Cast Iron Mac and Cheese
Cast Iron Mac and Cheese - Recipe for delicious and easy pasta made with a creamy cheese sauce and crispy bacon then baked until crispy around the edges!
Cast Iron Mac and CheeseJump to Recipe
This is an updated post from the Macheesmo Archives! I think this is a perfect dish for Fall so wanted to re-share it with you all.
One of my favorite things to see at a restaurant is a good macaroni and cheese dish that’s baked in individual cast iron dishes. The cast iron distributes the heat well so the mac and cheese is baked evenly and the edges are really crispy and delicious.
The problem of course is that I don’t have any mini cast iron dishes laying around to bake my mac and cheese in.
But I do happen to have one really large cast iron skillet that I figured would work just as well! You could put a ton of add-ins in this dish to make it your own. Lobster? Poblano peppers? Go crazy. I kept this version pretty standard though.
Cast Iron Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 8 ounces bacon
- ½ medium onion diced
- 5 dried arbol peppers crushed (or 2 Teaspoons red pepper flakes)
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 Cups whole milk
- 16 ounces cheese I used 8 ounces of Monterey Jack and 8 ounces cheddar cheese
- ¼ Cup Parmesan cheese grated
- ¼ Cup bread crumbs optional
- Salt and Pepper
- Maybe a drizzle of olive oil
- Cook macaroni according to package instructions and set aside.
- Cut up bacon into 1/4 inch cubes and cook in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very crispy and browned. If bacon appears dry, drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
- Remove bacon from pan and add onions and crushed peppers or red pepper flakes. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Remove onion mixture and combine with bacon.
- Do not wash the skillet, but set it aside for later.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour over medium heat. Cook until the roux is a light brown mixture, about 5 minutes. Continue to whisk and slowly pour in milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, whisk until smooth and turn the heat down to low.
- Whisk in shredded cheeses and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine cheese sauce with elbow macaroni and stir in bacon mixture. Pour the macaroni and cheese back into the cast iron skillet and top with grated Parmesan and/or bread crumbs.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until cheese is browned.
- Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Did you make this?
Snap a photo and tag @macheesmo so I can see your work.
Cast Iron Mac and Cheese
I used some bacon and spicy Arbol peppers to give some flavor to the macaroni and cheese. Cooking all this stuff in the cast iron skillet that you eventually bake the mac and cheese in also seasons the skillet.
Start by chopping your bacon into pieces and then cook it in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until the bacon is really crispy. If you want, add a drizzle of oil to the pan to get the bacon sizzling.
While the bacon cooks chop up an onion and also crunch your dried peppers if you’re using them. You can also just use red pepper flakes though.
When the bacon is crispy, take it out of the pan and add your onion and dried peppers. Cook them in the bacon grease until the onions are soft. If you have a lot of bacon grease (more than a few tablespoons) pour some of it off.
Then mix everything together and set it aside. Whatever you do, don’t clean or wipe out the skillet! Again though, if there is a lot of grease left, pour some off. You just need a coat of oil.
Also, while this is happening, cook the elbow macaroni according to the package. I would recommend under-cooking it by a minute or two or else your mac and cheese might be a bit soggy.
Making the Sauce
This cheese sauce, like any good cheese sauce in my opinion, is based on a Roux which is just a mixture of flour and butter.
Start by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add your flour to the butter and start whisking! It’ll bubble a bit and start to turn slightly tan. If you’ve never made a roux before, it isn’t that hard. Just remember not to let it sit for too long or it’ll burn.
After about 4-5 minutes of cooking your roux should be a nice light tan/brown color. Like this:
Once it gets that color, slowly start whisking in your milk. This is the only tricky part of making a cheese sauce like this. If you add your milk too fast, then you can’t whisk all the roux in evenly so you’ll end up with a lumpy sauce. Don’t worry about it too much though, just don’t dump in all your milk at once and you’ll be fine.
Once all the milk is in the pot, it should have the consistency of a light gravy.
Then whisk in all your grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. The longer you stir it on the burner, the thicker it will get.
This was a really good cheese sauce!
Remember that skillet that you cooked the bacon and onions in? I really hope that you didn’t wash it. Here’s my dirty pan ready for baking!
Back to the Macaroni
Once your cheese sauce is done, stir it into your drained macaroni. To be completely honest, this was very delicious just like this. If you don’t want to bake it or don’t have a cast iron skillet, it’s perfectly acceptable to serve it just like this!
