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The Best Cheese for Making Mac & Cheese

Try these cheeses the next time you make mac and cheese.

If you’re reading this, then you must love cheese as much as I do, so I’m glad you’re here! If you’re reading this and you don’t love cheese, don’t worry. I’m also glad you’re here because it’s only a matter of time before you fon-do.

Various Types of Cheese on Rustic Wooden Table

I think we all know there’s no better way to have cheese than melted and topping oodles of noodles.

If you’re hungry and have a hankering for Havarti, you can’t beat the classic dish that is macaroni. I personally recommend treating yourself to a batch from scratch instead of the box.

There’s nothing wrong with the box brand- I have 5 boxes of Kraft in my cabinet right now- but there’s also nothing tastier than fresh-baked, creamy mac and cheese with crispy bread crumbs on top. I’m salivating thinking about it. Pavlov’s pasta anyone?

The key to this dish is cheese, so do your mouth a favor and keep reading to find out the best cheeses for mac and cheese. 

Brie

Is Brie coming in first place? I know it sounds crazy, but trust me when I say it’s delicious and one of the best cheeses for macaroni and cheese.

It’s a soft French cheese, so it’s a smooth, mild cheese that has undertones of cream and butter, which make it perfect for pasta in any form.

The most important part is its meltability; Brie melts like a dream.

It was easy to heat up with butter and spread over elbow noodles, but it didn’t turn too thin either. If you want an even silkier mouthfeel without it getting runny, then try creamy Brie!

I also recommend adding Gruyere and Parmesan in to ramp up the flavor without sacrificing texture.


Gruyere

With Gruyere, and with all of the cheeses in your mac and cheese, you should go with younger ones, as in aged for less time.

It’s a harder cheese than Brie, but it’s Swiss, so it melts extraordinarily well. It can be expensive, so it may not be the go-to cheese every time you cook.  

I really enjoyed its saltier flavor. It made it easier to pair with caramelized onions and garlic, which I love to work into every meal possible.

It pairs well with other cheeses; you just want to be mindful of how strong in flavor they are since this one already has vigor.


Parmesan

I love Parmesan.

It’s another hard cheese that melts exceptionally well, which you may already know if you home make Alfredo sauce.

Parmesan macaroni and cheese is rather close to Alfredo now that I think about it; it’s like Alfredo in a hat and trench coat. No wonder I love it!

I also love that you can grate Parmesan into the dish and on top of it. If you make it with bread crumbs, it’s easy to sprinkle the Parmesan in, too (and garlic powder if you love your tastebuds).

In my humble opinion, this cheese is the easiest to pair with other cheeses. 


Sharp Cheddar

There’s a reason why sharp cheddar ranks on my best cheeses for mac and cheese list- it’s a classic.

Cheddar has great flavor and melts down easily. For me, the sharper the cheddar, the better, so I love to slap in a heaping of extra sharp goodness. You can have it any way you like though. 

Cheddar mac and cheese always makes me nostalgic. It’s the kind I had the most as a kid, whether homemade or store-bought, but I can never get enough.

It’s so versatile because it can be your main course or a delicious side. 


Smoked Gouda

Smoked Gouda is an excellent choice if you want mac and cheese, but you also don’t.

It adds such a unique, smokey taste that you’ll think it’s a different dish entirely. The flavor comes from being smoked in huge brick ovens over hickory chip embers, and you can tell. 

Because it’s smokey, I thought it would go along well with barbeque, and I was right. I cannot recommend strongly enough having pulled pork on top of this pasta!

I’m sure it would taste delicious with any smoked meat, barbeque beans, or even coleslaw, so jot that down for later.


Fontina

I feel like Fontina cheese is the least known from this list and that’s a shame.

It’s a semi-hard Italian cheese that’s incredibly rich and creamy, which makes it great for melting. It has a distinct taste that comes from the caverns it’s aged in.

If you’ve never had it before, this dish is a great way to try it. 

It has a bit of an earthy taste to it, so it’s a great macaroni to add mushrooms or truffles into, if you’re into that kind of thing. (Don’t forget the champagne!)

It is more difficult to pair with other cheeses, but not impossible if you really can’t live with just one cheese. 


Monterey Jack

Jack is pretty close to Cheddar in creaminess, but is milder in flavor; you might even say it’s a bit sweet.

It is still a solid cheese choice, especially if the others are too sharp for your palette. I like the texture of it when it’s melted and the flavor is light and consistent. It’s a very reliable cheese. 

In my opinion, it can stand on its own, but it’s a great cheese to mix with other cheeses like Cheddar or Gouda.

They can really elevate the flavor of the entire dish without messing up the consistency. 


Raclette

Raclette, raclette. What is there to say about Raclette?

It’s so yummy and warm. If you’ve ever seen the videos of people making sandwiches with a hot knife, then you’re already familiar with this cheese.

It’s Swiss so it’s already going to be very melty and very gooey, but this cheese was specifically made for melting. Can you imagine?

It was originally intended for potatoes but making the switch to noodles is a no-brainer. It’s obviously creamy and has a nice salty flavor that makes it servable with a wide variety of food.


Goat Cheese

Goat cheese comes in a wide variety of textures and flavors, so you want to be sure to stick to the younger, softer cheeses for our melting purposes.

Goat cheese can be sourer or tarter than other cheeses, but don’t let that turn you away from it. It frequently has a nice earthy flavor as well.

Luckily, goat cheese melts rather well because it would be difficult to mix this cheese with one of the other melty cheeses.

If you’re looking to add something extra nice to this one, I love fresh rosemary baked in or as a garnish.


Cream Cheese

Cream cheese did strike me as an odd choice for macaroni at first, but it’s surprisingly tasty.

It does have a sourer flavor than the other cheeses, but it’s not unwelcome. It actually turns this dish into something more unique, much like the Smoked Gouda.

While a mac and cheese with only cream cheese might be a bit odd, you can use cream cheese with other cheeses to make an extra creamy dish.

It’s soft, so it’s easy to liquify with a bit of milk. The flavor of the cream cheese allows you to pair this pasta with things that classic mac and cheese can’t.

I liked adding a bit of fresh spinach and diced tomatoes. The taste was phenomenal and I felt a tiny bit healthier.  


Havarti

Havarti is another fantastic semi-hard cheese for melting.

Another plus is that it’s suitable for most thanks to its balanced, mild taste. You can eat it on a sandwich, toss it in a salad, or melt it down and eat it on top of noodles! It’s a well-rounded cheese. 

I was not disappointed in the least with the texture, consistency, or taste of this cheese. It’s not fair to Havarti that I like sharper cheeses because it’s really quite tasty.

When I make macaroni with Havarti again, I’ll probably mix it with another cheese to make a more flavorful impact.


Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese

  1. Brie
  2. Gruyere
  3. Parmesan
  4. Sharp Cheddar
  5. Smoked Gouda
  6. Fontina
  7. Monterey Jack
  8. Raclette
  9. Goat Cheese
  10. Cream Cheese
  11. Havarti

Final Thoughts

After all of this hard work of eating noodles and comparing cheeses, I’ve concluded that there is no such thing as bad mac and cheese.

There is, however, a best cheese for making mac and cheese, and that cheese is Brie. Brie-lieve it! It’s got the perfect combination of ooey-gooey meltiness and creamy, buttery flavor. 

This wasn’t an easy decision to make because all of the cheeses listed are so scrumptious, but I think I made the right one.

You’ll have to try them all and find out for yourself if I’m right. I think you should do that right at this very moment. Goat crazy. Live a little! 

Looking for a different cheesy treat? Check out the best cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches.

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Written by Erin B.

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.