This creamy, decadent bacon mac and cheese recipe is a comfort food meal that’s sure to inspire moans and groans of happiness.
You’ll love the combination of flavors and textures in this easy dinner, which you can easily make from scratch on your stovetop. Tender pasta is topped with a creamy, cheesy sauce and finished with crispy, crunchy bacon.
This recipe is family-friendly, and while the recipe calls for sharp cheddar you can use a mild cheddar cheese for especially sensitive eaters.
You’ll find some recipe variations included below for more sophisticated palates, too. (Another kid-pleasing favorite my family loves is bacon-wrapped little smokies brushed with honey barbecue sauce.)
Summary of Steps to Make Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
Preparing this stovetop mac and cheese with bacon couldn’t be easier! Here’s how the recipe comes together:
- Cook the bacon, drain and crumble.
- Grate the cheddar cheese.
- Start cooking the macaroni in salted boiling water.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the creamy, cheesy sauce.
- Combine the sauce, macaroni and half the bacon.
- Serve topped with the rest of the crumbled bacon and enjoy!
Best Pasta for Homemade Mac and Cheese with Bacon
Look for a smaller pasta in shapes that hold the sauce well for this recipe, such as:
- Classic elbow macaroni
- Shell pasta
- Penne (regular or mini)
- Corkscrew pasta
- Bowtie pasta
- Ditalini, the short version of macaroni
For this batch, I used Barilla Elbows No. 41, a medium-sized macaroni with a little curl and extra texture. Here’s how it looks cooked:
Grownup Variations for Bacon Mac & Cheese
This recipe makes a family-friendly mild sauce. You can mix things up by using extra-sharp cheddar cheese or a sophisticated cheese like grated smoked gouda.
For added zing, you can sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or more or less to suit your tastebuds) in the sauce. Or you can sprinkle the finished dish with red pepper flakes or smoked paprika.
Chopped green onions or chopped chives are a nice addition (if you live in a household with people who are not afraid of green things).
Let’s Get Cooking
Begin by cooking 8 strips of chopped, thick-cut bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain on paper towels, and when it’s cool, crumble it in small pieces like this:
Shall we just stop right now and eat all the bacon?! I’m sooo tempted.
You’ll also want to grate the cheese. I prefer to grate it freshly from a block of cheese, as the pre-shredded cheese that comes in bags at the store has non-clumping additives that prevent the shreds from melting together as well as fresh cheese.
The recipe calls for sharp cheddar cheese, but you can feel free to use your favorite melty cheese.
Start your macaroni cooking in a big pot of salted boiling water over high heat. While the pasta is cooking, you’ll make the sauce, which is a variation of a basic Bechamel sauce (also known as “white sauce”). This simple, versatile sauce is made with butter, flour, milk and half and half.
Once it’s thick and bubbly, slowly add grated cheddar cheese by the handful.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the cheese is all melted and incorporated. Oh, yum!
Combine the sauce with the hot, cooked pasta.
Stir in half the crumbled bacon.
Divide among 4 individual serving dishes and sprinkle with the remaining crumbled bacon.
Bacon Mac and Cheese
- 8 thick-cut slices lean bacon
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble in small pieces.
- Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water over medium-high heat as package directs.
- While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour, stirring until blended. Slowly add the milk and half and half, stirring constantly, until smooth. Heat until mixture bubbles, and cook for two minutes.
- Reduce heat and continue cooking until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheese a handful at a time, and continue to cook over low heat until all of the cheese is incorporated and melted.
- Drain the macaroni in a colander and return to the pot. Pour the cheese sauce over the hot pasta and stir to combine. Add half of the crumbled bacon, stir, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve in individual bowls and garnish each serving with the remaining crumbled bacon. Makes 4 servings.
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This recipe was originally published on June 18, 2013. It was completely updated with new photos and text on March 20, 2021.