Kid-Friendly Easy Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese Recipe

Mac ‘n cheese is a favorite food in our household, but I try to avoid the boxed kind. All those artificial ingredients…you know what I mean. I’m ok with it once in awhile, but not often. Of course the kids love the boxed stuff and haven’t been fans of the much-better homemade mac’ n cheese. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of different recipes. There’s many good recipes out there – that I like, but are they kid-friendly? That was the question.

And then I found this recipe in one of my cookbooks. My kids liked it! They ate it up and asked for more. Now I’d be lying if I said they’d pick this over the boxed stuff (I swear they put addictive stuff in there), but I’m happy I found a homemade recipe that works. The hubs and I like it too, so about twice a month, I make it as a “meat-free” meal. (Saves a little money, you know?) I’ve adapted it slightly and this is the result.

homemade mac n cheese, baked mac n cheese, homemade mac cheese

This recipe involves a few minutes over the stove, but overall it’s pretty easy. And since you can add whatever type of cheese you like (mix and match, make it different each time – it’s up to you) it’s versatile too, another plus in my book.

So try it out. Hopefully you and the kids enjoy it!

 (scroll down for the full, printable recipe)

What You’ll Need:
Note: this recipe makes about 12 servings or more, so you can half it if you don’t need that much.

  • 1 (16 oz) box of elbow macaroni
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick + 2 TB) butter, divided
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 12 ounces cheese – shredded, cubed, or sliced (your choice)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons dry bread crumbs

Start by boiling water to cook your macaroni noodles.
Also preheat your oven to 375º.
Then in a saucepan, melt 1 stick (8 TB) of butter over medium heat.

Once that’s melted, add 1/3 cup of flour.

Stir in the flour and then gradually add 3 cups of milk. Yeah, it’s a lot. But this is mac ‘n cheese here.
I pour it in slowly as I’m stirring.
(Do you know how hard it is to take a picture at the same time? It’s more challenging then you’d think!)

Around this time, your water should be boiling, so add the box of elbow macaroni noodles.

Back to your butter/milk – bring it to a boil, stirring all the while on medium heat. If you stop for a minute to rescue your toddler from your 3 year old sitting on him, that’s ok, but don’t leave it for too long.

Once it’s boiling, set the timer and cook and stir for about 2 minutes.  I like to use a whisk.
Then reduce the heat to low.

By now it should be thickened.

Take the pan off the burner.
Stir in the cheese.

For this batch, I used shredded cheddar cheese with a couple slices of American thrown in.
I often do Cheddar Jack, Mozzarella, and other varieties. Sometimes if I happen to have a specialty cheese, I will cube a little and throw that in for more flavor variety. The kids like it “plain” though so I try not to overdo it. Again, it’s all up to you.

Add the salt and pepper now too and stir until the cheese is melted.

Keep stirring until it’s all melted.

At some point, you should have drained your cooked elbow macaroni and set that aside.

Now you can add the noodles to the cheese mixture.

Mix it in well.

Turn the macaroni and cheese mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish.

In a separate small bowl, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter. Now add 4 Tablespoons of bread crumbs and a dash of pepper and combine it all.

Sprinkle this bread crumb mixture over the mac ‘n cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes.
If you want it a little “crispier” (not even that), leave the lid off.

Doesn’t that look yummy?

homemade mac n cheese

Kid-Friendly Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese

Yields: 12 servings

Kid-Friendly Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese

  • 16 oz box elbow macaroni noodles
  • 10 TB butter, divided
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 12 oz cheese
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 TB dry bread crumbs

Cook macaroni noodles and drain.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a saucepan, melt 1 stick (8 TB) butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Slowly add milk, stirring. Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes. Turn off the burner and add the cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until the cheese is melted. Add the elbow macaroni noodles and mix well.

Turn into a 2 quart casserole dish.

Mix 2 TB melted, butter, 4 TB bread crumbs, and a dash of pepper. Sprinkle over the mac 'n cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes.

If you liked this recipe, please click the “Pin It” button top so others can see it too!
Thank you!


About the Author

Erika is a happily married mom with four energetic children. With a love for Jesus, photography, organizing, and encouraging other moms, she stays busy and definitely does not have it all together.


  1. This looks so creamy and delicious we are lovers of Mac n cheese
    Nichol recently posted..Kids Sleepwear only $10 and Kids Deluxe Sleepwear only $15 at Disney StoreMy Profile

  2. Heidi19 says:

    This is truly wow! It’s so easy to follow the procedure.. I’ll be making this on the weekend definitely! Everybody will love this for sure…
    Heidi19 recently posted..Arowana – a prized investment catch or …My Profile

  3. Forgive me for a contrarian comment. Why does North America dye cheese orange? That is not a natural colour for cheese. While the colour orange used to be produced with annatto seeds, that is no longer the case. The orange cheese colour is artificial.

