Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

You haven’t lived until you’ve tried this Three Cheese Mac and Cheese recipe. It’s the perfect combination of cheesy, creamy and dreamy. Calling for easy-to-find ingredients and three excellent cheese, this homemade mac ‘n cheese makes an excellent side dish or an entire meal!

A saucepan full of stovetop macaroni and cheese with a wooden spoon inside it on marble

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Three Cheese Mac and Cheese Recipe 

Dinner at my house these days is sometimes a box of mac and cheese. It’s quick, simple and great for nights when you don’t want to cook, like when it’s a busy day or you’re in the middle of moving (like us) and you don’t have all your usual equipment. 

There’s a lot to love about box mac and cheese (just ask my daughters), but this is not that recipe. It is also not the type that you bake with breadcrumbs on top. 

This one is a stovetop mac and cheese recipe, and it is so very much more luscious and dreamy than other mac and cheeses. 

This Three Cheese Mac and Cheese isn’t hard, but it does take a little longer than stirring in a packet of cheese powder. 

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    Ever noticed that box mac doesn’t really seem cheesy? Well, let me tell you.

    This is the ULTIMATE cheesy mac. It’s creamy with a little heat thanks to the trio of pepper jack cheese, white cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. You’re gonna love it because it is the BEST kind of comfort food.

    Why I love this recipe:

    You’ll love this recipe, for a few wonderful reasons: 

    • You can make it for dinner or serve it on the side with your favorite main dishes. 
    • It’s creamy, cheesy and oh-so-decadent. It’s a cheese lover’s recipe for sure. 
    • It tastes so much better than boxed or frozen mac n cheese. Plus you’ll know exactly what ingredients go into it, so you can feel good about serving it to your family. 

    Another thing I love? This mac & cheese is suuuuuuuuuper creamy and doesn’t get all funky and stiff as it cools down. It thickens up, yes, but not in a gross way. A lot of homemade mac ‘n cheeses turn into bricks, if you know what I mean!

    More pasta recipes to try: French Onion Steak Pasta | Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta | Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Ingredients to make three cheese stovetop macaroni and cheese on a marble surface in bowls

    What you need to make this recipe:

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    • Pot for pasta
    • Colander 
    • Wooden spoon 
    • Skillet or braiser — I like to use a cast iron skillet, but you do you! Just be sure your pan has higher sides to contain all the ingredients
    • Measuring cups
    • Sharp knife
    • Cheese grater

    Let’s talk ingredients!

    In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • Elbow macaroni — you’ll want uncooked pasta here. Have fun with other small shapes with grooves and hollows that will capture the sauce, like orecchiette or rotini. 
    • Unsalted butter — salted works, too, but your addition of salt will be different, depending on whether or not the butter is salted. 
    • All-purpose flour — we like to use unbleached AP flour in our household, but the regular kind works, too. I have not tried this with a gluten free flour blend, so I do not recommend making that swap.
    • Whole milk — you can use all half-and-half here for an even thicker sauce or 2% milk for a slightly lighter sauce. Don’t use 1% or skim or it will be too thin. 
    • Half-and-half — half-and-half adds the perfect creaminess, but you can go creamier with heavy cream if that’s what you have. 
    • Dijon mustard — or use yellow mustard if it’s what you have. A pinch of dry mustard powder also works.
    • Kosher salt — you can also use sea salt. 
    • White pepper — white pepper is ground more finely than black pepper, so it makes a flavorful addition that you won’t notice. Black pepper works too, but you’ll see flecks of it in the sauce. 
    • White cheddar cheese — you can use yellow cheddar if that’s what you have. Sharp cheddar cheese or extra sharp both work.
    • Pepper jack cheese — again, if you want the best sauce, use a block and grate it. Otherwise shredded is fine — I use it all the time. 
    • Grated parmesan cheese — grated parmesan is the powdery cheese, and it’s what you want here. You can use shredded if needed though. 

    Pro tip!

    Pre-shredded cheese does not melt as well as the cheese you shred at home from a block. Why? Shredded cheese are often coated in anti-caking agents, which will prevent them from clumping in the bag. They don’t melt as well or as easily as cheese you shred yourself.

    Customizations and substitutions

    Adjust the spice level: This mac is creamy with a little heat. I personally don’t find it overwhelming, but if you or your people don’t like spice, sub out the pepper jack for a monterrey jack. You could also add a pinch of cayenne pepper for some more kick, too!

    Change up the cheeses: For a less spicy sauce, use monterrey jack. You could also use yellow cheddar instead of white. Mozzarella can work too. 

    Have fun with pasta: Use another shape of pasta, like gemelli, fusilli, farfalle or even a mini-shell pasta. Try this recipe with gluten-free macaroni, too. 

    Bake it! Baked macaroni ‘n cheese is excellent, too, even though that will take more time than originally stated in this recipe card below. Pour the combined mac and cheese into a casserole dish, top with some panko breadcrumbs and bake in a 400F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown, bubbly and delicious.

    How to make Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

    Here’s how to make this easy creamy mac & cheese recipe in 15-20 minutes: 

    Start by cooking the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Read the pasta packaging, and boil until the pasta is cooked through but still has some bite to it. (This is called al dente.) Cooking times will vary based on the brand and shape of pasta!

