Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese


Total Time:

1 hour



Prepare yourselves for the ultimate Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese!

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese from (@whatsgabycookin)

This one is a new addition to my Thanksgiving menu! But I feel like Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese is just the right thing to do. It’s an EXCELLENT vegetarian option if you have guests coming that don’t like turkey. And kids and adults will love every aspects of this mac and cheese.

The cheese sauce is uber cheesy and creamy. The buttered panko topping gives it that extra crunch you’re looking for. The thyme bring it up another level so you can feel a tiny bit fancy. The cheeses used are easily found at any market so you don’t have to search for any kinds of fancy cheese. And it makes for incredible leftovers if you are lucky enough to wind up with any! All in all, you’re looking at the best Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese to grace your table. In fact, I’d make it now so you can eat it in peace because come Thanksgiving, it’s gonna go fast.

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese from (@whatsgabycookin)

How do you make Baked Mac and Cheese?

Okay here are the KEY steps to making the best mac and cheese.

  1. Cook the pasta until al dente. You don’t want to over-cook it because it’s going to cook a little bit more in the oven and absorb some of that cheese sauce.
  2. Make the roux and then turn it into a cheese sauce. A roux is a butter and flour mixture (similar to the one we made for homemade turkey gravy) Once you’ve got the roux, you’re going to add the milk to the mixture. It’ll be a little bit thick and at that point, add in the grated cheese and stir to combine
  3. All that’s left is to do is combine the cooked pasta and cheese sauce and transfer into a baking dish. Add the panko topping and bake until bubbly.

What can I add to Mac and Cheese to make it even better?

  1. Crispy pancetta
  2. A large spoonful or two of pesto
  3. A few handfuls of chopped spinach
  4. Roasted butternut squash
  5. Caramelized onions and/or leeks
  6. Steamed broccoli florets
  7. cooked lobster or crab
  8. the possibilities are endless!

What cheese do I use for Mac and Cheese?

The only key here is to use cheese that melt really easily. You can change up the flavor profile quite easily by using any combination of: Parmesan, Cheddar, Pepperjack, Gouda, Fontina, Gruyere, Goat Cheese, or Brie. I always find it’s best to use 2-3 different kinds of cheese to really give it a great deep flavor.

Do I have to bake this Mac and Cheese?

If you want to skip the panko topping and just serve this as a stovetop mac and cheese…. be my guest! It’s still delicious!

PS – are you thinking of putting this on your Thanksgiving menu? Check out the full What’s Gaby Cooking menu here along with the master prep schedule to keep things organized and on track!

And if you need more Thanksgiving Ideas check out this roundup of 80+ Thanksgiving Recipes and Ideas
Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese from (@whatsgabycookin)

Creamy Mac and Cheese

Super creamy mac and cheese with 2 kinds of cheese will be the most decadent mac and cheese you've ever had…. plus there's a crispy topping!
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups grated Gruyère cheese
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and stems disgarded
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package. Drain well.
  • Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it!
  • Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat, add the Gruyère, Cheddar, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
  • Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the panko crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Photo by Matt Armendariz / Food Styling by Adam Pearson / Prop Styling by Stephanie Hanes // Recipe by What’s Gaby Cooking

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Recipe Rating


    • Connie Young

      Hi Gaby, when we lived in new Zealand as children over 55 years ago, my mother used to make macaroni cheese. My brother disliked it intensely, so he would go and sit in the huge walnut tree we had in the garden until dinner was finished. He still doesn’t like mac cheese! And we no longer have a walnut tree!! I bought for the first time yesterday, monterey jack cheese. The first time I have seen it in our supermarket here in Scotland. So, going to try your recipe. You are welcome to come and try it!! Best wishes, Connie

  1. Ali @ Inspiralized

    Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? This definitely is a Pin!

  2. HeatherChristo

    My kids just watched this with their mouths hanging open. Now I know what to make for dinner.

  3. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    You are the cutest! Love the double cheese in this recipe. Doubly good!

  4. Julie @ Table for Two

    I love that your nails are the same color as your Le Creuset! A good mac and cheese recipe is always great to have on file!! This looks soo comforting good!

  5. Monika

    I am a HUGE macaroni and cheese fan! I think I could eat it almost everyday. I love the videos and can’t wait to see what you do with your nails next time!

  6. Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    Love the video, your mac and cheese looks like a bowl of comfort!

  7. Kevin @ Closet Cooking

    You just can’t go wrong with homemade mac n cheese!

  8. Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog

    I’d venture to say mac and cheese has always been and will always be a favorite food of mine. There’s just no substitute. Looking forward to trying this version!

  9. naomi

    Good mac and cheese is a must for any cook’s repertoire. Love this your use of colby cheese in this.