    Why the extra steps of adding crumbs and baking?No nutrition is added, time is extended and oven has to be heated using extra energy.

    • I don’t know about the color – it’s just an American thing I guess.
      And the crumbs? Because it’s yummy! :) The oven is heated to melt the cheese and everything together further, not just bake the crumbs.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Erika recently posted..TGIF Giveaway Linky – June 1, 2012My Profile

    • The orange cheese thing actually started “across the pond” from America, somewhere in England, I believe. The milk in that region was of excellent quality from the type of grass the cows consumed, which was rich in beta-carotene. It actually did have an orange-ish tinge. Other cheese makers, in order to compete, started coloring their cheese to attract consumers (or trick them into thinking their cheese was of the same quality) and the rest, as they say, is history!

      • Initially the colour came from annatto, a seed from a tree. Now, like many things, the colour is synthetic.

  4. melissa says:

    This looks delicious!! i pinned it!

  5. Nicole - Mama to 4 Blessings

    looks scrumptous! I pinned it!

  6. This mac and cheese looks so yummy! I love homemade macaroni much better than store-bought. I am pinning so we can try making this soon…maybe my picky son will even like it!

  7. Pinned! This recipe looks so easy to prepare, and delicious, everyone is going to love this one, thank you!
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  8. Holy cow that looks amazing!!! I want it right now!
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  9. R Hicks says:

    looks absolutely delicious. Adult friendly too!

  10. Mary Dailey

    I’m pretty sure even us big kids would love this!

  11. Nataly Carbonell

    Just cant wait to try it I like the Bread crumbs idea! thanks for sharing

  12. I can not thank you enough for this recipe. My kids are sooooo picky I tried other home made recipes and to no avail. But yours OMG my boys loved it so much, they even asked for seconds. I am so happy, like you I am trying to give them more of a healthy version of MAC and CHEESE.. Also it helps that I found these dinosaurs shape pasta in Whole Foods which they enjoyed as well. I did not baked it like you, but I will try that next time.

  13. This looks so much better than The Boxed. I’ll have to try making it with my kids!
    We usually do something similar but no breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
    1/4 cup butter melted in saucepan, add 1/4 cup flour and mix. Gradually add in 2 cups of milk, whisking of course and slowly bring to a simmer then turn to low until it reaches your desired thickness. (Boil 2.5 cups macaroni at the same time!
    We grate our own Cracker Barrel extra sharp white cheese, a whole log of it. This can either be mixed into the sauce or added to a greased baking dish. Make sure you grease it! Pour the drained macaroni into the dish, and mix in the cheese and sauce. Top with extra grated cheese (whatever kind you like.) Bake for 45-50 minutes or until it is golden brown.

  14. My nieces are getting old enough to want to cook with me when I visit and since I don’t know a kid that doesn’t love mac & cheese, this might be the first recipe we try! Looks good!

  15. latisha depoortere says:

    Thanks for sharing looks and sounds great will share and pin it :)

  16. Thank you so much. My very picky toddler loves it!!!

  17. Studentmom87 says:

    YUM! This is amazing, posted to my facebook :)

  18. happen to know if it freezes well? would be nice to make a batch and put in single, kid-size servings….

  19. Adrienne

    This a great recipe! I love how you have step by step pictures as well. Great for visual learners like myself.
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    It was really informative. Your website is very helpful.
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  24. I’ll be cooking this with my 5 year old son tonight – perfect Sunday evening meal and he’s been nagging for “macaroni cheese”. My kids love it with some chopped and cooked bacon stirred through and I also like to add a later if chopped tomato in the middle. Saves them wanting ketchup!

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  26. loved this so much! Thanks!!!

  27. THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!! My two-year old toddler is EXTREMELY picky and, with the exception of the Mac N Cheese from Buca di Beppo’s (the closest of which is a mere 300 miles away from us!), I haven’t been able to find any recipes or store/restaurant-bought versions that he will eat …. until I tried YOURS!!!!! Not only did he eat every last bite of it, but he did so willingly and excitedly, doing his little “yummy food happy dance” all the while … and I even scored a huge thank you, in the form of an awesome hug and kiss when he finished his plate! I can’t even begin to put into words how excited and happy this has made me! This will DEFINITELY be my go-to recipe from this day forward and I’ve shared a link to this recipe with everyone I know on FB! Again, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! :D


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