This kid-friendly baked mac and cheese recipe is easy to make and a tasty alternative to processed boxed macaroni and cheese. Even picky kids love it!
Mac and cheese is a favorite food in our household, but I try to avoid the boxed kind. All those artificial ingredients…you know what I mean. I’m okay with it once in a while, but not often.
Of course, the kids love the boxed stuff and haven’t been fans of the much better homemade baked mac n cheese. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of different recipes. There are many good recipes out there – that I like, but are they kid-friendly? That was the question.
And then I found this recipe for Homemade Macaroni and Cheese in one of my cookbooks.
I’ve adapted it slightly and this is the result: Kid-Friendly Baked Mac and Cheese.! My kids loved it; they ate it up and asked for more. Now I’d be lying if I said they’d pick this over the boxed stuff (I swear they put addictive stuff in the boxed version), but I’m happy I found a homemade recipe that works for my whole family.
And since you can use whatever type of cheese you like (mix and match, make it different each time – it’s up to you) in this simple macaroni and cheese, it’s versatile too, another plus in my book.
My kids call this the best mac and cheese recipe ever and I have to agree.
So try it out. Hopefully, you and the kids enjoy it!
Related: Check out my Gluten-Free Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese recipe.
Why This Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe is So Good:
- it’s simple and easy-to-make
- kids love it
- you can use different combinations of cheese if you prefer
- no fancy ingredients required
- deliciously creamy
- one batch makes a lot so you’ll have plenty of leftovers
Ingredients in Kid-Friendly Mac and Cheese
- elbow macaroni noodles
- all-purpose flour
- shredded cheese – any kind you prefer – we usually do cheddar
- dry bread crumbs
Supplies you might need…
Baked Mac and Cheese Video Tutorial
How to Make Homemade Mac and Cheese for Kids
Cook the noodles in boiling water according to the package directions.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour.
Whisk in the milk gradually as you stir.
Continue whisking until the mixture comes to a boil.
If you stop for a minute to rescue your toddler from your 3-year-old sitting on him, that’s ok, but don’t leave it for too long.
Cook and whisk the boiling milk mixture for about 2 minutes.
By now it should have thickened. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the cheese.
Add the salt and pepper and stir until the cheese is melted.
Add the macaroni noodles to the cheese mixture and mix.
Dump your homemade mac and cheese mixture into a casserole dish or 9×13″ rectangle pan (your choice).
In a separate small bowl, stir together melted butter and bread crumbs with a dash of pepper.
Sprinkle this breadcrumb mixture over your mac and cheese.
Doesn’t this homemade mac and cheese look yummy?
Homemade Mac and Cheese for Kids Tips:
This recipe is very easy and it’s hard to mess up. I’ve received emails from hundreds of moms who have successfully made this simple macaroni and cheese recipe for their families. Just follow the directions and make sure you cook and stir until the mixture is boiling and thickened.
Cheese types – I often use shredded cheddar cheese with a couple of slices of American cheese tossed in. But we have also tried and enjoyed Cheddar Jack, Mozzarella, and other types of cheese.
Sometimes if I have a specialty cheese on hand, I will cube a little and throw that in for more flavor variety. The kids like it “plain” though so I try not to overdo it.
It’s really up to you and your kids.
I won’t make any promises that your kids will love this baked mac and cheese with breadcrumbs – they are kids after all. But I will tell you that this is one of the most popular posts here on Living Well Mom and I’ve received hundreds of emails from moms telling me just how popular this easy meal is with their children.
Try this kid-friendly mac and cheese out and let me known what you – and your kids – think! I hope you love it just like my family does!
Even More Easy Kid-Approved Meals:
- Easy Southwestern Casserole
- One-Pot Turkey Enchilada Casserole (we usually make this for dinner once a week!)
- Kid-Friendly One-Pot Jambalaya
- Tasty Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes
Click here to pin this recipe for later.Print
Kid-Friendly Homemade Mac and Cheese
This favorite baked macaroni and cheese is easy to make and a tasty alternative to processed boxed mac ‘n cheese. Even picky kids love it!
