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Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
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Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

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Southern Baked Mac and Cheese is a ridiculously creamy, cheesy, soulful baked mac and cheese loaded with 4 cheeses and flavorful spices! There are so many ways to make mac and cheese, but this recipe and method is just extra special.

Southern baked mac and cheese is a holiday staple and so perfect for Christmas. It’s a crowd-pleaser that all your guests will love!

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

The ultimate mac and cheese recipe for the holidays: Southern Baked Mac and Cheese! Pasta is tossed into a velvety, rich creamy sauce made with 4 cheeses and flavorful spices.

If you know me, you know that mac and cheese is the side dish I reach for first! My white cheddar mac and cheese and my 5-ingredient stovetop mac and cheese are staples during the holiday season. But, now I have a new favorite recipe and it’s this southern-style baked mac and cheese.

Instead of building a cheese sauce out of a roux, al dente pasta is mixed with sour cream, evaporated milk, heavy cream, eggs, and spices before being layered with tons of cheese. The end result is an ultra-flavorful, out-of-this-world cheesy mac and cheese recipe.

This recipe is perfect for any holiday table and pairs perfectly with so many main dishes!

southern baked mac and cheese

A QUICK, IMPORTANT NOTE:

Something important to acknowledge before we jump into the details of this recipe is the cultural significance of mac & cheese throughout the South, & especially for the Black community. While this creamy baked mac and cheese recipe is inspired by the soulfulness of serving mac and cheese with a holiday meal, this recipe is by no means an attempt at being an authentic soul food dish.

For real-deal soul food Southern mac and cheese, check out this recipe from Quin of Butter be Ready! Quin’s recipe calls for four kinds of cheese, yielding the most perfectly ooey-gooey baked mac and cheese with a browned crust.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

Delicious – Like I said, this recipe is fantastic! This incredible cheesy pasta is the perfect holiday side dish or a comforting main dish. It’s loaded with savory flavors and will be your new go-to mac and cheese recipe!

Family and crowd favorite – Any Mac and Cheese is a family favorite, especially during this time of year! The secret is getting your hands on the best recipe! This recipe can become a tradition and food-proof recipe to pull out anytime.

Easy vegetarian side dish – With Thanksgiving and Christmas being sort of meat-heavy holidays, I love having a couple of vegetarian sides for my guests. This Southern Baked Mac and Cheese recipe is so, so good!

southern baked mac and cheese

How to Make Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

This is an easy mac and cheese side dish that you’ll turn to over and over again!

Tools Needed

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Pasta. I like classic elbow pasta here, but you can swap in just about any short-form pasta.
  • Evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is a must here as it provides the backbone to the sauce and won’t curdle the way milk will. Don’t use a low fat version.
  • Sour cream. Sour cream also adds richness and tang to the recipe.
  • Eggs. This might feel like an odd ingredient, but I cannot tell you how good it is! The eggs add richness and help bind the sauce.
  • Spices. You’ll need paprika, garlic powder, mustard powder, cayenne, salt and pepper here.
  • Chicken bouillon. This is an optional ingredient, but simmering the pasta in water saturated with bouillon adds lots of flavor.
  • Cheese. I used a mix of sharp cheddar, fontina, and smoked gouda.
  • Velveeta. This may be a controversial ingredient, but the nuggets of velveeta in the mac and cheese melt into perfect little pockets of molten cheese making this mac and cheese even creamier.
  • Fried onions. Topping the mac and cheese with fried onions truly takes it to another level! If you’re not an onion fan, you can skip this.

The Process

  1. Prep the cheeses. Use a box grater to shred the cheddar, fontina, and smoked gouda. Mix them all together so that the cheeses are evenly mixed. Set aside. Cut the velveeta into small cubes and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the bouillon, if using. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta to the water and stir well. Cook until al dente, usually 2-3 minutes shy of the package instructions.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the eggs and the evaporated until very smooth. This is important! You don’t want any visible un-mixed egg so whisk until the egg is totally incorporated. Then, whisk in the spices, salt, pepper, and heavy cream until smooth.
  4. Drain and mix the pasta. Drain the pasta in a colander and then immediately transfer to a large mixing bowl while still warm. Stir in the sour cream. Add 1/3 of the cheese to the mixing bowl and stir while drizzling in half of the milk mixture. The goal is mix until the cheese is starting to melt.
  5. Layer the mac and cheese. Pour half of the macaroni mixture into the prepared dish. Top with another 1/3 of the cheese and the cubed velveeta. Top with the rest of the macaroni mixture and pour the remaining milk mixture over the top. Top with the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, top with the onions and bake 5 minutes more until the top is browned and the mac and cheese is hot and bubbling. Remove it from the oven and let it rest 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe Tips & Tricks

Southern baked mac and cheese is easy to make, but there are always tips to help you perfectly execute. Here are all my best tips and tricks:

Grate your own cheese. I know it’s an additional step but so worth it. It makes a huge difference to shred the blocks of cheese yourself using a food processor or boxed grater. Pre-shredded bags of cheese contain a white powdery substance called cellulose. That anti-caking agent prevents the cheese from having that ultra creaminess level.

