Homemade Mac and Cheese

Here’s how to make homemade mac and cheese! Cook this ultimate comfort food from scratch and it’s better than any you’ve ever had. Ready for the best EVER homemade mac and cheese? We promise: it’s really worth pulling out the superlatives here! Making this comfort food from scratch makes it taste infinitely better than the kind from a box. Want to impress everyone? This homemade mac and cheese tastes homey and cozy, with the best gooey, cheesy sauce and crunchy breadcrumbs. Alex and I made this for a recent family gathering and everyone around the table agreed: “this is the best mac and cheese.” How to make homemade mac and cheese: basic steps! Here’s the thing. Making homemade mac and cheese is easy, but you need to know a few basic cooking techniques to make it perfect. Here are the two techniques you’ll have to master: How to cook pasta to al dente. How to make a roux. Once you’ve got these two skills under your belt, the rest is a piece of cake! Let’s talk through these briefly before we start. How (and why!) to cook pasta to al dente What is al dente? Al dente means “to the […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Here’s how to make homemade mac and cheese! Cook this ultimate comfort food from scratch and it’s better than any you’ve ever had.

Homemade mac and cheese

Ready for the best EVER homemade mac and cheese? We promise: it’s really worth pulling out the superlatives here! Making this comfort food from scratch makes it taste infinitely better than the kind from a box. Want to impress everyone? This homemade mac and cheese tastes homey and cozy, with the best gooey, cheesy sauce and crunchy breadcrumbs. Alex and I made this for a recent family gathering and everyone around the table agreed: “this is the best mac and cheese.”

How to make homemade mac and cheese: basic steps!

Here’s the thing. Making homemade mac and cheese is easy, but you need to know a few basic cooking techniques to make it perfect. Here are the two techniques you’ll have to master:

  • How to cook pasta to al dente.
  • How to make a roux.

Once you’ve got these two skills under your belt, the rest is a piece of cake! Let’s talk through these briefly before we start.

How to make mac and cheese

How (and why!) to cook pasta to al dente

What is al dente? Al dente means “to the bite” in Italian. It refers to cooking pasta to just the point where it’s tender but has a subtly firm center. Here’s the thing: overcooked pasta is not only rubbery and unappetizing. It also has less nutrients and it makes you less full (read more here). Cooking the pasta for this homemade mac and cheese to al dente means it tastes better, you get more nutrients, and you’re full for longer. Win, win, win! Here are some notes on how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Don’t trust the package instructions! Most pasta packages have timing that results in overcooked pasta. Start tasting the pasta a few minutes before the package indicates.
  • Taste and drain it right when it’s tender but firm inside. Some chefs say to look for a small white fleck at the core (others think it should just disappear for perfect al dente).
  • Move quickly! Pasta can go from al dente to overcooked in a matter of seconds.

Tips for making a roux

The main kitchen technique you need for homemade mac and cheese is making a roux. What’s a roux? A “roux” (pronounced “Roo“) is flour and butter cooked together and used to thicken sauces. It’s usually made from equal parts of flour and butter. For mac and cheese, you make a roux and then add the cheese. This is what makes the gooey sauce: cheese by its would be too sticky. There are a few important things to note about making a roux:

  • Measure out your ingredients in advance (mise en place). The cooking process goes fast, so you don’t want to be distracted by measuring. The French way to say measure out all your ingredients is mise en place, which means everything in its place.
  • Don’t leave the stove, and watch closely. The flour and butter can burn easily here! You must stand by the stove and start adding milk right when the flour turns golden brown.
  • Add the milk gradually. Pour in the milk and constantly whisk, adding it little by little, until it forms a smooth sauce. Once you get to this point, it’s smooth sailing!
Homemade mac and cheese

Best noodles for homemade mac and cheese

By the way…you don’t have to use macaroni for homemade mac and cheese! No: it’s actually even tastier when you use different types of noodles. You can use all sorts of short pasta shapes, from shells to bowties to penne. Here are our favorite types of short pasta for mac and cheese, in order of preference:

Mac and cheese

Best cheese for homemade mac and cheese

There are a few different cheeses that work well in this homemade mac and cheese. Here’s what we’d recommend, and then a few other options:

  • Use sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack. This is the perfect combination for a classic mac and cheese flavor! But be aware…
  • Don’t use aged cheddar! It sounds like it would taste delicious, but aged cheddar doesn’t have quite the right flavor. Stay with a standard sharp.
  • Get fancy with gouda, Havarti or white cheddar. Substitute the cheddar, or try our separate recipes: Gouda Mac and Cheese, Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese, or White Cheddar Mac and Cheese.

