When it comes to ooey, gooey deliciousness, look no further than this dutch oven mac and cheese. This recipe can easily be made in under an hour with even less hands-on time, requires only a few basic ingredients, and is a definite crowd pleaser!
As a kid, I grew up on Kraft mac and cheese and the funky, powdery, neon orange “cheese” that came along with it. That was the only type of macaroni in my book.
Well, times have changed and now I look at the orange, powdery packet and wonder how it was possible that no one questioned what we were putting into our bodies?
Thankfully, like so many other recipes, from yogurt and sour cream to homemade ice cream, mac and cheese is super easy to make at home. No fake cheese required—only real, wholesome, and satisfying ingredients.
Why Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese?
The beauty of the dutch oven is that it converts this baked mac and cheese into an easy one pot meal. And with a family of 6 and seemingly endless dishes, I’ll take all the breaks I can get.
Also, the heavy bottom construction of the dutch oven allows for even cooking and, in our opinion, just makes everything taste better! And because dutch ovens are rather large, you can scale this recipe up to make mac and cheese to serve a large group.
Tips to Take Your Mac and Cheese to the Next Level
With the ingredients in macaroni and cheese it’s a hard one to make NOT taste good. However, by following a few simple tips, you can easily take your mac and cheese up a notch!
1. Don’t overcook your noodles
The goal is to have a perfectly cooked noodle. No one wants mushy mac and cheese. To do this, cook you noodles for 1-2 minutes less than the instructions on the package. This is because the noodles will continue to cook in later parts of the recipe and we are going for an al dente noodle, not a mushy one!
2. Choose the right shape
When it comes to mac and cheese, you want a noodle that will hold the cheese as much as possible. This means that noodles with curves work best. Good mac and cheese noodle options include: elbow, cavatappi, fusilli, shells, or rotini.
3. Shred your own cheese
This is a big one! Packaged shredded cheese from the store contain an additive called an ant-caking agent to prevent the cheese from clumping together. However, these anti-caking ingredients also change how the cheese behaves and inhibit its ability to melt as it normally would giving an unpleasant texture to your cheese sauce. I hear you; shredding cheese can be a pain. But, use the shredder attachment on a mixer, a food processor, or shred by hand (my method of choice). Jim got me this shredder for my birthday and it makes shredding cheese by hand as pleasant as it gets.
4. Use a combination of cheeses
With homemade mac and cheese, the sky is the limit when it comes to cheese options. Be creative. Use what you like. And most importantly, use a combo of a few different options. Gruyere cheese is especially popular. But pepper jack, cheddar, and parmesan are all great choices.
5. Load it up
Plain mac and cheese can make a great side. But our preference is to load it up with meat and veggies and call it dinner. This is a perfect use for any leftovers that may need to get eaten up. Also, don’t be afraid to try adding different herbs or a dash of Worcestershire or coconut aminos. These little touches can make a big difference in taking your mac and cheese up a notch.
6. Bake it!
Stove top mac and cheese is good. BUT baked mac and cheese is so much better in our opinion. That ooey, gooey melted cheese on top with a bit of crisp from the noodles—nothing’s better!
What Do You Need to Make Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese
- Grater (or use the attachment on your mixer or food processor)
- Dutch Oven
- Strainer or colander
Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese Recipe
½ cup butter
2 cloves garlic (optional)
½ cup flour
2 cups cream
2 cups whole milk
4 cups shredded cheddar (or cheese of choice)
2-3 cups of diced mozzarella (or cheese of choice)
1 lb. dried Pasta
2 tsp salt
additional herbs (optional)
1. Heat water to boil and cook pasta for one minute less than the package instructions.
2. While pasta is cooking, shred cheese and chop garlic if using, set aside.
3. When pasta is finished, drain and set aside in strainer.
4. In the same Dutch oven that you cooked your noodles, make a roux by adding your butter to the pan.
5. Once melted, add garlic (if using) and let cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
6. Add flour to the melted butter.
7. Mix until the flour and butter form a paste similar to that of wet sand.
8. Slowly pour in cream and milk whisking the flour/butter mixture into it.
9. Heat over medium heat, whisking or stirring regularly until a thick sauce has formed.
10. Add salt and any other spices you are using
11. Slowly add the 4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (or cheese of choice). Stir after each handful of cheese is added to make sure it melts fully and is incorporated.
12. Once the 4 cups of cheese has been added to make a thick, cheese sauce, add the strained noodles to the sauce (and any other mix-ins you’d like to add).
13. Sprinkle the remaining 2-3 cups of mozzarella or other cheese over the top.
14. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and the top is beginning to brown slightly.
Serve and Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you make this without a dutch oven?
YES! If you don’t have a dutch oven, simply cook your noodles and make your sauce in any stove top safe sauce pan. Then transfer your mac and cheese to a large oven safe casserole dish (a 9×13 pan works great) and bake as instructed.
Could you make this recipe in advance of serving?
Absolutely! Follow the instructions listed up to the baking step. Set the dutch oven in the fridge until you are ready to cook. Once you are ready to serve, bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes.
Can this recipe be scaled for a crowd?
Yes! We follow this recipe as listed when we are making this dutch oven mac and cheese as a meal for our family. But, when we are making it for a potluck or party, I double it and cook it in a larger dutch oven.
Can Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese be made with fresh pasta?
I love the idea of using fresh pasta. However, in this recipe, I think that the dried noodles actually work better. They seem to soak up that cheese sauce giving the mac and cheese a more ideal texture than fresh noodles do.
Can I make a gluten free version of Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese?
You bet! In addition to using your favorite gluten free noodle, swap either tapioca starch or arrowroot flour for the wheat flour in the cheese sauce and leave all other ingredients the same.
For more from our home dairy, check out:
How To Make Crock Pot Yogurt
The Best Vanilla Raw Milk Ice Cream
Simple Cornmeal Porridge
Easy Farmhouse Cheddar Hard Cheese Recipe
Quick and Natural Mozzarella Cheese
How To Make Cultured Cream
How To Make Butter From Raw Milk In A Blender
- ½ cup butter
- 2 cloves garlic (optional)
- ½ cup flour
- 2 cups cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 cups shredded cheddar (or cheese of choice)
- 2-3 cups of diced mozzarella (or cheese of choice)
- 1 lb. dried Pasta
- 2 tsp salt
- additional herbs (optional)
- Heat water to boil and cook pasta for one minute less than the package instructions.
- While pasta is cooking, shred cheese and chop garlic if using, set aside.
- When pasta is finished, drain and set aside in strainer.
- In the same Dutch oven that you cooked your noodles, make a roux by adding your butter to the pan.
- Once melted, add garlic (if using) and let cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add flour to the melted butter.
- Mix until the flour and butter form a paste similar to that of wet sand.
- Slowly pour in cream and milk whisking the flour/butter mixture into it.
- Heat over medium heat, whisking or stirring regularly until a thick sauce has formed.
- Add salt and any other spices you are using
- Slowly add the 4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (or cheese of choice). Stir after each handful of cheese is added to make sure it melts fully and is incorporated.
- Once the 4 cups of cheese has been added to make a thick, cheese sauce, add the strained noodles to the sauce (and any other mix-ins you’d like to add).
- Sprinkle the remaining 2-3 cups of mozzarella or other cheese over the top.
- Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and the top is beginning to brown slightly.