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You don’t even need to boil the pasta for this 5-ingredient, dump-and-bake, easy mac and cheese! Serve the comfort food classic as a side dish for holidays and potlucks, or as an entrée on a busy weeknight. It’s delicious alongside fried chicken, pot roast, roast chicken, and meatloaf!

Overnight mac and cheese in a baking dish with a serving spoon.

Easy Baked Mac and Cheese

Yep, you read that right — this is an easy mac and cheese recipe that doesn’t even require you to boil the noodles before it goes into the oven! Now, this is not a creamy baked mac and cheese that starts with a béchamel cheese sauce made from a flour and butter roux. If that’s what you’re looking for, you need to try this popular recipe.

Instead, this is a more traditional Southern baked macaroni and cheese recipe, with a firm texture that’s made from a simple combination of noodles, butter, cheese, and milk. These types of mac and cheese don’t use creamy sauces, but instead often contain eggs to help the dish “set up.” The eggs aren’t necessary here, though. Everything cooks together in one dish, so the macaroni absorbs the milk, and you’re left with an incredibly cheesy, indulgent, flavorful mac and cheese bake — with very little effort!

Hands serving easy mac and cheese from a baking dish on a wooden table.

The Origin of this Overnight Mac and Cheese Recipe

I can’t take credit for this cheesy perfection, since my hairdresser gave me the recipe almost 15 years ago! She has three boys of her own, and she was so excited to tell me about this “method” for preparing mac and cheese because her family has always loved it. She shares the recipe with customers and friends regularly, and often hears stories about folks making it again, and again, and again.

Since originally posting this recipe on my site back in 2016, I’ve heard from a number of you who have made it a staple in your home as well. In fact, blog readers have served the dish at weddings, funerals, and Thanksgiving feasts. What an honor!

Overhead shot of a bowl of easy mac and cheese.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the simple ingredients that you’ll need to make a pan of easy mac and cheese. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Uncooked elbow macaroni: do not cook the pasta before adding it to the pan. I have not tested this recipe with other noodle shapes, which might change the cooking time. Stick with elbows for a classic mac and cheese!
  • Sharp cheddar cheese: grate the cheese by hand, rather than using a package of pre-shredded cheese. The packaged shredded cheese includes stabilizers and anti-caking agents that prevent it from melting as smoothly as a hand-grated block of cheddar. Feel free to experiment with combinations of other good melting cheeses, such as Velveeta, mozzarella, Pepper Jack, Gouda, Colby, Gruyere, and Colby-Jack.
  • Butter: just enough to add some richness to the dish.
  • Kosher salt: to flavor the pasta as it cooks.
  • Milk: I prefer whole milk, but you can use low-fat milk as well.
Sprinkling cheese on top of a baking dish.

The Best Cheese to Use

The cheese that you use for mac and cheese is really a matter of personal preference. I love classic sharp cheddar here, which is a flavorful cheese that also melts nicely. You can mix it up and use a combination of any good melting cheeses, such as Velveeta (American), Colby or Colby-Jack, Gruyere, Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack, gouda, smoked gouda, Swiss, or mozzarella. A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top is also a nice addition. The options are endless, so pick your favorites!

Pouring milk into a baking dish.

How to Make Easy Mac and Cheese

The only hard part about this recipe is remembering to prep it ahead so that the noodles have time to soak in the milk overnight (or for at least 8-12 hours)!

  1. Spread half of the uncooked macaroni in the bottom of a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  2. Sprinkle with half of the cheese, dot with half of the butter, and sprinkle with half of the salt.
  3. Repeat the layers using the remaining noodles, cheese, butter, and salt.
  4. Pour milk evenly over the top.
  5. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for about 24 hours.
  6. Bake, covered, in a 350°F oven for a total of about 45 minutes, removing the foil during the final 10 minutes to allow the top to brown.
Hands serving a pan of easy mac and cheese with parsley garnish.

What to Serve with Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese

Serve this mac and cheese as a lunch or dinner entrée and your family will be thrilled! Just add a house saladtomato salad, or Caesar saladroasted broccoliSouthern-style green beans, or collard greens on the side. We also love a basket of flaky biscuitsblueberry muffinsapple breadcornbread, or corn sticks on the table to round out the meal.

If you’re serving the mac and cheese as a side dish, here are some entrées that go well with the casserole:

Hands eating a bowl of no boil mac and cheese

Storage

Store leftover baked macaroni and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I do not recommend freezing the leftover mac and cheese. The texture of the pasta will be mushy when thawed.

How to Reheat

Cover the dish loosely with foil and reheat in a 350°F oven just until warmed through. You can remove the foil cover during the final few minutes to allow the top to get nice and crispy again. To reheat individual servings, just cover loosely and microwave for 30 seconds – 1 minute (or until warm).

Overhead shot of a spoon in a pan of baked mac and cheese.