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 45 mins
- Yield: serves 12 1x
- Category: dinner
- Method: bake
- Cuisine: American
- 16 oz box elbow macaroni noodles
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp butter, divided
- 1/3 cup flour
- 3 cups milk
- 12 oz cheese
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 4 TBSP Italian-style bread crumbs
- Cook macaroni noodles and drain.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a saucepan, melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Slowly add milk, stirring. Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes. Turn off the burner and add the cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until the cheese is melted. Add the elbow macaroni noodles and mix well.
- Turn into a 2 quart casserole dish or 9×13″ pan.
- Mix together 2 TB melted, butter, 4 TB bread crumbs, and a dash of pepper. Sprinkle over the mac ‘n cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
Note: this recipe makes about 12 servings or more, so you can halve it if you don’t need that much.
- Serving Size: 12
- Calories: 391
- Sugar: 4g
- Sodium: 372mg
- Fat: 21g
- Saturated Fat: 13g
- Unsaturated Fat: 7g
- Carbohydrates: 36g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 15g
- Cholesterol: 60mg
Keywords: baked casserole, homemade macaroni and cheese, with bread crumbs
This looks so creamy and delicious we are lovers of Mac n cheese
Just made this recipe for my 2 year old niece. She tends to be a little picky but LOVED this! I will most definately make this again!
Thank you Erica.
This is truly wow! It’s so easy to follow the procedure.. I’ll be making this on the weekend definitely! Everybody will love this for sure…
Forgive me for a contrarian comment. Why does North America dye cheese orange? That is not a natural colour for cheese. While the colour orange used to be produced with annatto seeds, that is no longer the case. The orange cheese colour is artificial.
Why the extra steps of adding crumbs and baking?No nutrition is added, time is extended and oven has to be heated using extra energy.
I don’t know about the color – it’s just an American thing I guess.
And the crumbs? Because it’s yummy! 🙂 The oven is heated to melt the cheese and everything together further, not just bake the crumbs.
Thanks for stopping by!
OK the baking and crumbs make sense and the crumbs would ads a bit of crunch. I could bake it in the toaster oven.
I’ve never tried it, but why not?! I’d be curious how it turns out! Thanks Kiblu!
The orange cheese thing actually started “across the pond” from America, somewhere in England, I believe. The milk in that region was of excellent quality from the type of grass the cows consumed, which was rich in beta-carotene. It actually did have an orange-ish tinge. Other cheese makers, in order to compete, started coloring their cheese to attract consumers (or trick them into thinking their cheese was of the same quality) and the rest, as they say, is history!
Initially the colour came from annatto, a seed from a tree. Now, like many things, the colour is synthetic.
Greta is exactly right about the history – the cow’s diet was high in carotenoids.
Euro-trash ‘Kitblu’ is wrong, annatto along with spinach-derived apocarotenal is still used to this day in things like Velveeta and Kraft Singles. The carotenoids in annatto, in particular bixin, are powerful anti-oxidents. All cheese is essentially protein and fat – so ironically the mass-produced Kraft single my actually be healthier for you than some organic-branded non-colored cheese.
Just because the name of the substance isn’t familiar to you or sounds like a chemical doesn’t mean it is ‘synthetic’. So much of the Neo-Luddite GMO and other food hysteria fads are purely driven by ignorance of science.
She didn’t make the cheese. If you care that much, buy some without artificial coloring.
Erika, the recipe is great, fed it to a dozen kids and they all loved it!
Thank you, Lindsee. 🙂
This looks delicious!! i pinned it!
Nicole - Mama to 4 Blessings says
looks scrumptous! I pinned it!
This mac and cheese looks so yummy! I love homemade macaroni much better than store-bought. I am pinning so we can try making this soon…maybe my picky son will even like it!
Me too! I hope your son likes it too!
Thanks for stopping by!
Flora Foster says
Pinned! This recipe looks so easy to prepare, and delicious, everyone is going to love this one, thank you!
Holy cow that looks amazing!!! I want it right now!
Lol, it is hard to resist – even more when it’s freshly baked right in front of you!