    When it’s ready, drain it in a colander and drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking. Set it aside.

    Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet or a braiser with high sides over medium heat.

    Add the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the flour and butter combine and turn golden brown. This is called a roux, which is what thickens the cheese sauce. Do not skip this step, as your sauce will not thicken properly.

    Next, slowly, pour in the milk and half-and-half. Cook for a few minutes stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly. Do not bring to a boil! This will change the texture of the sauce. 

    Then add the mustard, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then cook for a few minutes more. 

    Next, add all three cheeses to the sauce. Stir them into the sauce and let them melt down completely. This might take a few minutes. I find that shredding your own cheeses helps these melt more efficiently.

    Finally, add the cooked pasta. Gently stir them into the cheese sauce so as not to break up the pasta. 

    Then, you’re ready to dish up nice and warm. Enjoy!

    How to store and freeze

    Store this cheesy mac & cheese in the fridge in a food-safe, airtight container. Enjoy it within a few days. 

    Be sure to stir it up, as the sauce will settle toward the bottom of the container. 

    For best results, reheat it on the stove over medium heat until warmed. You can also heat up in individual bowls in the microwave. 

    Two black bowls hold a serving of Three Cheese Mac and Cheese next to patterned blue napkins

    Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

    Want to make this creamy macaroni dish for a crowd? That is a BRILLIANT idea.

    Here are some thoughts on making and sharing this pasta dish: 

    • This mac & cheese could be a dinner unto itself, but it’s also an excellent side. We’ve served it with grilled steak and baked steak, as well as BBQ dishes, like pulled pork sandwiches and Memphis Style Ribs (Dry Rub Oven Baked Ribs Recipe).
    • This recipe is delicious for casual and more fancy occasions. Serve it in a baking dish or serving bowl with big spoons. 
    • Have some toppings or mix-ins available for anyone who’d like to add them. Try bacon, red pepper flakes, broccoli or chicken. 
    A wooden spoon lifts a serving of macaroni and cheese out of a braiser pan

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is in a three cheese blend? 

    Three cheese blends typically contain three different types of cheeses with varying flavors and textures. When grated and combined or when melted together, the result is a flavorful layer of cheese. Typically, three cheese blends include mozzarella, cheddar cheese and pepper jack cheese, but they can also include white cheddar and Monterey jack. 

    What can I add to mac and cheese? 

    Mac & cheese is delicious with mix-ins. Stir in cooked bacon, cooked broccoli, roasted diced peppers and chopped chicken. You can also try adding different types of cheeses to experiment with flavor. 

    A fork holds a bite of three cheese Mac and cheese above two black bowls holding more macaroni and cheese

    Quick tips and tricks to making the best Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

    • The roux helps thicken the sauce. Don’t skip that step. Take your time with it. 
    • Follow the box instructions on your macaroni. You want al dente pasta, which is cooked but still a little firm. Don’t overcook it or the pasta will be too soft and will break up when you stir it. 
    • Shake up the recipe by using the same quantities, but swapping our your favorite cheeses and mix-ins. Other cheese options that would be delicious here include colby jack cheese, Gruyere cheese and American cheese.

    More mac & cheese recipes

    A saucepan full of stovetop macaroni and cheese with a wooden spoon inside it on marble
    Yield: 6 servings

    Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Total Time: 30 minutes

    You haven’t lived until you’ve tried this Three Cheese Mac and Cheese recipe. It’s the perfect combination of cheesy, creamy and dreamy. Calling for easy-to-find ingredients and three excellent cheese, this homemade mac 'n cheese makes an excellent side dish or an entire meal!

    Ingredients

    • 1 lb. elbow macaroni, uncooked
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 3 cups whole milk
    • 1 cup half-and-half
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon white pepper
    • 8 oz. shredded white cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
    • 8 oz. shredded pepper jack cheese (about 1 cup)
    • 2 oz. grated parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)

    Instructions

    1. Cook the pasta. Read the pasta packaging, and boil until the pasta is cooked through but still has some bite to it. (This is called al dente.) Drain it in a colander, drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking and set it aside.
    2. Melt the butter in a large skillet or a braiser with high sides over medium heat.
    3. Add the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the flour and butter combine and turn golden brown. This is our roux, and it will thicken the cheese sauce.
    4. Pour in the milk and half-and-half. Stir occasionally, cooking for a few minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly. Do not bring to a boil!
    5. Add the mustard, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes.
    6. Add the shredded/grated cheeses to the sauce. Stir them into the sauce and let them melt completely.
    7. Add the cooked noodles, and use a spoon to stir them into the cheese sauce.
    8. Serve warm, and enjoy!

    Notes

    How to store: Store this cheesy mac & cheese in the fridge in a food-safe, airtight container. Enjoy it within a few days. 

    Be sure to stir it up, as the sauce will settle toward the bottom of the container. 

    For best results, reheat it on the stove over medium heat until warmed. You can also heat up in individual bowls in the microwave.

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    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    6

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 666Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 126mgSodium: 1000mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2gSugar: 9gProtein: 31g

    Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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    About the Author:

    Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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