Recipe Variations

  • Use a combination of just about any flavorful melting cheeses that you prefer. For instance, try Velveeta (American), Colby or Colby-Jack, Gruyere, Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack, gouda, smoked gouda, Swiss, or mozzarella. The options are endless, so pick your favorites!
  • Add toasted breadcrumbs (like these) to the top of the dish after you remove the cover during the final 10 minutes.
  • Whisk a little bit of garlic powder or hot sauce into the milk mixture for even more flavor.
  • Bulk up the meal with vegetables like frozen peas or broccoli. If using a firm vegetable like broccoli, it’s best to parboil or steam the broccoli before adding it to the dish.
  • Add meat such as crispy bacon, leftover ham, or shredded, cooked chicken.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish.
Hands holding a bowl of easy mac and cheese

Tips for the Best Easy Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • This is a firm-style mac and cheese, with a drier texture since the cooked pasta soaks up the milk as it bakes. If you prefer a creamy mac and cheese that starts with a roux and cheese sauce, try this creamy baked mac and cheese recipe or these creamy stovetop shells and cheese.
  • Refrigerate the casserole for about 24 hours before baking, allowing the noodles to soften as they soak in the milk. At a minimum, let the noodles soak for at least 8-12 hours.
  • 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 keep a close eye on it so that the cheese (or bread crumbs) on top don’t burn.
  • Garnish the dish with chives, parsley, green onions, or a dash of paprika just before serving.
Spoon serving baked mac and cheese on a wooden table.

More Mac and Cheese Recipes to Try

Overnight mac and cheese in a baking dish with a serving spoon.

No-Boil Easy Mac and Cheese

5 from 8 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Chilling Time 12 hours
Total: 13 hours
Servings 8 people
Calories 458 kcal
The easiest mac and cheese with just 5 ingredients and no boiling the pasta!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni, divided
  • 16 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, diced into very small cubes, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley or chives; sprinkling of paprika

Instructions

  • Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Spread half of the pasta in the bottom of the dish.
  • Sprinkle with half of the cheese, dot with half of the butter, and sprinkle with half of the salt. 
  • Repeat the layers using the remaining macaroni, remaining cheese, remaining butter, and remaining salt.
  • Pour milk evenly over top.
  • Cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate overnight (about 12 hours, or up to 24 hours).
  • Bake, covered with foil, at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 45 minutes. Remove the foil during the final 10 minutes to allow top to brown. For a really crispy top, place the dish under the broiler for a couple of minutes at the end.

Notes

  • This is a firm-style mac and cheese, with a drier texture since the noodles soak up the milk as they bake. If you prefer a creamy mac and cheese that starts with a roux and cheese sauce, try this creamy baked mac and cheese recipe or these creamy stovetop shells and cheese.
  • Refrigerate the casserole for about 24 hours before baking, allowing the noodles to soften as they soak in the milk. At a minimum, let the noodles soak for at least 8-12 hours.
  • 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.
  • Use a combination of just about any flavorful melting cheeses that you prefer. For instance, try Velveeta (American), Colby or Colby-Jack, Gruyere, Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack, gouda, smoked gouda, Swiss or mozzarella. The options are endless, so pick your favorites!
  • Add toasted breadcrumbs (like these) to the top of the dish after you remove the cover during the final 10 minutes.
  • Bulk up the meal with vegetables like frozen peas or broccoli. If using a firm vegetable like broccoli, it’s best to parboil or steam the broccoli before adding it to the dish.
  • Add meat such as crispy bacon, leftover ham, or shredded, cooked chicken.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the casseroleCalories: 458kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 23gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 16gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 577mgPotassium: 296mgFiber: 1gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 853IUCalcium: 555mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: baked mac and cheese, easy mac and cheese, mac and cheese, macaroni cheese bake, no boil mac and cheese, overnight mac and cheese
Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in February, 2016. The photos were updated in January, 2022.

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!

Read More

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Comments

    1. Hi, Kristie! I honestly don’t know, since I’ve never cooked with lactose free cheese. I imagine it would work fine, so long as the cheese melts like regular cheese (and tastes good)! 🙂

  1. Just wondering if this has to go into the fridge for 24 hours? I am going to try this for a potluck but I won’t be able to put it into the refrigerators for 24 hours. Will only be able to do about 12 hours.
    Could I par boil the pasta? Would It still absorb the milk? Would I use less milk?

    1. The 12 hours of refrigeration should be fine, Darlene. No worries! I wouldn’t parboil the pasta because it won’t absorb as much milk and you’d be left with too much liquid in the dish. 🙂

    1. Yes! That will work fine. The creamier and richer the better, but the recipe will still work with reduced fat milk. 🙂

  2. Doctored this up a bit to make it a indulgent main with a salad. Added cooked diced chicken and about a head of riced cauliflower. With the moisture of the cauliflower had to cook longer in the oven and added some breadcrumbs to absorb. Will try again because it was SO easy!

  3. 5 stars
    This was the easiest and tastiest Mac and Cheese I have made! I am so glad I found this recipe because I am always messing up my Mac. I made this for Thanksgiving and everyone asked me to make it every year! I love that I did not have to boil the noodles because I somehow always mess that up lol. Also in typical fashion I did not read about the shredded cheese that should not be the store shredded so of course that is the one I bought but I just mixed it and it was good!

    1. That’s amazing, Monica! Thanks so much for your kind note. It makes me so happy to hear that your family enjoyed this dish!

    1. Hi, Stacie! I’ve never used an electric roaster oven, so I’m not familiar with how it works. If you can use the roaster oven for casseroles and other oven-baked dishes, then it should work well for this recipe, too. Enjoy!

  4. 5 stars
    First time ever making mac and cheese and this was easy. Thought it was going to be loose when I took it out of the oven, but it firmed up nicely and was delicious!