Don’t overcook the pasta. This is super important! The pasta will continue cooking as it bakes and if you overcook it you’ll end up with mushy pasta. Cook your pasta until it is al dente (cooked, but firm). I usually achieve this right around 7-8 minutes, depending on the shape.

Season your pasta water. This is the only opportunity you have to season the pasta itself! You don’t want bland mac and cheese, so make sure to season your pasta water well. This is also why I use bouillon in the water.

Don’t go low fat. I cannot recommend making this with a low fat or fat free version of evaporated milk. The heavy cream also plays an important part so that the sauce doesn’t curdle. This is the time to truly indulge!

Don’t make ahead. There are a couple of things you can do like prep the cheeses, but this is a mac and cheese recipe best made in the moment and baked right away.

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

Ways to Customize Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

This is an easy recipe to customize to your tastes! I love this southern baked mac and cheese recipe as is, but here are a few ways to jazz things up:

  1. Add fresh herbs. You can totally kick things up with some fresh herbs like chives, rosemary, sage, or parsley.
  2. Swap the pasta. Elbows are classic here, but you could use cavatappi, shells, or even lumache which is like a shellbow combination!
  3. Add bacon. Bacon makes everything better right? Stir in some crispy bacon pieces to add a smoky, savory flavor.
  4. Add veggies. Add some diced fresh jalapeño for a bit of spice! You could also add some sautéed bell peppers, spinach, or caramelized onions.
  5. Add a protein. Want to make this into a main dish? Stir in some grilled chicken, pulled pork, or shredded beef.

What to Serve with Mac and Cheese

While this southern baked mac and cheese would make an amazing Thanksgiving or Holiday side dish, it’s also perfect for pairing with any weeknight dinner.

Here are some of my favorite main dishes to pair with mac and cheese!

Storage Instructions

Any leftovers need to be refrigerated and covered tightly.  Mac and cheese can be stored this way for 3-4 days. The mac and cheese will lose a little bit of creaminess from being refrigerated.  I do not recommend freezing this dish.

To reheat, stir in a little bit of milk or cream and microwave partially covered with plastic wrap.  Stir often as it reheats. You can also reheat it on the stovetop with a bit of cream or milk.

southern baked mac and cheese


Southern Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate cheesy and gooey side dish! It’s perfect for holidays and weeknight dinners alike. If you do give this recipe a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly newsletter and never miss a new recipe! You can also snap a photo & tag @JENNYGOYCOCHEA on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your SMF creations!

More Side Dish Recipes to Try

Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Skillet Cornbread
Parmesan Creamed Corn
Garlic Sautéed Green Beans
Cheesy Hasselback Potato Gratin

This post contains affiliate links from which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Affiliate links allow me to keep providing great recipes for free and I never recommend products that I don’t love and personally own.

southern baked mac and cheese
Side Dish

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese is a ridiculously creamy, cheesy, soulful baked mac and cheese loaded with 4 cheeses and flavorful spices! There are so many ways to make mac and cheese, but this recipe and method is just extra special.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 10 – 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 16 oz dried elbow pasta
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube, optional
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar
  • 8 oz fontina
  • 4 oz smoked gouda
  • 8 oz velveeta
  • 12 oz full-fat evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup crispy fried onions, optional

Instructions

  • Preheat an oven to 375 F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with the softened butter and set aside.
  • Prep the cheeses. Use a box grater to shred the cheddar, fontina, and smoked gouda. Mix them all together so that the cheeses are evenly mixed. Set aside. Cut the velveeta into small cubes and set aside.
  • Cook the pasta. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the bouillon, if using. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta to the water and stir well. Cook until al dente, usually 2-3 minutes shy of the package instructions.
  • Mix the wet ingredients. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the eggs and the evaporated milk until very smooth. This is important! You don't want any visible un-mixed egg so whisk until the egg is totally incorporated. Then, whisk in the spices, salt, pepper, and heavy cream until smooth.
  • Drain and mix the pasta. Drain the pasta in a colander and then immediately transfer to a large mixing bowl while still warm. Stir in the sour cream. Add 1/3 of the cheese to the mixing bowl and stir while drizzling in half of the milk mixture. The goal is mix until the cheese is starting to melt.
  • Layer the mac and cheese. Pour half of the macaroni mixture into the prepared dish. Top with another 1/3 of the cheese and the cubed velveeta. Top with the rest of the macaroni mixture and pour the remaining milk mixture over the top. Top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, top with the fried onions and bake 5 minutes more until the top is browned and the mac and cheese is hot and bubbling. Remove it from the oven and let it rest 15 minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 723kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 34gFat: 46gSaturated Fat: 26gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 315mgSodium: 1232mgPotassium: 456mgFiber: 2gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 1851IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 659mgIron: 2mg

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