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The easiest, most delicious Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe! A simple combination of milk, cheese, butter, pasta and eggs is finished with bread crumbs for an easy side dish that pairs beautifully with just about any meal — from a summer barbecue picnic to a Thanksgiving feast. Enjoy this comfort food all year long!

Overhead shot of a white pan full of a buttery southern macaroni and cheese recipe with bread crumb topping

Few dishes rival macaroni and cheese when it comes to popular sides. Whether you like it with elbow pasta or rotini, cheddar or Velveeta, this versatile and easy recipe is a crowd-pleasing option for any occasion!

Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

While every home cook has her favorite version of mac and cheese, this particular recipe yields a Southern-style casserole that’s just like Grandma made it! Many Northern macaroni and cheese recipes use a roux to make a creamy béchamel that coats the noodles in sauce. If that’s what you prefer, you’ll love this Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe! In the South, however, baked macaroni and cheese recipes are typically just simple combinations of pasta, eggs, butter, milk and cheese. The eggs set up to create a firm casserole that you can slice into squares to serve — it’s not a creamy, saucy dish like you may have seen elsewhere. Finish the cheesy, tender noodles with a buttery bread crumb topping and your family and friends will go crazy for the easy, hearty comfort food!

What is the best cheese to use for macaroni and cheese?

This is really a matter of personal preference. I use a combination of sharp cheddar and Colby or Colby-Jack, which are flavorful cheeses that melt nicely. You can stick with just cheddar, or you can mix it up and use a combination that includes Gruyere, Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack, gouda, smoked gouda, Swiss or mozzarella. The options are endless, so pick your favorites!

Do you need to bake mac and cheese?

Some macaroni and cheese recipes do not require baking — those are the creamy mac and cheese recipes that start with a roux and a cream sauce. This Southern-style macaroni and cheese definitely needs to be baked, because the egg mixture sets up in the oven. It’s what holds together the casserole!

Why do you put eggs in this baked macaroni and cheese recipe?

Egg is used in Southern baked macaroni and cheese recipes to hold the casserole together. As the eggs bake in the dish, the mac and cheese sets, firms up, and creates that drier texture that you can slice into squares — a hallmark of this particular style of mac and cheese.

Serving of a Southern baked mac and cheese recipe with a blue and white striped dish towel in the background

How to make a Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

There’s a secret ingredient in this recipe that adds so much rich, creamy flavor to the dish: sour cream! I learned the tip from the Queen of Southern Mac and Cheese herself, Paula Deen, and I’ve never looked back. This recipe is slightly tweaked from Paula Deen’s macaroni and cheese recipe that she serves at The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah, because there’s no sense in messing with a good thing. It’s the best of the best, and I hope that you love it as much as we do!

Ingredients for Old Fashioned Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Bread Crumbs

  • Elbow macaroni
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Grated Colby cheese
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Whole milk
  • Sour cream
  • Salt, dry mustard, garlic powder and cayenne
  • Panko bread crumbs
Overhead shot of a bowl of mac and cheese ingredients

Step 1: Cook Elbow Macaroni

Boil the pasta until al dente (about 6 minutes), drain, and return to the pot.

Cooked elbow macaroni in a red Dutch oven

Step 2: Add Butter and Cheese

Stir in the grated cheeses and the butter to coat the noodles.

Stirring cheese into elbow macaroni in a large red Dutch oven

Step 3: Combine Wet Ingredients

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sour cream, salt, dry mustard, garlic powder and cayenne.

Liquid ingredients for mac and cheese in a glass mixing bowl

Step 4: Stir Together Ingredients

Add the egg mixture to the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Ingredients for macaroni and cheese in a large white casserole dish

Step 5: Add Bread Crumb Topping

Sprinkle buttered breadcrumbs over top.

Sprinkling bread crumbs on top of mac and cheese

Step 6: Bake

Bake the mac and cheese, uncovered, in a 350 degree F oven until it’s golden brown and set. This will take about 35-40 minutes.

Overhead image of a white casserole dish full of baked macaroni and cheese

What to serve with Baked Mac and Cheese

Old-Fashioned baked macaroni and cheese is a hearty, delicious and satisfying casserole on its own. Serve it as a dinner entrée and your family will be thrilled! Just add a simple green salad, roasted broccoli, or Southern Collard Greens on the side.

