This gooey, cheesy southern-style mac and cheese has a crisp breadcrumb top for the ultimate comfort food dinner.
Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs
Make the best Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs that’s gooey and melty in the center and crisp on the top: comfort food at its best!
As you may know, I’m a southern girl at heart. Some of my favorite memories from growing up included eating my gradma’s classic southern cooking, including mac and cheese. I’ve expressed my love for ceamy, soft mac and cheese before with recipes like Easy Vegan Pumpkin Mac + Cheese and Baked Vegan Buffalo Mac + Cheese. But today’s recipe is a classic, with a crisp coating of bread crumbs on top.
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!
Elbowpasta. You can use a different short noodle if you like too.
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 elbow pasta and gluten-free breadcrumbs. Or make your own with gluten-free bread.
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3cupsAlmond milk, room temp.(You can use whole milk, if desired)
2cupsGouda cheese, apple smoked(You can also use regular Gouda cheese)
2cupsshredded Mozzarella + 1/4 cup
2cupsshredded Mild cheddar cheese
1tspfinely-ground sea salt
2cupsbreadcrumbs, homemade or store-bought(See Notes!)
4Tbspsunsalted butter, melted
1tspdried parsley leaves
MAC + CHEESE:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a large 9x13 baking dish with
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add elbow pasta and cook according to packaging. Once cooked, drain, and lightly toss in olive oil (to prevent sticking together), cool and set aside.
In a large dutch pot 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 cheeses, stirring until fully melted and smooth, about 4-5 minutes.
Add in the cooled elbow pasta and stir together until well coated and combined.
In a small bowl, add in the melted butter, breadcrumbs, and parsley, tossing them together until combined.
Scoop the macaroni into the prepared baking dish and top with additional 1/4 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 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.