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Southern baked mac and Cheese

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Hands down, this is the best southern baked mac and cheese recipe. It was inspired by Robbie Montgomery, owner and chef at Sweetie Pie’s soul food restaurant in St. Louis, MO.

A forkful of this cheesy dish will have you salivating for more. It’s rich, savory and extremely satisfying. Serve macaroni and cheese with yummy cornbread for holidays and special occasions. Share this easy recipe with family and friends!

PIN BAKED MAC AND CHEESE NOW!

Baked macaroni and cheese in an oval, cast-iron, Staub gratin dish on a white countertop.

about southern BAKED macaroni and cheese

Cooking creates teachable moments. It’s an opportunity to experience new recipes and engage in conversation about different cultures and cuisines.

Did you know macaroni and cheese has a rich history? For African-American families, serving this dish is a time-honored tradition.

Before travel was limited by world events, I spent time in NOLA. I sought out history, took cooking classes, learned about Cajun cooking. Then I shared these authentic recipes for New Orleans Jambalaya and New Orleans Red Beans and Rice.

Today, as I made and photographed this southern baked mac and cheese, I took time to share the unique history about this dish with my family.

This meal first debuted in the American south. It began with Thomas Jefferson and his enslaved chefs, particularly James Hemings.

Baked mac and cheese in a square baker on a countertop next to a recipe box.

The cooking techniques and culinary influences from their native Africa reshaped this staple dish. It’s part of the ethnic cuisine known as soul food.

For millions of African-Americans, southern baked mac and cheese is a unifying meal that’s highly venerated within Black communities.

Southern baked macaroni and cheese is always made from scratch. And it must be made well, with love and respect.

Recipes feature at least 3 to 5 different cheeses. Some recipes include cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, Gruyere, or smoked gouda. The only acceptable noodle: elbow macaroni.

This dish is made for special occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July. This soul food is a menu item for birthdays, weddings, funerals, church socials, and Juneteenth (Freedom Day / Emancipation Day).

Read about the history of slavery in the cultivation of Mac & Cheese. Learning about other cultures and traditions through recipes and food is a beautiful, powerful experience!

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese in an oval Staub baker with a wooden spoon.

recipe ingredients

Southern baked macaroni and cheese is made with easy-to-find ingredients. Boxed mac & cheese can’t hold a candle to this authentic soul food recipe!

With 5 different cheeses this authentic southern recipe is not a budget meal. But when feeding larger families or a small crowd, a 1-pound block of each type of cheese is enough to 4X this recipe.

These are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Elbow macaroni
  • 2 large eggs
  • Evaporated milk
  • Whole milk
  • Granulated sugar
  • Sea salt
  • Ground white pepper
  • Ground black pepper
  • Dry ground mustard
  • Smoked paprika
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Velveeta cheese
  • Colby Jack (block of cheese)*
  • Monterey Jack (block of cheese)*
  • Sharp cheddar (block of cheese)*
  • Mild cheddar or American cheese*

*GRATE YOUR CHEESE: Pre-shredded cheese has a coating to keep strands from clumping together. Because of this coating, it doesn’t melt as smoothly as hand grated. It can make your dish oily.

Ingredients for southern mac and cheese recipe laid out on a maple Boos Blocks cutting board.

INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS

Save a trip to the market with these easy ingredient substitutions!

  • ELBOW MACARONI: During stay-at-home times, use the noodles in your pantry: Cavatappki (corkscrews), Conchiglie (shells), or Farfalle (bowties).
  • BEST SWAPS FOR 12 OZ CAN EVAPORATED MILK: 1 1/2 cups half and half, or 1 1/2 cups heavy cream.
  • GROUND MUSTARD SWAP: 3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard can replace 1/8 teaspoon ground.
  • WHITE PEPPER SUBSTITUTE: Just double the amount of black pepper in this recipe.
  • NO MONTEREY JACK CHEESE? Double the amount of Colby Jack. It’s a money-saving swap!
  • NO SOUR CREAM? Put on your shoes and head to the market! Don’t replace sour cream with Greek yogurt.
Baked mac and cheese in a Staub oval baker in graphite grey on a white-tile counter.

