BEST Homemade Mac and Cheese Sauce
This easy Homemade Mac and Cheese Sauce can be used for stovetop or baked mac and cheese. It is creamy, flavorful, and loaded with 3 types of cheese. It starts with a simple roux, which thickens the sauce perfectly.
Servings: 16 people
- 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
- ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
- 12 ounces 1 ½ cups evaporated milk*
- 3 ½ cups milk*
- 1 Tablespoon hot pepper sauce*
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt more to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper
- 8 ounces swiss cheese*
- 8 ounces mild or sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 4 ounces gruyere shredded
- 16 - 20 ounces pasta for serving*
Over medium heat, in a large pan, melt the butter.
Whisk in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add in evaporated milk and regular milk.
Whisk until the flour dissolves.
Add hot sauce, garlic, onion, mustard powder, salt, and pepper.
Whisk until spices are combined.
Continue stirring and simmering the sauce (not boiling) until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 4 minutes). It will continue to thicken when you add the cheese.
Stir in the swiss cheese until melted.
Add the cheddar and gruyere.
Stir until melted. The sauce should be smooth.
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce.
Fold until combined. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Evaporated Milk: Evaporated milk has a richer flavor and less water than regular milk. I have not tested this recipe without it, but you should be able to replace it with half and half.
- Milk: Any type of milk will work. I have tried this recipe with both skim and 2% milk. I do not recommend non-dairy milk.
- Cheese: You need 20 ounces (5 cups) of cheese for this recipe. Use your favorites. I prefer the combination of swiss, cheddar, and gruyere. You can also try parmesan cheese, colby jack, American, smoked gouda, sharp white cheddar, or pepper jack.
- Hot Pepper Sauce: This does not make the sauce spicy, it just adds flavor. I highly recommend it but it can be omitted.
- Pasta: Depending on how cheesy you like your mac and cheese, you can adjust the amount of pasta. For baked mac and cheese with bread crumbs, I recommend 16 ounces, because it dries out in the oven. For stovetop, you can use up to 16-20 ounces. Save some pasta water to thin the sauce if needed.
- Shred your own cheese. Blocks of cheese or sliced cheese do not have added starch like pre-shredded cheese does. The starch is added to prevent the shredded cheese from clumping in the bag. This also prevents it from melting a well and it does not taste as good.
- Do not over heat or cook the bechamel sauce. The sauce will continue to thicken once the cheese is added and as it cools. If you bring it to a boil or cook it for too long, it will thicken and become goopy. If it does get too thick, add more milk or water and whisk it in until thinned out.
- Adjust the amount of pasta. Pictured is 16 ounces of elbow macaroni folded with all of the sauce. This results in a super saucy mac and cheese, which is ideal for baked macaroni or if you plan to keep it warm in a slow cooker. Use more pasta and a splash of pasta water for a lighter coat (best for stovetop).
Calories: 294kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 515mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g