Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

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This Southern baked mac and cheese is cheesy, buttery, and seasoned to perfection, which are just a few reasons this soul food dish makes your taste buds dance. The cheese pull from this recipe is insane!

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, we eat our baked macaroni (baked spaghetti) differently from other Southern baked mac and cheese recipes because we use spaghetti noodles instead of the traditional macaroni. It’s also creamier than cheesy but still packs a punch.

With that being said, I still learned how to make this recipe like most, with eggs, evaporated milk, and lots of cheddar cheese and whatever other cheeses my heart desired.

I remember selling dinner plates in college, and the one reason I stopped making my baked mac and cheese the traditional soul food baked mac way was that one friend of mine told me that she was allergic to eggs and asked if I had another way of making the macaroni and cheese.

Lucky for her, she was talking to a chef in training, so from that moment on, I clung to my roots and made a cheese sauce instead of using eggs and evaporated milk to create a velvety texture. Here’s my New Orleans baked mac and cheese recipe.

This southern baked mac and cheese recipe is made with four different kinds of cheeses, pepper jack being one of them, for an extra level of flavor. I also added a bit of cayenne pepper to give it some pop!

This dish is perfect for holidays, potlucks, game day gatherings, or dinner for any day of the week. Also, for the holidays, we know the best cook in the family gets to bring the mac and cheese to dinner because baked mac and cheese is king in the south!

Southern Baked Mac n Cheese on serving spoon

Key Ingredients

Here are the key ingredients you’ll need to make an incredible southern baked mac and cheese that’ll make you a soul food legend.

Macaroni

I’m from New Orleans, and we make ours with spaghetti noodles. Traditional baked mac and cheese are made with elbow macaroni, but if you can get the big elbow macaroni, it’s a better bite of cheesy goodness.

Butter

We need butter in two forms; melted to coat the noodles and at room temperature to grease our pans to avoid sticking.

Eggs

Eggs give Southern baked macaroni its creamy custard texture.

Seasoning Mix

I love to have tons of flavor in my food, but I like to keep it simple with mac and cheese: kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.

Evaporated Milk

Canned evaporated milk is classic. Using evaporated milk adds more depth of flavor since the milk is cooked.

Heavy Cream

I love using heavy whipping cream to make creamy baked mac and cheese. Feel free to use sour cream in its place, but a little cream goes a long creamy way.

Sharp Cheddar

In this recipe, we’re going to use four kinds of cheese (pepper jack, mozzarella, and Colby jack cheese), but the one required is sharp cheddar, and it has a better, deeper cheddar flavor compared to mild cheddar.

baked mac n cheese on a plate

How to make the best Southern Baked Mac and Cheese?

To become a legend in your family, you have to cook the best-baked mac and cheese recipe. I’m going to show you the easiest way to make a show-stopping dish.

Step 1: First thing you want to do is preheat your oven because there is nothing worse than having a baking dish full of cheesy macaroni and the oven not hot and ready. Boil your macaroni for only 6 minutes. This ensures your cooked macaroni doesn’t turn into mush after you bake it.

Step 2: Next, to be efficient, I like to season my eggs with evaporated milk, heavy cream, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne. This ensures that where the eggs go, the seasoning goes. Also, combine your cheeses, so there’s a little bit of sharp cheddar, pepper jack, Colby jack, and mozzarella cheese in every bite.

Step 3: Combine your noodles, egg mixture, and half of the cheese mixture in a large bowl. Make sure that your macaroni is completely coated. Then transfer to a buttered baking dish. Pour the rest of the cheese over the top and bake until your macaroni and cheese are bubbling and golden brown. Give it a few minutes to cool off and serve it hot at the table so everyone can see that amazing cheese pull.

Southern Baked Mac n Cheese on serving spoon

Toppings for Baked Mac:

Here are some toppings you can add to make your Southern-baked mac and cheese unique.

