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Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins
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Stovetop Mac and Cheese

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Stovetop mac and cheese is my go-to comfort food recipe. Any recipe that only requires 5 ingredients, one pot, and 20 minutes is amazing. This stovetop mac n’ cheese is the perfect holiday recipe because it doesn’t take up oven space and it’s so easy to customize. Throw in your favorite mix-ins or toppings for the best and easiest mac and cheese side dish ever.

How to make Stovetop Mac and Cheese

This recipe is the easiest to make and you only need a handful of pantry staples.

Tools Needed

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Pasta. Obviously, macaroni elbows are a classic, but you can swap in other small pasta shapes like mini penne, orecchiette, or small shells.
  • Evaporated Milk. Evaporated milk is milk with some of the water content removed. It’s creamier and won’t break like regular milk. You absolutely need to use evaporated milk to make this recipe work.
  • Cream. This is optional, but I love a little cream for extra richness in stovetop mac and cheese.
  • Cheese. Use your favorites here! I used a mix of sharp cheddar, fontina, and parmesan cheese. Just make sure to not buy pre-shredded cheese. It’s coated with cellulose and won’t melt very well.
  • Butter. A couple of pats of salted butter really take this mac n’ cheese recipe to the next level.

Why this recipe works

Using just barely enough water to cover the pasta ensures that your pasta water is extra starchy, creating the base for the sauce. This recipe for stovetop mac and cheese doesn’t call for any flour or roux because the starchy pasta water combined with the evaporated milk is all you need for a silky sauce. Just add your favorite cheeses and you’re ready to go! I recommend mixing some different styles of cheese together–melty, salty, and flavorful, for best results. I used a combination of sharp cheddar, fontina, and parmesan.

Options for customizing Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Think of this recipe for stovetop mac and cheese as a blank canvas for you to customize! Try adding some of these tried and true mix-ins to really make this recipe extra special.

  • Crispy bacon
  • Roasted poblano peppers
  • Jalapeños
  • Caramelized onions
  • Buttery bread crumb topping
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, or chives
  • Green peas

stovetop mac n' cheese

Stovetop Mac and Cheese FAQs

What cheese melts the best for mac and cheese?

For stovetop mac and cheese I really love using cheddar as a base! It has tons of flavor and melts really well. I also like to mix in other cheeses like fontina, colby jack, parmesan, and gruyere.

Can I use pre-shredded cheese?

Absolutely not! Pre-shredded cheese is often coated with cellulose or other additives to prevent clumping which negatively affects melting. I high recommend grating block cheese for this recipe.

Other Pasta Recipes to Try

stovetop mac n cheese

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5 ingredient stovetop mac n cheese
one pot meals

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

This is my favorite mac and cheese recipe and it only requires 5 ingredients and about 15 minutes!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins
Makes: 6 servings
scale:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz dried macaroni pasta
  • 12 oz evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 3 cups mixed shredded cheese I used a blend of sharp cheddar, fontina and freshly grated parmesan

Instructions

  • Place macaroni in a wide, shallow braiser or skillet.  Cover with cold water so that the macaroni is just submerged and no more.
  • Place the pot over a medium heat burner and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Because this recipe requires less water and no draining, the macaroni is more likely to stick and requires a bit of stirring. 
  • After about 6-7 minutes, the pasta should be al dente and the remaining water in the pan should be very thick. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer. After 2-3 minutes the pasta should be cooked through. Add the heavy cream and butter and stir until butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Notes

This recipe can be multiplied as many times as necessary to feed a crowd.
The best results come from using a wide, shallow pan like a braiser or large skillet.
Please do not use pre-shredded cheese!
The mix of cheeses is up to you, but I like to use a blend of a flavorful cheese (sharp cheddar), a melty cheese (fontina, monterey jack, or similar), and a salty cheese (freshly grated parmesan). My ratio was 1 1/2 cups cheddar, 1 cup fontina and 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan.
Feel free to add whatever mix-ins you like! Crispy bacon or caramelized onions would be delicious stirred in at the end.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 340kcalCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 11gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 500mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5g

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  1. 5 stars
    I’ve made this a few times and it’s a easy but delicious recipe especially when making a lot of other dishes during the holidays. I added cheese on top and broiled for a few minutes too. The kids loved it!

  2. 5 stars
    Made this recipe for Thanksgiving and it was a big hit! I used medium sharp cheddar, Colby jack, and added a little pinch of cayenne and garlic powder for fun. Beyond delicious! We had quite a bit of leftovers being that our Thanksgiving was much smaller than usual, and the leftovers reheat like a dream. Unlike other mac and cheese recipes I’ve tried, this one doesn’t separate or get oily. Simple, easy, and delicious – the perfect recipe for when you’re not in the mood for making rouxs or buttering breadcrumbs! Definitely will make again 🙂