This creamy white cheddar mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. A creamy cheese sauce is flavored with sharp white cheddar and parmesan. It is made all on the stovetop and is not baked for the perfect creamy texture.
This White Cheddar Mac and Cheese is creamy, cheesy, and made all on the stovetop. When it comes to mac and cheese, you're either team baked or team creamy. If you like Panera's mac and cheese or the President's Choice boxed white cheddar mac, then you're going to love this recipe.
The best part is, this mac and cheese couldn't be easier to make. While your pasta cooks, you make a quick roux that turns into your creamy cheese sauce with strong white cheddar and parmesan. It's seasoned with pantry staples like garlic powder, black pepper, ground mustard, and a little cayenne.
This delicious creamy stovetop mac is made in under 30 minutes with a few simple ingredients. It is perfect as the main dish or as a holiday side. Try pairing it with some gluten-free garlic bread, gluten-free focaccia, or gluten-free no knead bread.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Nostalgic taste. This recipe tastes very similar to the Panera mac and cheese, or if you're in Canada, the President's Choice white cheddar mac and cheese. The homemade copycat recipe is even better and healthier than the boxed version!
- Creamy, non-baked mac and cheese! For those who like their mac and cheese with a creamy sauce and not crispy.
- Strong white cheddar flavor.
- Easy weeknight meal made in under 30 minutes.
- Made with simple ingredients. Pasta, milk, cheese, & spices are kitchen staples in this simple recipe.
- Easy to make for a crowd.
- Allergy-friendly. This recipe is nut-free and easily gluten-free.
- Enjoy as the main meal or a crowd-favorite side dish.
Love quick & easy pasta recipes? You'll also like my gluten free hamburger helper, authentic fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti aglio e olio, sausage & eggplant pasta, vegan spicy vodka sauce, and easy vegan mac and cheese.
Here is everything you'll need to make this creamy white cheddar mac and cheese:
- Short pasta: I like to use elbow pasta, mini shells, or cavatappi. Gluten free pasta should work too!
- Butter: I typically use salted but unsalted butter will work just as well.
- All purpose flour or gluten free flour/cornstarch.
- 2% milk or whole milk or heavy cream for a richer sauce.
- Sharp white cheddar cheese: Avoid pre-shredded cheese. Use a box grater to grate your own.
- Shredded parmesan cheese
- Seasonings: garlic powder, dry mustard, salt, black pepper, cayenne.
Kinds of cheese: Feel free to add any shredded cheese that you like. You could try monterey jack, white american cheese, havarti, or my suggestion would be some spicy jalapeño havarti.
Can I make this gluten free? Sure—gluten free macaroni will work. Just make sure to cook it for a few minutes less than the package states, as it can fall apart more easily. Also use gluten free flour or cornstarch in the roux.
Can I make this dairy free? The milk and cheese are a large part of the flavor and texture of this recipe, so I recommend leaving them as is. Try my vegan mac and cheese!
Add more veggies! Prior to starting the roux, sauté up any veggies you have such as zucchini, bell peppers, squash, until softened. Add them into the sauce with the pasta at the end. You could also stir in spinach to wilt.
Be sure to read the recipe card below for the full ingredient list and instructions.
(1) In a large saucepan, cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 2 minutes less than the package states. Save 1 cup of pasta water, then drain and set aside when done.
(2) While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt butter then add the flour. Whisk until a thick paste forms and continue stirring until golden, 1-3 minutes.
(3) Slowly add the milk and continue to whisk. Cook 2-4 minutes until it thickens to coat the back of a spoon.
(4) Add the cheese and seasonings. Whisk well until melted and combined.
(5) Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and gently stir until coated. Let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce for 2 minutes.
Serve topped with parsley and fresh cracked pepper!
