Southern Macaroni and Cheese (The BEST Recipe!) - Oh Sweet Basil (2024)

When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol’s ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!

It’s so nice when we get to go back to the Carolinas to visit family; we wish we could go more often. There’s so much history there, and we love to see it all. As much as we love to visit all the places, we can’t wait to get together with family for some good old family food favorites and great chats. When we get together with Grandma Carol and Grandpa Lou, it is a sure bet that one of the dishes will be macaroni and cheese and that not one morsel will be left in the dish at the end of the meal.

We carry on this tradition as often as we can with our little family. The first time we made it with our little ones they did not recognize that it was the “real mac and cheese.” They were used to one of their favorite boxed mac and cheese meals.

Don’t get me wrong, boxed mac and cheese is a life saver at those meal times when time is just not on your side. However, when we have the time we love making our southern macaroni and cheese from scratch, where every bite is full of cheesy, buttery, heart stopping goodness!

What Makes Mac and Cheese Southern?

Southern mac and cheese is soul food and it’s much different from other mac and cheese recipes. Southern baked mac and cheese is not creamy like the macaroni and cheese Carrian grew up with. Carrian still prefers creamy macaroni and cheese with a panko bread crumb topping, but she can appreciate a good baked southern mac and cheese. The recipe for traditional southern mac and cheese is given in the recipe card below, but there is a note added for making it extra creamy like Carrian prefers.

The image below shows the traditional southern mac, but all the rest of the pictures will be the gooey, creamy version. Both are delicious and it is totally up to you on which one you prefer.

Southern Macaroni and Cheese (The BEST Recipe!) - Oh Sweet Basil (2)

What’s in Southern Macaroni and Cheese?

Most baked mac and cheese recipes stick to the basics that you would expect — butter, milk, cheese and pasta. To make the recipe Southern and to take things to the next level, a few more ingredients are added…

  • Butter – unsalted
  • Milk – whole or 2%
  • Cheese – we use shredded sharp cheddar, but you are welcome to try any kind of combination you want
  • Pasta – classic elbow macaroni works great, but any short and sturdy pasta will get the job done
  • Sour Cream – full fat, don’t try the light or fat free
  • Salt – adds flavor
  • Eggs – binds everything together

Carrian’s Extra Gooey Version

Basically, we are going to add some cream and lots of extra cheese to make this extra creamy and gooey. Here is what you will need…

  • Pasta – elbow macaroni
  • Heavy Cream – half and half and whole milk can be used instead of cream but cream gives a more rich and creamy taste and texture
  • Half and Half – whole milk will also work
  • Butter – unsalted
  • Eggs – binds
  • Sour Cream – adds extra creaminess
  • Season Salt – we love Pappy’s brand
  • Garlic Powder – adds flavor
  • Onion Powder – adds flavor
  • Salt – adds flavor
  • Pepper – adds flavor and a tiny bit of heat
  • Colby Jack Cheese – shredded, Tillamook brand cheeses work best
  • Monterey Jack Cheese – shredded
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese – shredded

The measurements for each ingredient and the instructions for making both versions of this southern mac and cheese can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post.

How to Make Southern Macaroni and Cheese

This is such an easy macaroni and cheese recipe! To make this baked mac and cheese recipe with sour cream, follow these steps:

  1. Preheat the oven and butter your baking dish.
  2. Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. Be sure to salt the water!
  3. While still hot, place the cooked macaroni into a large bowl and stir in the butter and cheese.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sour cream, and salt. Stir into the macaroni mixture.
  5. Turn the mixture into a greased baking dish and sprinkle with additional shredded cheese.
  6. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown on top.

How to make the extra gooey version

  1. Follow the first two steps stated above. Then combine the pasta with the butter.
  2. Add the cream, half and half and eggs and mix again. Then add the seasonings and stir everything to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the colby jack and monterey jack cheese and add it to the pasta. Stir together until the cheeses melt. Then stir in the cheddar cheese.
  4. Spread the mixture into your prepared pan and then sprinkle with extra cheese and bake.
  5. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

All of these instructions in their complete detail can be found in the recipe card below.

Can I Double This Recipe?

Very easily, yes! You’ll likely need to bake this homemade mac and cheese in two baking dishes, though.

Can I Freeze Mac and Cheese?

Unfortunately, you cannot. Dairy doesn’t freeze very well, so you’ll want to eat any leftovers within a week of making this sour cream mac and cheese.

Is There an Egg Substitute I Can Use?

No, you can’t substitute the eggs in this recipe. That’s just how Southern macaroni and cheese is made, sorry!

Tips for Making the Best Macaroni and Cheese

It’s so important that you salt the pasta water. If you don’t salt the pasta water, the macaroni itself will be bland and it’s likely that your Southern mac and cheese won’t be as flavorful as it should be.

You also must use whole or 2% milk in this easy macaroni and cheese recipe. That extra bit of fat in the milk adds moisture and flavor to the baked mac and cheese. Skim milk is a major no-no in this recipe!

Lastly, there’s no sour cream substitute you can use in this recipe. If you want to make this recipe healthier by using a substitute like Greek yogurt…just don’t. Trust us, the sour cream is a game changer.

Can Mac and Cheese Be Made Ahead of Time?

Yes, this is a great make ahead meal. It can be made completely and then stored in an airtight container for up to 24 hours head of time. Then bake as directed.

Which version of this southern macaroni and cheese speaks to you? We can’t wait to hear which one you like best! I make both just depending on what kind of mood I’m in. But oh that creamy, gooey version is H – E – A – V – E – N!!

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Southern Macaroni and Cheese

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3.92 from 226 votes

Servings: 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes mins

Cook Time: 30 minutes mins

Total Time: 45 minutes mins


When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol's ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!


  • 16 Ounces Elbow Macaroni
  • 3 1/2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (reserve 1 cup for topping)
  • 1/4 Cup Butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 Cups Milk, whole or 2%
  • 3 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Carrian's Extra GOOEY Version

  • 16 Ounces Elbow Macaroni, see note
  • 7 Tablespoons Butter, melted
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Cup Half and Half, or whole milk
  • 2 Large Eggs, whisked in a bowl
  • 3 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoon Season Salt, see note
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 16 Ounces Colby Jack Cheese, shredded, Tillamook works best
  • 8 Ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
  • 8 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x11" casserole dish.

  • Cook the macaroni per package instructions.

  • Place the pasta in a large bowl and while still hot and add 2 1/2 cups cheese and butter.

  • In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisking to combine, and add to the macaroni mixture.

  • Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish, top with remaining 1 cup of cheese and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

  • Serve immediately.

Carrian's Gooey Version

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees

  • Butter a 9x13 (or 8x8 works but it will be piled very high) dish and set aside.

  • Heat a pot of water to boiling and add 2 teaspoons salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente and drain. Meanwhile, melt the butter and set aside.

  • In a large bowl, add the pasta and toss evenly with the butter, mixing thoroughly before moving on.

  • Add the cream, half and half , eggs and sour cream and mix thoroughly again. Add the seasonings and stir to combine.

  • In a large bowl, toss together the Colby jack and Monterey jack cheeses . Sprinkle in 16 ounces and stir together. Add the sharp cheese and gently fold it all together.

  • Spread the mixture into the pan and sprinkle the remaining cheese all over the top. Bake for 35 minutes and then set out to rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Carrian prefers the elbow macaroni with little ridges as it holds onto the cheese better.

Pappy's Seasoning which is found at local stores, especially Winco and walmart is our personal favorite. It's just salt, sugar, paprika, onion, and garlic powder.