Sides to serve with homemade mac and cheese

Cook this pasta to al dente and this cozy homemade mac and cheese is the stuff dreams are made of! We recently made a pan of this for family who were grieving a loved one, and it was just the right food that tastes like a hug. It’s perfect for anytime you need a cozy meal. Here are a few sides that are full of nutrients and fiber to make it into a healthy dinner idea:

Homemade Mac and Cheese

Tip: how to reheat mac and cheese!

Here’s a great homemade mac and cheese kitchen hack! You can save leftovers of mac and cheese in the refrigerator for about 5 days. But the cheese solidifies and dries out in the fridge! How to get it back to a creamy sauce? Here are our tips:

  • Place it in a skillet and add a splash of milk. Use a ratio of about 1 cup noodles to 1 tablespoon milk.
  • Heat over medium heat and stir until the sauce becomes creamy again!

This homemade mac and cheese recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free noodles.

Print
Homemade Mac and Cheese

*Best* Homemade Mac and Cheese


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 10 to 12 as a side, 6 to 8 as a main
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Here’s how to make homemade mac and cheese! Cook this ultimate comfort food from scratch and it’s better than any you’ve ever had.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound short pasta of any type (we like large shells)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (not aged)
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs)

Instructions

  1. Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Start tasting the pasta a few minutes before the package instructions and stop cooking once the pasta is just tender but still firm. Then drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it quickly with warm water.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Grate the cheese (if necessary). Measure out the butter, flour, milk, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat; when it melts, stir in the flour. Heat the mixture for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Immediately when the color starts to turn light brown, reduce the heat to low. Start to add the milk very slowly: whisk constantly until the mixture is completely smooth, then add a bit more milk until it is fully incorporated, then repeat. Once all the milk is added, add the salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Continue cooking on low heat for about 2 minutes to thicken slightly, whisking frequently. After 2 minutes, gradually add the grated cheese and keep stirring until it is fully melted.
  3. Top with breadcrumbs and serve: Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce, then pour it into a dish and top with breadcrumbs. If you’d like, place it in a baking dish and broil it for 2 to 4 minutes until the crumbs are lightly browned, turning the pan to even out the browning as necessary. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop with a splash of milk and stir until creamy. 

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Homemade mac and cheese, how to make mac and cheese

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

BBQ Chicken Pizza

It’s almost Friday, so I’m going to throw a quick little pizza recipe at ya! BBQ Chicken Pizza is such a classic with its sweet, tangy, and salty BBQ sauce, bits of juicy chicken, creamy cheese, and savory onions. But, after making pizzas for a living for a couple of years, I learned that there […]

The post BBQ Chicken Pizza appeared first on Budget Bytes.

It’s almost Friday, so I’m going to throw a quick little pizza recipe at ya! BBQ Chicken Pizza is such a classic with its sweet, tangy, and salty BBQ sauce, bits of juicy chicken, creamy cheese, and savory onions. But, after making pizzas for a living for a couple of years, I learned that there are a so many other fun things you can throw on top of a BBQ Chicken Pizza! So keep reading to grab the “classic” recipe below, plus some of my other “fun” toppings that go really well with these BBQ flavors.

Close up overhead view of a BBQ Chicken Pizza

What Kind of Pizza Dough Should I Use?

You can literally use any type of pizza dough or crust you like for BBQ Chicken Pizza. I used my classic Homemade Pizza Dough, but it would also go well on a Thin and Crispy Pizza Crust, on French Bread, a baked tortilla, or your favorite store bought gluten-free or cauliflower crust. The toppings listed below will be enough for a 14-16″ pizza crust.

Can I Substitute the Chicken?

Sure! If you’re not into chicken, you can substitute a can of black beans (mixed with the spices and sauce listed for the chicken), or even shrimp. 

If you like chicken, but don’t feel like cooking it from scratch, you can use pre-cooked chicken. If using a rotisserie chicken, simply chop it up and combine it with BBQ sauce. If you’re using canned chicken breast, just drain the chicken and gently fold with the BBQ sauce.

What is Your Favorite BBQ Sauce?

I’m not too picky with BBQ Sauce, but I do tend to like Sweet Baby Ray’s brand. Personally, I do prefer smoky BBQ sauces to some of the sweeter sauces. Today I had this Hickory Smoke BBQ Sauce from Kroger. I think it would be fun to try a spicier BBQ sauce, or even a pineapple flavored BBQ sauce. 