R Hicks says
looks absolutely delicious. Adult friendly too!
Mary Dailey says
I’m pretty sure even us big kids would love this!
Nataly Carbonell says
Just cant wait to try it I like the Bread crumbs idea! thanks for sharing
I can not thank you enough for this recipe. My kids are sooooo picky I tried other home made recipes and to no avail. But yours OMG my boys loved it so much, they even asked for seconds. I am so happy, like you I am trying to give them more of a healthy version of MAC and CHEESE.. Also it helps that I found these dinosaurs shape pasta in Whole Foods which they enjoyed as well. I did not baked it like you, but I will try that next time.
That’s wonderful, Jessica! I am so glad this helped! Yay! That’s a good idea about the dinosaur-shaped pasta – I may need to try that for my younger boys!
Karen S. says
This looks so much better than The Boxed. I’ll have to try making it with my kids!
We usually do something similar but no breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
1/4 cup butter melted in saucepan, add 1/4 cup flour and mix. Gradually add in 2 cups of milk, whisking of course and slowly bring to a simmer then turn to low until it reaches your desired thickness. (Boil 2.5 cups macaroni at the same time!
We grate our own Cracker Barrel extra sharp white cheese, a whole log of it. This can either be mixed into the sauce or added to a greased baking dish. Make sure you grease it! Pour the drained macaroni into the dish, and mix in the cheese and sauce. Top with extra grated cheese (whatever kind you like.) Bake for 45-50 minutes or until it is golden brown.
My nieces are getting old enough to want to cook with me when I visit and since I don’t know a kid that doesn’t love mac & cheese, this might be the first recipe we try! Looks good!
latisha depoortere says
Thanks for sharing looks and sounds great will share and pin it 🙂
Thank you so much. My very picky toddler loves it!!!
Yay! That’s so awesome – believe me, I know! Lol. Thanks for sharing, Becki.
YUM! This is amazing, posted to my facebook 🙂
happen to know if it freezes well? would be nice to make a batch and put in single, kid-size servings….
Thanks for the tip re freezing! I’m wondering if I can use butter alternative such as olive spread or cholesterol free margarine? Also has anyone tried low fat milk? Trying for even healthier version!! Many thanks, Allison, Australia
This a great recipe! I love how you have step by step pictures as well. Great for visual learners like myself.
I’ll be cooking this with my 5 year old son tonight – perfect Sunday evening meal and he’s been nagging for “macaroni cheese”. My kids love it with some chopped and cooked bacon stirred through and I also like to add a later if chopped tomato in the middle. Saves them wanting ketchup!
loved this so much! Thanks!!!
Sheri Huth says
THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!! My two-year old toddler is EXTREMELY picky and, with the exception of the Mac N Cheese from Buca di Beppo’s (the closest of which is a mere 300 miles away from us!), I haven’t been able to find any recipes or store/restaurant-bought versions that he will eat …. until I tried YOURS!!!!! Not only did he eat every last bite of it, but he did so willingly and excitedly, doing his little “yummy food happy dance” all the while … and I even scored a huge thank you, in the form of an awesome hug and kiss when he finished his plate! I can’t even begin to put into words how excited and happy this has made me! This will DEFINITELY be my go-to recipe from this day forward and I’ve shared a link to this recipe with everyone I know on FB! Again, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! 😀
Fantastic! I’m so happy to hear it. Thanks for letting me know! 🙂
Hello! This looks so yummy! I would love to make this for my granddaughters as they are very picky eaters but love Mac and cheese out of the box. Lol I would like to make this ahead of time and bake the following day, is this possible with your recipe?
Hi Debbi – I am not the blogger obviously, but I made this recipe yesterday and plan to bake it with the butter and breadcrumbs tonight (after it was in the dish, I let it cool completely then covered and refrigerated it). I found similar recipes that all said it doesn’t detract from the dish at all to do it that way, and I didn’t want to have to prepare it all at once this evening. The first part worked beautifully and tasted good. I’m sure it will be even better this evening after the final touches!
Locksmith Ryleigh says
Love your work!
