Two kinds of cheese, eggs, milk, and seasonings, are used to make the baked macaroni dish known as “Southern mac and cheese.” It’s pretty simple to cook and is simple to double or treble to feed a bigger group.
A hot skillet of homemade Southern macaroni and cheese is always a good choice. Our go-to recipes for mac and cheese include buffalo chicken mac and cheese, slow cooker mac and cheese, and this version with a Southern flair.
Although there are countless ways to prepare mac and cheese, this Southern version is one of my all-time faves. Combine everything, bake it in the oven, and wait for the compliments to come in—no, there’s need to spend the extra time making a cheese sauce!
One of the most traditional southern side dishes is baked macaroni and cheese. Although the dish has European origins, James Hemings, the highly competent enslaved cook of President Thomas Jefferson, is responsible for the version that Americans are familiar with today.
The cheesy, savory side that we all know and love was created by Hemings, who discovered the meal during his trips to Europe with Jefferson. The meal quickly gained popularity, and the cooking method was transferred orally across the community of enslaved people, becoming a mainstay on the dinner tables of African-Americans and people from the southern states.
HOW DO YOU MAKE SOUTHERN MAC AND CHEESE?
The cheese blend is the secret ingredient in this Southern mac and cheese. There is no need to prepare a sauce on the stove, in contrast to specific recipes. Combine milk, cream, eggs, shredded cheese, and seasoning in a simple bowl. Put the cooked macaroni and this cheese mixture in a baking dish. As a final touch, top with a bit of cheddar. The cheese and milk combine to make a creamy, delectable sauce after being baked, and the noodles savor the flavor. With a bit of chopped parsley placed on top, the mac and cheese are prepared for serving.
TIPS FOR SOUTHERN MAC AND CHEESE
- Never use bagged pre-shredded cheese; it may include anti-caking agents and not melt as well as freshly shredded cheese. Always use freshly shredded cheese.
- Purchase a block of American cheese from your deli counter for the creamiest mac and cheese.
- For the most pleasing flavor and texture, use whole milk.
- The mac and cheese can be put together up to 4 hours ahead of time. Combine the cheese mixture and the macaroni, then chill the dish until it’s time to bake it.
- Use any slight pasta shape you desire, such as fusilli, rotini, or tiny shells.
- Before serving, make sure to give the pasta at least 10 minutes to sit. The mac and cheese can then be heated to the ideal level and consistency.
Alternative Video Recipe: Southern Baked Mac
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WHAT CAN I ADD TO SOUTHERN MAC AND CHEESE?
Various tastes go well with mac and cheese. Add cooked bacon, chopped jalapenos, chicken, hot sauce, tomatoes, peas, ground beef, crumbled sausage, spinach, or even crunchy breadcrumbs on the top if you like.
WHAT CHEESES WORK BEST WITH MAC AND CHEESE?
Mac and cheese must be creamy and flavorful. I enjoy using American deli cheese for its silky richness and cheddar cheese for the traditional mac and cheese flavor. Other cheeses that melt well, such as smoked cheddar, Gouda, Monterey Jack, or fontina, can be combined if you wish to add other flavors.
SAUCE FOR MAC AND CHEESE
To begin with, this cheese-filled bechamel sauce is excessive! So, to increase the smoothness and texture of my mac and cheese, I added a can of evaporated milk, which is not the same as condensed milk, in addition to the 1/2 cup of half and a half (of light cream) whole milk).
I’m adding one more secret to this sauce, too. THE CREOLE SEASON. Yes! Adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon gives this Southern Baked Mac & Cheese more depth. I’m telling you unless you enjoy bland food, that makes all the difference.
THE BEST CHEESE FOR MAC AND CHEESE IN A BAKE
When using cheese in this recipe, don’t be afraid. Every noodle in this dish was adorned with three different kinds of cheese. I strongly advise adding a sharp cheddar to your baked mac and cheese for the most pleasing flavor. Just a word of caution: avoid using pre-shredded cheese in bags because it contains preservatives that make it drier than freshly grated cheese.
My three favorite pieces of cheese are jack, mozzarella, and sharp cheddar. Alternatively, you might also use Gruyere, gouda, fontina, and pepper jack cheese.
HOW LONG TO BAKE MAC AND CHEESE?
When baking mac and cheese, there is only one tip to keep in mind: don’t overbake it. If you do, the sauce will evaporate, leaving you with a dry combination.
You can be sure to get the same stretchy, cheesy baked mac and cheese with all the heart-melting sauce by baking it for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Alternatively, you might bake it for 30 minutes at 350 F (177 C);
Even though we’ve tried a few different Mac and Cheese recipes, nothing comes close to this one’s silky, creamy sauce, which coats every inch of elbow macaroni.
With the bursting Southern flavors this baked mac and cheese offers, you’d fall head over heels. It has a spicy and smoky undertone. Undoubtedly, a more oversized spoon would be required!
Any time would be enjoyable with this. Oh, especially now in the chilly winter. Therefore, don’t save making a pan of this for special occasions.
WHICH 3 CHEESES ARE BEST FOR MAC AND CHEESE?
