This extra easy, ultra creamy, super cheesy homemade mac and cheese is made on the stovetop in two simple steps and takes less than 15 minutes to make.
This recipe is brought to you by Kroger
We are major mac and cheese aficionados. Like every kid, it was a favorite lunch and dinner growing up. And if it had sliced hot dogs in it, it was even better.
Later as adults, it was my husband’s go-to late night meal to soak up the spirits from the evening’s festivities. And, of course, making a batch of my BEST baked homemade mac and cheese is always on the menu for special occasions when feeding a crowd.
But here’s why making this macaroni and cheese recipe is my quick dinner show down now:
- It’s made with ingredients in the pantry but no longer from the blue box.
- It’s all real cheese.
- There’s no need to make a roux.
- Heck, we even skip draining the noodles.
Guys, we’ve made it all so much simpler to make this stovetop mac and cheese the easiest, creamiest, cheesiest mac and cheese you’ll ever make.
While we’re sheltering in place, shopping for long-lasting foods for easy recipes is what everyone’s craving now.
While I don’t go everyday like I used to, I’ve still been shopping at my Smith’s Grocery where I’m thankful to see my usual checkers doing their usual best to be kind and efficient while shoppers are being courteous in our distancing ways. I’ve shown my mom how to create her own shopping list online for her and my dad to do the free pickup for seniors, and I’m grateful to know she’s being safe while shopping during their senior shopping hours too. With so much change, and so many in need of so much, it’s good to know Kroger’s doing their part through their Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation that’s recently donated over $3 million dollars to food banks nationwide.
To be safe and healthy, that too is what we’re all craving now.
What’s In This Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
The list of ingredients in this mac and cheese is basic, but there are two ingredients that really lend the most to it’s creamy success: Evaporated milk and American cheese. Yep, adding those two processed but real foods make this meal the cheesiest, and creamy even as it cools to room temperature.
- Small macaroni noodles such as elbow, spiral, shells
- Evaporated milk
- Kosher salt
- Ground mustard
- Garlic powder (optional)
- American cheese
- Mild cheddar cheese
Why Use Evaporate Milk in Mac and Cheese
Regular macaroni and cheese is typically made with fresh milk. So what can you substitute for milk in mac and cheese? Evaporated milk is the answer.
But evaporated milk can be somewhat confusing. Is it real milk or is it pseudo-milk?
Evaporated milk is real cow’s milk that’s been cooked down so some of the water content evaporates, creating a shelf-stable, always at the ready ingredient. I buy the Kroger brand of evaporated milk and always have a stash on hand in my pantry, for mac and cheese and those times I run out of milk for my coffee. It’s a good sub. It’s concentrated and has a slightly heavier taste than fresh milk.
In macaroni and cheese, evaporated milk keeps the cheese from breaking and becoming either chalky or greasy because there’s less moisture to contend with.
What Kind of Cheese is Best for Mac and Cheese
In this recipe, we’re cooking from scratch to match the flavor and taste of the boxed version of macaroni and cheese so choosing milder cheeses works best.
I use two cheeses for this recipe, with each contributing its own merits to make a mac and cheese that is smooth and lush but not overly cloying.
- Cheddar cheese. Choose a block of mild or medium cheddar cheese for flavor and be sure to shred it yourself for the best meltability factor.
- American cheese. American cheese is what gives this mac and cheese the extra creamy factor. I get it from the Smith’s Grocery deli counter where six slices works just right.
But is American cheese even real?
American cheese is a 100 year old way of cheesemaking that preserves the protein of milk longer than in traditional cheeses. It’s made from milk, rennet, and salt, just like every other cheese, and shouldn’t be confused with the single slices of processed cheese sold in packages.
How to Make Creamy Mac and Cheese from Scratch
In this recipe, we cook the noodles with the water and evaporated milk together from the start so there’s no draining of the noodles needed.
Add the water, evaporated milk, butter and noodles to a sauce pan and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Boiling these ingredients all at once adds starch from the noodles to the sauce, thickening as it cooks. Plus, it plain and simple makes things easier with no draining needed.