This is SOOO good! I halved the recipe. Only because it was all I had, I used dark rye bread crumbs. Plus I added 1 tsp of dijon mustard. We all LOVED it! I’ll definitely be making this again.
Thanks for the recipe – made this on Saturday and my daughter actually liked it (said it was different from the stuff her dad makes her, but yummy)!
I actually quite enjoyed it as well 🙂
Krystie Scamehorn says
no lie – this is the BEST Mac n’ cheese recipe I have ever made. It requires few ingredients, my kids always eat it up immediately, and it comes together quickly. I’ve even messed it up a bit once or twice and it is very forgiving. It’s better if you bake it, but you don’t have to. I can cut the recipe in half easily and it’s plenty for my family. It’s cheap, easy, and be made relatively healthy compared to the box stuff. I often use skim milk, low fat cheddar and whole grain noodles. No matter what I use, if I keep the proportions exact, it turns out great every time.
First time making baked mac and cheese and it came out great !!! I halfed the recipe, but kept the milk amount the same lol, baby girl loved it n she eats nthn
That’s great! I’m glad to hear she loved it!
Just tried this for the first time & it was easy & delicious .. I kind of felt like mine could have been spruced up a little, maybe next time I’ll add a little tomato juice or some different cheese flavours but overall it was super delish !
If I wanted to make this the night a head for a dinner the next day, could I do so and continue the recipe from when I pop it in the oven.
Or if I wanted to make it the night ahead, how will it warm it up the next day, could I pop it into the oven again?
I am hoping it is ok to make the day before and then just add the bread crumb mixture the next day before baking. Wondering how long to bake the next day? So far it tastes awesome! Thanks!
Yes that’s fine, Lori. Hope it turned out well!
I made this step by step, and it turned out terrible. It was so grainy, and the cheese separated. It was inedible, and I’m sad. I don’t have a lot of food at the moment, and I just wasted what little I have. ☹️
Hi Janessa, I’m sorry this recipe didn’t work out for you. This is the first I’ve heard of any issues with this recipe, so I’m at a loss as to what happened.
How many servings does the recipe make?
At least 10, Meredith.
Can I make this recipe the night before, refrigerate it and bake it before eating tomorrow?
Absolutely, Stephanie! I’ve done that many times. 🙂
Used this as the inspiration for dinner tonight. Kids couldn’t get enough (and neither could I!). I made a half-size batch. I used some shredded Mexican blend cheese leftover from taco night, a couple slices of American, and a couple tablespoons of grated parmesan to give it a bit more depth (and saltiness). I decided to forego the baking and bread crumbs, but when I have more time will try that because I love mac n cheese au gratin. I think I would also reduce the amount of flour a bit–even with a fair bit of cheese I could still taste it. Thanks for the great recipe!
Love what you did with the recipe, James, and that everyone loved it! Thanks for sharing!
Is this freezable??
I have not tried it, Holly, but I don’t see any reason you couldn’t. 🙂
OMG this is by far the best mac and cheese I have ever had!! Boxed mix…out…This recipe…In!!!! I’ve made it like 4 times so far in the last 1 and a half weeks!!! I made it today for the kids, I only had 4 ounces of cheddar (half batch), so i used 2 ounces of mozzarella to make 6 ounces….WOW sooo good!!! Also added a 1/4 tsp each of ground mustard and powdered onion, for added flavor. Also i only cook the noodles for like 5 minutes and let them cook in the casserole, i hate mushy noodles lol. Ugh the best mac and cheese ever!!!!! Thank you so much!!!!!
Janie Smith says
Any way to do this in the crockpot?
My kids love this recipe. I went through a few others that didn’t quite cut it. This one is a favorite and I’m even making it for Easter dinner! Thank you!
Great recipe! I made this for Easter and the entire family loved it.
I’ve been for a kid friendly Mac n cheese for my son bday party…. just wondering what kind of cheddar cheese did you use? Mild or sharp?
Hi Cat, I use mild with my kids, but you can use whatever you have in your fridge or what your own children prefer.
