This Baked Mac and Cheese recipe is totally gourmet with the addition of crispy bacon and panko bread crumb topping. It will outshine any mac and cheese you’ve tasted! 

Looking for more Kid Friendly Recipes? Try my Instant Pot Spaghetti, Breakfast Quesadillas, or Air Fryer Chicken Tenders!

Baked Mac and Cheese in a casserole dish, hot from the oven, with a serving spoon in it.

What I LOVE about this recipe:

  • Crumb Topping: The Panko bread crumb topping elevates the dish and adds great texture and taste, making it restaurant quality.
  • The Homemade Sauce starts with a basic roux, and then a few spices to enhance the flavor and make the BEST, creamy, cheesy sauce for mac and cheese. If you’re looking for a very traditional version, try my regular mac and cheese recipe.
  • Family Favorite: This is a huge crowd pleaser that I serve year round! You can bring it as a side to serve along with ribs, pulled pork or chicken, or serve it as a main dish with a side of green beans or roasted veggies.

How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese:

Cook the Pasta: Cook your favorite pasta according to package instructions, just until al dente (be careful not to overcook i)t! Strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Cook the Bacon in a large skillet until perfectly crispy. Leave a tiny bit of that delicious bacon grease in the pan for the next step – the sauce!

Slices of bacon cooking in a pot.

Make the Sauce: Melt butter, whisk in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in milk. Mix together cornstarch and half and half. Gradually add it to skillet followed by mustard, chicken bouillon, onion powder, garlic, powder, parsley, salt and pepper.  Cook until slightly thickened and remove from heat. Stir in cheddar cheese.

Cheddar cheese added to a white sauce, then stirred together to make mac and cheese sauce.

Add cooked pasta and some of the bacon.

Add topping: Pour mixture into 8×8’’ baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Add Panko, melted butter and olive oil to a skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until crumbs are golden brown. Evenly sprinkle bread crumb mixture over the gourmet mac and cheese. Add remaining bacon crumbles on top.

Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm.

Two process photos for adding panko topping on mac and cheese, ready to bake.

Pro Tips:

  • Avoid pre-shredded cheese: It’s really best to hand shred your own cheese, rather than using store bought pre-shredded cheese which contain preservatives and wont melt as well.
  • Use high quality ingredients: The better the ingredients, the better the end result! In particular, high quality bacon and cheese! Great ingredients make all the difference in the end result truly tasting gourmet. 
A bowl full of baked mac and cheese with breadcrumb topping.

Make Ahead And Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: You can make this creamy baked mac and cheese recipe 1-2 days ahead of time. Prepare the sauce, cook the noodles, and store both separately in the fridge until ready to bake.

To Freeze: Make the entire dish, but freeze before baking.  Allow it to cool completely in the 8×8 pan, cover it well with plastic wrap and tinfoil and store it in the freezer for 2-3 months.  Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake until warmed through and the cheese is bubbly on top.

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Recipe

Baked Mac and Cheese in a casserole dish, hot from the oven, with a serving spoon in it.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 40 mins
Total 55 mins
Save Recipe

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chicken bouillon paste , or bouillon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt , or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper , or more to taste
  • 2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese *
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Breadcrumb topping:

  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs , or regular breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon butter , melted
  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Boil pasta according to package instructions, just until al dente. Don’t overcook! Strain (don't rinse) and set aside.
  • Shred cheese and set aside to allow to come to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 8×8 baking dish.
  • Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Remove some, but not all of the grease from the pan and chop/crumble into pieces.
  • Make Cheese Sauce: Add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and then whisk in flour. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in milk. Add the cornstarch to the half and half and whisk until smooth. Gradually add it to skillet followed by mustard, chicken bullion, onion powder, garlic, powder, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook sauce, stirring well, for a few more minutes, just until it begins to slightly thicken. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheddar cheese. Taste and add additional seasonings, if needed.
  • Add bacon (reserve a handful to top at the end), and cooked pasta and toss to evenly coat in sauce. Pour mixture into 8×8’’ baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
  • Breadcrumb topping: Add panko, melted butter and olive oil to a skillet (or the saucepan used to cook the pasta). Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are golden brown. Evenly sprinkle over the mac cheese. Add remaining bacon crumbles on top.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm.

Notes

Cheese: It’s really best to freshly shred the cheese, rather than using store bought pre-shredded cheese which contain preservatives and wont melt as well. You can play around with other cheeses flavors, but make sure they are good melting cheeses like gruyere, gouda, Monterey jack, havarti, muenster.
To Make Ahead: You can make this creamy baked mac and cheese recipe 1-2 days ahead of time. Prepare the sauce, cook the noodles, and store both separately in the fridge until ready to bake.
To Freeze: Make the entire dish, but freeze before baking.  Allow it to cool completely in the 8×8 pan, cover it well with plastic wrap and tinfoil and store it in the freezer for 2-3 months.  Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake until warmed through and the cheese is bubbly on top.

Nutrition

Calories: 478kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 24gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 56mgSodium: 626mgPotassium: 304mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 443IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 372mgIron: 1mg

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. Fontina is also an excellent melting cheese. Can’t wait to try this I always mix my cheeses for mac and cheese, pizza and Italian dishes.

  2. This has become one of our family favorites. I’ve made it several times and all 5 of us just love it every time. I switch back and forth between using bacon or ham, both are delicious. Thanks for such a great recipe.

  3. 2 stars
    What’s missing from this recipe is cheese. It’s a nicely flavoured creamy pasta, but it’s not mac and cheese. The amount of roux/sauce greatly outweighs the cheese (and I even added extra cheese when I saw how much sauce there was). In the future, I’d definitely use onion powder, garlic powder, and chicken bouillon for the flavor, but a different mac and cheese recipe.

  4. Hi! If I make this the day before, and separate the pasta and the sauce – should I wait until the day of baking it all together to cook the bacon as well? I wasn’t sure if the bacon would get soggy sitting in the sauce mixture over night. Hope that question made sense – thanks!

  5. I absolutely love all your food! Right now I am on my final attempt at weight loss. So so you show how much is in a serving, or if it is considered light?

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