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This Macaroni and Cheese uses an old trick for the secret ingredient to give you the perfect, full flavor classic cheddar mac and cheese. 

A baking dish filled with Mac and cheese.

Mmmmm Mac and cheese! This is one of our favorite comfort foods, and it is both adult and kid friendly, especially when you step away from the boxed stuff with powdered cheese. What even is in that?! This recipe uses only whole ingredients, and real cheddar cheese. Making your own Mac and cheese from scratch might seem time consuming, but it is quicker and easier than you think! Once you’ve had homemade, you’ll never go back to the Blue Box. 

The secret ingredient in this macaroni and cheese is hot sauce, specifically Frank’s Red Hot. Adding hot sauce to a recipe involving cheese is an old chef’s trick that enhances the flavor of the cheese. You can use any hot sauce you’d like, but each one may require a different amount. Julia Child’s, for example, was a tabasco sauce user and would add a dash or two of tabasco sauce to her macaroni and cheese and other melted cheese dishes. This recipe is specifically written for Frank’s Red Hot.

  • How can I get a thick cheese sauce?

    The flour in the recipe acts as a thickening agent. If you just added flour to milk you’d end up with a clumpy mess. By combining the flour with a fat source (in this recipe it is melted butter), you will be able to distribute the thickening agent throughout the sauce without leaving clumps behind. This same principle can be applied to any sauce or soup that needs to be thickened. A roux is equal parts flour to fat. Cornstarch is a stronger thickening agent that I use (with butter) in things like puddings and cream pies.
  • What kind of cheese should I use to make macaroni and cheese?

    Classic American macaroni and cheese is made with cheddar cheese. We prefer to use a sharp cheddar cheese. This recipe can also be made with other similar cheeses that melt well, or a combination of cheeses. Use the same amount and experiment! Gouda, white cheddar, provolone, brie, fontina, and provolone are some of our favorites.
  • Is this recipe spicy?

    No! This recipe is not spicy when made as written. We have personally served this recipe to over 1,000 different people, many of them children, and no one complains that it is too spicy. If you DO want to add a little heat, you can try doubling or tripling the amount of hot sauce in the recipe. We find that 1/4 cup of Frank’s Red Hot gives a good mild heat.

If you like this recipe, you may also be interested in these other cheesy recipes:

A bowl of Mac and cheese with a fork taking a bite out.

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.

A baking dish filled with Mac and cheese.
This Macaroni and Cheese uses an old trick for the secret ingredient to give you the perfect, full flavor classic cheddar mac and cheese.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
  • 1 pound elbow noodles
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Frank's Hot Sauce
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan.
  • Fill a large saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Stir in the macaroni; cook until al dente. Drain well. Pour noodles into prepared 9x13 pan.
  • Meanwhile in another large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, mustard powder, and milk; whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Reduce heat to low, and whisk in cheese and hot sauce. Pour cheese sauce over noodles in prepared 9x13 pan and stir to coat.
  • Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes. Serve hot.


Calories: 532kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 739mg | Potassium: 323mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 835IU | Calcium: 359mg | Iron: 1.4mg
Course: Main Dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Maccaroni & Cheese
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October 6, 2015 11:41 pm

My family loves backed Mac and Cheese, but right now I am reading about how cooking it in cast iron (ie. a dutch oven) makes it better, so tonight it's Mac and Cheese with Frank's Hot Sauce in our dutch oven. Oh and our newest favorite thanks to your blog: Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs.
BTW I has feeling heart pain yesterday, do you think this meal will be my final one?

March 31, 2015 7:18 am


I add hot sauce to everything but ironically, never thought to add it to mac n cheese!

November 11, 2020 3:16 pm

4 stars
Very good

Donna McLaughlin
November 11, 2020 3:12 pm

This was the best video yet ! Oh yea…the mac and cheese looks good too !

Anne Farris
November 11, 2020 3:03 pm

Your son may take over your channel! He is so cute! Love your recipes.

Lisa Ward
September 28, 2020 5:04 am

5 stars
absolutely delicious. this will be my go to recipie from now on. made this for a family members birthday. it was fantastic. cant wait to make more recipes from this site.

Jami Begole
September 26, 2020 6:18 am

5 stars
I love this recipe and use it frequently. Can anyone comment on how they keep it from drying out after freezer storage? I bake with foil on until last 15 minutes— but still seems too dry.

November 23, 2020 6:22 am
Reply to  Jami Begole

Only bake it uncovered for 10 minutes to add color. Any longer with dry it out

Debra mcgrath
August 20, 2020 7:42 am

Can you use bag cheddar cheese????

Aziza A
May 6, 2020 12:13 pm

5 stars

January 31, 2020 8:22 pm

5 stars
Love your “secret ingredient “ He is a sweet. kid. This grandma loves your mac n cheese.

September 22, 2019 8:29 am

5 stars
Finally, the flavor I was looking for!

Paulette Stiteler
August 17, 2019 11:24 am

5 stars
Delicious i added tomato on top i love the taste,

May 6, 2019 11:52 am

5 stars
I prepared it for my brother he shood up and exclaimed “terrific”.

January 7, 2019 6:27 pm

5 stars
Your recipes never lead me astray! Everything always turns out so well. This one in particular was amazing. My hubby is usually indifferent to mac and cheese…not this one! The Frank’s really does the trick.

December 11, 2018 1:56 pm

5 stars
I sure love a lot of your recipes!! With the mac and cheese, what kind of milk works best…….whole, or 1%, 2% or skim? Also for the mustard……is that the dry brown mustard or the Gray Poupon kind? Thanks!

Jami Begole
September 26, 2020 6:20 am
Reply to  marlee

Whole, and ground dry mustard. Mine is more yellow than brown tho—

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