Our Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food! The tender perfectly cooked pasta, the smooth and creamy texture, the over the top deliciousness of the gooey cheese, and the crisp and crunchy panko topping, you will forever be converted!
Creamy, cheesy, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs and only takes 20 minutes to pull together this delicious made-from-scratch weeknight dinner!
Table of Contents
- Homemade Mac and Cheese baked in the oven
- Baked Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- How to make Baked Mac and Cheese
- What to Serve with the Best Baked Mac and Cheese
- How to store Oven Baked Mac and Cheese
- Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese FAQs
- More Easy Pasta Recipes
- Best Baked Mac and Cheese with Bread Crumbs Recipe
- Pro Tips for Making Homemade Mac and Cheese
Homemade Mac and Cheese baked in the oven
There are very few people I know who can resist the temptation of a rich and creamy baked macaroni and cheese topped with crunchy panko! I know I can’t!
There are many versions of mac and cheese, we have a crockpot mac and cheese and our famous mac and cheese in a bread cone (copycat Disney recipe). But our all-time favorite is our baked mac and cheese.
The one thing I promise you is that once you try our baked mac and cheese from scratch you will never go back to the boxed version with the powdered cheese or the cheese sauces in the packets!
The tender perfectly cooked pasta, the smooth and creamy texture, the over the top deliciousness of the gooey cheese and the crisp and crunchy panko topping, you will forever be converted!
Baked Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Large elbow macaroni
- Olive oil
- Whole milk
- Evaporated milk
- Salt & pepper
- Mild cheddar cheese, shredded (freshly grated if possible)
- White sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Ingredients for the Panko Topping:
- Herb panko bread crumbs
How to make Baked Mac and Cheese
- COOK macaroni according to package directions but cook it 1-2 minutes under. Drain the pasta and drizzle & toss with olive oil and set aside.
- MELT butter in the pan you just cooked the pasta in.
- ADD in the flour and whisk for 3 minutes continuously.
- POUR in whole milk and whisk until all lumps are gone. Add evaporated milk, salt, and pepper and whisk until the mixture is smooth and starts to boil and to thicken.
- STIR in cheese until melted. Remove from heat.
- STIR in the cooked macaroni shells.
- POUR into the prepared baking dish.
- SPRINKLE with remaining cheese.
- MIX together the Panko bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
- BAKE for 20-25 minutes on 350 degrees until cheese is bubbly and top is golden brown.
NOTE: See recipe card below for full and detailed instructions.
Tips to make the Best Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe
- First and foremost, use only the highest quality ingredients: aged cheddar cheese, creamy butter and full-fat whole milk in order to get the creamiest sauce possible.
- Additionally, avoid pre-shredded cheese as it contains anti-caking agents that can affect the flavor of your dish.
- Another important tip is to add a layer of panko crumbs on top for an irresistible crunchy topping.
- Finally, make sure to bake your mac and cheese until it’s golden brown and bubbly for maximum flavor!
What to Serve with the Best Baked Mac and Cheese
How to store Oven Baked Mac and Cheese
IN THE FRIDGE: Store in the fridge for 2-3 days. We recommend storing it without the breadcrumbs, they will get kind of soggy. If you are planning on storing it, only bake the amount your want to eat now and put the rest in the fridge and bake with the panko when ready to eat. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
IN THE FREEZER: Ditto for freezing the recipe. Stop before you bake with the panko on top and store it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. When you are ready to make it, let it defrost and add the panko topping and bake following the instructions in the recipe card.
How to prep Oven Baked Mac and Cheese ahead of time
Make as directed but do not bake. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days.
How to freeze Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese
We like to store our mac and cheese in portions so we can just reheat what just what we need. Cutting any leftover mac and cheese into individual portions and place each portion onto a sheet pan or dish, and freeze for about two hours. Once frozen, transfer mac and cheese to airtight containers or freezer bags. When you’re ready to enjoy your frozen mac and cheese, simply place it in an oven-safe dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese FAQs
You can bake it uncovered in the oven. If it starts to get too brown on top, loosely cover with foil.
Baked mac and cheese can become dry if the cheese is not properly melted. This happens when there isn’t enough liquid or fat (like butter) added to the mix before baking. Additionally, over-baking also causes the dish to dry out as all of the moisture is cooked off.
There are a few possible reasons why your dish might not be as creamy as you’d like. The most likely culprit is that you didn’t use enough cheese or that the type of cheese used was not suitable for baking. Additionally, too much pasta or too little milk can also prevent the cheese sauce from getting creamy and smooth. Finally, the oven temperature might have been set too high, causing the cheese to overcook.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
Note: This recipe was updated on November 15, 2020.
Best Baked Mac and Cheese with Bread Crumbs
- 2 ½ cups large elbow macaroni
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 24 ounces evaporated milk (2) 12-ounce cans
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 ½ cups mild cheddar cheese shredded (freshly grated if possible)
- 2 ½ cups white sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 1 cup herb panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- In a large pan cook the macaroni according to package directions but cook it 1-2 minutes UNDER. It will continue cooking as it bakes later. Drain the pasta and drizzle the olive oil over it and toss it to keep it from drying out while you prepare the sauce. Set aside.
- In the pan you just cooked the pasta in melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted add in the flour and whisk for about 3 minutes whisking constantly being careful not to burn the flour.
- Pour in the whole milk and whisk until all lumps are gone and mixture is smooth.
- Add the 2 cans of evaporated milk, salt and pepper and whisk until mixture is smooth and starts to boil and to thicken.
- Stir in 4 cups of the cheese and stir until cheese is melted.
- Remove from heat and stir in the cooked macaroni shells.
- Pour into the prepared baking dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining one cup of shredded cheese over the top of the mac and cheese.
- In a small bowl mix together the Panko bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and top is golden brown.
Pro Tips for Making Homemade Mac and Cheese
- Block cheese! Don’t buy the packaged shredded cheese. Take a few extra minutes and take a block of cheese and shred it. I promise it will be worth the time investment!
- Can you skip baking the mac and cheese? Well, then it isn’t really baked mac and cheese, but yes, you can. If you don’t have time to throw it in the oven, I would skip the toppings. It is still super yummy and won’t affect the overall taste, but take the extra few minutes and put the panko toppings on and throw it in the oven – you will thank me!
- Add in’s – Try these amazing add in’s and throw them into your mac and cheese to up the make and cheese game: Crab, lobster, parmesan cheese, bacon, chicken, broccoli.
- Try different combinations of shredded cheeses – some others that we really love are Monterey jack cheese, pepper jack cheese, mozzarella cheese, and gouda cheese.
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups evaporated milk
8 ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese grated
8 ounces Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese grated Toppings 1 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons butter melted
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Add macaroni, water, and salt to a large skillet. Place over high heat and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes or until the water has cooked down. Stir consistently.
- Add evaporated milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted completely.
- In a small bowl, mix topping ingredients until well combined. Generously sprinkle over macaroni.
- Place dish under a low broiler for 5 minutes or until golden brown and serve immediately.