Baking the Cast Iron Mac and Cheese
Assuming you do want to bake it though, stir in your bacon/onion/pepper mixture and then pour all of it back into your cast iron skillet. My skillet is a 12 inch skillet and it fit perfectly.
I added some breadcrumbs and Parmesan on top just to form a nice crust.
Bake this for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. The mac and cheese should have a nice browned crust. Be sure to let it cool for 5 minutes or so before serving it up!
If you’re intimidated by any part of this recipe, just remember that it’s really hard to go wrong with mac and cheese. Even if your sauce is a bit lumpy or if you overcook the macaroni a bit, it’s still going to be delicious. You’d have to work to make this dish not delicious.
I really liked baking it in a cast iron dish because of the crispy edges, but like I said, you could definitely just serve this up as a creamy style mac and cheese dish also.
Bust out your cast iron and give this a shot!
52 Responses to “Cast Iron Mac and Cheese” Leave a comment
Love the crusty finish on this.
Wow! That looks amazing! My iron skillet is jealous. I'm going to try mine with a bit of Maryland crab meat mixed in.
This looks so yummy! I love my cast iron skillet dearly and what better way to honor it eh?! This might just be tomorrow's dinner! :D
*sigh* Yeah — this is yet another reason to love those cast iron pans. Crispy cheesy edges. YUM.
OMG – that looks amazing. I bet the edges were good and crispy!
This was awesome. I made it with panko crumbs along with the parm as the topping. My kids are not wild about onions and peppers so I only used bacon – everyone loves bacon! The top was nice and crispy along with the edges… brown and crusty. I was afraid it was going to be too saucy when I started dumping it into the cast iron, but it was perfect.
I made this Saturday night for some friends I was having over for dinner and they absolutely loved it! I really like the kick from the red pepper flakes, and of course bacon makes everything better. :D
This is now my aunt's favorite Mac and Cheese recipe! I had fun making it.
life changing mac and cheese!
I made this last night, and in the moments immediately following the final closing of the oven door, I began to notice something was different in the universe. Family descended on my kitchen to sample the cheesy deliciousness history in the making; old friends not seen in years sauntered through my door to sneak a bite from the freshly-made, cast-iron shrine to cheese and pasta; strangers felt strangely compelled to take the long way home to follow escaped aroma to its macnation and cheesery source. All then stayed beyond their invitation, until the last morsels had been consumed, and disappointment filled the skillet where the cheesy-licious event had occurred.
Although I was forced to field their pleading interrogations by appropriating ownership of the recipe to the demigod macheesmo, I am now excitedly writing a thesis on Irresponsibly Allocated Resources: Methods of effective macaroni and cheese capture and storage. I expect the nobel committee will take notice
dang it! I am on a diet and really want to make this RIGHT AWAY! It looks SOOOOO good!
I got a cast iron skillet for Christmas and used it for the first time tonight: mac n cheese is in the oven! Thanks for the recipe! Can’t wait to taste!
I was just talking with my wife today about making maccaroni and cheese in a cast iron skillet and I just happened to find yours. It looks wonderful. My largest skillet is a 12 in. I wonder if the recipe would work well without any overspill. I know I’ll try it anyway, and if it works out I’ll try in by 12 inch 3 leg Dutch oven in the fire pit. Well good cookin’
Hey Jon, should work fine in a 12 inch skillet. I’m almost positive that that is the size I used actually. Good luck!
I just made it in a Lodge 10″ deep skillet (3″ deep). Nearly filled it up but I still had room to heap on breadcrumbs and Parm. My only other edit to the recipe was two fresh jalapenos for the peppers.
Going to try this recipe this weekend… My family loves a really creamy macaroni and cheese… Do you think I should increase the milk to 4 cups to be sure it stays really really creamy during the baking of the macaroni and cheese??? Or will that throw the whole recipe off??? Thank you…
Hey Cheryl, it’s pretty creamy as-is. I would say that if you want it just creamy, you can serve it without baking it! Baking it gives it that kind of crusty/rustic topping which I personally love. If you just want a creamy stovetop mac though, just stir it together and skip the baking . Good luck!
This. Was. Incredible.
So simple and SO TASTY. Thank you so much for sharing! Does cutting the recipe in half work for less servings? I have mountains of mac-n-cheese on my stovetop now…
Not complaining. ;-)
Hey Lucy! Glad you liked it. You could absolutely cut the recipe in half but you would just want to probably use a smaller skillet or a smaller baking dish for the baking part. ;)
I love baking in my Cast Irons. I don’t eat pork but I’m going to try this dish for Thanksgiving with ground Turkey in it. I’m drooling already!
