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Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

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! Vegan + Gluten-Free options.

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

As you may know, I’m a southern girl at heart. Some of my favorite memories from growing up included eating my grandma’s classic southern cooking, including mac and cheese.

I’ve expressed my love for creamy, 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. 

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

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.

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

Ingredient Notes

The ingredients for this mac and cheese are pretty standard, and you may have most of them at home right now!

  • Shells or Elbow pasta. 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 + mild cheddar + 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. 

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

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. 

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

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. 

What to Serve with Southern Mac and Cheese

You can serve this baked pasta as an entree all on its own (with a tall glass of Traditional Southern Iced Sweet Tea) or treat it like a side dish. It’s great with Shredded BBQ Jerk Chicken and Quick + Easy Blood Orange Kale Salad

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

More Classic Southern Recipes

And be sure to check out this round-up of my favorite Southern Comfort Foods

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you make this Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs or any other recipe from us, be sure to tag us on Instagram at #Orchidsandsweettea so that we can share the love, rate, comment below, + share!

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Serves: 8 servings
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Ingredients

MAC + CHEESE:

  • 1 (16 oz.) box medium shells or elbow pasta
  • 6 Tbsps unsalted butter (You can also use salted butter, if desired; Just omit sea salt)
  • 3 Tbsps organic all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups Almond milk, room temp. (You can use whole milk, if desired)
  • 1 cup Smoked gouda cheese
  • 2 1/4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mild cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tsp finely-ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground yellow mustard

BREADCRUMBS TOPPING:

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs, homemade or store-bought (See Notes!)
  • 4 Tbsps unsalted butter, melted (You can also use slated butter, if desired)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley leaves
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions

MAC + CHEESE:

  • 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.

BREADCRUMBS TOPPING:

  • 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 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, the sides are bubbly, and the mac and cheese center has set. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
  • Bon Appetit!

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.

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Southern Baked Mac and Cheese.

Shanika

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  1. There is nothing like homemade Mac & Cheese and this recipe was everything! Really appreciated that you added delicious Vegan option as well.

  2. Now, that’s how you make mac and cheese! This reminds me so much of a recipe that a friend of mine makes. She’s from Mississippi, and hers is quite similar. Can’t wait to try this one.

    • Hi Jessica! Absolutely! You can make everything, let it completely cool before wrapping it with foil paper and storing it the fridge for the next day. On the day of, remove it from the fridge and bake it again for a few minutes until warmed through at 375 degrees. Depending on your oven, it might take 15-20 minutes or so. Happy Holidays! 🙂

  3. Freaking incredible! How are you so talented. Everything I’ve made from your website so far has been bomb.

    • Hi Clara! OMG—that means the world! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this as much as I did! 🙂