This One Pot Creamy Mac and Cheese Bar is such a fun party idea or great way to jazz up plain old mac and cheese with more veggies!
How to make this recipe
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour, whisking frequently. Once the butter has thickened, add milk, also slowly whisking frequently.
- Add water to the pot and bring the mixture to a slow boil.
- Add salt and pepper, then pasta, stirring frequently. Cook until pasta is done.
- Meanwhile, fry ground beef and/or bacon until cooked through and prepare other toppings.
- When pasta is al dente, stir in all four cheeses and mix well.
- Serve mac and cheese alongside desired toppings. Mix & match toppings and enjoy!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Butter – substitute butter for margarine, ghee, oil, heavy cream or cream cheese.
- Flour – cornstarch will be a great substitute for flour to thicken the mac and cheese. Potato starch will also work.
- 2% milk – use any variety of milk, dairy or non dairy, for this recipe.
- Salt & pepper (to taste)
- Macaroni – macaroni pasta is classic but any other short pasta can be a great substitute. I recommend scoobi doo pasta, conchiglie, penne, farfalle or cavatappi pasta as substitutes for macaroni.
- Medium cheddar – use cheddar cheese, double the mozzarella cheese, monterey jack or gruyere cheese are great cheese substitutes.
- Mozzarella cheese – see substitution notes above.
Topping Ideas (all are optional and can be chosen based on your preferences)
- Ground beef – any other ground meat or steak cuts can also be used
- Bacon – use turkey bacon or real bacon for this recipe
- Broccoli – all toppings are optional, replace with another vegetable of your choice or leave out altogether
- Green onion – see substitution notes above
- Red pepper – see substitution notes above
- Red onion – see substitution notes above
- Diced tomatoes – roma tomatoes are recommended but cherry tomatoes will also work
- Sliced jalapeños – use fresh or pickled sliced jalapenos as toppings to your mac and cheese.
Mac and cheese bar toppings
Mac and cheese is a fan favourite on its own but having a mac and cheese bar is the perfect way to please everyone at the party! The toppings you can set out on the table are limitless, so I understand if you're not sure where to get started. Here are my favourite topping ideas for a mac and cheese bar:
- Protein: chili, bacon, ground beef, pulled pork, lobster, etc.
- Extra cheese: feta, parmesan, goat cheese, etc.
- Veggies: broccoli, red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, red onions, sautéed mushrooms, etc.
- Other: panko, breadcrumbs, olives, beans, chipotle peppers, crushed chili flakes, herbs etc.
- Sauces: hot sauce, salsa, ketchup, chipotle sauce, etc.
How to set the table
To set your table, start with the mac and cheese. Place the mac and cheese serving plate at the beginning of the line up. Group together the toppings into categories going down the assembly line. For example, all meats and proteins can be kept in a group, while all veggies are grouped together, and so on. I recommend keeping all of your toppings in separate bowls with their own serving spoons/tongs. Finish your assembly line with napkins and cutlery to complete the line up.
Storing and reheating
This dish is so good, I highly doubt you'll have any leftovers once the party's over! If you do happen to have leftovers, you're in luck! This mac and cheese makes the best leftover lunch or dinner for the rest of the week!
Store the mac and cheese in individual servings or in one large container – the individual servings will be easier when it comes to reheating. Before refrigerating, let the macaroni and cheese cool down to room temperature and then you place it in the fridge. Like I mentioned above, this dish will last in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Store the leftover toppings separately to keep this recipe customizable and add to the dish as you please after warming.
When you're ready to enjoy the dish, heat the mac and cheese in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until warmed. Warm up any toppings that may need reheating and then top your mac and cheese as you please!
Freezing leftover mac and cheese
Double the amount of mac and cheese you're making and keep the rest in the freezer for another time! Yes, mac and cheese is a freezer friendly recipe!
Before freezing, make sure the macaroni and cheese has cooled down entirely. Once the macaroni and cheese has cooled down, divide the dish into airtight containers or freezer bags in your desired serving sizes or all together. Dividing the dish into single servings is a great option if you live alone or if you plan on enjoying one serving at a time.
Place the dish into the freezer and keep for up to 2 months! When you're ready to enjoy your frozen mac and cheese, thaw it in the fridge overnight and then microwave until warm. If you have the extra time, for best results place the mac and cheese in the oven for 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Serve and enjoy your mac and cheese as is, or prepare your favourite toppings fresh and pair them with your serving.
More mac and cheese recipes
Meal prep tools
- Grab some Glass meal prep bowls if you plan on packing this up for lunch!
- Freeze this recipe in glass microwave-safe bowls up to 3 months
- For any meat toppings, of course I get all my grass-fed ground beef from Butcher Box!
One Pot Creamy Mac and Cheese Bar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 3 cups 2% milk
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 450 g macaroni
- 1 cup medium cheddar
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- ground beef
- green onion
- red pepper
- red onion
- Diced tomatoes
- Sliced jalapeños
- In a large, deep pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour, whisking frequently. Add milk 1 cup at a time, whisking to remove lumps and stirring until thickened.
- Add water, bringing the mixture to an almost boil. Add salt and pepper, then pasta, stirring frequently and cooking for 10-11 min.
- Meanwhile, fry ground beef and/or bacon until cooked through. Prepare other desired toppings.
- When pasta is al dente, stir in all four cheeses and mix well. Remove from heat and serve alongside toppings.