  • Bacon
  • Fried chicken
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Green Onions
  • Jalapeno Peppers

The option is yours to either add it on top or mix it into your mac and cheese recipe.

Pro Recipe Tips & Tricks

Here are some of my top tips and tricks to help you make this delicious Southern classic:

  • Pick a deep 9 x 13 casserole dish. This will ensure that as the mac and cheese cooks, it doesn’t overflow as it bakes.
  • Do not overbake your mac and cheese. For one important reason, when you overcook eggs, they curled, and the eggs become scrambled, the cheese sauce loses its creamy texture, and worse of all, no one will enjoy your effort.
  • If cayenne pepper is too hot for you, omit it altogether.
  • Feel free to use whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream instead of evaporated milk.
  • Your eggs should have bubbles in them to make sure they’re fully combined. You don’t want small scramble egg pieces.
  • For garlic and onion powder, I recommend only using granulated because it has more flavor. Powders leave a pasty/cakey aftertaste.
  • Adding the pasta and cheese in layers creates social media-worthy cheese pulls.
  • 2 oz. of sour cream, Velveeta cheese, or cream cheese adds to the creaminess of your mac and cheese.
  • Pepper jack cheese adds a little bit of spice to the recipe, but you can use Monterey jack to achieve similar flavors.
  • Mozzarella cheese gives this baked mac and cheese the social media cheese pulls.
  • Sharp cheddar cheese adds depths of flavor but feels free to use cheddar cheese or extra sharp cheddar cheese as a swap too.
  • For superior deliciousness, don’t buy pre-shredded cheese; shred your cheese. Although pre-shredded cheese is convenient, and the cornstarch coating the shredded cheese helps the cheese melt easier. There’s something different in the flavors when you shred your own cheese.

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baked mac n cheese on a plate

FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Southern baked mac and cheese with evaporated milk.

Who invented mac and cheese?

Although it is unclear who created macaroni and cheese, many historians think Chef Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved chef, may have been the first to do so. His formal French culinary education inspired him when he initially developed the dish.

What is southern-style mac and cheese?

Southern-style mac and cheese is a dish that black folks have passed down for generations in the southern states of the United States. It is typically made with evaporated milk, sharp cheddar cheese, elbow macaroni noodles, and a few other key ingredients. The dish is then baked to perfection, resulting in a delicious, creamy meal.

Most other cultures only cook their mac and cheese on the stovetop but baking the mac and cheese is the biggest key difference.

What is the best cheese for macaroni and cheese?

Various types of cheeses can be used for mac and cheese, but the best kind of cheese for this dish is usually sharp cheddar cheese. This type of cheese has a strong flavor that stands out in the dish and melts well when baked. Other good options include mozzarella, gouda cheese, smoked cheese, pepper jack cheese, Velvetta cheese, and cream cheese. 

What does evaporated milk do in mac and cheese?

Evaporated milk is used in mac and cheese because it thickens the cheese sauce and makes it creamier. It also helps to add a bit of flavor to the dish since the milk is cooked, bringing out a subtle sweetness in milk.

How do you make baked mac and cheese creamy?

In order to make the best southern baked mac and cheese, it’s important to follow a few key tips. First, be sure to use sharp cheddar cheese in the sauce – this will add lots of flavor. 

Second, evaporated milk and eggs are essential to make the sauce thick and creamy. And lastly, be sure to bake the mac and cheese until it’s golden brown on top for the perfect finish.

Southern Baked Mac n Cheese on serving spoon

Storage

Southern baked mac and cheese are best when served hot out of the oven and will remain fresh in the fridge for 7 days. 

To freeze, place in a freezer storage bag for 3 months—Thaw for 24 hours before reheating. 

Reheat in a 350°F oven for 12-15 minutes until hot.

More Macaroni and Cheese Recipes

If you’re a fan of mac and cheese but want to add a different twist here, try my Fried chicken mac and cheese and my Spanish mac and cheese. Here are a few options to add along with your mac and cheese.

