Cut out the dishes with this incredibly cheesy and creamy one-pot stovetop mac and cheese. Elbow pasta cooks right in the velvety cheese sauce instead of boiling separately for maximum flavor infusion (and convenience!)
Why you’ll love this stovetop mac and cheese recipe
- Easy clean up with just one pot for the entire dish! No need to pre-cook the pasta!
- Creamy, cheesy sauce coats every noodle perfectly.
- Quicker than cooking the pasta in a separate pot, and faster than baking.
- Customize cheeses to your preference – cheddar, gouda, etc.
Scroll down for the printable card for this stovetop macaroni cheese recipe, or read on for all the details.
What do you need?
- Butter – Use salted butter for flavor, though unsalted works too. You can substitute same amount of margarine or oil, but butter is best for flavor.
- Flour – Use all-purpose white flour.
- Boiling Water – Tap water brought to a boil (in the kettle or microwave).
- Stock powder – You can use chicken stock powder, bouillon powder, or stock cubes. Substitute vegetable stock powder for a vegetarian option. You can also substitute all or some water with liquid chicken broth or stock.
- Spices – Salt, onion powder, mustard powder, and dried chives add extra flavor. You can also add paprika, cayenne, and black pepper.
- Milk – Whole milk for creamiest texture. 2%, semi-skimmed, lite milk, or non-dairy milk substitutes work too.
- Pasta – Elbow macaroni best, as it holds the cheese sauce, but you can substitute penne, fusilli, or pasta shells.
- Shredded Cheese – Choose a melting cheese like cheddar, gouda, Monterey jack, Swiss, or provolone. Feel free to add some parmesan for extra flavor if you like.
How to make one-pot mac and cheese on the stovetop
The process to make this recipe is very simple, there are just a few steps to getting it just right:
- Start the sauce: Melt the butter in a large pot on the stovetop over a medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring, until combined. Add ½ cup water and whisk until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken.
- Add the remaining ingredients (except the cheese): Add the remaining water and bring to a simmer, then add the milk, spices, pasta, and salt to the pot and stir. Bring the pot back to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low-medium, and cook for 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally until pasta is tender.
- Add the cheese: While the pasta is cooking shred the cheese. When the pasta is tender remove the pot from the heat and stir the cheese through the pasta until it has melted and combined with the sauce.
- Crispy Topping – For crunch, top with a mixture of panko breadcrumbs, shredded cheese and grated Parmesan. Pop under the broiler/grill until browned.
- Add ham – Stir some diced ham through the finished dish for added protein and smoky, meaty flavors.
- Add vegetables – stir though vegetables like sautéed mushrooms, halved cherry tomatoes, baby spinach or steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets.
Storing and reheating
Leftover mac and cheese will last up to 5 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The pasta will continue absorbing the liquid as it sits and give you a firmer textured mac and cheese when reheated later.
There are a few options to reheat leftover mac and cheese:
- Microwave: transfer single size portions into microwave safe bowls or plates. Cover loosely with damp paper towels to prevent splatter. Microwave in 30 second intervals until hot throughout, about 2-3 minutes total. Check temperature and stir periodically. Add a splash of milk if the dish seems too dry.
- Stovetop: transfer the leftover mac and cheese to a saucepan and heat over a gentle heat until warmed through. Add a splash of milk to loosen the sauce if required.
- Oven: Transfer into a casserole dish (option: top with breadcrumbs and cheese) and reheat uncovered at 350°F for 15-25 minutes until heated through.
Mac and cheese is delicious but can be taken to new heights with garnishes like chopped parsley, chives, bacon bits, panko breadcrumbs toasted in butter, or a sprinkle of smoked paprika for flavor and crunch.
If serving mac and cheese as the main dish, bright fresh sides help balance out the richness. Steamed broccoli florets, a crisp green salad, or roasted brussels sprouts complement the creamy pasta. For heartier sides, add cooked greens like kale or spinach, cauliflower mash, or oven-roasted vegetables.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese (One-Pot recipe)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 3 cups boiling water
- 2 cups milk
- 3 cups dry pasta elbows approx 12 ounces
- 1 cup shredded cheese approx 4 ounces
- 1½ teaspoons chicken stock powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried chives
- Melt the butter in a large pot on a medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring, until combined.
- Add 1/2 cup water and whisk until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken.
- Add the remaining water and bring to a simmer.
- Add milk, spices, pasta, and salt to the pot. Bring to a simmer then reduce to a low-medium heat and cook for 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally until pasta is tender.
- While the pasta is cooking shred the cheese.
- When the pasta is tender remove the pot from the heat and stir the cheese through the pasta until it has melted and combined with the sauce.
- Optional step: Transfer mac and cheese to an oven-proof dish. Mix breadcrumbs with shredded cheese for the topping, and spread on top of the macaroni. Place under a preheated broiler and cook until golden and crunchy (about 5 minutes).
- Serve immediately.
Nutrition information is an estimate and provided for informational purposes only.