What Else Can You Put on a BBQ Chicken Pizza?

Here’s where it gets fun. Here are some of the other toppings I’ve enjoyed on my BBQ Chicken Pizzas over the years:

  • Bacon
  • Pineapple (don’t @ me)
  • Feta (surprisingly delicious against that sweet BBQ sauce)
  • Green onion
  • Cilantro
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Ranch dressing
  • Corn
  • Black Beans

Close up of one slice of BBQ Chicken Pizza being pulled away from the pie

 

 

Close up of one slice of BBQ Chicken Pizza being pulled away from the pie

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Get the classic BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe, plus other fun toppings you can add that pair well with BBQ and make your pizza even more flavorful.
Total Cost $5.43 recipe / $1.36 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 2 slices each
Calories 532.88kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Quick BBQ Chicken*

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about ⅔ lb.) $3.22
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika $0.05
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder $0.02
  • tsp salt $0.02
  • tsp pepper $0.02
  • ½ Tbsp cooking oil $0.04
  • ¼ cup BBQ sauce $0.11

Pizza

  • 1 prepared pizza dough $0.62
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce $0.22
  • 4 oz. Monterey jack cheese, shredded $0.85
  • 1 jalapeño (optional), sliced $0.15
  • ¼ cup sliced red onion $0.11

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, combine the smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Season both sides of the chicken breast with the spices.
  • Heat a skillet over medium. Add the cooking oil and swirl to coat the surface of the skillet. Add the seasoned chicken breast and cook for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through (internal temperature of 165ºF). Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board.
  • Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, then chop into small pieces. Add ¼ cup BBQ sauce to the chopped chicken, and stir to coat the chicken in the sauce.
  • Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Place the prepared pizza dough or crust on a pizza pan, then spread about ½ cup BBQ sauce over the surface.
  • Add the cheese, BBQ chicken, sliced jalapeños, and sliced onion to the pizza.
  • Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust and cheese are golden brown. Slice into 8 pieces and serve.

Notes

*Instead of cooking fresh chicken, you can simply season pre-cooked chicken like rotisserie chicken or canned chicken breast.

Nutrition

Serving: 2slices | Calories: 532.88kcal | Carbohydrates: 54.03g | Protein: 30.83g | Fat: 20g | Sodium: 2640.13mg | Fiber: 2.28g

A BBQ Chicken Pizza sliced into 8 pieces, one pulled slightly out.

How to Make BBQ Chicken Pizza – Step by Step Photos

Seasoned chicken breast

Combine ½ tsp smoked paprika, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ⅛ tsp salt, and ⅛ tsp pepper. Season both sides of one boneless, skinless chicken breast (about ⅔ lb.) with the spice mix.

Cooked Chicken Breast in a Skillet

Heat ½ Tbsp cooking oil in a skillet over medium. Once hot, add the seasoned chicken, and cook for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through (internal temperature of 165ºF).

BBQ Sauce being added to chopped chicken

Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean cutting board. Let the chicken cool for a few minutes, then chop into small pieces. Add ¼ cup BBQ sauce and stir to coat the chicken in the sauce.

BBQ Sauce being spread on pizza dough

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Place a prepared pizza dough/crust on a pizza pan, then spread ½ cup BBQ sauce over the surface of the dough.

Add chicken and cheese to pizza

Top the pizza with 4 oz. shredded Monterey jack cheese and the chopped BBQ chicken.

Add onion and jalapeño to pizza

Finally, add sliced red onion and one sliced jalapeño to the pizza.

Baked BBQ Chicken Pizza

Bake the BBQ Chicken Pizza in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust and cheese are golden brown.

Close up side view of a BBQ Chicken Pizza

Slice into 8 pieces and enjoy!!

The post BBQ Chicken Pizza appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

This Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili is the perfect example of why people love slow cookers so much. You literally just dump everything in the slow cooker, give it a quick stir, then turn it on and walk away. When you come back you have this hearty white bean chicken chili that’s ready for topping […]

The post Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili is the perfect example of why people love slow cookers so much. You literally just dump everything in the slow cooker, give it a quick stir, then turn it on and walk away. When you come back you have this hearty white bean chicken chili that’s ready for topping with creamy cheese and diving in with some tortilla chips. And when the sky is dark, the air is cold, and you’ve got the winter blues, easy dinners like this are a total life saver!

Originally posted 1-2-2015, updated 2-9-2020.

