The Only Cheese Combination I Ever Use for the Creamiest Mac and Cheese (2024)

Lauren Miyashiro

Lauren MiyashiroRecipe Director

Lauren Miyashiro is the Recipe Director at Kitchn. A former New Yorker, she lives with her husband, two daughters, and dog in the Bay Area, where she is currently on the hunt for good pizza and bagels. She can turn almost anything into a crunchwrap and almost always has a batch of on-demand frozen cookie dough in the freezer.

published Nov 21, 2023

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The Only Cheese Combination I Ever Use for the Creamiest Mac and Cheese (1)

The secret to the best-ever homemade macaroni and cheese? Using the right cheese. If you’ve ever ended up with dry, greasy, or bland results, the reason could be your cheese. The type of block you choose to grate can seriously affect the taste and level of creaminess.

While you can’t go wrong with sharp cheddar (it’s by far the most popular choice!), we like to play around with different cheese combinations. Below are our favorite cheese duos.

Quick Overview

What Is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?

Sharp cheddar is the overwhelming popular choice, but for extra-creamy results, we think medium cheddar is even better. Other delicious options include Gruyère, smoked Gouda, and Monterey Jack.

How to Choose the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese

  • Pick a cheese that melts well. Cheddar, Gruyère, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, Fontina, and Gouda cheese are good options.
  • Grate your own cheese. The preservatives in the pre-grated stuff can make it tougher to melt. Plus, it never tastes as good.
  • Play around with the cheese combos. Homemade mac and cheese is not an exact science. As long as you’re working with cheese that you know will melt well, you can play around with the combinations and proportions.

Sharp Cheddar + Medium Cheddar

You’ll find a lot of recipes that call for sharp cheddar cheese to make the homemade cheese sauce, and we totally get it. It’s generally easy-to-find and affordable, melts beautifully, and tastes delicious. But after a lot of testing, one of our most trusted recipe developers, Patty Catalano, declared that medium cheddar is the best option for ultra-creamy mac and cheese. It has more moisture and therefore melts more easily than sharp cheddar and yields a noticeably creamier sauce.

Sharp Cheddar + Gruyère

When we want to channel our inner Ina, we go for Gruyère. It melts similarly to cheddar, but has a lovely nuttiness that tastes kinda fancy.

Medium Cheddar + Monterey Jack

If you have picky eaters, this is the mildest, very creamy, and most kid-friendly combination. Try a ratio of 1:1 in our go-to stovetop mac and cheese recipe.

Sharp Cheddar + Smoked Gouda

We recently tested six celebrity baked mac and cheese recipes and discovered our favorite included not one but two types of smoked cheeses (smoked cheddar and smoked provolone.) Smoked Gouda is generally easy to find and balances the sharpness of cheddar perfectly.

Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano) + Any Flavor Combo

We’d never make mac and cheese with just Parmesan, but just a quarter cup adds a lot of sharp depth of flavor.

If You Don’t Want to Make a Roux, Use Any Combo + Cream Cheese

For a quicker, easier, one-pot mac and cheese, use pasta water as the base of the sauce and cubed cream cheese as the binder. Then use any combo of melting cheese from above that you’d like.

The Only Cheese Combination I Ever Use for the Creamiest Mac and Cheese (2024)


What is the best cheese combination for mac and cheese? ›

Cheddar and Monterey Jack are a match made in gooey heaven, especially when they're blanketed in tons of crisp topping. At last, a recipe that's as easy as the boxed stuff, but so much tastier. It relies on Monterey Jack, Parmesan and two smooth melters: American cheese and cream cheese.

How to keep mac & cheese creamy? ›

Butter and flour: The combination of butter and flour thickens our creamy cheese sauce. You'll cook them together on the stove and then add the milk. The mixture thickens, and you can add your cheese.

How does Gordon Ramsay make the best mac and cheese? ›

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the pasta and milk. ...
  2. Once the pasta is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper. ...
  3. Divide between serving bowls and top with the bread crumbs.
  4. Enjoy!
  5. All your favorite recipes, stored in one place.
May 4, 2023

What not to do when making mac and cheese? ›

Here's what several experts say are the biggest mistakes when it comes to making macaroni and cheese at home and how to avoid making them.
  1. Using Only Cheddar cheese. ...
  2. Not Adding Spice and Seasoning with Salt. ...
  3. Choosing the Wrong Pasta. ...
  4. Overcooking. ...
  5. Skimping on the Toppings.
May 21, 2020

What is the best pair for mac and cheese? ›

Mac and cheese is versatile and can be eaten as a side dish with meats like chicken, brisket or bbq ribs, or as a main dish with a vegetable side dish like an acidic green salad or simple steamed vegetables.

What can I add to mac and cheese to make it tastier? ›

8 Ways to Elevate Your Macaroni and Cheese Dinners
  1. Add extra cheese to your dish.
  2. Mix in some hot sauce and chicken to make buffalo chicken mac n' cheese.
  3. Add in vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.
  4. Sprinkle some bacon bits or breadcrumbs on the top of your dish.
  5. Add spices and fresh herbs to your dish.
May 21, 2022

How can I make my mac and cheese better? ›

10 ways to take mac 'n' cheese to the next level:
  1. Make the sauce with brown butter.
  2. Add evaporated milk.
  3. Choose the right cheese.
  4. Choose the perfect pasta.
  5. Double up on breadcrumbs.
  6. Boost the flavour with Marmite.
  7. A hit of heat.
  8. Extra seasoning.

What keeps mac and cheese moist? ›

Add more cheese

That final layer of cheese on top isn't just for looks; it also helps keep the saucy noodles underneath from drying out during baking. Breadcrumbs also help insulate the noodles, acting as a protective layer while baking that also happens to add a nice little crunch.

Can you put too much cheese in mac and cheese? ›

Can you put too much cheese in mac and cheese? Yes, adding more cheese than a recipe calls for will not improve the dish. Too much cheese will result in a dish that is heavy and greasy.

What cheese to avoid for mac and cheese? ›

Dry, crumbly cheeses like feta or cotija are not ideal. With their high moisture levels, they don't melt properly and will leave you with clumps of cheese instead of a smooth sauce.

What cheeses are best for melting? ›

What is the best melting cheese? Cheeses with more moisture and lower melting points - cheddar is one of the most popular choices, but Swiss and Gruyère are also terrific options. Which melts better, mild or sharp cheddar? Mild cheddar melts more smoothly than sharper (more aged) cheddar.

Is cheese and apple a good combo? ›

Apples and cheese are the perfect (and might we add, underrated?) combination of sweet and savory. In our opinion, no charcuterie board is complete without several apples and cheese to pair together.

Which is better for mac and cheese? ›

Both mild and sharp cheeses can be used for mac and cheese, but for the best flavor result, sharp cheese, like cheddar, is best. Sharp cheeses like aged cheddar add a stronger flavor, while mild cheeses like Monterey Jack provide a milder taste.

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