If you were raised on boxed macaroni and cheese, this stovetop mac and cheese is the perfect homemade alternative. An easy, cheesy recipe that you can make anytime with very little prep. Stovetop mac and cheese is fast and great for a quick lunch.
If you’re cooking a big meal and need to set it and forget it, try our crockpot macaroni and cheese instead!
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
I created this stovetop mac and cheese recipe 10 years ago when the kids were still at home. I put together a batch of my homemade cheese sauce that I had been using for broccoli and cauliflower for years. I simply poured it over some macaroni elbows and it worked great! This is officially my kids’ favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.
This is delicious, and you can substitute skim milk if you are worried about the calorie count. The biggest secret is to use your favorite type of cheese. In use my favorite cheddar cheese in this recipe. If you prefer, you can use American cheese, any low fat cheese, white cheddar, or even a Swiss.
How to make stovetop mac and cheese
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- While pasta cooks, melt butter over low heat.
- Combine flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and dry mustard and mix into melted butter to make a roux.
- Continue whisking and slowly add the milk.
- Turn up the heat slightly to thicken the mixture.
- Remove from heat and add shredded cheese.
- Drain macaroni and place in a large bowl.
- Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir.
NOTE: This recipe makes a one pound box of elbow macaroni. You can certainly halve the ingredients or easily substitute the type of pasta noodles you use. Shells are a great substitution.
Ingredients you need for my stovetop mac and cheese
- Elbow macaroni – I use Barilla in the blue box, but any “regular” elbow past will work. I have not tested this recipe with alternative pastas such as gluten-free. Be sure to cook your pasta to al dente, you don’t want mushy mac and cheese! Simply follow the cook time instructions on the box.
- Unsalted butter – yes you can use salted butter or margarine instead.
- All-purpose flour – I haven’t tested this recipe with any other form of flour. This includes whole wheat, and especially not with almond, coconut or other non-wheat flours.
- Salt – this is just regular table salt, not Kosher salt or sea salt. The granular differences would change the measurement.
- Pepper – good old fashioned black pepper, though I do grind my own. You don’t have to.
- Paprika – I use regular paprika, but for a fun twist you could try smoked paprika! Adding a little garlic powder might be tasty too!
- Dry mustard – this is found in the spice aisle, it’s a yellow powder. I don’t use liquid mustard.
- Milk – while whole milk in used in this recipe, you can easily substitute skim, 1% or 2% milk. Especially if you want to reduce the calories. I have not tried this recipe with anything other than cow’s milk.
- Shredded cheddar cheese – I prefer extra sharp cheddar and feel it has the best flavor for this homemade mac and cheese. You can certainly use any cheese you like (pepper jack would be a fun twist!), though I do recommend shredding your cheese from a block yourself. Pre-shredded bagged cheese contains an anti-caking agent, This can cause your mac and cheese to feel and taste gritty.
Helpful Kitchen Tools
This stovetop mac and cheese is a great recipe that I’ve been making for many years. While this is our favorite quick recipe, we have plenty of favorite macaroni and cheese options!
- Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese
- Traditional Baked Mac and Cheese
- Chili Mac
- Macaroni Casserole with Ham and Peas
- Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Be sure to check out our top ten favorite macaroni and cheese recipes here!
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
IMPORTANT - There are often Frequently Asked Questions within the blog post that you may find helpful. Simply scroll back up to read them!Print It Rate It
- 1 pound box dried elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoon flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Put a covered stock pot of water on to boil over high heat.
- Meanwhile, over low heat melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
- While butter is melting, measure out and combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and dry mustard in a small dish or bowl. When butter has melted, add the flour mixture to the butter and use a whisk to combine to make your roux.
- Continue whisking and slowly add the milk, whisking to combine all the ingredients. Turn up the heat slightly (don't go higher than medium-low) and whisking often, thicken the mixture. You may see occasional bubbles, and that's ok, but you do not want it to boil, just to thicken. When thickened, remove from heat and add the shredded cheese, using the whisk to combine until melted and homogenous.
- Drain the macaroni (do not rinse, the starch helps the cheese stick to the noodles) and place in a large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir to coat well. Serve while hot.
Expert Tips & FAQs
This post originally appeared on this blog on Mar 21, 2010.
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I really didn’t care for this. Mine took almost 2 hours to cook and I didn’t think the cheese flavor was very good/pronounced even using Tillamook and Cabot cheese. At least the kids ate it….
Amanda Formaro says
2 hours? Something definitely went wrong there, this cooks very quickly.
Love all your recipes! Thaks for your easy to follow instructions and helpful notes. This makes a great cheese sauce! We had it on broccoli and baked loaded potatoes and a veg medley. Also love the crock pot macaroni!
I’m so excited to try this! Are there any other spices I can use instead of paprika?