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The best homemade mac and cheese recipe just happens to be one of the easiest, too! There’s no need to make a roux for this decadent dish, which gets its ultra-creamy, decadent cheese sauce from mayonnaise, sour cream, and two different types of cheese. Add a buttered garlic breadcrumb topping, and the baked mac and cheese is ready to enjoy. Serve it as a vegetarian dinner with a salad or other fresh veggies, or offer the cheesy casserole as a side dish with pulled pork, burgers, or fried chicken.

Close overhead shot of a pan of easy mac and cheese with a serving spoon

Baked Mac and Cheese

My friend Sallie first gave me this easy homemade mac and cheese recipe after she brought it to a cookout and we watched it quickly disappear. Sallie found the original recipe on the Duke’s mayo website, and we’ve since adapted it to make it even better!

You won’t believe how delicious this simple recipe truly is. It’s ooey, gooey, cheesy, and unbelievably creamy. Best of all, the easy mac and cheese recipe is quick to assemble, because you don’t even have to make a cheese sauce. Just stir the cooked pasta together with the sour cream, mayonnaise, and cheeses, and your work is basically done! It’s perfect for a simple weeknight dinner, and it’s always a hit at potlucks and holiday gatherings.

Square overhead shot of a bowl of the best mac and cheese recipe

Ingredients for Creamy Mac and Cheese

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pan of homemade mac and cheese. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Noodles: you’ll need a short pasta shape, such as elbow macaroni, rotini, or cavatappi (shown here). I haven’t tested it with gluten free pasta, but I imagine that would work fine, too.
  • Monterey Jack cheese and cheddar cheese: you get the flavor of the sharp cheddar cheese and the melting quality of the Monterey Jack. Of course, you can substitute with any cheeses that you enjoy. Keep it simple with just cheddar, or try Colby, Colby Jack, Gruyere, Swiss, smoked Gouda, white cheddar, Pepper Jack, or American cheese (like Velveeta).
  • Mayonnaise: use a full-fat, high-quality mayo, such as Duke’s brand.
  • Sour cream: use a full-fat variety at room temperature, which will help the sour cream combine easily with the rest of the ingredients. I always pick up an 8-ounce container of Daisy sour cream. It adds rich texture and a slightly tangy taste to the dish.
  • Panko breadcrumbs, salted butter, and garlic powder: come together to make the crispy, buttery, garlic bread crumb topping!
Draining pasta in a colander

The Best Cheeses for Mac and Cheese

I’ve used a combination of sharp cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese here, so that you get the ooey, gooey melting quality of the Monterey Jack, paired with the flavor of the cheddar. Really, you can use any combination of good melting cheeses that you prefer, so long as the total amount of cheese comes to one pound (16 ounces). For instance, try Colby, Colby Jack, Gruyere, Swiss, mozzarella, smoked Gouda, Pepper Jack, or American cheese (like Velveeta). A touch of Parmesan cheese would also add great flavor!

Adding grated cheese to a Dutch oven

How to Make Homemade Mac and Cheese

Since you don’t have to whisk a cheese sauce that starts with a butter and flour roux, this simple mac and cheese recipe comes together quickly and easily!

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well salted boiling water according to the package directions for al dente. Drain the pasta, and then return it to the pot.
  2. Stir in the cheeses, mayo, and sour cream. Mix until completely combined.
  3. Transfer the pasta mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the panko bread crumbs, melted butter, and garlic powder.
  5. Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole.
  6. Bake, uncovered, in a 350°F oven until the cheese is melted, the filling is hot and bubbly, and the topping is crispy and golden brown.
Sprinkling breadcrumbs on top of mac and cheese

How Long to Bake Mac and Cheese

This casserole goes in the oven at a 350°F for just 15-20 minutes. This short baking time is important because it’s just long enough to melt the cheese and get the noodles hot inside, but it’s not so long that it dries out the pasta and sauce. If you like a crispier crust on top, you can pop it under the broiler for a few minutes at the end.

Square side shot of a pan of baked mac and cheese

What Goes with 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, cucumber tomato onion 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 homemade mac and cheese as a side dish (it’s especially perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas), here are some entrées that go well with the casserole:

Close overhead image of a fork in a bowl of homemade mac and cheese

Make Ahead

To prep the easy mac and cheese ahead of time, assemble the dish as instructed, but do not bake. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 1-2 days. When ready to bake, allow the dish to come to room temperature on the counter for at least 30-60 minutes. Remove the cover and bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.

Close up shot of cheese pull on a serving spoon full of mac and cheese

Storage Tips for this Simple Mac and Cheese Recipe

Store leftover baked macaroni and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I do not recommend freezing this mac and cheese. The texture of the pasta will be mushy when thawed, and the sour cream-based sauce will separate or break.

How to Reheat

You can reheat leftovers in the oven or in the microwave. Cover the dish loosely with foil and reheat in a 325°F oven just until warmed through. You can remove the foil cover during the final few minutes to allow the top to brown or the edges to get crispy.

