10 best spices for mac and cheese

Spices for mac and cheese
Mac and cheese is one of the most popular dishes and preferred comfort food. It can easily be uplifted with paprika, garlic powder, chili, Italian herbs, and many other spices.

The origin of mac and cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a beloved dish in American cuisine, with its origins tracing back to Northern Europe. The earliest known recorded recipe was written down in 1769. It made its way to the United States through Thomas Jefferson, who was inspired by pasta dishes he encountered in France.

Mac and cheese is the ultimate creamy, cheesy, oh-so-delicious comfort food. It’s perfect as a main dish or a flavourful side dish.

3 popular spices that enhance the flavor of mac and cheese

These 3 spices can do wonders for your mac and cheese dish:

  1. Paprika: Paprika is a popular spice that adds a mild sweetness and a smoky flavor to mac and cheese. It can also give the dish a slightly reddish hue, making it more visually appealing. Smoked paprika is perfect for mac and cheese, adding an intense smokiness that pairs well with the cheese.
  2. Mustard powder: Dry mustard has a tangy, slightly bitter taste that pairs well with the decadent, creamy mac and cheese flavors. It can help cut through the richness of the cheese sauce and add some complexity to the dish.
  3. Garlic powder: Garlic powder adds a savory, umami flavor to mac and cheese. It can help balance the richness of the cheese and add depth to the dish without overwhelming it with too much garlic flavor.
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What other spices for mac and cheese can I use?

These other 7 spices also work well with this popular meal:

  1. White pepper
  2. Cayenne pepper powder
  3. Chopped jalapeño
  4. Chili powder
  5. Italian herbs (Italian seasoning)
  6. Mustard
  7. Garlic
White pepperAdds a subtle heat and depth of flavor
Cayenne pepper powderAdds a spicy kick
Chopped jalapeñoAdds a fresh and slightly spicy flavor
Chili powderAdds a smoky, savory flavor
Italian herbs (Italian seasoning)A blend of oregano, basil, and thyme adds a savory, herbaceous flavor
MustardAdds a tangy and slightly acidic flavor
GarlicAdds a savory and slightly pungent flavor

1. White pepper

White pepper
White pepper

White pepper has a milder flavor than black pepper and can add subtle spiciness and earthiness to mac and cheese. It’s also less visible than black pepper, so it won’t affect the dish’s appearance.

2. Cayenne pepper powder

Cayenne pepper powder
Cayenne pepper powder

Cayenne pepper powder can add significant heat to mac and cheese and a slightly sweet and smoky flavor that can complement the cheese sauce.

3. Chopped jalapeño

Chopped jalapeño
Chopped jalapeño

Jalapeños have a mild to medium level of heat and a slightly sweet and grassy flavor that can complement the richness of the cheese sauce. Just remove the seeds and membranes before chopping to control the heat level. You can also consider topping the mac and cheese with breadcrumbs and chopped jalapeños for added texture and flavor.

4. Chili powder

Chili powder
Chili powder

Chili powder is a blend of spices that usually includes chili peppers, cumin, garlic, and paprika. It can add a complex and slightly smoky flavor to mac and cheese with mild to moderate heat.

5. Italian herbs

Italian seasoning
Italian seasoning

Italian herbs usually include basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. They can add a savory and slightly sweet flavor with a hint of bitterness to mac and cheese while giving the dish a pleasant herbal aroma.

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6. Mustard

Mustard
Mustard

Mustard has a tangy and slightly bitter flavor that can help cut through the richness of the cheese sauce in mac and cheese. It can also add some complexity and depth to the dish.

7. Garlic

Garlic
Garlic

Garlic has an intense and slightly spicy flavor that can add a savory and umami taste to mac and cheese. It helps balance the richness of the cheese and adds depth to the dish.

Homemade Mac and Cheese baking dish (without the spices)

Here is the basic recipe to get you started. You can include any of the spices above to enhance this dish:

  • Prep time: 25 min
  • Cook time: 30 min
  • Total time: 55 min

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (you can choose sharp cheddar cheese, parmesan, mozzarella, gruyere, or pepper jack cheese)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Optional: red pepper flakes for spice

Directions:

  1. Cook the macaroni according to package directions until it is al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to create a roux, stirring for 2-3 minutes until it becomes fragrant and slightly golden.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking continuously to avoid lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  4. Add the shredded cheese to the sauce, stirring until it is melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  6. Mix the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce and pour it into the prepared baking dish.
  7. Top the mac and cheese with panko bread crumbs.
  8. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy.
  9. Optional: sprinkle red pepper flakes for a spicy mac and cheese.
  10. Let the mac and cheese cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Alexandra

Alexandra is a passionate writer with a deep appreciation for food - not just as nourishment but as an expression of culture, a reflection of history, and a celebration of life. She knows that everything in life requires a little spice - and gets a kick (get it?) every time she achieves the perfect combination of heat and depth.

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