Easy Cheesy Baked Mac and Cheese is homemade but with shortcuts! No need to make a white sauce and it starts with pre-shredded Cheddar and Colby Jack. Enjoy this creamy Southern side dish for Thanksgiving, potlucks or Sunday supper. This is hands down the easiest and cheesiest homemade macaroni and cheese you will ever make.
It's that good.
This super creamy version of baked mac and cheese tastes like the old-fashioned recipe your Grandmother served but it's made in much less time because of my shortcuts.
Ingredients you will need
I don't hold back on the cheese in this recipe. It's serious business when it comes to making the cheesiest macaroni and cheese. There's 24 ounces (6 cups) of cheese going into this recipe!
- elbow macaroni
- saltine crackers
- shredded Cheddar and Colby Jack cheese
- large eggs
- whipping cream (not heavy)
- half and half or whole milk
- garlic powder (optional)
- ground pepper (optional)
I know you may be thinking, "Why is she using pre-shredded cheese?" Well, it's absolutely a shortcut. To gild the lily, shred your own from blocks of cheese.
What is the secret ingredient in Easy Cheesy Baked Mac and Cheese?
Saltine Crackers! Also called soda crackers.
The crushed saltine crackers basically turn into flour and thickens the cream mixture as it bakes! Boom! Genius, right?
No need to make a white sauce ahead of time.
What are the shortcuts?
- Not having to make a white sauce.
- Using pre-shredded cheese. You absolutely can shred your own from blocks of cheese. Go by ounces, not cup measurements here.
How to make this shortcut mac and cheese recipe
Crushed saltine crackers, layered with the cooked macaroni, cheese, and cream mixture, thickens the sauce as it bakes. It's like magic!
Create 3 layers with macaroni, crackers and cheese (in that order). Pour the cream and egg mixture over the last layer and bake at 325F degrees for 35 minutes.
Do I have to cover mac and cheese while baking?
For this recipe, I do not cover it because the dish is large enough to make the mac and cheese bake evenly. If your dish makes the mac and cheese so deep that the top starts to brown before the bottom is cooked, then you may need to loosely cover it with aluminum foil the last 10 or 15 minutes.
What are the best cheeses for baked macaroni and cheese?
Any semisoft cheese (or melting cheese) is the perfect cheese for baked mac and cheese. Of course, mild to sharp Cheddar is the most popular choice. Here are some other cheese options.
- Colby Jack. I keep this cheese in my fridge at all times because it combines the Cheddar-like flavor of Colby with the excellent melting ability of Monterey Jack cheese.
- Gouda. But, of course! The flavor of Gouda is mild and slightly sweet and nutty.
- Gruyère. If you want to add more complex flavor to your mac and cheese, then I'd recommend this sweet, salty and slightly earthy (in a good way) cheese.
- Mozzarella. If you love a good cheese pull when you are serving up a helping, then this is your cheese of choice. Not big on flavor, but it has the "wow factor" of dramatic, stringy cheese.
What can I substitute for whipping cream?
If you don't have whipping cream just use 3 cups half and half since you are already buying it for 1 cup and it usually comes in a quart size container.
How can I make this side dish ahead of time?
Easy Cheesy Baked Mac and Cheese can be made ahead. Cook macaroni and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil and let cool. Place in a sealable plastic bag or air tight container and refrigerate until ready to layer casserole, up to 3 days ahead.
Completely bake the mac and cheese; let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate. To reheat, bake at 350F degrees for 25 minutes, loosely covered with aluminum foil or just until thoroughly heated.
What to serve with Baked Macaroni and Cheese
While it's best known as a side dish, macaroni and cheese can absolutely be eaten as a main dish, especially if you stir in leftover Christmas ham.
Here are more side dish recipes to serve alongside it.
Other side dishes you may love:
Watch the video
Easy Cheesy Baked Mac and Cheese (With Shortcuts)
- baking dish
- 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni 1 3/4 cups
- 16 saltine crackers 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons
- 1 12-oz package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (or block to hand shred)
- 1 12-oz package shredded Colby Jack cheese (or block to hand shred)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1 cup half and half or whole milk
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325˚.
- Cook macaroni in salted boiling water 7 minutes and drain. (It will continue to cook more in oven.)
- Meanwhile, crush saltines in a large zip-top bag and shred the Cheddar cheese.
- Layer one-third each of macaroni, crackers, and cheese in a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish, ending with cheese. Repeat layers twice.
- With a whisk, light beat eggs in a large bowl; gradually whisk in whipping cream and half and half or milk, salt, garlic powder and pepper, if using; pour over layered macaroni mixture. Bake, uncovered, 35 minutes or until bubbly around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Updated October 21, 2021 with valuable information and images.