Southern Mac and Cheese

Hands down the best recipe for southern mac and cheese. If you’re looking for a creamy, authentic southern macaroni and cheese homemade recipe, then this southern baked mac and cheese recipe is for you. 

Southern Mac and Cheese

A few years ago my (husband’s) Aunt Carol took the time and energy to thoughtfully compile hundreds of her own recipes for all of the family. She compiled them into a wonderful spiral bound book. It’s filled to the brim of recipes we love of hers, quick + easy ones for the kids, and everything in between.

She is always cooking and baking for any large family gatherings we have, and her mac + cheese recipe became a quick favorite among us. We make it time and time again.

southern mac and cheese

Her chocolate chip cookie recipe is also so killer, but it includes a “secret” ingredient that makes all the difference, so I’ll have to check with Aunt Carol before sharing it. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get my cookies to taste as yummy as she does for some reason! There is always something special about a family member making their own special recipe, and it never quite tastes as good as it does when they are making it!

large rigatoni noodles for mac and cheese recipe

large rigatoni noodles for mac and cheese recipe

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To me, there were always a few “camps” when it came to mac + cheese. You were either straight from the box (not a chance in my mom’s house growing up), or a fan of the creamy + liquid cheese, or the more solid casserole-like, baked mac + cheese. My mom generally made us the latter, and for some time it was the only mac + cheese I knew.

This is part of the Southern Kitchen Bucket List, perfect for this time of year when the weather gets cooler and you need a little comfort food to warm you from the inside.

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Macaroni & Cheese

Southern Mac and Cheese


This baked southern mac n cheese is so creamy and delicious. This is sure to be a hit among the whole family.


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 cups half-and-half (fat-free)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 (8oz) block extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 (8oz) block extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 (16oz) pkg elbow macaroni, cooked


  1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in flour until mixture is smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in salt, black pepper, red pepper and garlic powder.
  3. Gradually whisk in half-and-half and milk; cook, whisking constantly, for 8-10 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Stir in half of sharp cheddar cheese. Stir in the extra-sharp cheddar cheese until mixture is smooth.
  5. Remove from heat and combine pasta and cheese mixture.
  6. Pour mixture into greased 13×9 baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining sharp cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Keywords: southern mac and cheese, baked Mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese recipe, Mac and cheese homemade

We love to eat this southern baked mac n cheese as a side during family dinner. It goes great with roasted chicken, or served among a plate of roasted veggies.

To see our full menu of family dinners, be sure to check out the series here. 

Macaroni and Cheese Homemade

I think homemade macaroni and cheese is something everyone’s family has a special recipe for. That is why I love this dish so much. It is always served at special meals surrounded by the whole family. Some like it with a creamier base, while others top with bread crumbs and the list really goes on and on.

When I make this recipe one special substitution I like to make using large or  jumbo sized noodles because it captures all the delicious melted cheese just perfectly. Rigatoni pasta has become my favorite to use.

A few tips: use freshly grated cheese whenever possible, and the highest quality cheese you can – it will make all the difference. Sometimes I’ll even just do 8oz worth of a really great cheese and it still elevates the taste and creaminess of the recipe. Also, I love to add in a little bit of an herb, like thyme. Sometimes I’ll even add some smoked paprika which enhances the cayenne flavor even more.

Thanks, Aunt Carol, for letting me share this special recipe. My kiddos request it all the time and I know yours soon will too!

macaroni and cheese homemade

If you enjoyed this recipe for Southern Mac and Cheese, you’ll also want to check out our recipe for How to Make Pimento Cheese!

heirloomed is a lifestyle brand with a mission of “keeping heirlooms around for another generation.” Our blog features stories about my favorite made-from-scratch recipes, creating traditions with your familyfarmhouse home decor, effortless entertaining by mixing new and vintage pieces, tips on gardening creating a timeless capsule wardrobe, and small town + historic travel. Our product designs feature a collection of “goods inspired by the past, for generations to enjoy” with an array of apronstable linenshand-poured candles and keepsake gifts. Learn more at www.heirloomedcollection.com

I’m an old soul based in Atlanta, GA and mom of 3 with a deep love of all things from the past with a story to tell, on a mission to keep heirlooms around for another generation - whether it be a tradition, splattered family recipe, or historic home.

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