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Mac and cheese in a white bowl with arugula salad.

Spicy Mac and Cheese

  • Author: Jessie
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian


This easy, creamy mac and cheese recipe has a hint of spice for a fun twist!


  • 3/4 pound pasta (we used elbow macaroni)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk 
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided (reserve 1/2 cup for topping the pasta before baking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Fresh chopped parsley (optional), for topping


Heat the oven and cook the pasta

Make the sauce



Additions and Substitutions. Add protein (chicken, chorizo, andouille sausage, diced ham, bacon) or veggies (broccoli, tomatoes, spinach) to this mac and cheese to make it a bit heartier. Use bread crumbs in place of or in addition to the cheddar cheese topping when you’re ready to bake.

What kind of cheese should I use? We like using sharp cheddar or white cheddar cheese here. For extra depth and flavor, use a combination of cheeses: we like gruyere, smoked gouda, goat cheese, parmesan, and pepper jack in this recipe.

For best results, always shred your cheese yourself! Store-bought cheeses are often coated with preservatives that keep them from melting smoothly. 

Dial up the spice by increasing cayenne pepper and paprika here, or add diced jalapeño or poblano peppers to the sauce for even more kick (you can use our jalapeño popper mac and cheese recipe as a guide!)

Keywords: comfort food, winter, thanksgiving