Skip to Content

Evaporated Milk Mac and Cheese

This is the best evaporated milk mac and cheese recipe! The easy baked mac and cheese consist of a rich, decadent cheese sauce, topped with a crispy breadcrumb topping. The perfect comfort food dinner and holiday side dish!

evaporated milk cheese sauce

Easy baked mac and cheese with evaporated milk

We all love the comfort food quality of pasta and cheese sauce, right? And there a countless macaroni and cheese recipes out there, from quick and easy (like this simple no-flour mac and cheese) to fancy (such as this Tuscan chicken mac and cheese and Chick-Fil-A mac and cheese).

Still, I always come back to this amazing evaporated milk mac and cheese recipe! The cheese sauce is so luxurious + creamy, and everything is baked to crisp, golden perfection. And it really doesn’t take more effort than preparing a box of the pre-made stuff.

You can serve this easy baked macaroni and cheese as a quick main course (think mac and cheese casserole) or as a side dish. It’s a must-have side for family get-togethers, special celebrations, and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

♥ Reasons to love evaporated milk mac and cheese

  • Fantastic flavor: Evaporated milk makes this homemade macaroni and cheese rich, creamy, and flavorful. The crispy, golden topping takes your classic mac to the next level.
  • Easy recipe: If you’re a cheese lover and one of your favorite things is pasta, you need to have a great + fool-proof mac and cheese recipe in your back pocket!
  • Family favorite: Everyone loves mac and cheese! This delicious evaporated milk mac and cheese is always a big hit for kids and adults alike.
  • Make-ahead: Baked mac and cheese can be made in advance and is perfect for freeing up time on busy holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
evaporated milk mac and cheese ingredients

Ingredients

The great thing about evaporated milk mac and cheese is that the ingredients are simple. I bet you probably already have most of them in your kitchen. Refer to the recipe card further down for specific measurements.

  • Pasta: While elbow macaroni is the classic pasta for mac and cheese, use your favorite small pasta like penne, fusilli, or farfalle.
  • Evaporated milk works great in mac and cheese and makes the sauce rich and creamy.
  • Cheese: I used sharp cheddar, but you can work with any cheese that melts well and has a saltier taste, such as Swiss cheese, gruyere, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Havarti, or Fontina.
  • Cornstarch helps to thicken the sauce. And no worries, you don’t have to cook a roux for this recipe!
  • Butter is needed for the sauce and to toss the cooked pasta. Salted and unsalted butter are both fine.
  • Seasoning: I seasoned this dish with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. If you prefer anything extra like mustard powder, hot sauce, chili flakes, nutmeg, or Italian seasoning, go for it!
  • Topping (optional): The baked mac and cheese topping consists of breadcrumbs, melted butter, and a pinch of salt. It’s optional – you can always top your dish with more cheese to simplify the recipe.

Ingredient notes

Why use evaporated milk for mac and cheese?

Evaporated milk provides creaminess and body to the mac and cheese sauce without the fat and heaviness of actual cream. If you never tried a macaroni and cheese recipe with evaporated milk, you should! I’m confident that you’ll fall in love with the creamy texture!

What can I use instead of evaporated milk?

Don’t have evaporated milk? No problem! Simply substitute regular milk or half-and-half instead of evaporated milk. Whole milk is best, but you could also use 2% if you prefer a light cheese sauce.

Can I use pre-shredded cheese?

No, please don’t! For the creamiest, tastiest results, I highly recommend shredding your own cheese from a block of cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in additives that prevent it from sticking together. These additives change the way the cheese melts and can make the sauce grainy.

Can I skip the topping?

Of course! Actually, you can skip the baking if you prefer. The mac and cheese are ready to eat right after tossing the noodles with the cheese sauce. Just be sure to cook the pasta until al dente.

How to make evaporated milk mac and cheese

This macaroni and cheese recipe with evaporated milk is straightforward and beginner-friendly. And because evaporated milk cheese sauce is so simple, it will become a go-to for your family! Here’s a rundown of each step:

#1: Preheat oven

  • Preheat the oven to 357°F / 180°C / gas mark 4. Grease a 1-quart / 1 l casserole dish with a bit of butter.
step 2 make breadcrumb topping

#2: Make topping

  • In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, melted butter, and salt. Set aside.

#3: Cook pasta

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt.
  • Cook the pasta following package instructions until almost al dente but 2 minutes LESS than the cooking time indicated on the packaging.
step 4 drain macaroni pasta

#4: Drain and toss

  • Drain the pasta and transfer it back into the pot. Stir in the butter until melted to keep the pasta from sticking. Set aside.
step 5 cook sauce

#5: Cook sauce

  • Combine the cornstarch, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper in a medium saucepan.
  • Add the evaporated milk, water, and butter.
  • Stirring constantly, heat over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
  • Boil for 45 seconds to 1 minute. This will activate the cornstarch and thicken the sauce.
step 6 stir in cheese

#6: Add cheese

  • Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the shredded cheese until mostly melted. If desired, season with more salt or pepper according to your taste.
  • Next, mix in the pasta.
step 7 bake mac and cheese

#7: Bake

  • Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb topping and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • If the top isn’t golden enough, broil for 2 to 3 minutes, keeping an eye on it.

