Chef John's Macaroni and Cheese Recipe -
Chef John's Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
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Chef John’s Macaroni and Cheese
See how to make Thomas Jefferson’s favorite comfort food. See more
  • READY IN 55 mins

Chef John's Macaroni and Cheese

Recipe by  

"This easy-to-make old-school macaroni and cheese has a perfectly crispy crust."

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Ingredients Edit and Save

Original recipe makes 6 servings Change Servings
  • PREP

    10 mins
  • COOK

    45 mins

    55 mins


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the macaroni, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked through but still slightly firm, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam and bubble, stir in the flour; cook on medium heat until flour just begins to turn pale yellow, 3 to 4 minutes. Add thyme, cayenne pepper, and white pepper; cook and stir another minute, then whisk in 1 cup of milk until smooth. Pour in remaining milk and whisk again. Bring the sauce just to a simmer.
  4. Stir in nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, and salt; simmer on medium-low heat until thickened, about 8 minutes, whisking often. Turn heat off, then add 2 1/4 cups of Cheddar cheese; stir until melted and combined. Add Dijon mustard.
  5. Transfer the macaroni into a casserole dish, then pour in the cheese sauce; stir to thoroughly combine sauce with pasta. Mix panko bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon melted butter in a small bowl, and sprinkle crumbs on top of macaroni and cheese. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup of Cheddar cheese on top.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until bread crumbs and Cheddar cheese topping are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Kitchen-Friendly View


  • Tip
  • Aluminum foil can be used to keep food moist, cook it evenly, and make clean-up easier.

Reviews More Reviews

Most Helpful Positive Review
Dec 11, 2011

I made this for the boys before I went to work last night. I did not try this myself but based on the message I got at my break--they absolutely loved it. To be honest, there were no leftovers for me! They thought the crust was the best part. Note to self: double the crust ingredients next time.

Most Helpful Critical Review
Dec 16, 2011

Tried this recipe because I was starting to think my tried and true mac&cheese was a little bland. I was skeptical of the thyme so only filled the 1/4 tsp about 2/3 full. Followed everything else to a T. The thyme flavor was so overpowering, the dish was inedible.

Nov 30, 2011

Oh boy! I finally found the best macaroni and cheese I have ever had. I followed the recipe exactly, except I used only 12 oz. of macaroni, to make it more cheesy. It was a perfect ratio. I used 2% milk, and it worked great - creamy and satisfying. I don't know which I liked better, the crust or the filling, they were both delicious. You have to try this recipe! Thanks, Chef John!

Nov 25, 2011

Lordy, all anyone wanted was the crust. New rule, take what's UNDER the crust, too. This was the closest to my mom's, and all kidding aside, a terrific success.

Apr 30, 2012

Very good. I am thinking that the people who commented that they were overpowered by the taste of thyme must have used ground thyme instead of dried thyme leaves. 1/4 tsp. of dried thyme leaves is not enough to overpower anything.

Dec 04, 2011

The best mac and cheese I have made in a long time. My family all stated the same. I followed the recipe with the exception of a couple of changes. After reading the reviews, I cut the pasta by a couple of oz and that worked out perfectly. I used fresh thyme, backed the ceyenne down to 1/8 teaspoon (my dad can't have spicey), and was out of dijon so I used about a 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard. We loved that it was baked but still creamy! Definitely reminds everyone of grandma's mac and cheese. I will use this recipe from this point. Thanks for sharing!

Apr 21, 2012

My family really loved this dish. The only changes I made was 1/8 cayenne (because of kid), made only 12 oz. of macaroni and used black pepper. I didn't have panko crumbs so I made my own crumbs with leftover bread. To be honest, I can live without the topping so I'll leave it out next time. This will be my go-to mac and cheese recipe for now! UPDATE: This time I left out the thyme and worcestershire. I added 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder to the roux. I used 10 oz. of macaroni. I didn't add the breadcrumb topping. I covered the dish with foil and baked it at 375° for 30 minutes, then uncovered and baked for 15 minutes more. Nice and creamy and so delicious. But I'll have to leave out the cayenne next time due to picky kid (although I love the kick of the cayenne). How anyone can say this macaroni and cheese is bland is beyond me. Perhaps you used cheap cheese which tends to be oily and doesn't have the best flavor and texture. And BTW, if your dish turns out grainy, you probably didn't take the roux off the burner and SLOWLY (1/4 cup at a time) add cheese to it while mixing gently. Dumping all the cheese at once to simmering roux that is still on the burner will result in a grainy texture.

Nov 30, 2011

Delicious! Very easy and kid-friendly. Use a little less pasta if you like your mac and cheese very saucy -- this wasn't overly saucy, but had great flavor. It's easy to make changes according to your likes.


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  • Calories
  • 695 kcal
  • 35%
  • Carbohydrates
  • 72.8 g
  • 23%
  • Cholesterol
  • 95 mg
  • 32%
  • Fat
  • 32.3 g
  • 50%
  • Fiber
  • 2.6 g
  • 10%
  • Protein
  • 29.4 g
  • 59%
  • Sodium
  • 928 mg
  • 37%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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