This is the best southern baked mac and cheese recipe. Rich, savory and satisfying, it was inspired by Robbie Montgomery, owner and chef at Sweetie Pie’s soul food in St. Louis, MO. A forkful of this cheesy dish will have you salivating for more. Serve with squares of buttery cornbread.
👩🏻🍳 about THIS RECIPE
Although there are several copycat recipes for Sweetie Pie’s southern baked macaroni and cheese, this really is the best version.
To scale down a restaurant recipe, especially this cult classic, it takes a lot of cooking, patience, testing and time. I made this recipe several times. I experimented with ingredients, quantities and spices for a perfect result.
Southern baked mac and cheese is not a budget meal. The recipe uses 5 different types of cheese. But a 1-lb block of each type of cheese is enough to 4X this recipe. It’s perfect for family gatherings and feeding a crowd.
Keep in mind: This is the real deal. Boxed mac & cheese can’t hold a candle to this authentic soul food recipe.
🍽 HISTORY OF SOUTHERN MAC AND CHEESE
Cooking creates teachable moments. Opportunities 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.
Southern macaroni and cheese first debuted in the American south. It began with Thomas Jefferson and his enslaved chefs, particularly James Hemings. 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.
Mac and cheese 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!
- Elbow Macaroni: The must-have noodle for authentic mac & cheese.
- Large Eggs: Helps bind the ingredients togther.
- Evaporated Milk: Adds richness and a creamy mouthfeel.
- Whole Milk: Adds delicious moisture so the mixture is not dry.
- Granulated Sugar: Adds a tiny bit of sweetness.
- Kosher Salt: Enhances the flavor of the other ingredients.
- Ground White Pepper: Contributes a rustic, mild, smooth flavor.
- Ground Black Pepper: Contributes an earthy taste with a bit of heat.
- Dry ground mustard: 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.
- Smoked Paprika: Paprika has the taste of chili without the heat. It adds a 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.
- Salted Butter: Use a high-quality brand like Kirkland or Challenge.
- Sour cream: I prefer the Daisy brand.
- Velveeta Cheese: A must-have cheese for this southern recipe.
- Colby Jack (block)*: Has a mild taste with a creamy texture.
- Monterey Jack (block)*: Has a delicious buttery taste with a bit of tang.
- Sharp cheddar (block)*: Has a bold, tangy robust flavor. It provides the delicious orange color we come to expect from mac and cheese.
- Mild cheddar or American cheese*: Adds an orangey color with a subtle, smooth and buttery taste.
*WHY GRATE CHEESE BY HAND? Pre-shredded cheese has a coating to keep the strands from sticking together. It doesn’t melt as smoothly as hand-grated cheese from a block. It can make your dish oily.
🥣 INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS
Save a trip to the market with these easy ingredient substitutions!
- Elbow Macaroni: Use the noodles in your pantry: Cavatappki (corkscrews), Conchiglie (shells), or Farfalle (bowties).
- Evaporated Milk (12-oz can): Use 1 1/2 cups half and half, or 1 1/2 cups heavy cream.
- Ground Mustard: 3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard can replace 1/8 teaspoon ground.
- White Pepper: Just double the amount of black pepper in this recipe.
- Monterey Jack Cheese: Double the amount of Colby Jack.
- Sour Cream: For this recipe, don’t replace sour cream with Greek yogurt. Head to the store to buy sour cream!
📖 SOUTHERN BAKED MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE
For mac and cheese lovers everywhere, this is a life-changing recipe! Here’s how to make the best southern baked macaroni and cheese.
- Adjust oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 350°F.
- 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.
- Shred the blocks of cheese.
- Grease two 8 x 8-inch baking pans (or one 9 x 13-inch baker) with butter. Or use a pair of cast-iron gratin dishes.
- 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 to combine. Add chopped butter, sour cream, cubed Velveeta, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, and sharp cheddar. Fold and mix to incorporate.
- STEP 4: Transfer the mac and cheese mixture to the prepared baking pans. Sprinkle mild cheddar (or American cheese) over the top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until it’s bubbly with a light-golden crust.
👉🏻 EXPERT TIP: Don’t over-bake this dish. The cheese mixture can become dry and the noodles mushy.
COOL BEFORE SERVING: Allow macaroni and cheese to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy this dish while it’s warm and creamy!
🧑🏼🍳 RECIPE FAQ
These are the most commonly-asked questions for the BEST Southern Baked Mac and Cheese, and the most helpful answers for recipe success.
This prevents the pasta in the finished dish from being limp. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven.
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.
This dish has a beautiful crust that doesn’t need a crumb topping to make it better. But for a hearty crunch, sprinkle with lightly-crushed potato chips or corn chips just before serving. Or after baking, briefly place mac and cheese under the broiler. Keep a very close eye on it!
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.
No. It will develop bacteria. It will not be safe to eat.
It’s not recommended. The texture doesn’t hold up well when frozen.
🥘 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.
- Legendary Meat Lasagna
- Mac and Cheese Bites
- Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese
- Loaded Cream Cheese Dip
- Cheesy Mushroom Polenta
- Loaded Baked Potato Soup
- Jalapeño Pimento Cheese
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Recipe testers say this Sweetie Pie’s copycat recipe is the best southern baked macaroni and cheese. The savory flavors, delicious texture, and cheesy goodness make it a standout winner!
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The best southern baked mac and cheese recipe. It’s deeply savory and super cheesy with the perfect texture. Make this delicious dish for weekday dinners, potlucks and Thanksgiving.
- 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
- 1 teaspoon kosher 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 & cheese: Use just 2 cups (8 oz) elbow macaroni, uncooked.
- Adjust oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In heavily-salted water (it should taste like the ocean), boil pasta al dente according to package directions. Do not overcook! Drain well.
- Grease the sides and bottoms of two square 8 x 8-inch baking pans (or 1 9 x 13-inch baker) with butter. Or use a pair of gratin dishes.
- Transfer cooked and drained elbow macaroni to a large batter bowl. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, evaporated milk, and whole milk, sugar, salt, white pepper, black pepper, dry mustard and smoked paprika.
- 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.
- Transfer mac and cheese mixture to prepared baking pan(s). Sprinkle mild cheddar cheese (or American cheese) over the top. 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.
- Let mac and cheese cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy this dish while it’s warm and creamy!
- This prevents the noodles in the finished dish from being limp. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven.
- How to add a crunchy topping: This delicious dish 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.
- 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.
- Prep Time: 10 Minutes
- Cook Time: 40 Minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: African American
Keywords: Baked Mac and Cheese, Southern Baked Mac and Cheese, Macaroni and Cheese
Southern bAKED MAC AND CHEESE 👉🏻 JOIN THE CONVO
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