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Rich and creamy Bacon Mac and Cheese is the quintessential weeknight casserole. It feeds plenty and takes less than an hour to make. The crispy bacon, golden breadcrumb topping, and smooth cheddar sauce are absolutely addictive!
Everyone likes bacon, and everyone likes mac and cheese. Put the two together and you have a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!
The cheesy, cream-based sauce tones down the very rich bacon, whereas the bacon’s texture and savory flavors add color to the otherwise one-dimensional mac and cheese. The breadcrumb topping, baked until golden brown, tops it off with some much-needed texture. It’s a perfect balance!
Bacon mac and cheese can easily be halved for fewer mouths to feed and prepared in advance for a quick, delicious dinner you can just pop into the oven. That’s what makes this recipe so popular and timeless — it’s family-friendly, versatile, and simple.
My chili mac and cheese is another fun take on the classic pasta dish, while this chicken bacon ranch casserole is another example of how bacon can make any basic dish delicious! Both take less than 40 minutes.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Elbow Macaroni – This is the classic pasta for bacon mac and cheese, but you have plenty of options. Penne, fusilli, rotini, and even shell pasta. Any short pasta will do.
- Bacon – I recommend thick cut for bacon mac and cheese.
- All Purpose Flour – Flour is needed to prepare the roux, which will thicken the sauce while adding a smooth texture.
- Hot Sauce – Any brand and flavor works — use your favorite! Those who prefer less heat can add paprika, which pairs well with mustard, or omit this ingredient entirely.
- Dijon Mustard – Spicier and creamier than regular mustard. Yellow mustard is a fine substitute, as is spicy brown.
- Mozzarella – This is my favorite melting cheese for baked, cheesy casseroles. Monterey Jack is the best alternative.
- Cream Cheese – Its tangy flavor and creamy texture make cream cheese perfect for bacon mac and cheese.
- Cheddar – Sharp cheddar adds that final, terrific flavor that we all associate with macaroni and cheese. Shred it fresh off the block to help it melt better — the pre-shredded cheeses tend to have a coating that makes melting difficult.
- Panko – These breadcrumbs are coarse to provide great crunch. Regular or Italian breadcrumbs are decent alternatives, but in my opinion don’t contribute the same texture.
HOW TO MAKE BACON MAC AND CHEESE
- Preheat and Prepare the Breadcrumbs. While the oven preheats to 400°F, combine two tablespoons of melted butter with the panko breadcrumbs and parsley.
- Prepare the Pasta. Boil the pasta per package instructions, salting the water heavily. After draining the water, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil. Prepare a baking dish with a light coating of cooking spray. Transfer the pasta to the dish.
- Cook the Bacon. Brown the bacon in a skillet. Once crispy, remove and crumble. Mix the bacon bits into the pasta and set some aside for topping.
- Begin the Sauce. With the bacon fat still in the skillet, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for one minute. Pour the milk into the skillet and whisk together. Then, add the mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly, lower the heat, and let simmer for 4 minutes while the sauce thickens.
- Add the Cheese. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Follow with the mozzarella and cheddar, stirring until smooth.
- Combine, Top, and Bake. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir until completely coated. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over top, add the rest of the bacon, and bake uncovered for 20 minutes until the topping browns.
What are the three best cheeses for mac and cheese?
Use cheeses that melt well. Mozzarella and cream cheese are my top choices for bacon mac and cheese, and Monterey Jack and Brie are both fantastic choices as well.
You then want to add a cheese with the best flavor. That’s where the sharp cheddar comes in. Other recipes might include Pepper Jack, parmesan, or Gruyere. It’s a matter of preference.
So, to put it simply: two cheeses for texture, and one for flavor. But there’s no rule saying you can only use three!
Can you freeze mac and cheese?
Yes. It will keep for a couple of months in the freezer when stored properly in an airtight container.
If you’re freezing before baking, then allow it to thaw first. Place it in the refrigerator overnight or the morning before.
Do you need eggs to make bacon mac and cheese?
No. Some baked macaroni recipes include eggs to help add creaminess, body, and texture.
However, it is not at all required. My recipe doesn’t use eggs at all, but it’s still wonderfully rich and has plenty of body!
This recipe post, originally published on Kevin Is Cooking August, 2017, has been updated with new content, photos and/or video in March, 2023.
Bacon Mac and Cheese Casserole
- 8 oz elbow macaroni
- 4 slices thick cut bacon
- 6 tbsp butter separated
- 4 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese (or Monterey Jack)
- 2 cups cheddar cheese
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup parsley chopped (loosely packed)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small bowl mix together 2 tablespoons of melted butter, Panko breadcrumbs and chopped parsley. Set aside.
- In a large stock pot boil pasta in heavily salted water per package directions. Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking in a 9×9” square or a 13×9” pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, render bacon until crispy and browned. Remove bacon and set aside to crumble. Keep bacon fat in pan. Add crumbled bacon to pasta, reserving some to top pasta at serving.
- In same skillet with bacon fat add 4 tablespoons of butter and melt over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the milk and whisk to mix thoroughly. Whisk in the mustard, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for 4 minutes, the sauce will thicken.
- Add the cream cheese and stir to melt in the sauce. Add the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses and stir to melt and incorporate. Sauce should be smooth.
- Pour cheese sauce over pasta and bacon and stir to mix in completely. Top with breadcrumb mixture and bake uncovered for 20 minutes until top is golden brown and crunchy. This should be enough for 4 large servings or 6 as a side.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.