SOUTHERN BAKED MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE

When scaling down a cult-classic restaurant recipe, it takes a lot of cooking, patience, testing and time.

There are several copycat recipes for Sweetie Pie’s southern baked macaroni and cheese. But for me it’s important to make the recipe several times to experiment with ingredients, quantities and spices to get things right.

During the process we work to discover secret ingredients not shared by the restaurant chef. When we finally arrive at the best dish ever, it’s like confetti falling from the heavens. That’s exactly what happened in my kitchen today!

For mac and cheese lovers everywhere, this is a life-changing recipe! Here’s how to make the best southern baked macaroni and cheese.

RECIPE PREP

  1. In heavily-salted water (it should taste like the ocean), boil pasta al dente according to package directions. Do not overcook the noodles. They should be a bit undercooked. Drain well.
  2. Shred the blocks of cheese.
  3. Adjust oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. With butter, grease two square 8 x 8-inch baking pans, or a pair of cast-iron gratin dishes, a mix/match of both, or one 9 x 13-inch baker.

ABOUT USA PAN: This bakeware is high-quality and very sturdy. I’m a huge fan! They’re sold at high-end stores, and also on Amazon. Click an image above to start your collection now!

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

  • STEP 1: Transfer cooked pasta to a large bowl. Set it aside.
  • STEP 2: In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, evaporated milk, whole milk, sugar, salt, black pepper, white pepper, dry mustard and smoked paprika.
  • STEP 3: Pour wet mixture over the macaroni. Briefly mix with a spatula or spoon to combine. Add chopped butter, sour cream, cubed Velveeta, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, and sharp cheddar. Fold and mix to incorporate.
  • STEP 4: Transfer mac and cheese mixture to prepared baking pan(s). Sprinkle mild cheddar (or American cheese) over the top. It’s time to bake this recipe!

HOW LONG TO BAKE MAC AND CHEESE? Bake mac and cheese for 40 to 45 minutes, or until bubbly with a light-golden crust. Don’t over-bake this dish. The cheese mixture can become dry and the noodles mushy.

Four-image collage showing how to make Southern baked mac and cheese step by step.

COOL BEFORE SERVING: Allow macaroni and cheese to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy this dish while it’s warm and creamy!

EXPERT TIPS & RECIPE FAQ

  • WHY COOK PASTA AL DENTE? This prevents the pasta in the finished dish from being limp. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven.
  • WHY MUSTARD IN MAC AND CHEESE? This ingredient adds some flavor magic to all mac and cheese recipes. Mustard cuts the fat in rich dishes. It also gives the cheddar a boost with just a teensy bit of tang.
  • WHY SMOKED PAPRIKA IN MAC AND CHEESE? Paprika (unless the container says picante or hot) has the taste of chili without the heat. When included in this mac and cheese recipe, it adds a tiny bit of rustic smoky flavor! If you’re fond of paprika, you can sprinkle a bit more over the top of the dish before baking.
  • DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REGULAR PAPRIKA AND SMOKED PAPRIKA: Regular paprika is made from the ground flesh and skin of dried red peppers. Smoked paprika is from peppers smoke-dried over an oak fire then crushed. It’s often called Spanish paprika.
  • WANT A SLIGHTLY CRISPIER CRUST? After baking time is over, briefly place mac and cheese under the broiler. Keep a very close eye on it!
  • CRUNCHY TOPPING FOR MAC AND CHEESE: This southern baked mac and cheese has a beautiful crust that doesn’t need a crumb topping to make it better. But if you prefer a hearty crunch, sprinkle with lightly-crushed potato chips or corn chips just before serving.
  • HOW DO YOU STORE BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE? Once completely cooled, cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap. Immediately refrigerate the cheesy casserole. It will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • CAN MAC AND CHEESE STAY OUT OVERNIGHT? No. It will develop bacteria. It will not be safe to eat.
  • CAN YOU FREEZE MAC AND CHEESE? This is not recommended. The textures and flavors don’t hold up well when frozen.
Top down view of baked mac and cheese in a square baker on a white countertop.

