Thanks to Serious Eats for giving us 17 new ideas to “think outside the box” when it comes to everyone’s favorite cheesy noodle dish – mac and cheese. Sure, the boxed stuff will work in a pinch and it definitely has a nostalgic feel at times, but with options like this, gone are the days of feeling trapped with the humdrum of powdered or liquid cheese over noodles. And everyone loves options, right? We’re sharing our favorites below with you – let’s get to it!
This recipe is the best homemade recipe if you’re looking for something close to the box style mac and cheese you grew up with. The key to getting that gooey texture is to use cornstarch, evaporated milk, and eggs. American cheese helps too, but you could always experiment with a more flavorful melty cheese – we’re thinking cheddar, pepper jack, fontina, young Swiss, Gruyere, Muenster, young provolone, and/or young Gouda.
If you love bacon and spicy food like we do, this mac and cheese is here to make your day… or night. Make sure to cook your smoky, meaty bacon in fresh pickled jalapenos and save those brown bits. Leftover bacon fat can substitute some of the butter in the recipe to add an even smokier flavor. Once served, top with any leftover bacon/jalapeno goodness.
Who doesn’t love buffalo chicken wings? Anyone? Now, imagine that same delicious buffalo flavor combined into melty, creamy mac and cheese. This dish seems really versatile too – comfort food but also game day food. Good as a side dish or a main course, and it keeps well so you can save some for lunches for the week! Don’t forget the blue cheese panko topping.
Warning! This one could get spicy. We’re talking chilies three ways – chopped canned green chilies (or freshly roasted ones for the adventurous), salsa verde, and spicy pepper jack instead of the usual cheddar. Throw in a store-bought rotisserie chicken if you don’t feel like cooking one at home, and head south of the border for this hot take on your favorite cheesy pasta.
We’ve all had cheeseburger dip, whether at a family gathering or a company potluck. It’s basically beef, cheese and Ro-Tel cooked up together in a slow cooker. But what would happen if we added noodles? This macaroni recipe answers that question. If you’re looking for a little more heat, try using spicy Ro-Tel, or diced green chiles/pickled jalapenos.
You could just substitute the everyday cheeses used in mac and cheese with mozzarella and some parmesan, but if you’re going for pizza mac and cheese, why stop there? For the “fully loaded” effect, let’s load this one up with sausage, pepperoni, black olives, tomatoes, basil, and peppers. With all the pizza toppings out there, the combinations really are endless.
Have a ton of leftover pulled pork and mac and cheese? This recipe solves that exact problem. It’s so simple too – sandwich pulled pork and mac and cheese together, then fry them up in cornbread batter to open up a whole new world of flavor. You’re going to want to serve this one with any extra barbecue sauce you have on the side.
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