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Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese

Who doesn’t love a pot filled to the brim with creamy mac and cheese? It’s the ultimate comfort food! And if you’re looking for the creamiest, cheesiest side dish to go with your entree, this one-pot Dutch oven mac and cheese is the way to go. I have no doubt it will quickly become a go-to recipe for your family.

Try more Dutch oven recipes like Dutch oven chili or Dutch oven corned beef and cabbage!

A serving of mac and cheese.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Dutch oven mac and cheese is loaded with creamy, buttery, cheesy goodness from the different types of shredded cheese, whole milk, and heavy cream, ensuring it won’t dry out.
  • Homemade mac and cheese has always been a special treat in my family, but this one-pot dish is quick and easy to make, perfect for weeknights or the holiday dinner table.
  • Macaroni and cheese is kid-friendly and a crowd-pleaser.
  • The recipe cooks in a Dutch oven on the stovetop and oven. However, you can easily modify the preparation for your next camping trip. 

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Noodles: I enjoy using classic elbow macaroni or the lesser-known corkscrew noodles called Cavatappi pasta to prepare make and cheese since they hold onto the luscious cheese sauce as it bakes. 
  • Cheese: Take your mac and cheese to the next level by shredding one pound of sharp cheddar and Colby jack cheese to add to the sauce. 
  • Butter: Warm butter or olive oil to start the white roux, the base for the cheesy macaroni sauce.
  • Spices: Flavor the dish with kosher salt, smoked paprika, white pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. 
  • Flour: Combine all-purpose flour and butter to make an easy roux for ultra-creamy bechamel sauce.
  • Milk: Use full-fat whole milk in this recipe or evaporated milk.
  • Heavy Cream: Thicken the sauce with heavy cream, but half and half will work if you want to reduce the calories. 
  • Mustard: Balance the richness of the creamy mac and cheesy with a spoonful of Dijon or stone ground mustard. You can also add a teaspoon of ground mustard powder

Additions and Substitutions

  • Spice it up by adding hot sauce or red pepper flakes. Or you can fold roasted jalapeños or green chilies into the cheese sauce.
  • Modify the seasoning by adding spice blends like Old Bay’s or my Slap Ya Mama Seasoning Recipe.
  • Finish the mac and cheese with bread crumbs, French fried onions, crushed chips, or crumbled Ritz crackers for a nice, crunchy texture.
  • I use shredded sharp cheddar and Colby jack cheese but feel free to incorporate different types of cheese like Monterey jack, smoked gouda, and gruyere cheese to elevate the classic dish.
  • Incorporate ground beef or bacon into mac and cheese for more protein.

Tools Used to Make this Recipe

A large Dutch oven is a perfect way to prepare creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese. Dutch ovens retain heat and moisture for even cooking and no dry pasta. If you’re preparing macaroni in the woods, reach for a cast-iron Dutch oven.

How to Make Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Follow the package directions and cook the noodles in a Dutch oven to al dente (a few minutes less than the recommended cooking time on the box), drain, and set the pasta aside.

Cooked noodles in a pan.

Step 2: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350℉ (176℃), shred the cheese, and set it aside.

Step 3: Melt butter the large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the kosher salt, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika.

Then, stir in the flour. Cook and stir continually until a roux forms.

Mac and cheese sauce in a pan.

Step 4: Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens. Then, whisk in the heavy cream and Dijon mustard.

Mac and cheese sauce in a pan.

Step 5: Stir half of the shredded cheese into the pot and cook over medium heat until the cheese melts. Then, fold in the cooked noodles.

Shredded cheese added to the cheese sauce.

Step 6: Top the mac and cheese with the remaining shredded cheese and bake it in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the cheese melts and golden brown spots appear.

Dutch oven mac and cheese topped with shredded cheese.

Expert Tips

  • Bring salted pasta water to a boil and prepare the noodles according to the package. However, I recommend reducing the cooking time by a few minutes because the pasta will continue to cook in the creamy sauce.
  • Shred the cheese instead of buying pre-shredded cheese containing anti-caking agents that can prevent the cheese from melting smoothly into the bechamel sauce. It doesn’t seem like it makes a difference, but it does! Speed up the prep time (and save your arm) by shredding the cheese in a food processor if you have one on hand. 

If you enjoy this side dish, pair it with one of these dinner recipes!  