MORE COMFORT FOOD RECIPES

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food! If you enjoyed this soul food recipe you’ll also love these family favorites.

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Southern baked macaroni and cheese served in an oval cast-iron gratin dish with wooden spoon.

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Friends and family say this is the best southern baked macaroni and cheese! If you agree, give this special dish a 5-star rating in the comments.

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com
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A graphite Staub gratin dish with baked macaroni and cheese on a white countertop.

Southern baked mac and Cheese


  • Author: Denay DeGuzman
  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 Minutes
  • Total Time: 50 Minutes
  • Yield: 8 Servings 1x

Description

Southern baked macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food! It’s rich, savory, and super cheesy. Enjoy it for holidays and special occasions. Serve it as a main dish or side. Add this baked mac and cheese to your recipe arsenal!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (10 oz) elbow macaroni, uncooked*
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, or as desired
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into tiny pieces
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 pound Velveeta, cut into small cubes
  • 4 oz Colby Jack cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 oz mild cheddar cheese (or American cheese), shredded

FOR CREAMIER (SAUCIER) MAC AND CHEESE: Use only 2 cups (8 oz) elbow macaroni, uncooked.


Instructions

RECIPE PREP

  1. In heavily-salted water (it should taste like the ocean), boil pasta al dente according to package directions. Do not overcook! Drain well.
  2. Shred the blocks of cheese.
  3. Adjust oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Butter the sides and bottoms of two square 8 x 8-inch baking pans, or a pair of cast-iron gratin dishes, a mix/match of both, or one 9 x 13-inch baker.

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Transfer cooked and drained elbow macaroni to a large batter bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, evaporated milk, and whole milk, sugar, salt, white pepper, black pepper, dry mustard and smoked paprika. 
  3. Pour wet mixture over the macaroni. Briefly mix with a spatula or spoon to combine. Add butter, sour cream, cubed Velveeta, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, and sharp cheddar. Fold and mix to incorporate.
  4. Transfer mac and cheese mixture to prepared baking pan(s). Sprinkle mild cheddar cheese (or American cheese) over the top.
  5. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly with a lightly-golden crust. Don’t over-bake this dish. The cheese mixture can become dry and the noodles mushy.
  6. Let mac and cheese cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy this dish while it’s warm and creamy!

Notes

  • WHY COOK PASTA AL DENTE? This prevents the pasta in the finished dish from being limp. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven.
  • CRUNCHY TOPPING FOR MAC AND CHEESE: This southern baked mac and cheese recipe has a beautiful golden crust that doesn’t need a crumb topping to make it better. But if you prefer a hearty crunch, sprinkle with lightly-crushed potato chips or corn chips just before serving.
  • HOW DO YOU STORE BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE? Once completely cooled, cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap. Immediately refrigerate the cheesy casserole. It will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • CAN MAC AND CHEESE STAY OUT OVERNIGHT? No. It will develop bacteria. It will not be safe to eat.
  • CAN YOU FREEZE MAC AND CHEESE? This is not recommended. The textures and flavors will not hold up well when frozen. 
  • MORE INFO ABOUT THIS SOUTHERN RECIPE: Further tips are included in the body of the post, along with helpful step-by-step recipe images.
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: African American

Keywords: Baked Mac and Cheese, Southern Baked Mac and Cheese, Macaroni and Cheese

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

BAKED MAC AND CHEESE > JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What do you think of this cheesy southern casserole? Would you love to make and serve this dish for the holidays? Share your thoughts below!

11 thoughts on “Southern baked mac and Cheese”

  1. OMG! Now this is mac and cheese! I love how rich and creamy it is, not to mention all the flavors from the different kinds of cheese. This was a main meal in my house and it didn’t last long. Even the grandkids liked it, which is a definite stamp of approval.

    Reply
  2. Loving the blend of cheeses here and how comforting this dish is! It was awesome to learn a little about the history of Southern Mac and Cheese too! Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Wonderful and amazing recipe. A cheese lovers paradise food. The mac and cheese I knew, didn’t offer 5 cheeses. So this is surely a good soul food. One that would be loved by everyone across all age groups. Loving this!

    Reply

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