#8: Serve

  • Remove the baked mac and cheese from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
creamy mac and cheese with evaporated milk

Tips for the best mac and cheese

After many years of making this recipe, I’ve assembled a list of helpful tips for making perfectly creamy mac and cheese with evaporated milk!

  • Always cook the noodles in salted water to avoid bland pasta and give the dish flavor right from the start.
  • Undercook the pasta: The pasta in baked mac and cheese is cooked twice. Make sure to slightly undercook the pasta and drain once the noodles are about turn al dente (still firm and with some bite). Doing so prevents the pasta from becoming too soft or mushy when they bake in the oven.
  • Minimize dirty dishes: After draining, return the pasta to the pot where you cooked the noodles in.
  • Toss with butter: To prevent the noodles from sticking together, toss them with butter or some oil until coated.
  • Don’t boil the sauce after adding the cheese: Don’t return the pot to the heat after adding the cheese to the sauce. Otherwise, the sauce might split or get grainy. The cheese will melt as the dish bakes.
  • Avoid overbaking: Overbaking will make the noodles bloaty and mushy. For a golden, super crispy topping, broil your baked mac and cheese with evaporated milk for a few minutes.
baked mac and cheese with evaporated milk

Make-ahead & storage instructions

Making evaporated milk mac and cheese ahead of time

To make this recipe ahead of time, prepare the mac and cheese as directed, but don’t bake it or add the topping. Instead, transfer the pasta and cheese into the baking dish, let it cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap (cling film), and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, allow the dish to come to room temperature before baking, for about 20 minutes. If the pasta seems too dry (cold mac and cheese usually does), stir in a few tablespoons of milk until the texture becomes creamier. Then add the topping and bake. Easy!

How to store evaporated milk mac and cheese

Store leftover evaporated milk mac and cheese in an airtight container in the fridge and consume within 3 to 4 days. Make sure the dish is entirely cooled before refrigerating.

Reheat evaporated milk mac and cheese

Before reheating, stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons evaporated milk to loosen the pasta. Then cover and reheat in the microwave in short bursts until heated through.

Can I freeze this?

Yes, you can freeze baked mac and cheese. Transfer the cooled mac and cheese into an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

You can also keep it in the baking dish, covered tightly with foil. When it’s time to eat, bake the frozen mac and cheese, covered with foil for the first 40 minutes, at 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4 for 1 hour.

FAQ’s

Should I cover mac and cheese while baking?

No, it isn’t necessary to cover evaporated milk mac and cheese as it bakes. In fact, baking uncovered is a must because we want the topping to get crispy and golden brown.

What is the best cheese for mac and cheese?

You have many great options for mac and cheese! My favorites are sharp cheddar, gruyere, Monterey Jack, Fontanini, and gouda. I used sharp white cheddar because it’s rich, melts well, and gives a smooth flavor.

What’s the best pasta for mac and cheese?

Any short noodles that hold the sauce work. Elbow macaroni, farfalle, penne, small shells, rotini, and cavatappi would be all good options.

Why did my baked mac and cheese come out dry?

Mac n cheese with evaporated milk can dry if baked for too long, so follow the recommended cooking time. If the topping isn’t golden by the time the baking time is up, simply put it under a broiler to toast the breadcrumbs.

Another reason for dry mac and cheese is using more noodles than the recipe calls for. There needs to be enough cheese sauce to generously coat every bit of pasta.

What can you serve with evaporated milk mac and cheese?

Evaporated milk macaroni and cheese go well with so many things! It’s a great side for meat, chicken, and turkey and pairs well with veggies like roasted broccoli or Brussel sprouts.

To transform your baked mac and cheese into a full meal, add 2 cups cooked vegetables, 1 cup shredded chicken, or diced ham to your mac and cheese before baking.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Give it a 5-star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and leave a comment! Appreciate it so much, thank you!

If you had any issues, I’d appreciate the chance to help you troubleshoot before you rate.

evaporated milk mac and cheese recipe

Evaporated Milk Mac and Cheese Recipe

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This is the best evaporated milk mac and cheese recipe! The easy baked mac and cheese consist of a rich, decadent cheese sauce, topped with a crispy breadcrumb topping. The perfect comfort food dinner and holiday side dish!

