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Southern Macaroni and Cheese (The BEST Recipe!)

When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol’s ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!

When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol’s ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!

When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol’s ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!

When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol’s ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!

When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol’s ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!

It’s so nice when we get to go back to the Carolinas to visit family; we wish we could go more often. There’s so much history there, and we love to see it all. As much as we love to visit all the places, we can’t wait to get together with family for some good old family food favorites and great chats. When we get together with Grandma Carol and Grandpa Lou, it is a sure bet that one of the dishes will be macaroni and cheese and that not one morsel will be left in the dish at the end of the meal.

a photo of a large silver spoon scooping out a serving of cheesy, gooey mac and cheese.

 

We carry on this tradition as often as we can with our little family.  The first time we made it with our little ones they did not recognize that it was the “real mac and cheese.”  They were used to one of their favorite boxed mac and cheese meals.

Don’t get me wrong, boxed mac and cheese is a life saver at those meal times when time is just not on your side. However, when we have the time we love making our southern macaroni and cheese from scratch, where every bite is full of cheesy, buttery, heart stopping goodness!

What Makes Mac and Cheese Southern?

Southern mac and cheese is soul food and it’s much different from other mac and cheese recipes. Southern baked mac and cheese is not creamy like the macaroni and cheese Carrian grew up with. Carrian still prefers creamy macaroni and cheese with a panko bread crumb topping, but she can appreciate a good baked southern mac and cheese. The recipe for traditional southern mac and cheese is given in the recipe card below, but there is a note added for making it extra creamy like Carrian prefers. 

The image below shows the traditional southern mac, but all the rest of the pictures will be the gooey, creamy version. Both are delicious and it is totally up to you on which one you prefer.

southern macaroni and cheese in white baking dish

 

What’s in Southern Macaroni and Cheese?

Most baked mac and cheese recipes stick to the basics that you would expect — butter, milk, cheese and pasta. To make the recipe Southern and to take things to the next level, a few more ingredients are added…

  • Butter – unsalted
  • Milk – whole or 2%
  • Cheese – we use shredded sharp cheddar, but you are welcome to try any kind of combination you want
  • Pasta – classic elbow macaroni works great, but any short and sturdy pasta will get the job done
  • Sour Cream – full fat, don’t try the light or fat free
  • Salt – adds flavor
  • Eggs – binds everything together

Carrian’s Extra Gooey Version

Basically, we are going to add some cream and lots of extra cheese to make this extra creamy and gooey. Here is what you will need…

  • Pasta – elbow macaroni
  • Heavy Cream – half and half and whole milk can be used instead of cream but cream gives a more rich and creamy taste and texture
  • Half and Half – whole milk will also work
  • Butter – unsalted
  • Eggs – binds
  • Sour Cream – adds extra creaminess 
  • Season Salt – we love Pappy’s brand
  • Garlic Powder – adds flavor
  • Onion Powder – adds flavor
  • Salt – adds flavor
  • Pepper – adds flavor and a tiny bit of heat
  • Colby Jack Cheese – shredded, Tillamook brand cheeses work best
  • Monterey Jack Cheese – shredded
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese – shredded

The measurements for each ingredient and the instructions for making both versions of this southern mac and cheese can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post.

a photo of a rectangular white ceramic baking dish full of gooey baked macaroni and cheese that is golden on top.

 

How to Make Southern Macaroni and Cheese

This is such an easy macaroni and cheese recipe! To make this baked mac and cheese recipe with sour cream, follow these steps: 

  1. Preheat the oven and butter your baking dish.
  2. Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. Be sure to salt the water!
  3. While still hot, place the cooked macaroni into a large bowl and stir in the butter and cheese. 
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sour cream, and salt. Stir into the macaroni mixture. 
  5. Turn the mixture into a greased baking dish and sprinkle with additional shredded cheese. 
  6. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown on top. 

How to make the extra gooey version

  1. Follow the first two steps stated above. Then combine the pasta with the butter.
  2. Add the cream, half and half and eggs and mix again. Then add the seasonings and stir everything to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the colby jack and monterey jack cheese and add it to the pasta. Stir together until the cheeses melt. Then stir in the cheddar cheese.
  4. Spread the mixture into your prepared pan and then sprinkle with extra cheese and bake.
  5. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

All of these instructions in their complete detail can be found in the recipe card below.

a photo of a white ceramic baking dish that is partially full of creamy gooey mac and cheese. there is a large silver serving spoon in the dish that is coated in creamy gooey cheese.

