Southern Baked Mac and Cheese – super creamy, cheesy, soulful baked mac and cheese filled with great Southern flavors. You will never break open a box again!
I wasn’t a fan of Mac and Cheese back in the day. But as they say, things change. Over the years, I’ve learned how to love that cheesy creamy goodness which is a staple in every American household. Thanks to my son who seriously would live for mac and cheese every single day of his life.
But of course, I’ve got to say no to breaking open those boxes from time to time. “Wait, what? You said boxes?”
Yes, he is a huge fan of those boxed mac and cheese! He’d gladly turn down any scrumptious chicken dishes I make just for a plateful of his all-time fave. You could imagine my face the day I tricked him into eating REAL mac and cheese. Ahhh, it was a sweet victory!
Mac and Cheese Sauce
To start off, this cheesy bechamel sauce here is over-the-top! Aside from 1/2 cup of half and half (of light cream and whole milk), I also added a can of evaporated milk (different from condensed milk) to add more creaminess and texture to my mac and cheese.
And another secret I’m adding to this sauce? CREOLE SEASONING. Yes! Sprinkling it with 1/2-1 teaspoon adds dimension to this Southern Baked Mac and Cheese. I’m telling you it makes all the difference unless you like bland food.
Best Cheese for Baked Mac and Cheese
Don’t be scared when using cheese for this recipe. I used three types of cheeses to grace every noodle of this dish. For the best flavor, I highly recommend adding a sharp cheddar to your baked mac and cheese. Just a warning though, don’t use the pre-shredded bagged cheese as it has preservatives that make it drier compared to fresh-grated cheese.
Sharp cheddar cheese, mozzarella, jack cheese, are my top fave. Or you can also use pepper jack cheese, gouda, fontina, and Gruyere.
How Long to Bake Mac and Cheese?
There is only one rule that you need to remember when baking mac and cheese: don’t bake it too long otherwise you’ll bake away the sauce leaving you with a dry mixture.
Baking it at around 20 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 C) guarantees you that same stretchy cheesy baked mac and cheese with all the heart-melting sauce. Or you can also bake it at 30 minutes at 350 F(177 C);
Although we’ve tried a couple of Mac and Cheese recipes, nothing compares to this one which has a smooth silky sauce that permeates every inch of elbow macaroni there is.
You’d fall head over heels with the brimming Southern flavors of what this baked mac and cheese has to offer. It’s got a note of heat and smokiness. You’d need a bigger a spoon, for sure!
This would be delightful at any time. Oh, especially during these cold winter months. So don’t wait for special occasions to whip up a pan of this.
Heck, you could even make this on the daily.
More Crowd-Favorite Recipes To Explore
- Easy Lasagna
- Skillet Cornbread
- Chicken Alfredo
- Buffalo Wings
- Homemade Ranch Dressing
- Caesar Salad Dressing
- Pulled Pork Recipe
How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese
Add butter to skillet, as soon as butter melts whisk in flour. Continue whisking until flour is fully mixed with butter. Then cook for about a minute to get rid of the flour taste.
Slowly add evaporated milk a little at the time, followed by the half and half; you do not want the mixture to form any lumps. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes until mixture thickens slightly.
Add seasonings, onion and garlic powder, creole seasoning and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer and let it simmer gently for about 2 minutes. Stir in the cheeses (reserve some as toppings later), and continue stirring until everything’s melted and evenly combined and, smooth. Salt & pepper, to taste.
Then add the pasta to the pot, stir to evenly incorporate.
Transfer the pasta mixture into a cast iron skillet or into a lightly greased 2-qt. baking dish; top with remaining cheese.
Watch How To Make It
Southern Baked Mac and Cheese
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 12oz canned evaporated milk
- ½ cup half and half (half cream and half milk)
- ½ -1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- ½ -1 teaspoon creole seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese , grated
- ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese , grated
- ½ cup jack cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounce uncooked Macaroni
- Cook macaroni according to the package directions. Drain.
- Add butter to skillet, as soon as butter melts whisk in flour. Continue whisking until flour is fully mixed with butter. Then cook for about a minute to get rid of the flour taste.
- Slowly add evaporated milk a little at the time, followed by the half and half ; you do not want the mixture to form any lumps. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes until mixture thickens slightly.
- Add seasonings, onion and garlic powder, creole seasoning and cayenne pepper.
- Bring to a simmer and let it simmer gently for about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the cheeses (reserve some as toppings later), and continue stirring until everything’s melted and evenly combined and, smooth. Salt & pepper, to taste.
- Then add the cooked pasta to the pot, stir to evenly incorporate.
- Transfer the pasta mixture into a the pan or into a lightly greased 2-qt. baking dish; top with remaining cheese.
- Bake at 375 Degrees F° for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
Tips & Notes:
- Place a small skillet on medium heat with 2 tablespoons butter, then toss in 1 teaspoon minced garlic, stir for about 30 seconds and throw in bread crumbs. Saute for about 3-4 minutes or until fragrant. Lightly season with salt and pepper, if desired. Then top the mac and cheese with the bread crumbs and bake.
- In a medium bowl, beat egg then add about 1/2 cup of the sauce to the egg, return the egg mixture to the sauce, stirring to blend well. Proceed with the cheese and the proceeding steps.
- Don't use pre-shredded bagged cheese as it is drier. You have to get blocks of it and shred it yourself.
- Sharp cheddar cheese, mozzarella and jack cheese are my top fave. Or you can also use pepper jack cheese, gouda, fontina and Gruyere.
- More mozzarella cheese can be added for it gives it a nice gooey pull in every bite.
- Do not cook cheese sauce too long.
- You can also throw in special ingredients such as garlic herbs, dried mustard, crispy fried onion strings and so on.
- For extra flavor, add chicken breast pieces, spinach, and red bell peppers.
- In case you want to cut down on the calories, use low fat milk instead of evaporated milk and cut back on half of the cheese.
- It’s best to warm milk. Cold liquid interrupts the cooking process. Heated milk also has a richer flavor than cold milk.
- To avoid lumps, try adding the milk about 2-3 tablespoons at a time. Whisk until it’s incorporated before adding more. Once the can of evaporated milk is all mixed in, add in all the half and half at once.
- Mac and Cheese can be made ahead up to the point of baking, then bake about 30-40 minutes before serving, so it’s hot and fresh. It can as well be made right in the morning and bake just before dinner time.
- It can also be made ahead and frozen, but the sauce has to be kept separate from the pasta. Mix together the sauce and pasta the day you want to bake.
- Reheat in the microwave if there are any leftover then spray the top with oil or butter for moisture.
- Stick to the right pasta.
- You don't cover baked mac and cheese with foil as it would steam the inside and prevent it from achieving that slightly crusty golden bubbly top.
- If making for bigger groups of people, let’s say 15 servings, triple the ingredients listed.
- In the absence of cast iron, Mac and Cheese can be baked in an oven safe pan and aluminum baking pans is also a good substitute.