This creamy bacon mac and cheese recipe is a comfort food meal that’s sure to inspire moans and groans of happiness.
You’ll love the combination of flavors and textures in this easy dinner, which you can easily make from scratch on your stovetop. Tender pasta is topped with a creamy, homemade cheesy sauce and finished with crispy, crunchy bacon.
This macaroni recipe is family-friendly, and while the recipe calls for sharp cheddar you can use a mild or medium cheddar cheese if you have eaters with sensitive tastebuds.
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You’ll find some recipe variations included below for more sophisticated palates, too. More kid-pleasing favorites our family loves include our tasty Bacon Weave Meatloaf, Creamy Bacon Soup, Broccoli Chicken Pasta Bake with Bacon and Bacon-Wrapped Little Smokies brushed with honey barbecue sauce.
Click on any of these headings to jump ahead:
- Ingredients and Substitutions
- Best Pasta for Easy Mac and Cheese with Bacon
- Equipment You’ll Need
- Recipe Steps
- Step by Step Directions and Photos
- Recipe Variations
- Grownup Variations for Bacon Mac & Cheese
- Pro Tips
- How to Store and Reheat
- Jump to Recipe
- Save with Pinterest
Ingredients and Substitutions
These are the ingredients you’ll need to prepare this homemade mac and cheese with bacon:
- 8 thick-cut slices lean bacon – Thick cut works best for this recipe, but if regular-cut bacon is what you have, by all means use that and increase the number of strips to 10.
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni – See the section below about types of pasta you can use.
- 4 tablespoons butter – Salted or unsalted butter is fine in this recipe. If you use salted butter, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon.
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk – You can use your favorite milk. Whole milk will make a richer, creamier sauce, while low-fat milk will make a slightly lighter sauce.
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese – Feel free to substitute another cheese; just choose one that melts well, like Fontina or Monterey Jack.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Best Pasta for Easy Mac and Cheese with Bacon
Look for a smaller pasta in shapes that hold the sauce well for this recipe, such as:
- Classic elbow macaroni
- Shell pasta
- Penne (regular or mini)
- Corkscrew pasta
- Bowtie pasta
- Ditalini, the short version of macaroni
For this batch, I used Barilla Elbows No. 41, a medium-sized macaroni with a little curl and extra texture. Here’s how it looks cooked:
Equipment You’ll Need
These tools will help you prepare the best homemade macaroni and cheese ever:
- Large skillet – to cook the bacon.
- Box grater – to grate the cheddar cheese.
- Large Pot – to cook the macaroni.
- Saucepan – to make the cheese sauce.
- Whisk – to whisk the sauce.
- Cooking Spoon – to stir the sauce and combine everything.
- Colander – to drain the hot pasta.
Preparing this stovetop mac and cheese with bacon couldn’t be easier! Here’s how the recipe comes together:
- Cook the bacon, drain and crumble.
- Grate the cheddar cheese.
- Start cooking the macaroni in salted boiling water.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the creamy, cheesy sauce.
- Combine the sauce, macaroni and half the bacon.
- Serve topped with the rest of the crumbled bacon and enjoy!
Step by Step Directions and Photos
Begin by cooking 8 strips of chopped, thick-cut bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain on paper towels, and when it’s cool, crumble it in small pieces like this:
Shall we just stop right now and eat all the bacon?! I’m sooo tempted.
You’ll also want to grate the cheese. I prefer to grate it freshly from a block of cheese, as the pre-shredded cheese that comes in bags at the store has non-clumping additives that prevent the shreds from melting together as well as fresh cheese.
The recipe calls for sharp cheddar cheese, but you can feel free to use your favorite melty cheese.
Start your macaroni cooking in a big pot of salted boiling water over high heat. While the pasta is cooking, you’ll make the sauce, which is a variation of a basic Bechamel sauce (also known as “white sauce”). This simple, versatile sauce is made with butter, flour, milk and half and half.
Once it’s thick and bubbly, slowly add grated cheddar cheese by the handful.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the cheese is all melted and incorporated. Oh, yum!
Combine the sauce with the hot, cooked pasta.
Stir in half the crumbled bacon.
Divide among 4 individual serving dishes and sprinkle with the remaining crumbled bacon.
Jalapeno Bacon Mac and Cheese – Add some spicy kick to this dish by seeding and dicing 2 large jalapeños and sautéing them in 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet over medium heat until tender. Add to the mixture when you add the bacon. So good!
4 Cheese – Instead of using 2 cups of grated sharp cheddar in your mac and cheese recipe, use 1/2 cup each of four of your favorite cheeses. One combination we love is grated Swiss, Gouda, Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses for fantastic flavor.
Garlic Bacon Mac and Cheese – To add a delicious garlic flavor this dish, you can sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon of dried garlic powder when you season with salt and pepper.
Grownup Variations for Bacon Mac & Cheese
This recipe makes a family-friendly mild sauce. You can mix things up by using extra-sharp cheddar cheese or a sophisticated cheese like grated smoked gouda.
For added zing, you can sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or more or less to suit your tastebuds) in the sauce. Or you can sprinkle the finished dish with red pepper flakes or smoked paprika.
Chopped green onions or chopped chives are a nice addition (if you live in a household with people who are not afraid of green things).
Pro Tips for Success
Grate your own cheese for this recipe, rather than using pre-shredded cheese. The grated cheese sold in plastic bags at the store has been coated with additional ingredients to prevent sticking, which can affect how the cheese melts and make the sauce less smooth.
Before adding the grated cheese to the sauce, take the pan off the heat and let it cool for a minute or two so the cheese doesn’t melt too quickly and separate.
How to Store and Reheat
Any leftover macaroni and cheese with bacon can be stored in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 days. (This dish doesn’t really freeze well.)
Reheat leftovers in a saucepan over medium heat. Add a little milk to the pan to refresh the sauce, and stir frequently until hot.
You can freeze it in a tightly sealed container, but we don’t really recommend it. The creamy texture of the sauce, the tenderness of the pasta and the crunch of the bacon are all compromised by freezing.
We prefer either whole milk or 2 percent milk for this recipe. A little bit of fat in the milk adds flavor and creamy richness to the sauce.
We love steamed broccoli, tender green beans or a crisp green salad with this creamy dish.
This recipe includes butter, milk, and half and half, which makes a rich, creamy sauce. Don’t cook the sauce at too high of a temperature (we recommend medium), and let it cool briefly before adding the cheese. Once the cheese is incorporated, pull the saucepan off the heat so the cheese doesn’t over-melt and separate.
You might also enjoy watching the web story Mac and Cheese with Bacon.
Creamy Bacon Mac and Cheese
- 8 thick-cut slices lean bacon
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble in small pieces.
- Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water over medium-high heat as package directs.
- While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour, stirring until blended. Slowly add the milk and half and half, stirring constantly, until smooth. Heat until mixture bubbles, and cook for two minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and cool for 1 minute. Add cheese a handful at a time, stirring until all of the cheese is incorporated and melted.
- Drain the macaroni in a colander and return to the pot. Pour the cheese sauce over the hot pasta and stir to combine. Add half of the crumbled bacon, stir, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve in individual bowls and garnish each serving with the remaining crumbled bacon. Makes 4 servings.
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Save with Pinterest
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~Your friends at BENSA
This recipe was originally published on June 18, 2013. It was completely updated with new photos and text on March 20, 2021.