Latest Recipe Video:

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Before You Begin

Before getting started, here are the steps I use to get organized. 

Step 1: Get all the mac and cheese ingredients on the counter.

Step 2: Measure everything out into individual bowls to move faster.

Step 3: We don’t want any surprises, so use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is calibrated. Any temperature difference can dramatically affect the results of your final recipe.

Step 4: Follow the recipe and get ready for the best southern baked mac and cheese you’ve ever enjoyed.

If you’re in the mood for some Southern comfort food, this baked mac and cheese is the perfect recipe to try. The flavors are out-of-this-world delicious, and they will satisfy your cravings. So go ahead and give it a try – you won’t regret it!

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Southern Baked Mac n Cheese on serving spoon

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

Kenneth Temple
This Southern baked mac and cheese is cheesy, buttery, and seasoned to perfection, which are just a few reasons this soul food dish makes your taste buds dance. The cheese pull from this recipe is insane!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Soul Food, Southern
Servings 10 persons
Calories 476 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. cooked macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 12 oz. evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
  • 8 oz. shredded pepper jack
  • 4 oz. shredded Colby jack
  • 4 oz. shredded mozzarella

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. In a large bowl, add macaroni and 4 tablespoons of melted butter. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, heavy cream, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sharp cheddar, pepper jack, Colby jack, and mozzarella cheese. Pour the egg mixture and half of the cheese over the noodles, making sure the cheese is evenly mixed in the noodles.
  • Use 2 tablespoons of room-temperature butter to grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Pour the mac into the casserole dish and spread the rest of the cheese over the top. Bake for 35 minutes until cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Cool for 10 minutes before serving hot.

Notes

Pro Tips & Tricks:
Here are some of my top tips and tricks to help you make this delicious Southern classic:
  • Pick a deep 9 x 13 casserole dish. This will ensure that as the mac and cheese cooks, it doesn’t overflow as it bakes.
  • Do not overbake your mac and cheese. For one important reason, when you overcook eggs, they curled, and the eggs become scrambled, the cheese sauce loses its creamy texture, and worse of all, no one will enjoy your effort.
  • If cayenne pepper is too hot for you, omit it altogether.
  • Feel free to use whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream in place of evaporated milk.
  • Your eggs should have bubbles in them to make sure they’re fully combined. You don’t want small scramble egg pieces.
  • For garlic and onion powder, I recommend only using granulated because it has more flavor. Powders leave a pasty/cakey aftertaste.
  • Adding the pasta and cheese in layers creates social media-worthy cheese pulls.
  • 2 oz. of sour cream, Velveeta cheese, or cream cheese adds to the creaminess of your mac and cheese.
  • Pepper jack cheese adds a little bit of spice to the recipe, but you can use Monterey jack to achieve similar flavors.
  • Mozzarella cheese gives this baked mac and cheese the social media cheese pulls.
  • Sharp cheddar cheese adds depths of flavor but feels free to use cheddar cheese or extra sharp cheddar cheese as a swap too.
  • For superior deliciousness, don’t buy pre-shredded cheese; shred your cheese. Although pre-shredded cheese is convenient, and the cornstarch coating the shredded cheese helps the cheese melt easier. There’s something different in the flavors when you shred your own cheese.
Storage:
Mac and cheese will remain fresh in the fridge for 7 days. 
To freeze, place in a freezer storage bag for 3 months. Thaw for 24 hours before reheating. 
Reheat in a 350°F oven for 12-15 minutes until hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 476kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 23gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 20gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 146mgSodium: 947mgPotassium: 221mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1085IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 573mgIron: 1mg
Keyword southern baked mac and cheese, southern mac and cheese recipe, bake macaroni recipe, soul food mac, and cheese, soul food baked mac and cheese
Cooked this recipe?Let me know how it was!

2 thoughts on “Southern Baked Mac and Cheese”

  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely yummy, family loved it!
    It’s so good we’re having it again tonight. I actually cooked the first one about a month ago.

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