This creamy, cheesy side dish is loved by all ages! Here are some ideas for the best foods to serve with mac and cheese at dinnertime.
Kids love it, teens love it, and grown-ups love it. If you're a cheese lover, you can't help but enjoy a helping of mac and cheese now and then. This comfort food is one that many enjoy with cookout food, but what else does it pair well with?
Let's talk about all things mac and cheese. First, we'll explore the most popular types of mac and cheese, and then we'll talk about how to level up this dish. Finally, we'll go over a few simple meals you can pair with mac and cheese for a winning dinner combination.
Types of Mac and Cheese
Before we go any further, let's evaluate the types of mac and cheese out there. When crafting this dish, there are several ways you can adjust your recipe to make delicious variations! Here are a few popular ways people enjoy cheese with noodles.
Classic Mac and Cheese
Let's begin with the basics. Most people know how to make mac and cheese, but if you're new to preparing this dish, our Mac & Cheese recipe can help you out. Milk, creamy cheeses, elbow noodles, and flour blend together to create a delicious rendition of a well-loved side dish.
Buffalo Mac and Cheese
Are you a fan of buffalo-flavored foods? Buffalo seasoning is essentially a blend of paprika, onion, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Many people enjoy the flavor kick it adds to their food.
People tend to use buffalo flavoring on wings and fries, but this seasoning can also make mac and cheese with a zing.
Baked Mac and Cheese
Everyone loves the creamy taste of mac and cheese. Still, some people prefer to take their mac and cheese to the next level by baking it.
When baked in the oven with breadcrumbs, this kind of mac and cheese becomes creamy and crumbly simultaneously. It has a crispy top layer with gooey cheese beneath.
Macaroni and Cheese Bites
Most people prefer to eat mac and cheese by the spoonful. However, preparing this dish in bite-sized sections is a fun way to eat it, too!
To make mac and cheese bites, you can prepare your macaroni and cheese in a muffin tin. These make an excellent appetizer that's tasty and unique.
Vegan Mac and Cheese
If you're lactose intolerant or vegan, the cheese, milk, and heavy cream used in mac and cheese are likely deal-breakers. Luckily, there are several ways to make vegan mac and cheese that avoid dairy products.
In non-dairy mac and cheese, there are usually a few types of ingredients used to substitute all that dairy:
- Nutritional yeast
- Oat milk
- Soy milk
- Blended cashews
- Sweet potato
Ways To Level Up Your Mac and Cheese
No one gets tired of classic mac and cheese. Its creamy texture will always attract fans of all ages. Still, you might want to try a few new methods that can help make this dish exciting. Let's look at several ways to boost your mac and cheese game.
Try New Cheese for Mac and Cheese
Cheddar cheese is the variety most commonly used for mac and cheese. However, when you want to switch up the flavor, you can try adding different cheeses to taste variations of mac and cheese. Here are a few cheese types to consider:
- Monterey Jack: This Californian white cheese is semi-hard and comes from cow's milk. Its flavor is mostly mild, with a hint of sweetness. Many enjoy this cheese on sandwiches, but it makes a fine candidate for mac and cheese.
- Parmesan: This cheese is often used in sauces and soups to give it a creamy texture. When it's dry, it has a gritty texture. However, when used in mac and cheese, its fruity, nutty flavor can add a unique taste to your typical mac and cheese.
- Brie: This kind of cheese is creamy and rich, and it makes an excellent addition to any charcuterie board. Since brie is so versatile, you can use this soft buttery cheese to take your mac and cheese recipe up a notch.
- Gruyere: Age gruyere cheese has a salty, nutty flavor. However, young gruyere has a pronounced creaminess, making it an ideal companion for elbow macaroni noodles.
- Smoked Gouda: This buttery cheese has a salty and sweet flavor. Consider adding this cheese to your mac and cheese to make it more complex.
- Fontina: Adding this pungent, nutty cheese to your elbow noodles can add an element of sophistication to this well-loved side dish.
Experiment With Different Noodles
Adding new cheese to your mac and cheese dishes can allow you to enjoy mac and cheese in a whole new light. If you're not done experimenting with this dish, you can also try out different noodles in your recipe.
Although elbow macaroni is standard, making mac and cheese with other noodle variations can be exciting. Here are a few options you might select:
- Bowtie Pasta: You don't have to dress up fancy to eat these noodles. These bowtie-shaped noodles are bigger than macaroni noodles, meaning each bite is a bit bigger.
- Spiral noodles: Spiral noodles are a fun alternative to macaroni noodles. Plus, the spiral shape allows you to trap more gooey cheese in each noodle.
- Shell noodles: Shell noodles are another terrific option for mac and cheese. Like spiral noodles, the shape of shell pasta causes cheese to get trapped inside, making each bite extra tasty.
Mistakes To Avoid for Mac and Cheese
You'll want to watch out for a few common mistakes when perfecting your mac and cheese recipe. Keeping an eye out for these pitfalls can help you ensure you make delicious creamy, cheesy noodles every time. Here are the three biggest mistakes to avoid:
- Using too little cheese. If you're preparing mac and cheese for a large group, you might underestimate some ingredients if you're not careful. Be sure to calculate the right amount so you don't end up with dry noodles.
- Overcooked pasta. Cooking your macaroni noodles for too long can cause them to become mushy and unappetizing. Set a timer while these are boiling to ensure your noodles are the right consistency.
- Runny cheese. If you add too much milk to your recipe, your mac and cheese may become mac and cheese soup. To avoid this, measure the correct amounts of cheese, noodles, and milk.
The Best Pairings With Mac and Cheese
If you've ever been to a cookout or picnic, you might have enjoyed mac and cheese served with hot dogs or burgers. But what else can this creamy comfort food pair with? We’ve got our list along with a few recipes to try.
Here are some of the top foods you can pair with mac and cheese:
- BBQ Chicken
- Greens like broccoli, spinach & brussels sprouts
- Cole Slaw