Mac and cheese with cream cheese is guaranteed to be the creamiest you’ve ever tasted. Make this comfort food recipe in just half an hour!
Baked macaroni and cheese has a reputation for being dry and flavorless, but that’s not the case with this recipe!
The secret is to use cream cheese. We combine it with two other cheeses to make the sauce extra creamy. As a result, the dish is rich, hearty, and bursting with flavor.
My Bacon Mac and Cheese Casserole is a delicious spin on this 3 cheese mac and cheese. The addition of crisp bacon pieces adds a smoky flavor.
For something more unique, try my Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese Bake. Chopped chicken and a spicy sauce make it a hearty meal, and sour cream and bleu cheese add a signature tangy flavor.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Note: This is just a partial list of ingredients. For the full ingredient list, see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Pasta – Elbow macaroni is the classic choice, but any small pasta works well
- Hot sauce – This adds an extra kick of flavor without making the dish itself spicy. I tend to use Tabasco, but any brand will do. If you’re sensitive to spice, feel free to reduce the amount or leave it out altogether.
- Mozzarella – Although the flavor is mild, mozzarella is one of the best melting cheeses. That texture is what makes the noodle stick together in just the right way. For a more complex flavor, use Monterey Jack instead.
- Cheddar – Sharp cheddar is what I use, but depending on your preferences, you can use mild or extra sharp. The only difference is how bold the flavor of the cheddar comes through.
How to make mac and cheese with cream cheese
Essentially, the dish starts with a bechamel sauce. Then we melt all 3 cheeses into the sauce, creating a smooth creamy texture. This way, every inch of the pasta has a coating of flavor.
This creamy baked mac n cheese is filling enough to be a main dish, but it also makes a delicious side for holiday gatherings and potluck dinners.
Creamy Baked Mac n Cheese Recipe Video
Watch us make the recipe!
Cook the pasta
- Boil the macaroni according to the package directions, but for the best flavor, be sure to add plenty of salt to the water.
- When the pasta has finished cooking, drain off the water.
Make the cheese sauce
- While the pasta is cooking, make a roux with the butter and flour.
- Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly to break up any clumps.
- Add the mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, then simmer until the sauce has thickened.
- Stir in the cheeses one at a time until melted and smooth.
Bake and serve
- Transfer the pasta into a greased baking dish, then pour the cheese sauce over the top.
- Stir until everything is well combined and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over everything.
- Bake uncovered until the cheese is bubbly and the top is browned.
- Omitting the topping – While I highly recommend baking this dish with a breadcrumb topping, this step is completely optional.
Simply add the cooked pasta to the pot of cheese sauce and stir to combine, then serve immediately.
- Make ahead – If you’ll be taking this to a potluck or holiday gathering, you can make it the day before and reheat just before serving.
Or, make the pasta and sauce up to 2 days in advance and store separately in the refrigerator. Then, warm the sauce on the stove, combine with the noodles, and bake as directed.
- Storing leftovers – Allow the meal to cool, then cover the pan tightly in foil or transfer to airtight containers. Store your baked mac and cheese with cream cheese in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- Reheating – For best results, bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Or heat individual portions in the microwave until they’re warm all the way through.
What to serve with mac n cheese
The options are endless, but here are some popular dishes that pair well with this one:
- BBQ ribs or steak
- Grilled chicken
- Sloppy joes
- Roasted vegetables
- Green salad
Baked Mac and Cheese with Cream Cheese
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 8 tbsp butter separated
- 4 tbsp flour
- 3 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
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- 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 13x9” casserole dish or 12" cast iron pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large skillet add the 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 cooked pasta and stir to mix in completely.
For Toasted Topping (optional)
- Top with breadcrumb mixture and bake for 20 minutes uncovered in 350°F oven, until top is golden brown and cheese is bubbling. This should be enough for 8 large servings or 10 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.