4.43 from 7 votes

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Are you craving a comforting and cheesy dish that’s easy to make? Look no further than stovetop mac and cheese! This classic dish is a favorite among many and can be whipped up in just a few simple steps. Whether cooking for yourself or feeding a crowd, stovetop mac and cheese is a delicious option to please everyone.

A pot of stovetop mac and cheese.

This homemade mac recipe is truly the best! Cheesy mac and cheese has rich and smooth flavors from cheddar cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper.

Creamy stovetop mac is a favorite of mine because it is so simple, yet perfect in so many ways. The soft noodles are mixed with a delicious cheesy sauce that is perfectly creamy and gives this homemade macaroni and cheese recipe all the comfort it needs! 

This stovetop macaroni tastes way better than the boxed stuff, and instead, it truly tastes like the classic Southern-style macaroni and cheese that we all love. 

This classic recipe is not baked and fits whenever you want yummy macaroni and cheese ready in less than 30 minutes. 

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    One of the best things about stovetop mac and cheese is how customizable it is. You can use a different pasta shapes, from elbow macaroni to shells to penne. And when it comes to cheese, the possibilities are endless. Cheddar is a classic choice, but you can also mix in different kinds of cheese like Gouda, Parmesan, or even blue cheese for a unique flavor. You can add extra crunch and texture to extras like bacon, jalapenos, or breadcrumbs.

    recipe binder image

    Why You’ll Love Stovetop Mac and Cheese

    • Quick and easy: Unlike baked macaroni and cheese, which can take over an hour to cook, stovetop mac and cheese can be ready in 30 minutes. This makes it a great option for busy weeknights or when you’re short on time.
    • Customizable: Stovetop mac and cheese is incredibly versatile, and you can customize it to your liking. You can add cheeses, spices, and mix-ins like bacon or broccoli. You can create a mac and cheese tailored to your taste preferences.
    • Creamy and delicious: Stovetop mac and cheese is known for its creamy, cheesy sauce that coats each noodle. The sauce is made from scratch, which means it’s much richer and more flavorful than the boxed mac and cheese you may have grown up with. I love all that cheesy goodness!
    • Budget-friendly: Mac and cheese is a budget-friendly meal that can feed a crowd. By making it on the stovetop, you can save even more money using ingredients you likely already have.
    • Kid-friendly: Kids love mac and cheese, and stovetop mac and cheese is no exception. It’s a great way to get picky eaters to try new foods, and you can even get them involved in the cooking process by having them help stir the sauce or sprinkle on toppings.


    The full printable recipe card with measurements and instructions is found at the bottom of the post.

    • Macaroni: I use classic macaroni pasta shells and elbow pasta. You can use any kind of short pasta to absorb the creamy cheese sauce. 
    • Butter: Macaroni and cheese is not complete without butter. Either salted or unsalted butter is fine! 
    • Cheddar Cheese: Shredded cheese makes this stovetop mac and cheese cheesy and delicious. Grate your own cheddar cheese to bring things up a notch, or just use pre-shredded cheese. My favorite is sharp cheddar cheese.
    • Sour Cream: Sour cream gives this macaroni and cheese an extra level of rich creaminess and is a secret for the best flavors.
    • Salt and Pepper: Any sea salt and black pepper will be enough for this recipe! 
    Ingredients to make stovetop mac and cheese.

    How to Make the Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese

    • Step One: In a saucepan or Dutch oven, cook the pasta according to the package’s directions. Be sure to add enough water to cover the noodles.
    • Step Two: Drain the pasta in the sink with a colander and transfer it back to the pot once the pasta is done.
    • Step Three: On low heat, melt butter and stir until it fully melts. Be sure to make sure there are no large pieces of butter in the pasta.
    Steps to make stovetop mac and cheese.
    • Step Four: Add the shredded cheese to the pasta. Mix until fully combined and the cheese is melted.
    • Step Five: Add sour cream, salt, and pepper. Stir and heat the mac and cheese over low heat until the sauce and noodles are fully combined.
    • Step Six: Remove the pasta from the heat and enjoy! 
    Steps to make stovetop mac and cheese.

    Equipment Needed

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    • Measuring cups and spoons: I love these stainless steel measuring cups and spoons because they are easy to clean and use! 
    • 5-quart stockpot: This stockpot can cook almost anything! I like to use it when preparing large soups, pasta recipes, rice, etc. 
    • Box grater: If you are shredding your cheese, you will want to ensure you have a strong box grater. I like this stainless steel grater because it is durable and holds up. 

