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11 Mouthwatering Mac & Cheese Recipes Way Better Than Boxed

It's time to take your favorite comfort meal to the next level.
FACT CHECKED BY Justine Goodman
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Creamy, comforting, and classic, mac and cheese is one of the most popular dishes out there. Whether you need to whip up a meal in a pinch or crave a pick-me-up when you're feeling down, this perfectly cheesy, salty meal is a tried-and-true option that almost never disappoints.

But while boxed mac and cheese may offer convenience, nothing beats a home-cooked bowl of mac. And since July 14 happens to be National Mac and Cheese Day, we rounded up 11 delicious mac and cheese recipes you'll want to make ASAP.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese With Jalapeños and Prosciutto

Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Kick your mac and cheese up a notch by giving it some heat. Between the spiciness of the jalapeños and the smokiness of the prosciutto, this recipe is jam-packed with flavorful fixings that are sure to satisfy. Plus, unlike many mac and cheese dishes that have a base of cream and butter, this recipe starts with a béchamel sauce, which is made with butter, flour, and milk—a lower-calorie alternative.

Get our recipe for Spicy Macaroni and Cheese With Jalapeños and Prosciutto.

Healthier Mac and Cheese

Healthy mac and cheese
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

This mac and cheese recipe is a lighter take on the classic comfort food, combining a lower-fat béchamel base with extra-sharp cheddar cheese, parmesan, and Greek yogurt. And what homemade mac and cheese dish would be complete without a golden brown layer of crispy breadcrumbs?

Get our recipe for Healthier Mac and Cheese.

Mac and Cheese With Spinach, Ham, and Tomato

Healthy spinach ham mac and cheese
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Give your mac and cheese a nutritional boost by adding in some veggies and protein. While this recipe calls for spinach, ham, and cherry tomatoes, you can tailor it to your liking by swapping in some broccoli for the spinach, turkey for the ham, and so on. When it comes to mac and cheese, there really are no rules!

Get our recipe for Mac and Cheese With Spinach, Ham, and Tomato.

Crispy Crumb-Topped Mac and Cheese Cups

Crispy crumb topped mac and cheese cups
Waterbury Publications, Inc.

Who said muffin tins were only for desserts? These individually portioned mac and cheese bites sneak in some nutrients by replacing regular noodles with vegetable elbow macaroni. For an additional burst of veggies, feel free to sprinkle some greens into the cups.

Get our recipe for Crispy Crumb-Topped Mac and Cheese Cups.

Copycat Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese

Copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese in a skillet
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Cracker Barrel's mac and cheese is a fan-favorite menu item, but why leave your house to go to the restaurant if you don't have to? Made with a creamy Colby cheese sauce, this dish is so iconic that we had to replicate it at home.

Get our recipe for Copycat Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese.

Copycat Cheesecake Factory Fried Mac and Cheese

lil luna fried mac and cheese
Courtesy of Lil Luna

Cracker Barrel isn't the only restaurant chain with a cherished mac and cheese dish. This copycat version of The Cheesecake Factory's Fried Mac and Cheese has an uncanny resemblance to the original. Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, these fried mac and cheese balls are best served with a side of marinara or Alfredo sauce for dipping.

Get the recipe from Lil Luna.

Creamy Instant Pot Cauliflower "Mac" and Cheese

spoonful of cheesy cauliflower from an Instant Pot
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Cauliflower has been having a moment for several years now—and for good reason. It's a high-fiber, low-carb, versatile ingredient that can be swapped into countless recipes. While this technically isn't macaroni and cheese, it's a satisfying alternative for anyone looking to reduce their carb intake while still indulging in something cheesy.

Get our recipe for Creamy Instant Pot Cauliflower "Mac" and Cheese.

Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese with Chard and Sage Breadcrumbs

macaroni and cheese

Just because you don't eat gluten doesn't mean you can't enjoy mac and cheese. This cheesy gluten-free version is made with aged gruyere, parmesan, and Swiss Chard and is topped with gluten-free breadcrumbs and fresh sage for added flavor and texture.

Get the recipe for Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese with Chard and Sage Breadcrumbs.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

butternut squash mac and cheese
Courtesy of Flour On My Face

If you're looking for another recipe where you can seamlessly incorporate a vegetable, this one is for you. This mac and cheese dish combines silky butternut squash with cheddar and parmesan cheese for an easy-to-make comfort meal.

Get the recipe from Flour On My Face.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

vegan mac and cheese
Courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

For a vegan twist on the cheesy dish, blend up this plant-based "cheese" sauce, which is made with raw cashews, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, almond milk, and spices. To pack some heat, you can add one jalapeño pepper to the sauce.

Get the recipe from Ambitious Kitchen.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

buffalo chicken mac and cheese
Courtesy of The Cozy Cook

Get the recipe from The Cozy Cook.

Buffalo chicken meets mac and cheese in one perfect dish. From the shredded chicken tossed in creamy blue cheese dressing to the buffalo sauce, cheddar cheese, and spices, this mac and cheese is layered with tangy and savory flavors.


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Brianna Ruback
Brianna is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! She attended Ithaca College, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. Read more about Brianna
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