  10. Melissa

    This is almost exactly like my mom’s recipe with one difference. She always made her white sauce in the microwave and I do the same. It works out just as well as if it was made on the stove and there is no scalded milk when I get distracted by something else. I always look forward to fall and making comfort food recipes!

  11. Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste

    I could honestly eat my bodyweight in mac and cheese and this recipe looks SPECTACULAR!

  12. Jessica L.

    I absolutely adore you. That last picture is so freaking gorgeous!!

  13. Gaby

    totally a thing!! I vote for Mac and cheese midnight snacks all the time!

  14. Courtney

    This recipe looks awesome! I need to try it! I made a mac n cheese recently that wasn’t all that great, so I am excited to try this one! Thank you!

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  16. Kelley

    Found this recipe while searching for an alternate cheese for sharp cheddar. Great…Love this recipe. Swapped the flour for 1 tbsp corn starch and whisked with 2 tbsp milk then slowly added the rest of milk. Definitely will use this Colby mac n cheese recipe again!

  17. Christina

    Do you think it would work to make this ahead? I was thinking of doing everything up until adding the pasta in Thursday so that the noodles don’t absorb too much liquid in the fridge overnight. I’ve noticed with other recipes that sometimes it becomes too thick and I want to keep it as creamy as possible. I was curious what you think the best route to take would be!

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  19. Layan

    Looks delicious! I have a question though: how much is one serving? Thanks.

  20. Monika

    This has got to be the best dinner EVER!!
    I would eat the leftovers cold!!

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    • Gaby

      are you talking about transporting it in a car – if so then YES

  22. Kim

    Looks delish!
    Can this be frozen and then add the panko crumbs when you bake it?

  23. Jess K

    I’ve tried other baked macs and they never quite come out right. This sounds and looks so delicous, I can’t wish to try it! My son will especially love it!

  24. Mattie

    Definitely going to use this for thanksgiving! I’m hosting for the first time this year and I have a dumb question but if you only have one oven can you cook this at 350 with the turkey just a bit longer? Or what do you suggest?

  25. Diandra

    I was hoping to make this ahead of time. What approach do you think would be best? Freezing it?

    • Gaby

      how far in advance? I’d do 2 days ahead and keep it in the fridge

  26. Grace

    Going to an event right after work. I’m hoping I can make most of this the night before and pop it in the oven the day of the event. Can I do everything including breadcrumbs the night before, refrigerate overnight, bring back to room temp and bake it the night of? Are there any modifications I should make?

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  28. Jessica

    I’m just wondering how many people this meal was for and/or how many people most of the recipes serve? I wasn’t able to find that in the post.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Gaby

      Serves 6+ – when we re-launched the site last week all of my serving sizes didn’t come over so I have to manually input them in 2000+ recipes!! Working on it 🙂

  29. Hailey

    I’ve used nothing but your recipes for every Thanksgiving I’ve ever hosted and I’m so excited that there’s a baked mac and cheese recipe now! I do have a question though. I need to make this recipe gluten free for a friend that’s celiac. Do you think this will still turn out okay if I use GF flour and GF macaroni? Or is there anything I should adjust in the process?

    • Gaby

      I think it would turn out just as fantastic with GF flour and GF pasta!

  30. Allison

    Would you suggest freezing before baking or after? Defrost overnight in fridge then bake?

    I added mac and cheese to Thanksgiving menu a few years ago and now it is a yearly must serve. I need to do it ahead so any freezing tips helpful. I am looking forward to using your recipe this year!

  31. Jessica Barbosa

    Could I prep this the night before baking, or will it make the noodles soggy?

  32. Meg

    Hi Gaby! If I wanted to buy the Gruyere and Cheddar as blocks and then shred myself, do you know how many ounces/grams it would take for 4 cups and 2 cups shredded respectively?


    • Gaby

      that is a great question and I don’t know off the top of my head!! Sorry

    • Lindsay

      My block of cheddar made 4 cups of shredded, and my block/wedge of Gruyere made about 3.

  33. Kat B

    How many sprigs is “6 leaves of thyme.” Just want to make sure I’m adding the right amount. 6 leaves or 6 sprigs?

  34. Lindsay

    Oh my word, Gaby!!!! This is the mac and cheese of my dreams!!!!! I used the recommended ratio of Gruyere to cheddar, but subbed out the thyme for dry mustard and garlic powder and a few shakes of cayenne. I also forewent the crunchy topping and just put the rest of my shredded cheeses on top before baking. I’m making this for my family for Thanksgiving in 2 days, and honestly it might not make it until then!!!! Soooooooo creamy and delicious!!!!!!!!!