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White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

This classic and comforting white cheddar mac and cheese is cooked perfectly with fresh thyme, garlic, and tons of melty gooey white cheddar cheese!

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese in a bowl with a spoon.

In my home, mac and cheese is a classic comfort food that never fails to satisfy. 

It’s warm, creamy, and comforting to dig into after a long day or during a chilly winter night.

This white cheddar mac and cheese is elevated and taken to a whole new level with the special additions of sauteed shallots, earthy garlic, fresh thyme, and tons of smooth and tangy white cheddar cheese, melted to perfection and combined with tender curly cavatappi noodles.

Whether you’re serving it as a main dish or as a side, this white cheddar mac and cheese is sure to please!

ingredients to make homemade mac and cheese on a table.

Ingredients for white cheddar mac and cheese

  • Cavatappi pasta – This is my favorite shape to use for mac and cheese because its spiral shape provides a good surface area for the cheese sauce to cling to.
  • Olive oil – This is the fat of choice that will help saute our shallot and garlic.
  • Shallot and garlic – Shallot and garlic will add earthiness and sweetness to the white cheddar mac and cheese.
  • Fresh thyme – Fresh thyme will add a fresh herbaceousness. 
  • Red pepper flakes – These red pepper flakes will add just a tiny bit of heat to our pasta.
  • Butter, flour, and milk – These will help form the roux that will thicken the cheese sauce. 
  • Reserved pasta water – The reserved pasta water can help thin out the cheese sauce if needed.
  • White cheddar cheese – Be sure to take the time to freshly grate the cheddar cheese, it’s worth it!
  • Ground nutmeg – Ground nutmeg will add a nutty flavor to the sauce.
Shallots cooked in a dutch oven.
Cheese sauce in a dutch oven.
White Cheddar Mac and Cheese in a dutch oven getting stirred.

Why should you grate your own cheese instead of buying pre-grated?

There are a lot of benefits to using freshly grated cheddar cheese as opposed to buying it pre-grated in bags.

Pre-grated cheeses often come coated in anti-caking agents that have an unpleasant chalky or starchy flavor to them, and that same coating can make them harder to melt and properly incorporate in sauces. 

Also, shredding your own cheese can be more cost-effective, especially when buying blocks of cheese in bulk.

And in this economy? Let’s take all the help we can get!

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese in a white bowl.

Adding extras

I’ve kept it simple and straight to the point with this white cheddar mac and cheese, but here are some great additions:

  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen corn
  • Shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Cooked bacon
  • Panko breadcrumbs

More mac and cheese recipes

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese topped with thyme.

Storage and leftovers

Any leftover white cheddar mac and cheese can be kept in an airtight container, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To reheat, simply place in a microwave-safe dish, add a tablespoon or so of milk, cover loosely with a damp paper towel, and heat for 3-5 minutes or until heated thoroughly. 

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese served with spoons.

More comforting meals

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

Author: Brandy O’Neill – Nutmeg Nanny
This classic and comforting white cheddar mac and cheese is cooked perfectly with fresh thyme, garlic, and tons of melty gooey white cheddar cheese!
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 16 ounces dry cavatappi pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 12 ounces freshly shredded white cheddar cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain. 
  • In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Once fragrant, add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes or just until the shallot is tender. 
  • Next add the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for an additional minute. 
  • Add the butter and allow it to melt, stirring occasionally.
  • Once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir– a thick paste should form.
  • Continue stirring for 1-2 minutes or until the flour has turned from white to light brown. 
  • Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. If there are any large lumps of flour in the sauce, use a whisk to break them up. 
  • Once the milk has been incorporated into the roux, add the reserved pasta water. Allow the sauce to cook for 3-4 minutes or until it is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat and add the white cheddar cheese and ground nutmeg. Stir until the cheese has melted.
  • Then, add the pasta and stir to combine.
  • Store any leftover mac and cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days


Serving: 1g | Calories: 545kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 85mg | Sodium: 470mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g
Course Pasta
Cuisine American
Keyword cheddar mac and cheese, homemade mac and cheese, white cheddar macaroni and cheese
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White Cheddar Mac and Cheese pin for Pinterest.

About Brandy!

I am a food lover and recipe developer bringing you delicious recipes that taste great and are easy to make! My food is inspired by travels around the world and my love of flavorful food. A list of things that make me happy: cats, Coke Zero, houseplants, and travel. Read more...

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