    What to Serve with Stovetop Mac and Cheese

    Easy stovetop mac and cheese is tasty with all sorts of lunch and dinner recipes. We enjoy macaroni and cheese with air fryer asparaguscompany peassweet and sour carrots, and more! Some other ideas include:

    • Green Salad: A simple green salad with a light vinaigrette can complement the rich and creamy mac and cheese. You can use any greens you like, such as spinach, arugula, or mixed greens, and add some sliced cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion for extra flavor and crunch.
    • Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts can be a great way to balance out the richness of the mac and cheese. Toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in the oven until they’re tender and slightly crispy.
    • Grilled Chicken: Grilled chicken is a protein-packed option that adds flavor and texture to your meal. Marinate the chicken in your favorite seasoning or sauce, or season it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder before grilling.
    • Garlic Bread: Garlic bread is a classic side dish that pairs well with many pasta dishes, including mac and cheese. You can make your garlic bread by spreading some butter, minced garlic, and parsley on a baguette or Italian bread and toasting it in the oven until golden brown.
    • Fruit Salad: A fruit salad can be a refreshing and healthy option to balance out the richness of the mac and cheese. You can use any fruit you like, such as strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, mango, and pineapple, and mix it with some honey, lime juice, and mint for extra flavor.
    Stovetop mac and cheese in a pot with a serving spoon.

    Variations and Substitutions

    • Instead of sour cream, you can try heavy cream, whole milk, cream cheese, or evaporated milk.
    • Use any cheese you like, such as Monterey Jack, Spicy Pepper Jack, Gouda, Pimento, Gruyere, Colby Jack, or white cheddar.
    • Add chopped cooked bacon for bacon macaroni and cheese.

    Vegan Options

    Swap out the dairy products for a vegan version of stovetop mac and cheese for plant-based alternatives. Here are some ingredient substitutions to consider:

    • Use vegan butter or margarine instead of regular butter.
    • Replace cow’s milk with almond, soy, or other non-dairy milk.
    • Use nutritional yeast instead of cheese for a cheesy flavor.
    • Try using cashews or silken tofu to create a creamy sauce.

    Gluten-Free Choices

    If you’re avoiding gluten, you can still enjoy stovetop mac and cheese using gluten-free pasta and other ingredients. Here are some options to consider:

    • Use gluten-free pasta from rice, corn, quinoa, or other gluten-free grains.
    A serving spoon with mac and cheese.

    Storage Instructions

    Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you’re storing the mac and cheese while it’s still warm, let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge. This will prevent condensation from forming inside the container and make the mac and cheese soggy.

    How to Reheat

    If you have a leftover mac and cheese stovetop, you may wonder how to reheat it without sacrificing its creamy texture and delicious flavor. Here are some tips to help you reheat your stovetop mac and cheese to perfection.

    Reheat on the Stovetop

    Reheating mac and cheese on the stovetop is a quick and easy method that allows you to maintain the dish’s creamy texture. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Place the leftover mac and cheese in a saucepan.
    2. Add a splash of milk or cream to the pan. This will help to loosen the sauce and prevent it from drying out.
    3. Heat the pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mac and cheese is heated.
    4. If the sauce seems too thick, add more milk or cream until you reach the desired consistency.

    Reheat in the Microwave

    Reheating stovetop mac and cheese in the microwave is a convenient option for those who don’t have access to a stove or who are short on time. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Transfer the leftover mac and cheese to a microwave-safe dish.
    2. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap.
    3. Microwave the mac and cheese on high for 30 seconds.
    4. Stir the mac and cheese and microwave for another 30 seconds.
    5. Continue microwaving and stirring in 30-second intervals until the mac and cheese is heated.

    Reheat in the Oven

    Reheating stovetop mac and cheese in the oven is a great option to achieve a crispy, golden-brown crust on top. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
    2. Transfer the leftover mac and cheese to an oven-safe dish.
    3. Cover the dish with foil.
    4. Bake the mac and cheese for 20 minutes.
    5. Remove the foil cover and bake for 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy.

    It’s important to note that while stovetop mac and cheese can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, the texture may change slightly after being reheated. The cheese sauce may become thicker or grainy, but it should still be safe to eat if it has been stored properly.

    Can I Freeze?

    If you have leftovers of your stovetop mac and cheese, you might wonder if you can freeze it for later. The good news is that you can freeze your mac and cheese, which can last up to three months in the freezer. 

    How to Freeze Stovetop Mac and Cheese

    1. Let your mac and cheese cool to room temperature before freezing.
    2. Portion your mac and cheese into freezer-friendly containers or freezer bags. Make sure to leave some space for expansion.
    3. Label your containers or bags with the date and contents.
    4. Place your containers or bags in the freezer.

    How to Reheat Frozen Stovetop Mac and Cheese

    When you’re ready to eat your frozen mac and cheese, you must reheat it properly to ensure it stays creamy and delicious. Here are some ways to reheat your mac and cheese:

    • Microwave: Place your mac and cheese in a microwave-safe dish and microwave it for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until heated.
    • Stovetop: Heat your mac and cheese in a pot over low heat, stirring occasionally until it’s heated through.
    • Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place your mac and cheese in an oven-safe dish and bake it for 20-25 minutes or until heated.

