This is a favorite southern dinner recipe that everyone can get behind. It's a crowd-pleasing and easy to make casserole with melty cheese, savory garlic flavor and soft, springy macaroni.
How to Make Southern-Style Mac and Cheese
If you're used to making mac and cheese on the stovetop, this recipe may be a bit different from what you're used to. It's baked in the oven and has a breadcrumb topping that turns golden brown and crunchy in the oven.
The ingredients for this mac and cheese are pretty standard, and you may have most of them at home right now!
Shells or Elbowpasta. You can use a different short noodle if you like also.
Almond. I am avoiding too much dairy, so I like to use dairy-free milk in this southern mac and cheese. However, regular cow's milk will also work well.
Gouda cheese. I love the smoky flavor from smoked gouda, but regular will work too.
Mozzarella + mildcheddar + parmesan. It's important to use several different varieties of cheese for the best flavor and texture in your dish.
Smoked paprika. This adds just a hint of spice and color to the dish.
Ground mustard. This is also mostly for its bright yellow color. You can omit the mustard powder if you don't have it or substitute with regular dijon mustard.
Making Homemade Breadcrumbs
Store-bought breadcrumbs will work just fine on your baked mac and cheese. But it's also very easy to make your own!
Here's how I make breadcrumbs at home:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Grind 1-2 cups of cubed bread into a food processor until finely chopped.
Place crumbs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once brown + crisp, remove from oven and let cool.
You can store leftover breadcrumbs in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.
Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese
To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free shells or elbow pasta, flour, and gluten-free breadcrumbs. Or make your own with gluten-free bread.
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Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs
5 from 6 votes
This Southern baked mac and cheese has a gooey, cheesy sauce and pasta with a crisp crust of golden breadcrumbs on top for dinner in under 1 hour. Vegan + Gluten-Free options.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a standard 9x13 baking dish with butter.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add shells or elbow pasta and cook according to packaging. Once cooked, drain, and lightly toss in olive oil (to prevent sticking together), cool and set aside.
HEAT CHEESE OVER STOVETOP:
In a large dutch pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat, add butter and let it melt. Once melted, add minced garlic sauté for a minute or so, until fragrant.
Whisk in the flour and seasonings until combined. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking frequently until lump-free, about 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and add in the smoked gouda, 2 cups mozzarella, mild cheddar, and Gruyere cheeses, stirring until fully melted and smooth, about 4-5 minutes.
Add in the cooled shells or elbow pasta and stir together until well coated and combined.
In a small bowl, add in the melted butter, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic powder, and smoked paprika, tossing them together until combined.
Scoop the macaroni-cheese mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with additional ¼ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese followed by the breadcrumbs, evenly spreading it out.
Bake on the center rack for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown, the sides are bubbly, and the mac and cheese center has set. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Tips & Tricks
STORAGE: Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and reheated when ready to serve.
HOMEMADE BREADCRUMBS: To make your own breadcrumbs, simply grind 1-2 cups of cubed bread into a food processor until finely chopped. Place crumbs onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake for 5-6 minutes in the oven set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. Once brown + crisp, remove from oven and let cool. Continue recipe steps and store remaining breadcrumbs in a tightly sealed container.
FLOUR: If you don’t want to use all-purpose flour, feel free to substitute with regular starch or arrowroot starch, tapioca flour, which all act as a thickening agent.
VEGAN OPTION: To make this Mac + Cheese vegan, simply substitute cheeses with dairy-free shreds and use vegan butter. Also, check out my Vegan Mac + Cheese recipe.
GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: To ensure that this recipe is GF, be sure to use GF-friendly pasta, breadcrumbs, and flour.