Meatless Monday Challenge

Easy & Cheesy One-Pot Mac and Cheese

on July 20, 2020
last updated May 27, 2024
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The easiest and cheesiest one-pot mac and cheese recipe to make the kid in you rejoice. With its extra creamy sauce, and bubbly, golden brown top, you'll be hard-pressed not to mutter "mmmm" with every single bite.
Spoonful of mac and cheese with a golden brown cheese layer on top being scooped up to serve.

Ready to ditch the boxed stuff and experience the real deal? Boy, do I have the recipe for you! This is truly the best and the easiest mac and cheese recipe and the best part? It only requires one pot!

The trick is cooking the mac in the base of the cheese sauce, and doing so in an oven-safe pot so that you can finish it off in the oven for a thick layer of bubbling cheese on top! Truly, this cheesy pasta dish is the ultimate in comfort food.

Spoonful of one pot mac and cheese close to camera with pot in the background.

My memory of mac-n-cheese growing up seems like a dream. There’s a little packet filled with magic dust that you mix with milk and all of a sudden you have a delicious gourmet dinner. What kind of WIZARDRY??

But as I grew and my palette got a little more sophisticated (I literally ate mac-n-cheese, cereal, and pizza exclusively as a kid, so that’s not saying much), I found out that there’s better and CHEESIER mac-n-cheese than the kind you get out of the box.

One-Pot Mac and Cheese Ingredients & Substitutions

Here’s everything you need:

  • Unsalted butter.
  • All-purpose flour.
  • Milk. Any milk from skim to whole to even any unsweetened, unflavored non-dairy milk.
  • Vegetable broth. Chicken broth also works here.
  • Elbow macaroni. Other short pasta varieties will work, but you may have to adjust the cooking time.
  • Nutmeg.
  • Onion powder.
  • Garlic powder.
  • Sharp cheddar cheese. Mild or medium cheddar work too, but I find sharp to be unbeatable in this recipe.
  • Colby jack cheese. Or Monterey jack.
overhead view of all ingredients for mac and cheese - onion powder, cheddar, milk, macaroni, vegetable broth, flour, garlic powder, nutmeg, butter, Colby jack

The Cheesiest Indulgent Mac-N-Cheese Tips & Tricks


Use a Block of Cheese

I know. It’s a whole extra step. Why grate your own cheese when the grocery store sells perfectly packaged cheese that is already shredded?

Well, pre-shredded cheese has extra preservatives to keep it from sticking together. And as a self-prescribed (but independently verified) cheese-aholic, I can TASTE the difference.

I have made this recipe with both, and freshly hand-shredded blocks of cheese undoubtedly produce a creamier, cheesier, fresher tasting mac-n-cheese. Not convinced? Read all about it here.

Green tip: Shop organically if you can. Organic farms rely on biodiversity to generate rich soil, avoiding the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which means no toxic runoff. This is still true for cheese!

How to Make Mac and Cheese in One Pot

Start by making a roux by melting the butter over medium heat and whisking in the flour. This will enable you to have a thick and creamy cheese sauce.

Then, add the milk and vegetable broth and whisk to combine it with the roux. Bring it to a simmer before adding the macaroni.

Then, cover and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the noodles do not stick to one another or to the bottom of the pot. You want the pasta to be just underdone.

Then, keep the pot where it is, but turn the heat source off. Add about half of the cheddar cheese and all of the Colby jack cheese. Add the nutmeg, onion powder, and garlic powder, as well.

Stir to form your cheese sauce, using the residual heat to melt all the shredded cheese. At this point, your homemade mac and cheese will likely seem like there is too much sauce. Don’t worry, this will right itself in the oven.

A roux made of butter and flour to act as base for cheese sauce.
Make a roux out of the butter and flour.
Adding milk to Cocotte to make macaroni and cheese in one pot.
Add the milk and vegetable broth and combine with roux to thicken.
Bringing vegetable broth and milk to a simmer to cook macaroni in.
Bring to a full simmer, then add raw macaroni.
Covering pot to cook macaroni in veggie broth and milk.
Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes.
Cooked mac and cheese with two types of cheeses, nutmeg, garlic powder, and onion powder.
Add the cheese and seasonings.
Mac and cheese before finishing off in the oven.
Taste to see if you need any salt and pepper.

How to Finish One Pot Mac and Cheese in the Oven

It’s imperative that you use a Dutch Oven or Cocotte that is oven-safe up to 500°F. Add the remaining cheddar cheese on top of your macaroni and cheese in an even layer.

Place the mac and cheese on the top rack of the oven preheated to 500°F. Broil until the cheese in completely melted and starts to bubble and brown. This typically takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, so make sure you watch it closely.

Adding a layer of shredded cheddar cheese on top of stovetop mac and cheese to finish under the broiler.
Top the mac and cheese with a thick layer of cheddar cheese.
One pot macaroni and cheese just out of the oven with a bubbling golden brown cheesy top.
Finish under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.

How to Properly Store and Reheat Leftover Mac and Cheese

On that note, unless you’re having a dinner party (or maybe you just have an impressively big appetite?), you WILL have leftovers.

Have some extra milk and cheese on hand for reheating. Add a dash of milk and a handful of cheese to your serving, cover it with saran wrap, and reheat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. It’ll make all the difference in the texture of your leftovers.

Want to sharpen your kitchen skills?

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If you’re loving this Mac-n-Cheese recipe and want more pasta, check out this Ricotta Pesto Pasta and Salmon Spinach Pasta with White Wine Sauce.

Spoonful of mac and cheese with a golden brown cheese layer on top being scooped up to serve.

Easy & Cheesy One-Pot Mac and Cheese

5 from 1 vote
Marley Goldin
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The easiest and cheesiest one-pot mac and cheese recipe to make the kid in you rejoice. With its extra creamy sauce, and bubbly, golden brown top, you'll be hard-pressed not to mutter "mmmm" with every single bite.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings

Equipment

Ingredients
 
 

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces Colby jack cheese
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1 handful chopped green onion (optional)

Instructions
 

  • To a Dutch Oven on large Cocotte, add the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally until melted.
  • Still over medium heat, add the flour and whisk it into the melted butter to form a roux.
  • Slowly add the milk and vegetable broth as you continue to whisk. Bring to a light simmer.
  • Add the uncooked macaroni and stir. Cover and cook 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally so the noodles do not stick together or to the bottom of your pot.
  • Preheat your oven to 500°F and shred your cheese (you can of course buy pre-shredded cheese, but shredding a block yourself will give you a creamier cheese sauce!).
  • Keep the pot on the burner but turn the heat source off. Add about half of the cheddar cheese, all of the Colby jack, the nutmeg, onion powder, and garlic powder. Fold with a spatula until the cheese is completely melted and sauce is well-combined. At this point, it may seem like there is too much liquid, but don't worry! It will thicken under the broiler. Taste the mac and cheese to see if it needs any salt and/or pepper. The macaroni should be slightly underdone.
  • Add the remaining cheddar cheese on top and place uncovered on the top rack of your pre-heated oven until the cheese is bubbling and brown. This can take anywhere from 30 seconds – 2 minutes, so watch it closely! Serve hot with green onion (optional).

Pro Tips

  • Always use a block of cheese and grate it yourself for the best results.
  • Make sure you are using a Dutch Oven or Cocotte that is oven-safe for up to 500°F.

Video

Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Diet Vegetarian
Keyword 30 Minutes or Less, Mac and Cheese, One-Pot
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