    Tips for Freezing Stovetop Mac and Cheese

    • Use freezer-friendly containers or bags to store your mac and cheese.
    • Don’t freeze your mac and cheese for more than three months.
    • Freeze your mac and cheese in small portions to thaw only what you need.
    • Make sure to label your containers or bags with the date and contents.
    • Thaw your mac and cheese in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it.
    • Don’t refreeze your mac and cheese once it’s been thawed.
    Two bowls of stovetop mac and cheese.

    Recipe Tips and Tricks

    • Use good quality cheese: The key to delicious mac and cheese is good quality. Choose a sharp cheddar or a combination of cheddar and other cheeses like Gouda or Gruyere for added depth of flavor.
    • Grate cheese yourself: Pre-shredded cheese often contains added ingredients to prevent clumping, which can affect the texture of your mac and cheese. Grate cheese yourself for the best results.
    • Cook pasta al dente: Overcooked pasta can turn mushy and affect the texture of your mac and cheese. For the perfect texture, cook pasta al dente or slightly firm to the bite.
    • Stir frequently: Stirring frequently helps prevent the sauce from burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. Use a whisk or a wooden spoon to stir the sauce as it cooks.
    • Add seasonings to taste: Add seasonings like salt, pepper, or paprika. Start with a small amount and adjust as needed to suit your preferences.
    • Serve immediately: Mac and cheese is best served immediately after cooking. If you need to reheat leftovers, add milk or cream to the pan to help restore the creamy texture.

    Common Mistakes and Solutions

    When it comes to stovetop mac and cheese, people tend to make a few common mistakes. Here are some solutions to help you avoid these pitfalls and create the perfect mac and cheese every time.

    Cheese Clumping

    Cheese clumping is one of the most common issues people face when making stovetop mac and cheese. This can happen when you add the cheese all at once or when the heat is too high. To avoid this, try the following solutions:

    • Shred your cheese before adding it to the pot. This will help it melt more evenly and prevent clumping.
    • Add the cheese gradually, stirring constantly. This will help it melt evenly and prevent clumps from forming.
    • Lower the heat to medium-low once you add the cheese. This will help it melt slowly and prevent it from clumping together.

    Overcooked Pasta

    Another common mistake people make when making stovetop mac and cheese is overcooking pasta. This can result in mushy, unappetizing noodles. Here are some solutions to help you avoid this issue:

    • Cook the pasta according to the package directions, but check it a minute or two before the recommended cooking time. You want the pasta to be al dente, which means it should be cooked but still slightly firm to the bite.
    • Drain the pasta immediately once it’s done cooking. Leaving it in hot water can cause it to continue cooking and become mushy.
    • Rinse the pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent it from sticking together.

    History of Mac and Cheese

    Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food that has been enjoyed by people all over the world for centuries. The origins of mac and cheese can be traced back to medieval Europe, where pasta and cheese casseroles were popular among the wealthy.

    In the 14th century, an Italian cookbook called Liber de Coquina featured a recipe for a dish made with Parmesan cheese and pasta. This dish was similar to modern-day mac and cheese but baked in the oven instead of on the stovetop.

    In England, a cheese and pasta casserole known as “makerouns” was recorded in the 14th-century medieval English cookbook, the Forme of Cury. This dish was made with fresh cheese, cream, and spices and baked in the oven.

    Mac and cheese as we know it today became popular in the United States in the late 1800s. In 1861, a New England dairy farmer named William Lawrence created the first commercially available cheese, a type of cheddar that could be easily grated. This made making mac and cheese at home easier, and the dish quickly became a staple in American households.

    During World War II, mac and cheese became even more popular because it was cheap and easy to make. The U.S. government even included a recipe for mac and cheese in a cookbook called the Victory Binding of the American Woman’s Cookbook.

    Today, mac and cheese is enjoyed worldwide and can be made in many ways. Some people prefer baked mac and cheese, while others prefer stovetop mac and cheese. Some people like to add bacon, breadcrumbs, or other toppings to their mac and cheese, while others like it plain and simple. Regardless of how you want your mac and cheese, there’s no denying that it’s a delicious and comforting dish that has stood the test of time.

    A bowl of stovetop mac and cheese.

    What Cheese is Best in Mac and Cheese?

    Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food enjoyed by many. One of the most important ingredients in this dish is the cheese. But with so many types of cheese available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. Here are some of the best cheeses to use in mac and cheese:


    Cheddar is a classic cheese for mac and cheese. It has a sharp, tangy flavor that pairs well with the dish’s creaminess. Cheddar also melts well, making it a great choice for a gooey and cheesy mac and cheese.


