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The Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese

The Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese is made with three different cheeses and done on the stovetop. It’s creamy, cheesy and destined to be a family favorite! 

If mashed potatoes are my favorite comfort food side dish, it is safe to say that macaroni and cheese runs a close second.

With all of it’s cheesy, carb-y, goodness, Stovetop Mac and Cheese is comfort food to the max. 

You know what I’m talking about, the stuff that your mama used to make. The down home cookin’ version of homemade mac n’ cheese. This version is loaded with three different kinds of cheese: cheddar, Gruyere and Havarti.

Each bite is pure cheesy noodle bliss.

What ingredients do you need?

You’ll find all of the usual suspects in this mac and cheese recipe. Here’s a list of everything you’ll need: 

Stovetop mac and cheese ingredients.
  • ELBOW MACARONI: I prefer to use elbow macaroni because it’s traditional when making macaroni and cheese. You can also use shells or penne. 
  • FLOUR: This is what is going to thicken the cheese sauce. 
  • BUTTER: Combined with the flour to make the roux for the sauce. 
  • MILK: Where the cheese sauce gets it creaminess from. 
  • HAVARTI CHEESE: Havarti is a creamy, smooth, semi-soft cow’s cheese. It has a mild flavor similar to Monterey Jack. 
  • GRUYERE CHEESE: A hard Swiss cheese with a nutty flavor. 
  • CHEDDAR: You can use your favorite medium or sharp cheddar in this recipe, as a Pacific Northwest Girl, my favorite is hands down Tillamook. If you use sharp cheddar the cheddar flavor will be more pronounced. 
  • SEASONING SALT: I use Johnny’s seasoning salt
  • PEPPER: A seasoning salt blend often has pepper in it but I like to add a few grinds from a pepper grinder for a bit more peppery flavor. 

How do you make the best Stovetop Mac and Cheese?

A lot of recipes for homemade mac and cheese are for baked Mac and cheese, like this Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese.  With this recipe, I seek to make things a bit easier by making it all on the stovetop.

It really easy to make mac and cheese on the stovetop. You simply need to make an easy cheese sauce and mix in the noodles. It really is that easy.

How do you make a cheese sauce?

The cheese sauce is the single most important part to stovetop mac and cheese. The rest of it is just boiling noodles. But don’t let that scare you. Making a cheese sauce is actually easy and I’m going to show you, with step by step photos, exactly how to do it. 

STEP #1: To make a cheese sauce, you melt butter, whisk in flour and allow it to cook for 1 minute. Cooking for at least a minute ensures your sauce won’t have a chalky flour taste. 

STEP #2: Slowly whisk in milk. Continue cooking until the milk has had a chance to thicken.

STEP #3: Add in your cheese or cheeses of choice and cook until they melt. Make sure to continue whisking so the sauce is smooth. Add in seasoning salt and pepper. 

STEP #4: Once you got your sauce made, simply stir in some cooked noodles. Allow it to stand for 5 minutes, stir again and season to taste with more seasoning salt and pepper. 

A spoonful of stovetop mac and cheese.

What cheeses make the best mac and cheese?

For this stovetop mac and cheese recipe, I use three different kinds of cheeses: Sharp cheddar, Havarti and Gruyere. 

DES’ TIP: To make the smoothest cheesy sauce, you will want to use good melting cheeses. Good melting cheeses are cheeses with a higher moisture content. Harder cheeses, like Parmesan, won’t melt as well.

Other cheeses you could use when making stovetop mac and cheese include: medium cheddar, white cheddar, smoked gouda, fontina and mozzarella.

For more about the science behind melting cheese, check out this fine cooking article! A ton of interesting information. 

Basically, once you have the technique down, making a cheese sauce for your macaroni and cheese is open to endless variations!

Recipe FAQ:

What is a roux?

A roux is a mixture of a fat and flour that is used as a thickening agent in stews and sauces. You’ll make a roux as the base for the cheese sauce in this mac and cheese.

Why is my stovetop macaroni and cheese sauce grainy?

This could be because the cheese was too cold and heated too rapidly. To help with this problem, make sure the cheese is room temperature and the heat is low.

Why does my homemade mac and cheese taste like flour?

You need to cook the flour to make sure the mac and cheese doesn’t taste like flour. This is done when you’re making the roux. You need to let the flour cook at least 1 minute before adding the milk.

This Stovetop Mac and Cheese could be a meal all in itself, but if you’re looking for the best comfort food meal ever, serve it with some of my comfort food classics: 

Garlic Fried Chicken

Southern Green Beans

Brined Fried Chicken

Cheese lover? Check out some of my favorite cheesy recipes: 

Cheese Bread 

Jalapeno Poppers

Cheese Risotto

Post originally published in 2009. Updated recipe, nutrition facts, step by step photos, recipe FAQ and video 2023. 


Stovetop mac and cheese in stainless steel pot.

The Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese

The Best Stovetop Mac and Cheese is made with three different cheeses and done on the stovetop. It's creamy, cheesy and destined to be a family favorite! 
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine American
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 584 kcal



  • 2 cups dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese room temperature
  • 3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese room temperature
  • 3/4 cup shredded Havarti cheese room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper


  • Boil pasta according to package directions. Strain.
  • In the same pot that you boiled the pasta in, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk until smooth, cook 1 minute.
  • Slowly whisk milk into flour mixture and bring to a simmer but do not boil. Once sauce has thickened, add in all three cheeses and stir until they melt. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Fold in cooked noodles. Cook 5 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  • Serve hot.


