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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. 
Macaroni and Cheese on a blue plate.

How can I get a thick cheese sauce for my macaroni and cheese?

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. I 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.

Macaroni and Cheese in a white dish with a wooden spoon in it.

What is the secret ingredient? Why add hot sauce?

The secret ingredient in my 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.

Is this macaroni and cheese recipe spicy?

No! This recipe is not spicy when made as written. I have personally serve 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. I 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:

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.

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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Paulette Stiteler

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


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

Debra mcgrath

Can you use bag cheddar cheese????

Aziza A

5 stars

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

5 stars
Finally, the flavor I was looking for!

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


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!

5 stars
This has to be my favorite dish of all time. Strand me on a desert island with only this and I’d be happy as a clam.
I only came here after trying it for myself today on just a guess that it might be good. It was so far beyond good that I had to see if anyone else had discovered it too. I’m not surprised to find out that I’m not the only one who has sampled the greatest taste on the planet!


What if I don’t like sharp cheese? Can I use Colby jack instead?

Ann Stevens

Hi, Thanks for recipes. I am going to try bread rolls. I would love to try mac & cheese. As I live in NZ I don’t think we have Franks hot sauce. Any other suggestions I could you. Ann

5 stars
If I lived in NZ I would find somewhere online that I could mail order it from. I’m a hot sauce connoisseur, usually preferring the authentic imported Mexican ones. But Franks is in a league of its own – it has become my favorite ever since I first tried it. I would highly recommend that you pay the shipping costs to get some for yourself – you will be glad that you did!!! It’s a taste experience that you don’t want to leave off your bucket list.


how hot does the mac & cheese,I swell lips & tongue if its to spicey

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?

Why oh why have I NEVER made my own mac and cheese? Ridiculous!


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.

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