn’t mac and cheese be sweet? Maple syrup, brown sugar and canned sweet potatoes unite in this Thanksgiving-ready version of the famous dish. Swap in fresh mashed sweet potato or add diced roasted sweet potatoes for another level of autumnal flavor. 

No-Boil Mac and Cheese with Ham and Greens

A hyper flavorful dish with shortcuts? We’re in. This casserole is a complete meal in one baking dish, thanks to the inclusion of chopped ham, collard greens and a beautiful blend of four cheeses, including Swiss. 

Vegan Taco Mac and Cheese

Vegan mac and cheese can go far beyond the boxed powdery imitation stuff. This meat-free macaroni is hearty, and full of protein thanks to kidney beans, which are stirred into the homemade chili that goes with this pasta. That cashew-based sauce is so creamy that it’s hard to believe there’s no dairy. 

Smoky Shrimp Mac and Cheese

This macaroni and cheese brings on the smoky flavor in the best way possible. Smoked Gouda and smoked cheddar create a cheese sauce that’s anything but ordinary. It’s taken to the next level with smoky andouille sausage for even more flavor and might. The shrimp itself is diced so there’s a succulent snap in every bite.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

This simple and tasty mac and cheese recipe adds a bit of fiber and vitamins into a better-for-you mornay sauce, thanks to a secret ingredient: cauliflower. Steamed frozen cauliflower is blended with cheese for an extra creamy sauce that has some thickness. Elbows are classic, but any pasta shape will work for this recipe. 

Smoky Mac and Cheese Bites

No fork needed to enjoy these grilled mac and cheese bites. A perfect appetizer for any gathering, this bite-sized mac and cheese appetizer is smoky, creamy and crispy — a hit with any group. Sprinkle some fresh grated cheese on top or serve with a dipping sauce (ranch always hits) to gussy these up a bit. 

A little sweet and a little savory, this is mac and cheese with a true crispy crunch. Chef Deborah VanTrece envisions serving her recipe at a potluck, where the masses can dig into this labor of love (and the cook will be on the receiving end of many compliments). Sharp cheddar, American cheese and cream cheese ensure this comfort food recipe is extra decadent. 

This vegan masala mac and cheese is pure genius. Soaked raw cashews are blended to bring the creaminess to the sauce, while sweet potato adds the signature orange color in lieu of sharp cheddar cheese. Turmeric, cayenne and cumin all work together to spice things up and add a bright hue.

Baked Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Everything about this super autumnal mac and cheese is a win. Pumpkin purée melds with cheddar for a sharp but slightly sweet sauce, and a pinch of nutmeg adds a nice kick. A crisp, bubbly top makes this mac totally magical. 

Shipwreck Creamy Mac and Cheese

Preparing to be stranded on a desert island? Pack this mac. This shipwreck mac and cheese doesn’t go overboard in flavor, and keeps it classic with shredded orange-hued cheese and a simple orecchiette noodle. 

Everything bagel seasoning truly belongs on everything, and mac and cheese is the perfect canvas for this savory, crunchy topping. Molly Yeh’s recipe combines the unique seasoning with a fun pasta shape — rigatoni — plus cream cheese and white cheddar. Pre-made bagel seasoning will also work in a pinch, but making your own is simple. 

Shaq's Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

Shaquille O’Neal’s mom Lucille shared her mac and cheese recipe with TODAY Food and it doesn’t disappoint. The noodles get ooey and gooey with mozzarella, Velveeta and cheddar. Crushed cheese crackers are a genius way to cover this baked dish for extra crunch. 

Worthy of an apres-ski resort, this luxe mac tastes like it’s straight out of a chalet. Paprika and cayenne pepper bring out the slightest kick, while caramelized onions add sweetness to complement Gruyère’s umami flavor and melty, fondue-like texture.  

Buffalo Mac and Cheese

It doesn’t need to be game day to whip up this buffalo mac. Cavatappi is the special ingredient here, spiraling around bleu cheese and Frank’s red hot sauce to create the ultimate competitor to hot wings. Serve with a side of celery and carrots to dip into the extra cheese sauce. 

Mac and Cheese Muffins

Brilliant mac and cheese hack incoming: mac and cheese muffins. These single-portion baked mac and cheese cups crisp up faster than a large-format casserole and are fun to serve and eat. Use low-fat milk and reduced-fat cheddar cheese for a slightly lighter bite. Make them for lunch boxes, a grab and go bite, or a fun appetizer.

Katie Lee’s mac and cheese is a lovely pasta dish that looks and tastes restaurant-worthy. A blend of two Italian cheeses — fontina and Parmesan — is classic and nicely hugs the mushroom with the noodles. Fresh thyme adds an earthy element. This dish is ready to serve as soon as you stir in the cheese with the noodles and trust us, you won’t be able to wait a minute longer.