How To Make the Best Macaroni and Cheese on the Stove

updated 3 days ago

A no-roux method for faster (and tastier!) macaroni and cheese on the stovetop, made with just 5 ingredients.

Serves4 to 6

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This is the macaroni and cheese recipe I grew up on — creamy sauce, chewy pasta, and plenty of cheese. It always felt like a special treat to us kids, although I suspect my mother liked it more because it was an easy dinner that requires just five ingredients and almost no thought to pull together at the end of a long day.

Whatever the reason, whatever the occasion, a bowl of this mac and cheese will always spell comfort. Here’s the best, most classic recipe I know, with step-by-step pictures to guide you.

Quick Overview

How to Make Stovetop Mac and Cheese

  • To make this a quick recipe, skip making a roux, which is typical for homemade mac and cheese. Simply whisk flour into warm milk after it’s been heated to thicken up the pasta.
  • Use 2 percent or whole milk and a blend of cheddar, Monterey jack, and cheddar cheeses for the recipe.
  • To assemble the mac and cheese, cook the pasta, heat up the milk over the stove and whisk in some flour, add cheese to the milk mixture, and pour over the pasta.
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Skip the Roux for a Quicker Recipe

My mother was a bit of a rebel with her macaroni and cheese in that she didn’t believe in making a roux. She always said she couldn’t see what the fuss was about, and honestly, I’m with her. For a simple weeknight meal, skip the roux. I find that the sauce thickens just fine without clumping if I just whisk a little flour with some of the milk before adding it to the pan.

What kind of milk is best for mac and cheese?

This recipe works best with whole milk or 2 percent milk. If you’re looking for a recipe with evaporated milk, try this easy 3-ingredient mac and cheese recipe.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

What cheese is best for mac and cheese?

Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Colby cheese are all great in this recipe. Sharp cheddar in particular is a favorite for flavor.

What can I add to mac and cheese?

When my brother and I were kids, we didn’t like any “stuff” in our mac n’ cheese. These days, I like a little more substance. Here are some ideas for jazzing up your mac and cheese:

  • Ham and peas are a favorite addition.
  • Onions, red peppers, and sausage cooked with chili powder and cumin give a southwestern kick.
  • Slow-cooked mushrooms and caramelized onions also make a bowl feel extra decadent.

Tester’s Note

As a bonafide roux-lover, I was skeptical of this recipe, but as a mom trying to quickly feed two little kids every night, I fell hard for this fuss-free technique. If you prefer a little bit looser cheese sauce, you can add up to another 1/4 cup of milk. Do this when you coat the pasta in the serving bowl, rather than while the sauce is simmering.

Meghan Splawn, November 2017

How To Make Creamy Macaroni and Cheese on the Stove

A no-roux method for faster (and tastier!) macaroni and cheese on the stovetop, made with just 5 ingredients.

Serves4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1 pound

    dried short pasta, such as macaroni

  • 1 1/2 cups

    whole or 2% milk, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 to 3 cups

    shredded cheese, such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Colby

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    powdered mustard

  • Optional extras (cook before adding): ham, cooked bacon, onions, peas, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower


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  1. Cook the pasta. Bring about 4 quarts of salted water to a boil over high heat in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

  2. Warm the milk. Place 1 cup of the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and flour in a small bowl and whisk together until there are no lumps. When you just start to see whisps of steam rising from the warming milk, whisk in the milk-and-flour mixture. Continue whisking gently until the milk thickens slightly to the consistency of heavy cream, 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Make the cheese sauce. Turn the heat to low and begin mixing handfuls of cheese into the milk. Stir in the salt and mustard. Stir until all the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Remove the sauce from the heat.

  4. Combine the pasta and cheese sauce. Place the pasta and 1/2 of the cheese sauce in a large serving bowl. Stir to coat the pasta evenly. Add the remaining sauce and any extra add-ins and stir to combine. If you'd like a looser sauce, add up to another 1/4 cup milk if desired. Serve the mac and cheese immediately while still warm.

Recipe Notes

Baked mac and cheese: If you have a little extra time, you can bake the macaroni and cheese to give it a golden crust. Pour the prepared mac and cheese into a casserole dish, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a few pats of butter if desired, and bake uncovered for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden and the interior is bubbly.

Storage: Leftovers will keep for up to 1 week and can be reheated in the microwave. If the sauce is a little dry after reheating, mix in a splash of milk to make it creamy again.