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

Square overhead shot of 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 Colby or Colby Jack, Fontina, Gruyere, Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack, gouda, smoked gouda, Swiss, or mozzarella. The options are endless, so pick your favorites!
  • Omit the breadcrumb topping, use regular breadcrumbs instead of panko, or try a different topping such as buttered Corn Flakes crumbs or crushed Ritz crackers.
  • Meat: add cooked, chopped bacon to the topping (or to the inside of the casserole), or stir in some cooked, chopped chicken or diced ham.
  • Add veggies, such as steamed broccoli, spinach, or frozen peas.
  • Seasoning: Add a touch of paprika, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, or a dash of cayenne pepper for spicy kick!
Overhead shot of a simple mac and cheese recipe served in a white bowl

Tips for the Best Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • Boil the noodles 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 sour cream and mayo 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 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 few minutes of baking. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it so that the top doesn’t burn.
  • Cooking for a larger family? Double all of the ingredients and bake the casserole in an 13 x 9-inch casserole dish.
Close overhead shot of homemade mac and cheese in a white dish

More Mac and Cheese Recipes to Try

Square featured image of homemade mac and cheese in a white baking dish

Duke’s Homemade Mac and Cheese

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings 6 – 8 people
Calories 621 kcal
The best homemade mac and cheese recipe just happens to be one of the easiest, too!

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni, cavatappi pasta, or other short, curly pasta noodles
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise, at room temperature
  • 1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley; dash of paprika

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish; set aside.
  • Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water according to package directions for al dente. The pasta should still be a little bit firm, since it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain the pasta, then return to the pot.
  • Stir in the Monterey Jack cheese, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Mix until completely combined. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, melted butter, and garlic powder. Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs on top of the pasta.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the filling is hot and bubbly and the topping is lightly browned. If the bread crumb topping isn’t as crispy and golden brown as you’d like by the time the filling is hot, just place the dish under the broiler for a minute or two.
  • Garnish with chopped fresh herbs or a dash of paprika, if desired. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • Boil the noodles 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 sour cream and mayo 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 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 few minutes of baking. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it so that the top doesn’t burn.
  • Cooking for a larger family? Double all of the ingredients and bake the casserole in an 13 x 9-inch casserole dish.
  • Recipe adapted from Duke’s mayo.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the recipeCalories: 621kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 19gFat: 48gSaturated Fat: 19gPolyunsaturated Fat: 14gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 608mgPotassium: 161mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 787IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 460mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: baked mac and cheese, creamy mac and cheese, homemade mac and cheese, mac and cheese recipe
Course: Dinner, Lunch, 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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Comments

  1. Ooh, I’d like to try this one. Creamy but I don’t need a roux. Sounds somewhat like your Squash Casserole which I liked. Any ideas on how I might make a stovetop variety where I would cook the macaroni and then add the hot macaroni to the other combined ingredients? I’m thinking about making up a couple batches of crumbs and refrigerating them to have on hand when warming a serving in the microwave. Have you ever done that? I suppose any good full-fat mayonnaise like Blue Plate or Hellman’s would work, right? It seemed to work in the Squash Casserole. They don’t sell Dukes’ out here.

    I’m looking forward to at least somewhat cooler weather so I can make friends with my range and oven. See, I have one of those evaporative, or Swamp air conditioners and it’s just one temperature which when it is in the 90s or 100s outside, still makes it in the 80s in the house which makes me really reluctant to add cooking heat. It’s the end of July, though, so the Lord willing, within maybe 6 weeks the temperatures will moderate at least somewhat.

    1. Hi, Marion! Yes, I think you could do it on the stovetop. Just add the cheese to the mayo and other ingredients, stirring over low heat, until the cheese is totally melted. Then add the cooked pasta, stir again to coat, and serve with toasted breadcrumbs on top. You can toast the breadcrumbs in a separate skillet, and then just sprinkle over top. I do that with this recipe: https://www.theseasonedmom.com/shells-and-cheese/

      And yes, I think that Hellman’s is probably a good substitute for Duke’s brand. I’m not familiar with Blue Plate. 🙂

      1. Blue plate is that other southern mayonnaise… It comes out of New Orleans. Duke’s is a bit too tart for my taste and Hellman’s, while serviceable, is a little to bland, Blue Plate, strikes the perfect balance for my taste…

  2. 5 stars
    What a surprise this was! Not only did it look amazing coming out of the oven, the taste did not disappoint. I was super skeptical about using mayonnaise and sour cream, but I took a leap of faith today. The flavor was deliciously unique and the panko topping made this dish complete. My younger daughter didnt like the topping so the rest of us fought over who got to add it to their plate . I used low fat mayo and sour cream and this was still phenomenal.

    1. Awesome!! I’m so glad that it was a hit, Joanna. I agree, it sounds too good (and too easy) to be true. 🙂