Looking for that perfect compliment to comforting, homemade mac and cheese? Whether you need a main dish, side dish, desserts, toppings, or condiments, we have you covered. If you don’t know what to serve with mac and cheese, find the answer here!
There is no question mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. How can you go wrong with pasta swimming in a creamy, ooey cheese sauce? It’s a meal adults or kids can turn down!
That must be the reason behind the plethora of macaroni and cheese recipes, from Velveeta Mac and Cheese (our absolute fave!), to Instant Pot, baked, stove-top, and gourmet recipes greet us at every recipe corner.
Whether you need to know what to serve with mac and cheese, sides or main dishes, the choices and recipes abound!
what goes with mac and cheese – main dishes and sides
Mac and cheese is typically thought of as a southern dish, which is why it is usually paired with main dishes, such as BBQ ribs, served with pulled pork, or brisket. However, it is not limited to the south, served at cookouts, holiday gatherings and weeknight dinners nationwide!
Below are good main dishes to pair if serving mac and cheese as a side, or side dishes to go along with it as a starring main dish.
- BBQ Pulled Chicken or Pork
- Grilled meats – chicken, pork, or steak
- Sloppy Joes
- Brussels Sprouts
- Fruit Salad
- Sauteed Apples
- Pork Tenderloin
- Chicken thighs
- Green Salads
- Jello Salads
- Oven Fried Fish
- Hot dogs
more Side dishes
Since baked Velveeta mac and cheese is a weeknight dinner staple at our house, I more often serve it as main dish and eat something lighter to go along side it, such as salads, vegetables, or bread for a simple meal.
toppings and condiments
Mac and cheese can be baked as is, or topped with one of these suggested toppings. Tip: My mom would always do half one topping, half another so the family and guests could choose their favorite.
- Sliced tomatoes
- Shredded cheese, such as grated cheddar, pepper jack, sharp cheddar, or parmesan
- Crumbled potato chips (also a favorite on old fashioned tuna noodle casserole)
- Cooked and chopped bacon, ham, or tuna
- Crushed Cheez-its
- Sliced hot dogs
- Panko topping or gluten-free breadcrumbs
- Broccoli florets
- BBQ sauce
- Hot sauce / red pepper flakes
- Ketchup or mustard
don’t forget desserts!
Of course it’s the perfect ending to a meal! Something lighter like fresh fruit or jello salad balances out the cheesy goodness. However, if you are hosting a party and want something a little more decadent consider flourless chocolate cookies, brownies, carrot cake with pineapple, sheet cake, or buckeye turtle brownies.
fAQ about homemade mac and cheese
There are so many options when deciding what type of cheese to use. It depends on the flavor you are going for! If your recipe makes a béchamel sauce (butter, flour, and milk) before adding the cheese, really any cheese will work, as long as it’s a smooth melter. Avoid dry cheeses, like feta or cotija.
If you are adding cheese without making a béchamel first, you may want to add a portion of processed cheese for a creamier consistency, such as Velveeta or american cheese. Adding a little cream cheese also works for this.
Personally, I find mild cheddar to be lackluster in flavor, so I lean towards sharper cheeses for more pronounced flavor, such as extra sharp cheddar, gouda, or parmesan cheese.
There could be several reasons why it’s dry or clumpy. First, be sure not to add the cheese too quickly. Grating or cubing cheese and adding a bit at a time helps it emulsify into the sauce.
Also, lower the heat of the milk before adding cheese. If the mixture is too hot the cheese will seize and separate.
If baking the macaroni and cheese, pull it out of the oven when it starts to bubble around the edges and middle is very hot. Overcooking will make the dish grainy.
If reheating in the microwave, it’s best to do it in smaller batches. Add a little more milk to the dish and reheat at 50% power until it starts to warm, stirring occasionally. Once it’s almost hot, finish heating at full power for 30-60 seconds to warm completely.
In the oven, transfer to a baking dish and add more milk, gently breaking up large clumps. Loosely cover with foil and bake at 325ºF until hot, stirring occasionally.
This same method can be used on the stove-top over medium low heat, stirring frequently. For any method, be sure to not overheat, which makes the fat separate, leading to greasy leftovers.
Yes, but it’s best reheated in smaller portions. Individually wrap serving sizes securely and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat using one of the methods above.
