3 Cheese Mac and Cheese
Published Sep 19, 2022
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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This 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese is my family’s favorite! It is perfectly creamy and cheesy, can be made just on the stovetop, or finished in the oven with a crunchy topping. It is the perfect side dish whether for everyday dinner or the holidays!
This is the Mac and Cheese recipe I have been making for years for my family. So glad to finally be able to share it with you here!
My kids absolutely love this 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese. I mean, you can’t go wrong with mac and cheese! Serve this with some baked turkey breasts or herb-roasted chicken and some garlic butter green beans or sautéed vegetables for a satisfying dinner.
This is the mac and cheese recipe to make for Thanksgiving or Christmas!
Table of Contents
I try to keep the number of ingredients used for my mac and cheese simple. So here are the ingredients you need for 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese.
- Macaroni. Elbows, or other kinds of pasta like small shells, Cavatappi or Farfalle would work here.
- Butter. Because great things start with butter! In this recipe, butter is used to toss the pasta after cooking to prevent it from absorbing the sauce and butter is also used to make the roux- a mixture of equal parts of butter and flour cooked over medium heat. This forms the base for 3 cheese mac and cheese.
- Evaporated Milk. For Mac and Cheese, you could use whole milk, heavy cream, half and half, or evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is the best to use in my opinion because it is milk that is more concentrated, hence more flavor!
- Chicken Stock. This adds flavor to our Mac and Cheese.
- Cheeses. Use a combination of mozzarella, cheddar and colby jack cheese for a velvety cheese sauce. You could also switch up the cheeses to include your favorite cheeses. Some cheeses that work here include: Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Gouda,, Muenster, Fontina, and even cream cheese. See more cheese options below!
- Black Pepper. For flavor. If you want the flavor of spices in your mac and cheese consider adding spices like onion powder, garlic powder, or ground mustard. I tend to keep mine simple because my kids prefer it that way.
- Panko Breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are crispier than regular breadcrumbs and the make a really good topping for mac and cheese.
See the recipe card for the quantities of each ingredient.
How To Make 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese
Here is how to make 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese in 4 easy steps!
Cook pasta, drain and toss with butter.
Make a roux with butter and flour, then add milk, chicken stock and cheeses to make a cheese sauce.
Toss the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce.
Top with shredded cheese and panko breadcrumbs, then bake until bubbly and golden brown on top!
Hint: tossing the macaroni with butter right after cooking it prevents the macaroni from eventually absorbing the cheese sauce, resulting in a dry mac and cheese. It helps keep the mac and cheese creamy.
Variations and Optional Add-Ins
Switch up mac and cheese and make it your own by trying the following variations and optional add–ins.
- Different Cheeses – try using different cheeses like Gruyere, Gouda, Fontina, American cheese, white cheddar, cream cheese or Muenster. Smoked cheeses will add a smoked flavor profile to your mac and cheese.
- Spices – for extra tasty mac and cheese, consider adding spices like nutmeg, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, Italian seasoning, or basil.
- Stove Top Mac and Cheese – cook the mac and cheese as directed using ALL of the cheese in the cheese sauce then serve without baking!
- Add Protein – add extra protein like cooked chicken, diced ham, sautéed tofu or crab meat.
What 3 Cheeses Go Well Together For Mac and Cheese?
A combination o f mozzarella, cheddar, and colby jack cheeses work well for mac and cheese.
Gruyere cheese, cheddar cheese and mozzarella is another 3 cheese combination that works well for mac and cheese.
Here are some of the best cheeses to use in mac and cheese:
- Smoked Gouda
- White Cheddar
- Sharp Cheddar
- Monterey Jack
Here are a few kitchen items that facilitate making mac and cheese:
- Box Grater – for easily grating the cheese.
- 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet – for cooking the mac and cheese and easily transferring from stovetop to oven.
Refrigerate mac and cheese in airtight containers for 3-5 days. Mac and Cheese freezes well too. Freeze in an airtight feezer-safe container or resealable freezer bag for u to 3 months.
Cook the mac and cheese as directed then transfer to a casserole dish, cover tightly and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Remove from the fridge, add toppings and bake before serving. Cold mac and cheese will take longer to bake than freshly cooked mac and cheese.
Make sure you shred your own cheese for mac and cheese for the best results. Pre-shredded cheese often contains an anti-caking agent that prevents it from melting properly.
3 Cheese Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound elbow pasta or other small pasta. See Note 1
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
Mac and Cheese and Topping
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups evaporated milk
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 oz. mozzarella cheese block shredded on a box grater
- 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese block shredded on a box grater
- 8 oz. colby jack cheese block shredded on a box grater
- Salt as needed or to taste
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the half teaspoon of salt. Add Macaroni and cook for 7 minutes.
- Drain macaroni, return to the pot, add the two tablespoons of butter and toss. Set aside while you make the sauce.
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Remove half cup of each of the cheeses and reserve for the topping.
- Place a large pan on medium heat. I used my 12 inch cast iron skillet. Add the butter and let it melt. Whisk in the flour, stirring from time to time until in turns a light brown color. 3-4 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in a 3rd of the milk. When it is well combined with the flour and butter whisk in half of the remaining milk then whisk in the remaining milk. It is important to whisk in the milk gradually so it can incorporate well with the flour and butter.
- Pour in the chicken stock, whisk to combine, then bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to low. Then add in the 3 cheeses (remember, half cup of each should be reserved at this point). Stir until the cheese are completely melted.
- Add the black pepper to the cheese mixture and stir to combine.
- Add the macaroni to the pan and toss well so the macaroni is evenly coated with the cheese top. Taste at this point and add more salt if needed. I find that the cheeses and chicken stock are salty enough so there is usually no need to add more salt.
- Level the top of the mac and cheese, sprinkle on the reserved cheese for the topping and the panko breadcrumbs.
- Place into the preheated oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until it is bubbly and the cheese on top is melted. It should be a golden brown color on top. If it isn't golden brown on top, turn on the broiler for 2 minutes to brown the top. Garnish with chopped parsley is desired.
- Other kinds of pasta you could use are small shells, cavatappi or farfalle.
- Other cheeses you could use include: Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Gouda,, Muenster, Fontina, and even cream cheese.