If you're looking for the creamiest, cheesiest macaroni and cheese recipe, look no further than this Dutch oven mac and cheese! With four cheeses and a buttery cracker topping this quick and easy one-pot comfort dish is perfect for dinner!
Whenever I'm in the mood for comfort, I always turn to a creamy bowl of cheesy pasta. When I don't have hours to make my baked penne vodka, I opt for this one-pot Dutch oven mac and cheese instead!
This mac and cheese is made on the stovetop but can also be baked. My family loves this as a holiday side dish but I prefer to enjoy it as a main course. However you like it, every creamy and cheesy bite will have you licking the spoon and coming back for more!
Why We Love This Macaroni & Cheese Recipe
- It is made in a large Dutch oven on the stove, but can also be baked or baked in mini Dutch ovens.
- A quick and easy main course or side dish; it's completely customizable and perfect for sharing around the holidays!
- No dry pasta here! This mac and cheese is ridiculously creamy and cheesy, thanks to the addition of four cheeses, heavy cream, and cream cheese.
- It's a perfect one-pot meal when you're feeling lazy but craving some elevated comfort food!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Macaroni: For a classic mac and cheese, elbow macaroni noodles are the way to go. Other small pasta varieties like shells, fusilli, farfalle, and cavatappi will work. Any shape with nooks and crannies is best so they can hold on to the creamy sauce!
Smoked gruyere cheese: The salty, yet nutty and smoky flavor adds complexity to what is normally a simple dish. Substitute it with regular gruyere.
Gouda cheese: Choose the semi-soft goudas and not the hard-aged goudas. The soft cheese melts better and contributes to the creaminess.
Cheddar cheese: The king of cheeses! Sharp cheddar is best, it keeps the noodles smooth and creamy.
Mustard powder: The acidity cuts through the richness of the cheese to round out the flavor. Substitute it with 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
Ritz crackers: In my opinion, everything is better with a crunchy crumb topping! These crackers are super buttery and crisp up perfectly. Use Panko bread crumbs as an alternative.
Find the full list of ingredients, measurements, and instructions in the recipe card below!
If you are craving a loaded mac and cheese, try some of these delicious additions:
- Fry up a few strips of bacon and sprinkle them on top for serving or fold them in with the noodles.
- Saute a few onions in butter and olive oil for an hour to make caramelized onions! Fold them in or put them on top like we do with my focaccia bread with caramelized onions.
- Add roasted jalapenos or green chiles for a spicy kick.
- Add a jar of pimento peppers for a sweet and mild chili flavor.
How to Make Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese
Step 1: Boil the noodles. In a large cast-iron Dutch oven, boil the elbow macaroni noodles according to package directions until al dente. Drain, then set aside.
Step 2: Start the cheese sauce. Whisk the all-purpose flour into the melted butter; cook for 1 minute.
Slowly whisk in the whole milk and heavy cream. Simmer until thickened, then slowly whisk in the shredded cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, smoked paprika, and salt and black pepper to taste.
Step 3: Add noodles to the cheese sauce. Stir the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce and toss until evenly coated.
Step 4: Make the buttery cracker topping. In a pan, melt the butter. Stir in garlic and Worcestershire sauce then add the crackers. Cook until golden brown.
Serve the crumb topping on top of the mac and cheese and garnish with fresh thyme, chives, or green onions.
- Don't use pre-shredded cheese. If you want smooth and melty mac and cheese, do not use the bags of shredded cheese- they are covered in anti-caking agents which can prevent them from melting into a creamy sauce. Instead, buy blocks of cheese and shred them yourself!
- Use mini Dutch oven pots. For perfect individual servings, make half the recipe and bake them in mini dutch ovens.
- Make baked mac and cheese. After the pasta is tossed in the cheese sauce, combine the cracker crumb topping in a bowl and sprinkle it over the top. Bake at 350 F for 10-15 minutes until brown.
- Substitute this combination of cheeses with any other favorites like parmesan cheese, Monterey jack cheese, Swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, or white cheddar cheese.
How to Serve, Store, and Reheat
Homemade mac and cheese is best served the day of but can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Serve it as a main dish for lunch or dinner, then make my coffee brownies or cookie butter brownies for a quick dessert!
To reheat, add a splash of milk to the macaroni and reheat on the stove or microwave until hot and creamy. The milk keeps the cheese from becoming greasy and separating when it's reheated.
I recommend making and serving homemade mac and cheese the same day it is made. It will still work, but it's always best the first day!
This recipe serves 6-8 people as a side dish, or 4-6 as a main meal.
I don't recommend using pre-shredded cheeses because they don't melt properly. It will be super cheesey and creamy if you shred the cheese yourself!
This can happen if you overcook the cheese sauce. You want to just melt the cheese into the sauce, not boil it. This will prevent it from tasting grainy.
More Dinner Recipes You'll Love
If you tried this or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how it went in the comments below, I love hearing from you! Also, please leave a star rating while you're there! You can also tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can check it out!
Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni noodles uncooked
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk warmed
- 1 cup heavy cream warmed
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 8 oz smoked gruyere cheese shredded
- 7 oz semi-soft gouda cheese shredded
- 3 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ cups crushed ritz crackers
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme finely chopped
- Bring a large dutch oven full of water to a boil, then add the macaroni noodles. Boil the pasta until al dente following the package instructions; then drain and set aside.16 ounces elbow macaroni noodles
- Place the dutch oven back on the stove over medium heat and melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.6 tablespoon unsalted butter, ¼ cup all purpose flour
- Slowly stream the warmed milk and heavy cream into the pot, whisking constantly, until all of the liquid has been added. Then whisk in the spices. Bring it to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.3 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, ¾ teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- Slowly start whisking in the cream cheese and shredded cheeses a handful at a time. Whisk until the cheese is completely melted, then remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cooked elbow noodles.8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, 8 oz smoked gruyere cheese, 7 oz semi-soft gouda cheese, 3 ounces cream cheese
- In a small pan, melt the butter, then stir in the garlic and Worcestershire sauce and cook 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant. Toss in the crushed crackers and fresh thyme and cook until the crackers are golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.4 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 ½ cups crushed ritz crackers, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- Serve the mac and cheese hot with the buttery crumb topping.
- To make baked mac and cheese, preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Melt the butter for the crumb topping and combine it with the crackers, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh thyme. Sprinkle the crackers over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crackers are golden brown. Serve immediately.
The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.