    Gouda is a milder cheese that adds a creamy and nutty flavor to mac and cheese. It has a smooth texture and melts quickly, making it a great choice for a velvety and indulgent mac and cheese.


    Fontina is a semi-soft cheese that is slightly nutty and buttery in flavor. It melts well and adds a rich and creamy texture to mac and cheese. Fontina is also great to mix with other varieties, such as cheddar or Gruyere.


    Gruyere is a hard cheese that melts nicely and has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. Its saltiness helps cut through the heavy fats in the dish. Gruyere is a great cheese for a unique and sophisticated flavor to introduce to mac and cheese.


    Parmesan is a hard cheese that adds a sharp and salty flavor to mac and cheese. It is also a great cheese to use as a topping, adding a crispy and savory texture to the dish.

    When choosing the best cheese for mac and cheese, it is important to consider the cheese’s flavor, texture, and melting point. Experiment with different combinations to find your perfect mac and cheese recipe.

    What Spices Pair Well with Mac and Cheese?

    Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food that is loved by many. While it’s delicious, adding spices can take it to the next level. Here are some spices that pair well with mac and cheese:

    • Paprika: Adds a smoky and slightly sweet flavor to mac and cheese. It also gives it a beautiful reddish-orange color. Use smoked paprika for a stronger smoky flavor or sweet paprika for a milder taste.
    • Garlic Powder: Adds a savory and slightly pungent flavor to mac and cheese. It’s a versatile spice that works well with many different dishes. Use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way.
    • Mustard Powder: Adds a tangy and slightly spicy flavor to mac and cheese. It also helps to cut through the richness of the cheese sauce. Use it in small amounts, as it can be overpowering.
    • Nutmeg: Adds a warm and slightly sweet flavor to mac and cheese. It pairs well with creamy dishes and helps enhance the cheese sauce’s flavor. Use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way.
    • Cayenne Pepper: Adds a spicy and slightly smoky flavor to mac and cheese. Use it sparingly if you’re sensitive to heat. It works well with the smoky flavor of paprika.
    • Thyme: Adds a subtle and earthy flavor to mac and cheese. It pairs well with many different kinds of cheese and helps balance the dish’s richness. Use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way.


    Can I Use Preshredded Cheese?

    You may be tempted to use pre-shredded cheese for your stovetop mac and cheese recipe, but it’s not always the best option.
    Preshredded cheese often contains additives and anti-clumping agents that can affect the texture and flavor of your mac and cheese. It also doesn’t melt as smoothly as freshly grated cheese, which can result in a grainy and lumpy sauce.
    However, if you’re short on time, you can still use pre-shredded cheese as a shortcut. Remember that your mac and cheese quality may not be as good as when using freshly grated cheese.
    If you decide to use pre-shredded cheese, choose a high-quality brand that doesn’t contain any additives or anti-clumping agents. Look for cheese labeled as “natural” or “organic,” and avoid anything containing cellulose or starch.
    To ensure that your cheese melts evenly, mix in a small amount of cornstarch or flour before adding it to the sauce. This will help thicken the sauce and prevent the cheese from clumping together.

    How Many Servings Does This Recipe Make?

    This recipe makes about 5 servings.

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    4.43 from 7 votes

    Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese

    Created by Stacie Vaughan
    Servings 5
    Prep Time 10 minutes
    Cook Time 20 minutes
    Total Time 30 minutes
    Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? This quick, creamy and cheesy dish is so simple to make, you will never want mac and cheese from a box again!


    • 4 cups macaroni uncooked
    • ¼ cup salted butter
    • 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • salt & pepper to taste


    • Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot on the stove.
    • Heat on low and add in butter and stir until melted. Stir in shredded cheese until melted.
    • Add in sour cream and salt and pepper. Heat over low until sauce is covering all the noodles.



    You can try other kinds of cheese in this recipe. I’ve used Big Brother cheese in the past.


    Serving: 1g | Calories: 509kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 442mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g

    The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

    Course Casseroles
    Cuisine American
    Keyword Stovetop Mac and Cheese

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    4.43 from 7 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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    Recipe Rating


    1. Elaine Buonsante says:

      I love macaroni and cheese and this recipe sounds delicious!

    2. I might like to switch this up and add my homemade greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

    3. Lynda Cook says:

      Wow can’t get any easier than this, This is a great recipe to make when your rushed and everyone loves mac and cheese!!

    4. Shirley OFlynn says:

      A great recipe, so fast & easy to prepare.

    5. 5 stars
      I made this recipe and it worked out great!

    6. 5 stars
      I made it yesterday for a get together that’s why i wanted the recipe and it went over great, it was very good
      thank you

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