I like to start with single-aged, semi-hard cheese, such as sharp cheddar. Next, add cream cheese with good melting properties, like mild cheddar, mozzarella, or Monterey Jack. Finally, the creaminess of your southern baked mac and cheese recipe can be further enhanced by adding extra creamy cheese, such as mascarpone or cream cheese.
WHAT MILK SUITS MAC AND CHEESE BEST?
I like evaporated milk over regular milk. It comes naturally to me to make baked mac and cheese the old-fashioned way with evaporated milk. And I believe it yields the creamiest outcomes! The custard filling I adore is also made with egg and evaporated milk. The remaining requirements are as follows:
WHY ARE MAC AND CHEESE A SOUTHERN FAVORITE?
After James Hemmings, Thomas Jefferson’s slave chef, perfected the recipe, mac and cheese became a typical dish throughout the South. It later became a dish for celebration among Black people in the south and has been well-liked ever since.
WHAT COULD I PUT IN MY MAC AND CHEESE TO IMPROVE IT?
Although I like this simple southern mac and cheese recipe just the way it is, you can always add some sour cream to it to make it creamier. Additionally, you may customize your mac and cheese by including additional cheeses of your choice. For example, this Chick-Fil-A recipe calls for Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Additionally, I enjoy adding sliced green onions, diced crispy bacon, or a few drops of spicy sauce for smokiness.
INGREDIENTS FOR SOUTHERN MAC AND CHEESE
You’ll need 8 ounces of elbow macaroni, but you could also use little shells, cavatappi, or another similar noodle type. For holding all that delicious cheese, elbow macaroni works best. Therefore, it is around a half-pound box.
- I use salted butter, but you may substitute unsalted butter and change the seasonings accordingly.
- Extra-sharp aged cheddar cheese – Most of the flavors in this soul cuisine mac and cheese come from this cheese, so make sure to pick the best! For the best flavor, I prefer to use high-quality, sharp cheddar cheese that has matured for at least a year. This southern mac and cheese dish benefits significantly from having it in a block that you can grate yourself.
- Use any mild, melty cheese you choose in place of mild cheddar. You can use mild cheddar, gouda, jack, mozzarella, or fontina. Once more, in block form so that you can grate yourself.
- This southern baked macaroni and cheese contains three different types of cheese, including mascarpone!
- You can substitute low-fat milk for whole milk, which will still work great.
- A cup of heavy cream can be substituted for the evaporated milk if you don’t have any, and the butter can be left out.
- Before adding your egg, season the mixture with the seasonings listed below and salt to taste.
- Whether it’s cajun or creole seasoning, I prefer the taste boost that creole seasoning adds to this southern baked mac & cheese, especially with the cheese combination. I appreciate Tony Chachere. If you don’t have any, you can use a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.
- The dried mustard powder in this baked mac and cheese recipe offers a mildly acidic flavor that works wonderfully with the cheese.
- I always keep whole nutmeg available to grate fresh, but ground nutmeg also works well in this recipe.
- Well-beaten egg.
- Before baking, sprinkle the top with freshly cracked black pepper. Paprika and additional cajun flavor are other options.
SOUTHERN MAC AND CHEESE: HOW DO YOU MAKE IT FROM SCRATCH?
- Make sure your macaroni is very soft before draining and adding butter.
- Then, add the glasses of milk and mascarpone to a sizable bowl and whisk to mix everything.
- Then toss in the buttered macaroni after adding the grated cheese and seasonings.
- Place the mixture in a baking dish with butter, sprinkle extra cheese on top, and bake!
- Enjoy your quick southern mac and cheese after it cools off from the oven.
What happens when you add an egg to mac and cheese?
The addition of an egg will smooth and cream the Mac and Cheese. The final recipe’s texture does change when the egg is added, as I have tested both ways. Beat one egg in a medium basin. Drizzle 2-3 Tablespoons of the thickened milk mixture into the egg to warm it up.
Why are mac and cheese a Southern favorite?
Naturally, the meal was not done by Jefferson’s daughter herself. She gave the order to her slaves. They discovered the mac n cheese lunch to be simple, affordable, and delectable. Enslaved people in the South began to enjoy it as a meal.
Thanksgiving mac and cheese: is it Southern?
Regarding year-round comfort foods, macaroni and cheese is a national staple. Still, unless you reside in the South, the gooey delicacy rarely appears on the Thanksgiving dinner table.
What flavorings work well with mac and cheese?
Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, hot buffalo sauce, and truffle salt are the best spices to spice up your mac and cheese.
Which is preferable for mac and cheese: milk or water?
The starch from the pasta is concentrated when macaroni is cooked in a minimal amount of water, assisting the cheese in forming a creamy emulsion. Unfortunately, pasta is called for in similar recipes to be cooked in milk, which can burn. This issue can be resolved by cooking in water and adding evaporated milk at the end.
More Alternative Mac and Cheese Recipes to try!
SKILLET MAC & CHEESE
This mac and cheese are almost too simple to be true. The rich cheese flavor is always preferred by children, but I’ve never encountered an adult who didn’t enjoy it just as much. —Ann Bowers, Rockport, Texas
CAJUN MAC AND CHEESE
When I make my go-to meatloaf recipe, I have a half-pound of ground beef left over. I created this simple Cajun mac and cheese recipe to use it up. —June Ellis, Erie, Illinois