50+ Macaroni and Cheese Topping Ideas Plus 4 Great Recipes
How Many Ways Can You Eat Macaroni and Cheese?
Buttery, cheesy, yummy . . . one of my favorite guilty pleasure foods is macaroni and cheese.
When I first wrote this article, I had only 25 topping ideas, but this list has quickly grown to over 50! Please feel free to add your favorites to the comments section below so that I can continue to update this article over time.
Spoiler alert: My personal favorite macaroni and cheese ever is this bacon mac and cheese!
Meat and Seafood Toppings
Fried chicken pieces
Roast beef slices
Vegetable and Vegetarian Toppings
Roasted red peppers
Herbs, Seasonings, and Sauces
Toasted sesame oil
Chilies or jalapeños
Cheeses and More Dairy
Crumbled tortilla chips
Crumbled potato chips
4 Great Recipes
1. Best-Ever Mac and Cheese
You've got your favorite toppings all picked out, but what kind of mac and cheese are you going to put them on? How about this one? I think it's one of the best I've ever tasted.
- 1 pound uncooked shell noodles
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- 4 cups whole milk or half-and-half
- 1 pound shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted (for the topping)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Cook the noodles on the stovetop.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat so that it doesn't burn.
- Stir in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
- Cook over low-medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is smooth.
- Remove the pan from the burner and stir in the milk.
- Return the pan to the burner and heat to boiling, while stirring. Boil and stir for 1 minute as the mixture thickens.
- Stir in the cheese.
- Cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted.
- Drain the noodles and stir them into the cheese sauce.
- Pour the noodle-cheese mixture into a 4-quart casserole dish.
- Make the topping: Stir together bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle the topping over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, until the bread crumbs are toasted.
2. Carrot Macaroni and Cheese
This recipe features the bright orange flecks of carrot, as well as the bright citrus of orange.
- 4 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 navel orange, zested and juiced (zest removed in strips with a vegetable peeler)
- 3 cups penne rigate
- 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
- Freshly ground white pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a saucepan, combine the carrots, zest, juice, and 1/4 cup of water. Add salt and bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer over low to medium heat until the carrots are completely soft. This will take about 25 minutes.
- Discard the zest. Pour the carrots and any liquid into a blender and puree until smooth.
- In a large saucepan of boiling water, add salt and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, but save 1 cup of the cooking water.
- Return the pasta back into the pot and add the reserved water and the carrot puree. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in 3/4 of the cheese and cook, while stirring, until creamy. This will take about 3 minutes. Add the tarragon, stirring, and season with salt and white pepper.
- Pour the pasta into a baking dish and cover with the remaining 1/4 cheese.
- Bake for about 20 minutes. It's best to let this one sit out for a few minutes before serving.
3. Light Macaroni and Cheese (Low Fat)
Lighten it up a bit with this lower-fat recipe. Sometimes, we want comfort food that's a little less heavy.
- 3 cups uncooked penne pasta
- 1 (12-ounce) carton low-fat (2%) cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cooking spray
- 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cook the pasta, drain, and place it in a large bowl.
- Pour the cottage cheese into a food processor and process until it is smooth. Combine cottage cheese, cheddar, 1/4 cup Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Add this mixture to the pasta and stir.
- Spoon the mixture into a greased large glass or ceramic baking dish.
- Mix the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, panko, and parsley in a bowl. Sprinkle this topping over the pasta mixture.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Then, broil for 1 minute.
4. Waffled Macaroni and Cheese
Waffled mac and cheese? Yes, please! Did you know there's a website entirely devoted to explaining how various foods can be made into waffles, including mac and cheese? Here's a succinct version of the recipe.
- Leftover mac and cheese
- Bread crumbs
- Grease of some sort
- Take the leftover mac and cheese and spread it into a thin layer on a baking sheet. Place it in the refrigerator overnight.
- Cut out a waffle-sized slab of the mac. Dip it in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.
- Put it into your (well-greased) waffle maker for about 3 minutes.
- Be careful when you take it out; it's fragile!