*NOTE* Keep a keen eye on the pot as it comes to a boil so it doesn’t boil over. Adding the evaporated milk to the water and noodles raises the internal heat and adds more bubbles so the mixture will overflow in an instant if you turn away for long.
Add a Hint of Flavor
Add ground mustard and kosher salt to the noodles while cooking. Ground mustard is a natural enhancer to a melty cheese sauce where it lingers in the background just barely being noticed and kosher salt flavors the noodles as they cook. Avoid using prepared mustard as it imparts a vinegar bite.
To help the dried mustard mix in cohesively and without lumps, whisk the ground mustard into 1 tablespoon of water until smooth, then stir into the sauce and noodles while cooking.
If you want, just a pinch of garlic will do. If you like, add 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder at this time too.
Reduce the Sauce In the Noodles
Cook the noodles until al denté with about 1/3 cup of creamy sauce left in the bottom of the pan. Cooking the noodles directly in the water and evaporated milk creates a lightly thickened sauce thanks to the gluten and starch of the noodles.
Avoid cook the noodles and sauce dry! The style of noodle will depend on the cooking time. Sturdier, high quality Italian noodles will take longer to cook where American macaroni takes less.
If the sauce runs dry, add more water and evaporated milk to the pan until the noodles are cooked.
Add the Two Cheeses
Add the cheese in batches. When adding the cheese to this mixture, use a heavy wooden spoon to really get in there and stir things up and add the cheese in batches. Gently fold so the noodles don’t break apart.
The result is a mac and cheese that’s smooth and rich and creamy.
Mac and Cheese Toppings
There’s not much you can do to make mac and cheese better than this, unless you added a few simple ingredients to make a meal, like:
- Veggies like Peas, corn, sun dried tomatoes, cooked broccoli, or roasted cauliflower
- Meats like chopped bacon, ham, or sliced hot dogs
- Caramelized onions or snipped chives
- A drizzle of pesto
- A garlicky toasted bread crumb topping
How to Reheat Mac and Cheese
To reheat mac and cheese, microwave for 45 seconds on high power or 1 minute on medium power. To reheat on the stovetop, add 1-2 tablespoons milk to the pan with the mac and cheese on medium heat.
How to Freeze Mac and Cheese
If you’re looking for a good mac and cheese to freeze and bake, use this recipe instead.
What to Serve with Mac and Cheese
- The Best BBQ Chicken
- How to Make the Best Grilled Salmon
- The Best Greek Chicken Marinade
- Bratwurst In Beer With Onions
- Oven Roasted Chicken with Lemon Rosemary Garlic Butter
- Daddy’s Baked Hamburgers
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Easy Creamy Homemade Mac and Cheese
- 8 ounces elbow, spiral, or shell macaroni noodles , about 2 3/4 cup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups water
- 1 12-ounce can Kroger evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard , dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder , optional
- 4 ounces American. cheese , about 6 slices
- 4 ounces grated mild cheddar cheese , rounded 1/2 cup
- In a medium saucepan, add the noodles, butter, water, evaporated milk, and salt. In a small bowl, mash the dry mustard with a fork until smooth and add to the noodles. If using, add the garlic powder at this time. Stir the mixture then bring to a boil and quickly turn down the heat to a simmer before it boils over. Cook the noodles to the package directions 5-8 minutes, or until tender. There should be 1/4 to 1/3 cup liquid left in the pan when the noodles are done cooking. If not, add 1-2 tablespoons more evaporated milk to the noodle mixture. Remove from the heat.
- Add the cheese in batches to the noodles and use a wooden spoon to stir and combine until creamy. Taste for seasoning and serve hot.
More Mac and Cheese Recipe Ideas
- The Best Homemade Mac And Cheese
- Skillet Cauliflower Mac And Cheese
- Instant Pot Creamy Mac And Cheese Five Ways
- Lobster Mac And Cheese
- Fried Mac And Cheese Balls Recipe
- Stovetop Pesto Macaroni And Cheese With Corn And Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 5-Ingredient Cacio E Pepe
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This recipe is sponsored by Kroger. As always, thank you for reading and supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. There are affiliate links in this post of which I receive a small commission. All opinions are always my own.