Yes, but to make a truly great gluten-free mac and cheese start with a good pasta. My favorite brand to use is Barilla Gluten Free Elbows. If making a roux, use all-purpose gluten-free flour with my preferred brand, Cup4Cup gluten-free flour.
When boiling the gluten-free macaroni, cook it for half the time called for al dente pasta. Gluten-free pasta has a tendency to overcook and become mushy. By par-boiling the pasta, it will finish cooking in the oven as it bakes
expert tips and tricks
- Save a bit of the pasta cooking water to thin the cheese sauce, if necessary
- Always use freshly grated cheese. Pre-shredded cheese uses an additive to prevent the cheese from clumping together, which will also make your recipe clumpy.
- When boiling the pasta, error on the side of undercooking it, especially with baked mac and cheese. It will finish cooking in the oven. cheese
- A combination of cheeses adds a depth of flavor, plus texture to the recipe.
More ideas to serve with mac and cheese
Enjoy the best gluten-free baked beans with this easy, tangy, southern-style recipe flavored with crispy bacon and sweet onions.
It takes two simple steps, five minutes to prepare, and, effortlessly, dinner or party food is ready to go in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
A quick and easy oven roasted broccoli recipe with melty cheese, garlic, and crispy breadcrumbs.
Ground pork is mixed with shredded apples, apple butter, and oatmeal to make this legendary meatloaf recipe extremely moist and flavorful.
Oven baked with chopped bacon, apples, and a drizzle of maple syrup. This recipe is guaranteed to convert any non-lovers into diehards!
Just as easy Manwich, but with a more intense, tangy, and sweet, finger-lickin’ taste!
Layers an ultra creamy dressing with lettuce, peas, cheese, eggs, and bacon, which can conveniently be made ahead, refrigerated , and then be ready to serve for a crowd or party!
Pork loin roast made in a pressure cooker has a crispy seasoned crust, juicy interior, and a tangy gravy to drizzle over top.
Golden, roasted summer squash is flavored with garlic and seasonings for a healthy side dish everyone will devour!
A healthy way to enjoy crispy, crunchy, baked fish without the extra calories and is on the table in less than 30 minutes!
Easy, old fashioned jello salad can be adapted for raspberry, strawberry, lime, or orange flavors, mixed with fruit, or topped with a creamy dollop of cool whip.
Breaded Oven Pork Chops has a crispy breading thanks to a savory mixture of almond flour and parmesan. Now you can enjoy and oven-fried gluten-free pork chops recipe that are also low carb and keto-friendly!
Gluten Free Cornbread recipe is a lightly sweet, southern-style cornbread with a lighter, cakelike texture. Only a few simple ingredients are required to enjoy a cornbread so good no one will realize it’s gluten free!
Cheeseburger Tater Tot casserole, also known as a cheeseburger hot dish, layers a creamy ground beef filling with tater tots, bacon, and lots of gooey cheese on top.
Gluten-free corn casserole makes a creamy, comforting cornbread casserole with an easy 5-minute prep and no Jiffy mix necessary!
Pineapple Pretzel Salad makes a delightful cool and creamy dish perfect for holiday gatherings, potlucks, and BBQs. This easy, sweet and salty recipe has a layer or buttery crushed pretzels, sweet cream cheese filling, and refreshing crushed pineapple topping.
Instant Pot French Dip recipe has tender roast beef flavored with onions, smothered in melted cheese, and a rich flavorful au jus to dip in.
Make-ahead, marinated Green Bean Salad is an easy, healthy recipe perfect for summer! Simply toss green beans, tomatoes, and red onions with a balsamic vinaigrette and serve cold with blue or feta cheese.
This easy baked Italian sausage recipe combines roasted sausage, sweet potatoes, and onions for a flavorful sheet pan sausage and veggies meal!
Oven Roasted Cabbage Steaks make an easy, hands off side dish to compliment any meal! Buttery roasted cabbage slices are baked till golden brown with crispy edges.
Uses only four ingredients to make the most amazing sticky, sweet, and savory chicken recipe. Oven baked chicken breasts are stuffed with oozing melted cheddar cheese, wrapped in crispy bacon, smothered in BBQ sauce.
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