Ingredients

Pasta

  • 2 cups / 225 g / 8 oz dry elbow pasta
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, plus more for greasing

Mac and Cheese Sauce

  • 1 can (12 fl oz / 354 ml) evaporated milk
  • 1 cup / 250 ml / 8 fl oz water
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups / 225 g / 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Topping (optional)

  • 1/2 cup / 60 g / 2 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven. Preheat the oven to 357°F / 180°C / gas mark 4. Grease a 1-quart / 1 l casserole dish with a bit of butter.
    2. Make topping. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, melted butter, and salt. Set aside.
    3. Cook pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Cook the pasta following package instructions until almost al dente but 2 minutes LESS than the cooking time indicated on the packaging.
    4. Drain and toss. Drain the pasta and transfer it back into the pot. Stir in the butter until melted to keep the pasta from sticking. Set aside.
    5. Cook sauce. Combine the cornstarch, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper in a medium saucepan. Add the evaporated milk, water, and butter. Stirring constantly, heat over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 45 seconds to 1 minute. This will activate the cornstarch and thicken the sauce.
    6. Add cheese. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the shredded cheese until mostly melted. If desired, season with more salt or pepper according to your taste. Next, mix in the pasta.
    7. Bake. Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb topping and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. If the top isn’t golden enough, broil for 2 to 3 minutes, keeping an eye on it.
    8. Serve. Remove the baked mac and cheese from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Notes

Quick Tips

  • Don’t boil after adding the cheese. After adding the cheddar, do not boil the sauce or the cheese might become grainy.
  • Don’t overbake. For an extra golden breadcrumb topping, place the dish under the broiler for a few minutes. Overbaking may result in dry or bloated mac and cheese.
  • Cheesy topping. Feel free to add 1/4 cup / 25 g / 0.8 oz grated parmesan cheese to the breadcrumb topping for extra cheesiness.

Evaporated Milk

You need a 12-oz can of evaporated milk. If you have a 15-oz can, don’t use it all, or you might end up with too much sauce. Evaporated milk provides creaminess and body to the mac and cheese sauce without the fat and heaviness of actual cream.

Evaporated Milk Substitute

You can substitute regular milk or half-and-half in place of evaporated milk. Whole milk is best, but you could also use 2% if you prefer a light cheese sauce.

Cheese Options

I used sharp cheddar, but you can use a variety of cheeses such as gruyere, Monterey Jack, Fontina, gouda, Emmental, or Havarti.

How to store leftover mac and cheese

Store leftover evaporated milk mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. The dish can also be frozen in a freezer-friendly container for up to 2 months.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 435Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 1313mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 15g

Doreen

Sunday 17th of December 2023

I need to make enough for 16-18 people. Safe to say to just triple recipe? Also would like to bake it all one time in a really large alum pan. Or would it be better in 2 pans?

Cyna | Country Hill Cottage

Monday 18th of December 2023

Hi Doreen! Yes, tripling the recipe will feed 18 people. You can certainly bake the mac and cheese in one large, 3 quart / 9x13-inch casserole dish. We do it all the time for large family gatherings and it works perfectly. Happy cooking!

Anne

Saturday 2nd of December 2023

I would love to make this for a potluck party tomorrow. Can I put everything together, cover/store it in the fridge, and bake it tomorrow? Has anyone ever done this before? Or should I just wake up early and make it the same day as the party?

I'm so excited to try this. I just don't know if putting it together the day before is ok.

Any help is greatly appreciated!

Irena | Country Hill Cottage

Saturday 2nd of December 2023

Hi Anne! Yes, you can prepare it today and bake it tomorrow. I recommend adding the breadcrumbs right before baking so the topping is crispy. Happy making!

Fee

Wednesday 1st of November 2023

Hands down the BEST Mac & Cheese recipe EVER! I’ve tried sooo, so many over the past 30 years (no word of a lie!) and this one is absolutely amazing! I’m in the UK & every year we get together with our friends (the wife is from Illinois) for thanksgiving and my husband has told them we’re bringing a big batch of this with us for the table because he loves it that much! Super easy & quick & ticks all the right boxes!

Irena | Country Hill Cottage

Thursday 2nd of November 2023

Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Fee! So happy to hear you are enjoying this recipe!

Mc

Thursday 17th of November 2022

How would I make this if I am making it for 15 people ?

Irena | Country Hill Cottage

Thursday 17th of November 2022

Hi there! The recipe makes 6 servings, so first you'd have to multiple the ingredients by 2.5.

Then cook pasta in a 4-qt pot. I'd add 2 tsp salt to season the pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it well and stir in 6 tbsp butter until melted. That will prevent the pasta from sticking.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce in another 4-qt pot. Once the sauce and pasta are ready, put the pasta into the sauce and stir to combine. You'll need a large cooking spoon for that.

I'd then divide the pasta between two 9x13 in baking dish, top them with cheese or breadcrumb topping and bake. If you oven is big enough you can bake them both at the same time, roating them halfway through teh baking time. If your oven is smaller bake one after the other.

I hope this helps you out. Happy cooking and have a great holiday!

Jenny

Thursday 8th of September 2022

Perhaps the best mac and cheese ever. I followed the recipe to a T. Incredible!

Clarissa Winchester

Tuesday 7th of March 2023

I used penne pasta and gouda cheese, and added barbecue pork . It was incredible. My husband was so excited to try this and he loved it! Thank you for such a great recipe.

Irena | Country Hill Cottage

Thursday 8th of September 2022

Hi Jenny! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!

Skip to Recipe
// First try loading jQuery from Google's CDN // Fall back to a local copy of jQuery if the CDN fails