The golden baked mac and cheese is also an easy side dish that goes well with any of these meals:

Can I make this macaroni and cheese ahead and bake it later?

Yes! You can assemble the mac and cheese as instructed, cool completely, cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days before baking. When you’re ready to bake, allow the dish to come to room temperature on the counter for about 30 minutes and then bake according to recipe instructions. If it’s still cold on the inside when you put it in the oven, you may need to bake for a little bit longer to make sure that the mac and cheese is hot in the center and fully set.

Storage Tips

Store leftover baked macaroni and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Can I freeze macaroni and cheese?

I do not recommend freezing baked mac and cheese. The texture of the pasta will be mushy when thawed, and the milk-based custard will break.

How to Reheat Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

Cover the dish loosely with foil and reheat in a 350 degree F oven just until warmed through. You can remove the foil cover during the final few minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to get nice and crispy again.

To reheat individual servings, just cover loosely and microwave for 30 seconds (or until warm).

Variations of Mac and Cheese

  • Instead of using breadcrumbs on top, try sprinkling additional cheese over the top of your casserole.
  • Bacon: add cooked, chopped bacon to the topping (or to the inside of the casserole).
  • Swap out the buttered Panko breadcrumb topping and use buttered Ritz cracker crumbs, buttered seasoned breadcrumbs, or just an extra layer of grated cheese.
  • Add veggies (such as steamed broccoli) to make it a full meal. You can also stir in some cooked, chopped chicken or ham.

Tips for the Best Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

  • Boil the pasta in very well-salted water. The salt in the water seasons the noodles, adding flavor to the dish.
  • Cook the pasta just until it’s al dente — almost tender, but still firm to the bite. You don’t want to completely cook the noodles until they’re tender, because they will continue baking in the oven.
  • Allow the cheese, butter, milk, sour cream and eggs to come to room temperature before adding them to the recipe. They will blend together smoothly if they’re not cold.
  • Start with blocks of cheese that you grate yourself at home, rather than using bags of pre-shredded cheese from the store. The pre-shredded cheese includes stabilizers and other ingredients to prevent the cheese from clumping, which inhibits its ability to melt smoothly in the dish.
  • If you prefer a crispier, darker brown top on your mac and cheese, place the dish under the broiler during the final minute or two of baking. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it so that the bread crumb topping doesn’t burn.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish.
Front shot of a fork taking a bite out of mac and cheese

More macaroni and cheese recipes that you might enjoy:

Overhead shot of a white pan full of a buttery southern macaroni and cheese recipe with bread crumb topping

Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
Servings 10 – 12 (as a side dish) or 6-8 (as an entrée)
Calories 326 kcal
The easiest, most delicious Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe! Enjoy this comfort food all year long — as an entrée or as a side dish.

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup grated Colby (or Colby-Jack) cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter (½ stick), diced into small pieces, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Topping:

  • ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish; set aside.
  • Cook macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to package instructions for al dente (almost tender but still firm to the bite) — about 6 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.
  • Add the cheddar, Colby and butter, stirring until the pasta is well coated.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sour cream, salt, dry mustard, garlic powder and cayenne. Add the egg mixture to the pasta and stir well to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, stir together breadcrumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle over top of the macaroni.
  • Bake, uncovered, until golden brown and set — about 35 minutes.

Notes

  • Boil the pasta in very well-salted water. The salt in the water seasons the noodles, adding flavor to the dish.
  • Cook the pasta just until it’s al dente — almost tender, but still firm to the bite. You don’t want to completely cook the noodles until they’re tender, because they will continue baking in the oven.
  • Allow the cheese, butter, milk, sour cream and eggs to come to room temperature before adding them to the recipe. They will blend together smoothly if they’re not cold.
  • Start with blocks of cheese that you grate yourself at home, rather than using bags of pre-shredded cheese from the store. The pre-shredded cheese includes stabilizers and other ingredients to prevent the cheese from sticking, which inhibits its ability to melt smoothly into the dish.
  • If you prefer a crispier, darker brown top on your mac and cheese, place the dish under the broiler during the final minute or two of baking time. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it so that the bread crumb topping doesn’t burn.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish.
  • This recipe is slightly adapted from Paula Deen.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/10 of the recipeCalories: 326kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 12gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 409mgPotassium: 154mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 672IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 235mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: baked macaroni and cheese, southern baked mac and cheese
Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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