Don't skip the step where you cook the flour. This will help prevent your mac and cheese from tasting like flour. 
Making sure the cheese is room temperature and that you add it slowly will help prevent your sauce from being grainy. 
Nutrition facts for estimation purposes only.


Calories: 584kcalCarbohydrates: 29.2gProtein: 30.1gFat: 38.6gSaturated Fat: 24.9gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 956mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4.6g
Tried this recipe?Mention @lifesambrosia or tag #lifesambrosia!
Keywords: Macaroni and cheese, pasta, stovetop Mac and cheese

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating

  • Reply
    September 2, 2023 at 1:24 pm

    5 stars
    Had a great recipe for mac and cheese with Gruyere as one of the cheeses and absolutely loved the mellowness of it all. Somehow I lost the recipe and spent some time trying to duplicate what I remembered. Well, lucky that your recipe came along and I’m a very happy camper again! It was great and this one’s for keeps!

    • Reply
      September 2, 2023 at 6:05 pm

      Oh I am so happy to hear that, Shari! Glad you enjoyed it and thank you for taking the time to review!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2023 at 12:28 pm

    5 stars
    I didn’t know what type of seasoning salt to use. So I just used salt

    • Reply
      March 20, 2023 at 10:02 pm

      That would work too! I use Johnny’s seasoning salt :)

  • Reply
    December 5, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    Just wondering if I can freeze the mac & cheese

    • Reply
      December 5, 2022 at 9:49 pm

      Hi! I’ve never frozen mac & cheese so I can’t say for sure if it works.

  • Reply
    December 25, 2021 at 5:46 pm

    Exquisite recipe! Been using it several years now — its the only one I use ever since I first found and made the recipe. One trivial thing — and really this does not warrant mentioning but just in case you want to make a correction.

    In the ingredients list it calls for:
    3/4 tsp seasoning salt
    1/4 tsp black pepper


    In the instructions it calls for:
    1/2 tsp seasoning salt
    1/4 tsp black pepper

    Definitely doesn’t hurt the recipe regardless of which measurements are used. I’ve been enjoying this recipe for years and only noticed the discrepancy today. Thank you for sharing your recipes. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

    • Reply
      December 26, 2021 at 9:27 am

      Oh thank you for noticing that, Kimmylou! I will make the adjustment. I am so happy to hear that you’ve been making this recipe for so long! :)

  • Reply
    Eliester Lai
    September 2, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    5 stars
    It was a hit with my kiddos. They asked for seconds.

    • Reply
      September 2, 2019 at 8:30 pm

      Thats fabulous to hear!

  • Reply
    Amy @ Little Dairy on the Prairie
    January 10, 2019 at 9:59 am

    5 stars
    I love a good mac and cheese! I have to try this asap!

  • Reply
    Taylor W.
    January 10, 2019 at 6:11 am

    5 stars
    So cheesy and creamy. YUM!!

  • Reply
    Chrissie Baker
    January 10, 2019 at 2:37 am

    5 stars
    I’m not a fan of pastas or cheese, but this recipe makes me want it now and I will defo make it soon! Perfect dish for a lazy night in front of tv :D

  • Reply
    Melanie Bauer
    January 9, 2019 at 10:53 pm

    5 stars
    Looks insanely delicious! Ultimate comfort food side dish at it’s best, definitely making this!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    5 stars
    You had my attention at three cheese! Everything is better with more cheese!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    5 stars
    My daughter could live off of macaroni and cheese; it’s her absolute favorite. I’ll have to add this recipe to my arsenal of mac and cheese dinners!

  • Reply
    Sue Pace
    January 17, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    This came out very good….highly recommend it.

  • Reply
    May 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Yum! Made this for dinner tonight substituting extra Havarti for the Gruyere since that was all I had on hand, and it was amazing!

    • Reply
      May 18, 2010 at 7:33 pm

      Thanks Karly! Extra Havarti is always good :)

  • Reply
    December 19, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I love mac and cheese and this looks great!

  • Reply
    December 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    oh yum i love mac and cheese too but cheese are too exp here..

  • Reply
    December 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Can’t go wrong throwing Havarti and Gruyere cheese in there. Great idea!

  • Reply
    December 16, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    This looks SO cheesy and good! I love the idea of adding some chicken to round out the meal. I usually add ground beef and mushrooms to mine.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Process and proportion-wise, this is very close to my mom’s recipe, and thus the same one I make when I need some comfort from food. Thanks especially for including the seasoned salt — I keep Lowry’s in the house for exactly one use: my mom’s stove-top noodles and cheese.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2009 at 6:01 am

    oh you used two of the best cheeses, I love it! I know that this must have tasted amazing too

    Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite comfort food dishes to make as well.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2009 at 5:35 am

    I’ve never had havarti in mac & cheese, but I bet it’s delicious! This is my ultimate comfort food :).

  • Reply
    Neel | Learn Food Photography
    December 15, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Cheese and Macroni, is by far the most easiest recipes (for bachelors and those who don’t like to cook). Thank you for your efforts.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Woah. Bookmarked!

  • Reply
    December 15, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    YUM!! Great picture, it looks so inviting, I want to dive right into it :) I am a Mac & Cheese FIEND!!! I would eat it every day if I knew I wouldn’t gain 300lbs!

  • Reply
    December 15, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Oh how I love mac & cheese! It might just be my all time favorite food. I’m planning to make some to go with our ham for Christmas dinner, and I like the blend of cheeses you’ve picked. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Des

    Hey! I'm Des!

    Welcome to Life’s Ambrosia where Dinner is served and memories are made. Here you will find over 1000 tried and true recipes for every possible occasion. In the last 10 years, this blog has helped millions of families put dinner on the table and create food memories. Let me help you too.

    Read more »

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