Tired of your same old dinners? Step up your dinner game with this hearty mac and cheese bake with bacon! The gooey cheese and crunchy bacon pair perfectly for a rich and flavorful mac and cheese bake with bacon dish.
This mac and cheese bake with bacon is made with macaroni noodles stirred into a creamy sharp cheddar and bacon cheese sauce, then baked with a golden buttery bread crumb topping.
Reasons you'll love this recipe
- SUPER HEARTY: Just like our cheesy chicken and rice casserole and old fashioned shepherds pie recipe, this mac and cheese recipe is the best comfort food when you want something cheesy and savoury.
- LEFTOVERS: Depending on how many people you’re feeding, you’ll probably have some leftovers to reheat the next day. Who doesn’t love leftovers? Yum!
- MAKE AHEAD OPTION: Make the recipe following the steps the day before except for the baking step; do this the next day for double the baking time before serving
- MACARONI NOODLES: Macaroni elbow noodles are a popular pasta noodle for mac and cheese. Use 1 pound/454 grams worth.
- OLIVE OIL: This ensures the noodles don’t stick together and is also used for frying the bacon. Use 1 tablespoon each.
- BACON: The bacon is a game-changer in this recipe. You will need 6 pieces cooked nice and crispy.
- BUTTER: Butter will be used in the making of the cheese sauce and for making the bread crumb topping golden. You will need a ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons total.
- FLOUR: All-purpose flour is what helps give the cheese sauce its thick texture. You will need 3 tablespoons.
- MILK: Warm milk will help with the consistency of the cheese sauce. This recipe requires 4 cups!
- SPICES: For flavouring the cheese sauce use 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, and ¼ teaspoon of paprika.
- SALT & PEPPER: To enhance the flavour, use 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper in the cheese sauce. Feel free to sprinkle some extra on before baking the mac and cheese.
- CHEESE: Can’t forget the cheese! This recipe uses sharp/old cheddar cheese and gives the recipe a sharp, rich flavour. You can use any cheese you’d like, but this is commonly used in most macaroni and cheese recipes! Use 4 cups shredded.
- BREAD CRUMBS: The bread crumb topping adds a tasty, crispy texture to the gooey mac and cheese. You will need ½ cup.
Kitchen tools to help you
- LARGE POT: For cooking the macaroni noodles.
- COLANDER/STRAINER: For straining the noodles.
- FRYING PAN: For cooking the bacon.
- CUTTING BOARD: For chopping the bacon into small pieces.
- SMALL/MEDIUM-SIZED POT: For making the cheese sauce.
- 9 X 13 BAKING DISH: For baking the mac and cheese.
- MEASURING SPOONS AND CUPS: For measuring and adding the ingredients.
Mac and Cheese:
- Macaroni: Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Add the noodles to a large bowl and mix in 1 tablespoon of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking.
- Heat the oven: Preheat the oven to 350° F or 177° C.
- Bacon: In a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the bacon on medium to high heat until crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Once cooked, remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess grease.
- Cheese Sauce: Add the butter to a small-medium-sized pot on low heat. Once melted, add the flour and constantly stir until combined, about 1 minute. Slowly add the warm milk and increase the heat to medium-high. Stir vigorously until the mixture has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the spices, salt, pepper, and half the bacon. Stir in cheese until melted.
- Combine: Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and mix until well combined. Pour the mac and cheese mixture into a 9x13 baking dish and set aside while you make the topping.
Bread Crumb Topping:
- Mix: Mix the melted butter, bread crumbs, and remaining bacon pieces. Sprinkle over the mac and cheese.
- Bake: Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden brown.
- Boil the pasta noodles to al dente. There’s typically a range for cooking time on the noodle package, and since you will be baking these noodles in addition to boiling them, it's best to boil for the lesser time to ensure the noodles won’t be overcooked and mushy.
- Shred the cheese yourself. You should grate your own cheese because pre-shredded cheese often contains certain preservatives that cause the cheese not to melt well.
- Warm the milk. This will help ensure no clumps occur once the milk is added to the butter/flour mixture/paste during the cheese sauce process. If clumps occur, just keep vigorously stirring until they dissolve.
- Use a 1:1 ratio for the milk and cheese. This is super important! If you don’t want grainy, curdled-looking mac and cheese, then you gotta use the same amount of cheese as you do milk! It can be tempting to add more cheese, but if you do, you need to add the same amount of milk. If the fat ratios are off, then this can cause the cheese mixture to spoil. For best results, use 4 cups milk to 4 cups (unpacked) shredded cheese.
This is likely because your roux (the butter, flour, and milk combination) to the fat content in the cheese that you're using is off. It's important to use a 1:1 ratio of warm milk to shredded cheese (i.e. 4 cups of warm milk to 4 cups of shredded (unpacked) cheese.
This happens if too much flour is used in the roux (the butter, flour, milk combination). It can be tempting to add more flour to the mixture for a thicker cheese sauce, but this can cause the mac and cheese to turn out dry.
If your macaroni is sticking after you boil it, it's usually from the starch in the pasta/water. All you need to do is give the macaroni a good rinse with cold water while you strain it and then mix in a tablespoon of olive oil.
You can store it in the same dish you baked it in, tightly wrapped with plastic wrap or tin foil for up to 5 days. To reheat, you can replace the baking dish in the oven at the same temperature until warm, about 15 minutes or transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute or until warm.
- Use your favourite pasta noodles instead of macaroni.
- Use white cheddar instead, or use both!