What to Serve with White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
This white cheddar macaroni is super versatile. It can be the main meal or a delicious side carb. I like to serve it with a bread for dipping, and a side salad for some vegetables. Here are some of my favorite recipes:
- Gluten-free garlic bread
- Gluten-free focaccia
- Gluten-free no knead bread
- Crunchy kale salad
- Beet & goat cheese salad
- Prosciutto wrapped asparagus
- Charred corn
- Broccoli salad
Allow mac and cheese to cool then place in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave with a few tablespoon of milk. I do not recommend freezing this mac and cheese.
Here are some of my top tips and tricks for successful mac and cheese:
- Cook the pasta in super salty water.
- Cook the roux until golden but not burnt. It should coat the back of a spoon when ready.
- Grate your own cheese so it melts nicely.
- Season to your taste preferences.
- For best results, cook the pasta to al dente with a slight chew. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce and absorb all the flavours. Overcooked pasta may fall apart, especially since it's gluten-free pasta.
- Add milk as needed to the sauce. The pasta will absorb quite a lot.
- Add as much cheese as your heart desires. And add any type that you have on hand.
- Top with hot sauce for even more flavor!
Frequently Asked Questions
While this recipe is written to be a creamy mac and cheese, you could bake it if you wish. Make according to the recipe, then transfer into a greased 9x13" baking dish. In a small bowl, toss some panko breadcrumbs with melted butter and salt, then sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese. Add more cheese if desired. Bake at 350ºF for 20-30 minutes until golden.
Sure—use gluten free elbow macaroni and gluten free flour or cornstarch instead of the flour. Be sure not to overcook the pasta as it is more likely to fall apart.
Any type of small gluten free pasta will work for this recipe. I use Catelli gluten free macaroni, though I find this brand to be quite soft and fragile. Great Value at Walmart also makes a version of gluten free macaroni. My favourite brand of gluten free pasta is pasta rummo. Try the small chickapea pasta shells for some added protein.
Gluten free pasta can be fragile. Ensure you cook the pasta a few minutes less than the package states, as it will continue to absorb the sauce as it sits. It's okay if the pasta breaks a bit, you will still have a delicious meal.
This homemade creamy white cheddar mac and cheese recipe is a delicious comfort meal perfect for lunch or dinner in the cold weather. It's made with a few simple ingredients within 30 minutes, and the whole family is sure to enjoy!
More Quick Dinners
- Spaghetti aglio e olio
- Fettuccine alfredo without cream
- Greek chicken meatballs
- Turkey meatballs
- Air fryer trout
- Gluten-free chicken nuggets
- Air fryer halibut
- Sausage & eggplant pasta
- Gluten-free pasta salad
- Tuscan chicken & orzo skillet
Have you made this white cheddar mac and cheese? I'd very much appreciate it if you leave a 5 star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and review below, and tag me on instagram @fromoliviaskitchen!
Creamy White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- ½ lb short pasta elbow macaroni, mini shells, cavatappi, etc.
- ¼ cup salted butter
- ¼ cup all purpose flour or gluten free flour/cornstarch
- 2 cups 2% milk or heavy cream
- 2 cups shredded strong white cheddar cheese
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon each: garlic powder, mustard powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne
- In a medium saucepan, cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 2 minutes less than the package states. Save 1 cup of pasta water, then drain and set aside when done.
- While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter then add the flour. Whisk until a thick paste forms and continue stirring until golden, 1-3 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk and continue to whisk. Cook 2-4 minutes until it thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Add the cheese and seasonings. Whisk well until melted and combined.
- Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and gently stir until coated. Let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce for 2 minutes. Serve topped with parsley and fresh cracked pepper!
- Can I make this gluten free? Sure—use gluten free elbow macaroni and gluten free flour or cornstarch instead of the flour. Be sure not to overcook the pasta as it is more likely to fall apart.
- Can I make this dairy free? Unfortunately the milk and cheese are a major part of this recipe.
- Storage: Allow mac and cheese to cool then place in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave with a few tablespoon of milk.