 

Can I Double This Recipe? 

Very easily, yes! You’ll likely need to bake this homemade mac and cheese in two baking dishes, though. 

Can I Freeze Mac and Cheese? 

Unfortunately, you cannot. Dairy doesn’t freeze very well, so you’ll want to eat any leftovers within a week of making this sour cream mac and cheese. 

Is There an Egg Substitute I Can Use? 

No, you can’t substitute the eggs in this recipe. That’s just how Southern macaroni and cheese is made, sorry! 

a photo of a white ceramic bowl with a serving of creamy mac and cheese with a fork sitting next to it.

 

Tips for Making the Best Macaroni and Cheese

It’s so important that you salt the pasta water. If you don’t salt the pasta water, the macaroni itself will be bland and it’s likely that your Southern mac and cheese won’t be as flavorful as it should be. 

You also must use whole or 2% milk in this easy macaroni and cheese recipe. That extra bit of fat in the milk adds moisture and flavor to the baked mac and cheese. Skim milk is a major no-no in this recipe! 

Lastly, there’s no sour cream substitute you can use in this recipe. If you want to make this recipe healthier by using a substitute like Greek yogurt…just don’t. Trust us, the sour cream is a game changer. 

Can Mac and Cheese Be Made Ahead of Time?

Yes, this is a great make ahead meal. It can be made completely and then stored in an airtight container for up to 24 hours head of time. Then bake as directed.

 

a photo of a large silver spoon scooping out a serving of cheesy, gooey mac and cheese.

 

Which version of this southern macaroni and cheese speaks to you? We can’t wait to hear which one you like best! I make both just depending on what kind of mood I’m in. But oh that creamy, gooey version is H – E – A – V – E – N!!

More Delicious SIDE DISHES You’re Sure to Love:

a photo of a large silver spoon scooping out a serving of cheesy, gooey mac and cheese.

Southern Macaroni and Cheese

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Servings: 6

When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol’s ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!

  • 16 Ounces Elbow Macaroni
  • 3 1/2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded (reserve 1 cup for topping)
  • 1/4 Cup Butter softened
  • 1 1/2 Cups Milk whole or 2%
  • 3 Eggs beaten
  • 1/2 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Carrian’s Extra GOOEY Version

  • 16 Ounces Elbow Macaroni see note
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Cup Half and Half or whole milk
  • 7 Tablespoons Butter melted
  • 2 Large Eggs whisked in a bowl
  • 3 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoon Season Salt see note
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 16 Ounces Colby Jack Cheese shredded, Tillamook works best
  • 8 Ounces Monterey Jack Cheese shredded
  • 8 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×11″ casserole dish.

  • Cook the macaroni per package instructions.

  • Place the pasta in a large bowl and while still hot and add 2 1/2 cups cheese and butter.

  • In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisking to combine, and add to the macaroni mixture.

  • Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish, top with remaining 1 cup of cheese and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

  • Serve immediately.

Carrian’s Version

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees

  • Butter a 9×13 (or 8×8 works but it will be piled very high) dish and set aside.

  • Heat a pot of water to boiling and add 2 teaspoons salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente and drain. Meanwhile, melt the butter and set aside.

  • In a large bowl, add the pasta and toss evenly with the butter, mixing thoroughly before moving on.

  • Add the cream, half and half and eggs and mix thoroughly again. Add the seasonings and stir to combine.

  • In a large bowl, toss together the Colby jack and Monterey jack cheeses . Sprinkle in 16 ounces and stir together. Add the sharp cheese and gently fold it all together.

  • Spread the mixture into the pan and sprinkle the remaining cheese all over the top. Bake for 35 minutes and then set out to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Carrian prefers the elbow macaroni with little ridges as it holds onto the cheese better. 
Pappy’s Seasoning which is found at local stores, especially Winco and walmart is our personal favorite. It’s just salt, sugar, paprika, onion, and garlic powder.

Nutrition Facts

Southern Macaroni and Cheese

Amount Per Serving (1 g)

Calories 714

% Daily Value*

Cholesterol 182.4mg61%

Carbohydrates 61g20%

Fiber 2.4g10%

Sugar 5.9g7%

Protein 30.9g62%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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