Just made it and 🙁 it didn’t work out. I don’t know what happened but it was probably the flour, i never add flour to mac n cheese because I never see the point but this time decided to follow directions. I just had to throw it out. Thinking about the $7 in GF noddles all the Kerry Gold Grass fed butter, organic milk and cheese I just wasted I wanna cry. Pretty sure it was the flour though because as soon as it started to boil the milk mixture looked like mash potatoes. I might try again but will skip the flour.
That’s awful, Jade! This recipe is not written as gluten-free (I haven’t made this for my own kids in awhile because we are now gluten and mostly dairy-free – we were not when I shared this several years ago). Assuming you used gluten-free flour, it would likely have a different texture and result, which is probably what happened.
Hi there! Awesome recipe! Thank you for sharing it. I made this for lunch and I’m not sure if I made to much of the sauce lol i followed the recipe but I only put half of the sauce or roux? on the noodles and instead of bread crumbs (something I never seem to have), I used herb and garlic croutons. Totally yummy! Kid approved!
Jeanette Christine Nunez says
Yum, looks amazing so far with high sauce to pasta ratio! I made completely gluten free with rice pasta, arrowroot instead of flour and GF bread crumbs from Aldi!
Julie Malik says
Can i know what type of flour do u use?
I used regular all-purpose flour when I first published this recipe, but now we use a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour mix along with gluten-free noodles.
Thank you. I appreciate the recipe. Going to make it tonight!
Can this be made ahead for a bbq and heated back up? Any suggestions? Let me know because I would love to make this for my upcoming bbq that will have a bunch of kids and adults!
Yes, you can do that, Stephanie. I would make it ahead of time except for the baking time. Then simply bake it before you’ll be serving it. If you refrigerate it before baking, you’ll need to add more time for baking to heat it through. Enjoy!
Smruti palwe says
Superb recipe, My kids are mostly into junk food, so I am always concerned about their nutrition. The Macaroni cheese recipes that you have shared looks so delicious and healthy too, I cannot wait to try it at home, I am sure my kids will surely love it.
I have made this recipe now several times, always with the cheddar cheese because of my picky 3 yo. Not just him but ny whole family loves it! Today i am trying breadcrumbs without the butter on top (shqve some time because baby wanted breastfeed), we will see how it turns out.
Thanks Erika, your page is in my favorite recipe boox 😉
I’m so glad your family loves this, Camila. Thanks for telling me! 🙂
Love this easy recipe! My kids enjoyed it, too. I liked your comment about adding the slices of American cheese – think it worked well. I included it in my recent post about easy kid-friendly family dinner ideas!
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Jennie. Thanks for including this in your roundup. 🙂
Does this recipe call for salted or unsalted butter?
We usually use unsalted but you can use either. I’ve found this recipe isn’t super picky in that area.
Hi there. I’ve been using this recipe for years, everyone loves it, thank you for sharing it. I’ve been doing some instant pot cooking and wondering if you have tried adjusting this recipe for the instant pot?
Hi Nicole, yes we have – here’s our instant pot version: https://livingwellmom.com/gluten-free-homemade-instant-pot-mac-and-cheese/
Could you make the sauce and then freeze it for future meals?
I suspect it might curdle and the texture and taste might be off if you froze it.
Have you tried making this in a crock pot? I’m thinking of making this for my son’s birthday and it would be easier to transport in a crock pot.
I haven’t made this recipe in a crockpot, but I do have an Instant Pot version here – https://livingwellmom.com/gluten-free-homemade-instant-pot-mac-and-cheese/
Sorry I can’t help more, but thanks for the note – I will add a reminder to make a crockpot version! 🙂
Mrs. Baton's Awesome Class says
It was easy to make. It wasn’t much harder to make than boxed. The texture was soft and creamy. It was cheesy and buttery from the first bite. 7 people in our class liked this better than boxed. 1 person liked boxed better because he can make it himself.
Just made it for easter. Tried a bite and it’s delicious! When you reheat it the next day in the oven, do you do it for the same amount of time and at the same temperature listed in the recipe?
Glad you enjoyed it, Andrew! I’d heat at 350 for 15-20 minutes and test how warm it is.