The Best Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Main Course,  Recipes,  Salads & Side Dishes

The Best Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese

If you want to deliver comfort, bring them The Best Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese. It works every time!

Super cheesy, ultra creamy, with a little something special to make them go hmmmm.

The Best Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese
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Macaroni & Cheese Basics

The “Macaroni” Pasta

I LOVE Cavatappi (translated to “corkscrew” in English) or Cellantani (“whirl” in English).

These whirling twirling double elbow hollow pastas are THE BEST at holding on to cheese sauce. And isn’t that what makes a great macaroni and cheese?!!

The White Sauce

For those of us who took home economics in Middle School you’ll remember learning how to make this, the most basic of the five mother sauces.

I always start my cheese sauce by making a white sauce, also known as Béchamel Sauce.

Classically a white sauce is made with the following ratio:

  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of flour
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • salt & pepper to taste

For this recipe, I finish my white sauce with a little seasoning of dry mustard and cayenne. Do not over salt the sauce as the cheeses bring that nice saltiness to the finished dish.

The Cheese

As the title of this post declares – we’ll use three cheeses in this recipe.

  • Sharp Cheddar – great melting cheese that brings a deeper flavor profile than the milder varieties
  • Gruyere – super creamy, excellent melting cheese with a slightly nutty flavor
  • American or better yet, White Queso Dip – that’s right! American cheese gives this cheese sauce it’s incredibly creamy consistency and if your Queso has a little jalapeño kick, even better!

While it will take you a few minutes longer, grate your own cheese. The pre-packed shredded cheese is coated with preservatives like potato starch to keep it from sticking together. This coating changes the consistency and melting qualities.

Plus you get far more for your money when you invest a little elbow grease and grate your own!

Recipe Note: each 8 ounce block of cheese will yield about 3 cups of shredded cheese.

The Crumb Topping

The Best Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Melted butter, panko breadcrumbs, and shredded parmesan cheese combine to make the most heavenly crumb topping!

Yes, I am squarely on team Crumb Topping. I love a good buttery crispy layer on top of my mac ‘n’ cheese. And my squash casserole. And my cassoulets.

The Best Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese1

However, for this recipe, if crumbs aren’t your thing (or your kids aren’t fans) then by all means replace the crumb with a little more shredded cheese on top before baking!

Things that make you go hmmm

Homemade queso dip made from cubed american cheese and milk

I’ll never forget the first time I added queso dip to my macaroni & cheese. We were having a family dinner with the kids, a few significant others, and my sister Sarah.

Slowly as everyone began to take bites of the various dishes on their plates I could see a little mac ‘n’ cheese lovefest beginning to brew.

“This is really good mac ‘n’ cheese”

“It’s so creamy and cheesy….I love it”

“Omgeee is there queso in this? It’s sooo good!”

“Mom, this is the best mac ‘n’ cheese you’ve ever made.”

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

The truth is I’ve never made two the same in my life. Sure, there are certain similarities but I always manage to change it up.

Yesterday I had a neighbor ask for the recipe. Insert the emoji with big wide eyes.

So nearly 10 years after creating Lemony Thyme I’m finally putting the recipe in print! Wishing you a little mac ‘n’ cheese lovefest at your house!!

Don’t forget to follow us @LemonyThyme on Instagram and Facebook! And check out our latest TikTok videos and Pinterest boards too!

All my best,
xo Libby

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The Best Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese5

The Best Three Cheese Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Libby with Lemony Thyme
If you want to deliver comfort, bring them The Best Three Cheese Mac 'n' Cheese. It's super cheesy and ultra creamy, with a little extra love.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Entree, Side Dish
Servings 8


For the Three Cheese Mac 'n' Cheese

  • 1 pound dried Cavatappi or Cellentani pasta
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese freshly grated, divided
  • 4 ounces gruyere cheese freshly grated
  • 16 ounces White Queso Dip or sub small cubed white American cheese

For the Crumb Topping

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese


For the Three Cheese Mac 'n' Cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the white sauce by melting butter in a medium heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Once melted and bubbly, whisk in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Mixture should be smooth and bubbly. Gradually whisk in milk. Continue whisking for another minute until fully incorporated and smooth. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Continue cooking until mixture has thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Season with mustard powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.
  • Reduce heat to low and begin adding grated cheeses and queso, reserving 1/2 cup grated cheddar for assembly. Whisk to combine after each addition, until all cheese is melted and smooth. Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta and stir well to fully combine.
  • Pour half of macaroni mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese. Top with remaining macaroni.

For the Crumb Topping

  • Melt butter in microwave or in small pan on stovetop. Remove from heat. Stir in panko and parmesan and mix to combine. Sprinkle crumb topping over mac 'n' cheese. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.


Recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator and bake at 350° F. for 30 minutes or until heated through.
Remove baking sheet from refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to baking for more even baking/heating.


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