Made this recipe last night and it came out mostly delicious. I was disappointed, however, by the bacon being overdone after the baking process. The instructions call for initially cooking the bacon until it’s “really crispy” but once it goes into the oven with the mac n cheese it gets cooked even more. It was very tough and essentially ruined the meal. If I make this again I know to cook the bacon a good amount less.
How many does this recipe feed?
Nevermind! Feeds 6. Looking to dbl this recipe. Any suggestions when doing so?
Looking to dbl this recipe. Any suggestion when doing so?
Hey Stacey, if you have a really huge cast iron skillet (15inches + ) then you could probably double it, otherwise you’ll want to move it all to a baking dish and just bake it in that!
I’m actually doubling it & splitting into two. Half into my cast iron with the kick of the pepper & onion and the rest into a baking dish topped with panko & parm.
Thanks for the tip & recipe. Excited to try it
Anyone have trouble with curdling after baking? Don’t know what I’m doing wrong but the sauce is good before baking but curdles (gets gritty) after going into the oven.
Hey Heidi, what kind of cheese are you using? Is it pre-shredded cheese?
Hi! Is it better to use block cheese as opposed to shredded for this recipe?
I have 7 cast iron skillets. 2 of which are over 100 years old that my grandfather, a blacksmith, made. This recipe sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to make it. My oven doesn’t work, but I’ll figure out how to make it so I can use my toaster oven.
I was just thinking of making a pasta dish tonight. It’s just me and the boy, and he loves him some mac and cheese. Time to find that old skillet and fire it up. I have a few of the little ones I use for fajitas, so that may just work out to our advantage! Bacon, cheddar, and maybe I can even slip some broccoli in there…
I got teary reading this recipe. Mac and cheese was the one dish my mom excelled at and she made her cheese sauce exactly the way you describe. Took me back to standing at the stove and helping her – I can smell it still. Yum. And I would have been happy to eat that cheese sauce like a soup. I’m going to have to make this and eat to my mom’s memory. She would have loved it.
Thanks for sharing Donna. Food can bring back such fond memories. One of the reasons I love cooking. :)
Thanks for posting this recipe! The instructions were clear & easy to follow. Mine is in the oven right now & smells delicious!
if you add jalapeno – you could be onto something….. ;-)
Best Mac n cheese I ever had. Family and friends agreed. Loved the bacon and onions. I added habinaro and jalapeno peppers for a little extra kick. Panco breadcrumbs and grated cheese on top before baking. Cooked a lot faster then the recommended 30 minutes. I turned off oven after about 15 and let it rest in oven another 15 and it was perfect.
Btw I shared on Facebook Cast Iron Cooking page with a link to this page
Thanks Mike! Really glad you liked it. Thanks for sharing!
Just made this in my new cast iron pan….AAMMMAAAZZZING! Great recipe! Thank you for sharing it’s a new favorite!
Hands down the absolute creamiest and tasteful Mac and cheese ever! I’ve made southern style mac and cheese, different variations and this is always the winner! It’s a lot of work compared to other recipes but it is definitely worth it. If you are going to take this on…. please invest in some good cheese. The outcome of flavor and consistency will be amaze balls! Try it once and be patient. The roux is a little tricky if this is a first… but you just be patient with it and stir!
I’m new at Cast Iron cooking. I want to try making this but only half the amount of each ingredient..example..half box/pound(8oz) of elbows. I’m only cooking for myself and I don’t want to make a lot. Do I use the same amount of cheeses, roux, milk, etc?
and my 12″ skillet be too big?
I’m new at Cast Iron cooking. I want to try making this but only half the amount of each ingredient..example..half box/pound (8oz) of elbows. I’m only cooking for myself and I don’t want to make a lot. Do I use the same amount of cheeses, roux, etc or do I use half, too? And will my 12″ skillet be too big?
Hey Nancy! If you half the noodles you should half all the ingredients. A 12 inch pan woudl be a bit large for that amount but you can use it. It’ll just be a bit thin and require slightly less baking time. Goo dluck!
Outstanding! Well done, so cheesy, crispy and delicious. Only issue was that people even loved it more than my ribs!
The end product came out a little dry and I was very generous with all ingredients
Maybe it should be at 350 strong oven.