Crock Pot White Chicken Chili

Two bowls of slow cooker white chicken chili topped with cheese and blue tortilla chips on the side

See this recipe used in my weekly meal prep.

Does White Chicken Chili Have Chili Powder?

Nope! Unlike traditional red chili, this “white” chili does not contain chili powder. It’s flavored using salsa verde, cumin, and oregano. This chili gets its name from the white beans used in place of the red kidney beans used in red chili.

Is This Chili Spicy?

This chili is a “medium” level spicy. If you want to make the chili more mild, skip the jalapeño and cayenne pepper listed in the ingredients, and make sure to use a mild salsa verde.

What Size Slow Cooker do I Need?

You can make this in a 3-4 quart slow cooker, or double the recipe for a 5-7 qt slow cooker and feed a crowd. I have a 5 quart slow cooker (affiliate link) and the recipe, as listed below, filled it about half way.

Can This White Chicken Chili be Frozen?

Yes, this chili freezes very well! As always, make sure to chill your chili completely in the refrigerator first, before transferring to the freezer for long term storage. I prefer to freeze all my leftovers in single portions so they can be reheated one by one whenever I get hungry.

Chili Topping Ideas

I highly suggest topping this chili with something creamy, like the Monterrey jack cheese listed in the ingredients below, some sour cream, or avocado. The creamy flavor is the perfect contrast to the salsa verde. You can also top with some green onion, sliced jalapeño, cilantro, pico de gallo, crumbled cornbread, or pickled red onions.

Overhead view of Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili in the slow cooker

 

Easy Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

The slow cooker does all the work with this easy, flavorful, and healthy white chicken chili. This "dump and go" dinner will become a family favorite!

  • 1 yellow onion ($0.32)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 jalapeño (optional) ($0.11)
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 3/4 lb.) ($3.62)
  • 1 16 oz. jar salsa verde ($2.59)
  • 2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans ($0.98)
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans ($0.89)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin ($0.30)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano ($0.10)
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper ($0.02)
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper ($0.03)
  • 2 cups chicken broth ($0.26)
  • 4 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded ($0.85)
  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Slice the jalapeńo lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with a spoon, then dice. Place the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and chicken breast in the bottom of a slow cooker.
  2. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and pinto beans, then add them to the slow cooker, along with the cumin, oregano, cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the salsa over top.

  3. Pour two cups of chicken broth over the contents in the cooker and then give everything a brief stir. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours, or on low for eight hours.

  4. After four hours on high, or eight hours on low, carefully remove the chicken breast from the slow cooker and use two forks to shred the meat. Return the meat to the slow cooker. Stir the chili, slightly mashing the beans with the back of the spoon as you stir. The mashed beans will help thicken the chili.

  5. Serve the chili topped with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese. Other optional toppings include fresh cilantro, diced avocado, freshly squeeze lime, or tortilla chips.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Close up overhead view of a bowl full of slow cooker white chicken chili

How to Make Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili – Step by Step Photos

Onion, garlic, jalapeño, and chicken breast in the slow cooker

Dice one yellow onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Slice the jalapeño in half, scrape out the seeds, then dice the remaining pepper. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and chicken breast to the slow cooker.

Beans and spices added to slow cooker

Drain and rinse two 15oz. cans of cannellini beans and one 15oz. can of pinto beans. Add the drained beans to the slow cooker along with 1 Tbsp cumin, 1 tsp oregano, ¼ tsp cayenne, and some freshly cracked black pepper.

Salsa verde being poured into the slow cooker

Pour one 16oz. jar of salsa verde into the slow cooker (I’ve used many brands for this recipe in the past, the one in the photo is Kroger’s Private Selectrion brand).

Chicken broth being poured into the slow cooker

Pour two cups of chicken broth into the slow cooker.

Briefly stir the slow cooker

Briefly stir the contents of the slow cooker to distribute the spices. Place a lid on top and cook on high for four hours, or low for eight hours.

Chicken breast being removed from slow cooker with tongs

After cooking on high for four hours, or on low for eight hours, remove the chicken breast to a clean cutting board to shred (or you can shred directly in the pot with two forks).

Shredded chicken on cutting board

Shred the chicken using two forks.

Chicken returned to slow cooker

Return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Use the back of a spoon to smash some of the beans agains the side of the pot. The smashed beans will help thicken the chili.

A spoonful of white chicken chili being lifted out of the bowl, blue corn chips in the background

Top with your favorite ingredients and enjoy!

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