If there’s one thing we hate, it’s a bad batch mac & cheese. And the number one mistake when making it at home is using the wrong kind of cheese. The type you choose is extremely important for the taste and texture of the sauce.
The main qualification we’re looking for: The cheese has to melt well. THAT’S IT. It seems obvious, but not all cheeses are good melters. After what felt like an endless amount of testing for our quest to find *the* perfect recipe, we discovered which cheeses work best…and which ones to avoid at all costs.
The Best Types of Cheese
1. Sharp Cheddar
The king of all cheeses when it comes to coating your noodles. With a fairly low melting point cheddar keeps things smooth. It’s also got the classic taste we’re looking for and expecting with mac and cheese. Sharp is ideal because it’s flavor is strongest, but the most important to thing to remember is to always buy block and grate your own! Pre-shredded simply doesn’t work.
Gouda is a seriously underrated cheese when it comes to cooking! It melts beautifully and will give your mac a sophisticated taste without being too pretentious.
Despite it being a hard cheese, Gruyère still melts beautifully. It saltiness helps cut through all the heavy fats, and its nutty flavor is one of our faves.
4. Cream Cheese
We’re no strangers to cream cheese here in the Delish test kitchen, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when we confirmed that it’s perfect in mac & cheese. It melts down perfectly and helps keep everything smooth. It works exceptionally well is a slow-cooker mac & cheese!
We use brie in our mac when we are feeling extra fancy. It’s creamy smoothness makes an excellent sauce to coat your noodles and creates the most decadent mac & cheese. Just be sure to remove the rind first!
You can even go crazy and make brie mac and cheese right inside your wheel of brie!
6. Goat Cheese
Extra tangy and extra creamy we love goat cheese. The flavor sticks around the best even after all the milk and cream get added. It’s a nice change of pace.
We could never make a list of the best cheeses and leave out Parmesan. Best for topping, Parmesan also adds a much desired salty and nutty flavor that’s unbeatable. The higher quality, the better for this one!
The Worst Types of Cheese
1. Anything pre-shredded
The best way to ruin your mac is to dump a bunch of pre-shredded cheese in. Packeged shredded cheese have add preservatives to keep them from sticking together and to keep them fresher. This keeps them from melting and will be how you end up with gritty, lumpy mac and cheese.
Dry, crumbly cheeses like feta or cotija are not ideal. Because of their moisture levels they don’t melt properly and will leave you with clumps of cheese instead of a smooth sauce.
3. Monterey Jack
Please don’t get me started on Monterey jack. It might melt well but it does. not. taste. good. I’m a huge cheese fan and this is one I’ll never touch. It tastes like nothing and leaves a terrible aftertaste. Strong opinion, but someone has to say it.