Mac and cheese in a dutch oven.

Serving Suggestions

Serve this savory Dutch oven mac and cheese as a main dish with a vegetable side dish like asparagus, butternut squash, and roasted Brussels sprouts. And the cheesy macaroni pairs with roasted chickensteak, and chicken sausage

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store the leftover mac and cheese in an airtight container for 2-3 days. 
  • Freeze: I don’t recommend freezing the mac and cheese. Because of the dairy, it will not keep its texture once thawed. 
  • Reheat: The best way to reheat mac and cheese is cooking it on the stovetop. Warm the leftovers in a saucepan over medium heat.Add a splash of milk or heavy cream if you need to loosen up the mac and cheese. Slowly reheating on the stove will help to prevent the sauce from breaking. 
  • Repurpose: Gather friends or get the whole family to make fried mac and cheese balls.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I bake mac and cheese covered or uncovered?

Baking without a cover increases the chance of forming a crusty top to compliment the creaminess of the mac and cheese. If you want the topping to be less crispy, feel free to cover it with foil.

What cheese makes the best mac and cheese?

The best cheese to make mac and cheese is the kind of cheese you enjoy. In all honesty, it depends on who you ask, but I like the combination of Colby jack cheese and sharp cheddar cheese. Other recipes use cheeses like Monterey Jack, white cheddar, smoked gouda, and gruyere.

Does mac and cheese dry out in oven?

The extra layer of cheese helps retain the moisture as it bakes in the oven. However, bake the dish just until the cheese melts and is bubbly. The longer you bake mac and cheese, the drier it can become.

How do you make mac and cheese creamy again?

When mac and cheese is left out or refrigerated, the noodles absorb the moisture. Add milk or heavy cream before reheating to make it creamy once again.

Can I make an outdoor version of this recipe for the campfire?

The Dutch oven is one of my favorite tools for campfire cooking. To modify this recipe for the great outdoors, cover the pan with a lid and continue cooking over the open flame until the shredded cheese on top melts instead of baking it in the oven.

The hardest part about making this recipe over an open fire is controlling the heat while you build a roux. Manage the heat by moving the pan away from the heat. You can do this by raising the Dutch oven above the flame or moving it away from the flame for more indirect heat.

I recommend pre-cooking the pasta and packing it in a silicone bag for quick preparation. Simplify the cooking process by gathering the other ingredients in separate bags and containers.

More Comfort Recipes:

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A serving of mac and cheese.

Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese

Tressa Jamil
If you're looking for the creamiest, cheesiest side dish to pair with an entree, one-pot Dutch oven mac and cheese is the way to go.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 10 Servings
Calories 693 kcal
Ingredients
  
  • 1 box noodles, cooked to al dente
  • 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 pound shredded colby jack cheese divided
Instructions
 
  • Follow the package directions and cook the noodles in a Dutch oven to al dente (a few minutes less than the recommended cooking time on the box), drain, and set the pasta aside.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350℉ (176℃), shred the cheese, and set it aside.
  • Melt butter in the large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the kosher salt, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.
  • Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens. Then, whisk in the heavy cream and Dijon mustard.
  • Stir half of the reserved shredded cheese into the pot and cook over medium heat until the cheese melts. Then, fold in the cooked noodles.
  • Top the mac and cheese with the remaining shredded cheese and bake it in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the cheese melts and golden brown spots appear.
Notes
Expert Tips 
  • Bring salted pasta water to a boil and prepare the noodles according to the package. However, I recommend reducing the cooking time by a few minutes because the pasta will continue to cook in the creamy sauce.
  • Shred the cheese instead of buying pre-shredded cheese containing anti-caking agents that can prevent the cheese from melting smoothly into the bechamel sauce. It doesn’t seem like it makes a difference, but it does! Speed up the prep time (and save your arm) by shredding the cheese in a food processor if you have one on hand. 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 693 kcal | Carbohydrates: 26 g | Protein: 28 g | Fat: 54 g | Saturated Fat: 33 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14 g | Trans Fat: 0.2 g | Cholesterol: 160 mg | Sodium: 1122 mg | Potassium: 283 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 5 g | Vitamin A: 1924 IU | Vitamin C: 0.5 mg | Calcium: 734 mg | Iron: 1 mg
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5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating