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)


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 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 are the 3 best cheeses for mac and cheese? ›

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.

What is the most flavorful cheese 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. Parmesan is also ideal for grating on top of mac and cheese before you bake it to add golden color.

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

Gruyere is a classic addition because it melts much like Cheddar, but has a lovely nutty flavor. Other classics include Gouda, Muenster, Parmesan, fontina, Havarti and Monterey Jack. Brie works well too, just make sure you remove the rind before mixing it in.

Why use evaporated milk in mac and cheese? ›

Evaporated milk is a highly concentrated source of milk protein micelles—bundles of proteins that can act as powerful emulsifying agents—which help to keep the sauce creamy and smooth.

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.

Why do white people put bread crumbs on mac and cheese? ›

Not only does a breadcrumb topping for mac and cheese provide great textural contrast to the creaminess within, but it also adds even more flavor to the dish.

Why is my homemade mac and cheese not creamy? ›

don't use low fat milk -- the higher the fat content the smoother your cheese will melt/incorporate. once the base is made (the flour, butter, milk "sauce" -- bechamel?) take the pot OFF the heat. The more your heat your cheese sauce, the more it will get gritty.

Does Gordon Ramsay have a mac and cheese recipe? ›

Gordon Ramsay's mac and cheese is a simplified recipe. Just boil pasta in milk and then, add butter, cheese, salt, and pepper to it. Merge all the elements and Gordon Ramsay's mac and cheese will be ready in no time.

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

  • Monterey Jack is perhaps the ultimate melting cheese.
  • Fontina is a crowd-pleasing melter that was born to pair with pasta.
  • Baby swiss has a natural creaminess that is perfect for mac & cheese.
  • Mozzarella is the classic melter pairs well with any pasta.

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 are the ingredients in Gordon Food Service mac and cheese? ›


What makes mac and cheese taste so good? ›

Great mac n' cheese needs one or more cheeses that melt well, and one or more cheeses that bring the flavor. The best melters include monterey jack, fontina, baby swiss, asiago, provolone, mozzarella, and alpine-style.

What kind of cheese does Gordon Ramsay use? ›

Ramsay's recipe calls for Romano cheese with Pepperberry, Asiago cheese, thick slices of country bread, and kimchi. Some standard butter, olive oil, and salt are also in the mix. I went to my local grocery store, Foodtown, to see if I could find the slightly upscale ingredients. I had to purchase a few alternatives.

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