Serving: 1gCalories: 714kcalCarbohydrates: 61gProtein: 30.9gCholesterol: 182.4mgFiber: 2.4gSugar: 5.9g

Author: Sweet Basil

Course: Over 400 Baby Shower Food Ideas that Taste Amazing

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Southern Macaroni and Cheese (The BEST Recipe!) - Oh Sweet Basil (2024)


What is the difference between Southern mac and cheese? ›

Southern-style mac and cheese is typically made with a milk-and-egg base rather than a roux. Here, the milk component is an infused milk-and-cream mixture reserved from cooking the noodles (which adds even more richness to the dish). The finished macaroni and cheese is firm enough to slice into solid squares.

What is the most flavorful 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 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 to add to macaroni and cheese to make it taste better? ›

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

Why use evaporated milk in mac and cheese? ›

Using evaporated milk also means you don't have to make a roux. Many mac and cheese recipes require a roux for thickening and to stabilize the sauce. While this approach certainly works, it can leave the sauce thick and gloppy, and the flour dulls the flavor of the cheese.

What kind of milk is best for mac and cheese? ›

Milk: Keeps our cheese sauce super creamy. I use whole milk or reduced-fat milk. Mustard and spices: A combination of Dijon mustard, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt makes this macaroni and cheese extra delicious. Cheese: I use white cheddar and parmesan or pecorino cheese.

What 2 cheeses are best for mac and cheese? ›

For a mac and cheese recipe, consider the combination of sharper cheddar cheeses and a flavorful Parmesan. This cheese adds a boost of fruity, nutty notes to your favorite macaroni recipes.

Which president made macaroni and cheese? ›

You can thank Thomas Jefferson for the mac and cheese on your Thanksgiving table. The story of how macaroni and cheese came to America, and has now become the most popular Thanksgiving side dish in Virginia, tells a story of America.

What makes mac and cheese taste so good? ›

1. It takes two cheeses to tango with mac. For really great macaroni and cheese, you need a cheese that melts well and a cheese that packs a punch. A few cheeses do both (that's a shout out to you, cheddar, emmentaler, and your other alpine-style, fondue favorites).

What are the best 5 cheeses for mac and cheese? ›

To make 5 cheese macaroni and cheese, you need extra sharp cheddar, American or Velveeta cheese, smoked gouda, smoked gruyere, and colby jack. The smoked gouda and gruyere are favorites of ours, but you can totally use plain versions of each.

Why does my homemade mac and cheese taste bland? ›

Try adding a little more salt first, because that might fix it. If the problem was the cheese you use doesn't have much flavor, then try adding some other flavors, such has mustard or hot sauce. The next time you make it, try to find some more strongly flavor cheese, or adding more cheese.

Why add sour cream to mac and cheese? ›

Whether making it from scratch or the box, sour cream is the secret ingredient to rich and creamy macaroni and cheese. This tart and tangy additive goes a long way regarding recipes, and just a dollop can transform any dish into a thick and creamy masterpiece.

How to elevate your mac and cheese? ›

Spices: A little garlic powder and onion powder goes a long way in making this the best easy mac and cheese ever! Definitely don't skimp on these. You could also add a bit of paprika, black pepper, or even a splash of hot sauce if you want to amp up the flavor even more.

What is the difference between northern and southern mac and cheese? ›

It's not southern mac and cheese if it doesn't have eggs in it- this is one of the primary differences between northern and southern. I also suggest mixing everything together before pouring into your casserole dish for better distribution.

What is the history of southern mac and cheese? ›

Though Thomas Jefferson is praised for “putting mac and cheese on the South's radar” (Biro)—after bringing the recipe from Europe to Virginia in the late 1700s—the underlying, often discounted narrative lies in Jefferson's enslaved chefs preparing the meal, often adding their own culinary influences from Africa.

What is Southern cheese? ›

The best known "types" of traditional Southern cheese are pimento cheese (which is a dip, not a cheese itself), and hoop cheese, which is now a relative rarity, but was ubiquitous before the 1960s in local stores.

Do Southerners consider mac and cheese a vegetable? ›

The south is a magical wonderland where the okra is fried, the gravy is plentiful, and even mac and cheese is considered a veggie.

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