This beer cheese sauce mac and cheese is a bold, rich, comforting and easy pasta recipe that everyone will love. This easy mac and cheese is made with a rich and creamy beer cheese sauce. It’s quick, easy, and will be ready in less than 30 minutes.
Don’t you just want tender bites of pasta smothered in a deliciously cheesy sauce for dinner? I know I’m always game for a nice bowl of gooey, cheesy mac and cheese no matter what time it is. Well, this is the easiest macaroni and cheese you’ve ever made and it packs quite a bit of flavor!
All you need are a handful of fresh ingredients and pantry staples to transform this classic comfort food into a grown-up(ish) dish.
So grab your favorite beer and a couple blocks of cheese for a unique flavor the whole family will enjoy.
What is beer cheese mac and cheese?
This comfort food is exactly what it sounds like – macaroni and cheese made with beer cheese sauce! The rich beer flavor adds an earthy, slightly caramelized flavor to the dish that is completely irresistible.
You can easily adjust hot strong or mild beer flavor would be by using a different type of beer. Just stay away from stouts and IPAs.
In fact, you can turn this same cheese sauce into an amazing party dip with just a few simple adjustments.
Beer Mac and Cheese – Ingredient Notes
- Pasta – Short pasta shapes work best, especially ones with plenty of crevices for the beer cheese sauce to stick to. Elbow macaroni and shells are always a great choice, while rotini and rigatoni create larger bites.
- Milk – For best results, use whole milk. If you have to, use reduced fat 2% milk, but I don’t recommend doing less than that. You can also swap regular milk for a lactose free or dairy free substitute like almond, oat, or soy milk. (Be prepared for different flavors with milk substitutes.)
- Dijon mustard – I like Grey Poupon, but feel free to use your favorite brand of Dijon instead. Not only does the mustard add flavor and goes perfectly with beer, but it also acts as an emulsifier. This just means it helps the sauce to stay smooth and creamy.
- Salt – How much you add will all depend on the cheeses you use, because some varieties are saltier than others. Always taste your food as you go and adjust the seasoning as needed. TIP: add salt last, after you’ve mixed in cheeses.
What cheeses are best for mac and cheese?
While there is a lot of debate on this topic, it’s important to choose varieties that you actually enjoy eating.
Create balance by pairing a good melting cheese with one or two aged varieties, which tend to have a bolder flavor.
- Classic, bold flavor: Sharp cheddars, Gruyere, Gouda,
- Melts well: Monterey Jack, cream cheese, Colby-Jack, Mozzarella
- Adds interest: Parmesan, Fontina, Pepper Jack, Gorgonzola
What is the best beer for beer cheese sauce?
Lager or dark ale is good for a stronger beer flavor, while pale ales and wheat beers will be more mellow.
Either way, choose a beer you would enjoy drinking by itself since that’s what the sauce will taste like.
It’s best to avoid stouts and IPAs since those will be too overpowering.
Step By Step Instructions
Before you start cooking, get all of your ingredients out and measured. This is important because the recipe comes together quickly.
Put a pot of water on to boil, then cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside. NOTE: Do not rinse the pasta with cool water! Doing this washes away any residual starch, which prevents the cheese sauce from adhering to the noodles.
STEP ONE: Make the beer cheese sauce.
In a large pan on the stove, whisk together melted butter and flour to make a roux. This is the base that will thicken the sauce.
Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
Add the cooked pasta.
When the beer cheese sauce is completely smooth, stir in the cooked macaroni.
Then, let it cook on low heat as you slowly stir for a just a couple more minutes, just to warm the pasta through.
After that, it’s ready to serve!
Best Toppings For Macaroni and Cheese
You can’t go wrong with some crumbled bacon pieces, chopped green onion, jalapenos, or pickled red onions. Even crispy fried onions would taste great!
For some added texture, you can bake it with a topping. Spread the macaroni and cheese into a baking dish and top with a mixture of melted butter and panko breadcrumbs. Then, place it under the broiler for a few minutes, or bake at 350°F, just until the top starts to brown.
- Bring liquids to room temp. Cold dairy tends to take longer to thicken and may create lumps when added to the roux.
Set the milk (and beer, if chilled) on the counter a few minutes before you put the water on to boil for pasta. So it’s ready when you start the beer cheese sauce.
- How salty should pasta water be? It’s said that it should “taste like the ocean,” so a generous tablespoon should do the trick! Bring the water to a boil before adding the salt or it will take much longer to heat.
- Skip the pre-bagged shreds. These contain a preservative that prevents clumping, but also gives the cheese a waxy texture. Unfortunately, it also prevents the cheese from melting smoothly. Spend the extra few minutes shredding a fresh block by hand. You won’t regret it!
- Add some kick. Replace the Dijon mustard with a spicy gourmet variety or stir in a couple dashes of hot sauce if you’d like.
- Need to feed a crowd? Easily double or even triple this recipe for a game day party or large family gathering. Combine the pasta and sauce in large aluminum pans and keep them covered until you’re ready to serve.
Storing and Reheating
Keep leftovers covered in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Reheat on the stove, over medium-low heat, for the best texture, adding a splash of milk as needed to get it creamy again.
If you want to reheat smaller individual portions, you can do so in the microwave, in increments of about 30-45 seconds. Stir between each increment and only heat until hot throughout.
I do not recommend freezing beer mac and cheese. The problem is, your cheese sauce will separate when thawed and reheated. This creates an unpleasant grainy texture that no amount of stirring can fix.
SIMILAR RECIPES TO TRY:
Want more mac and cheese recipes to try? I’ve got nearly a dozen to choose from! Some include seafood, while others are loaded with veggies. There’s even a Tex Mex version an extra kick of flavor.
Beer Cheese Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 cup ale or lager
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp Grey Poupon mustard
- 8 oz extra sharp white cheddar cheese block
- 8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese block
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt more or less to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and season with salt. Cook pasta according to the box instructions. Drain completely once pasta is cooked.
- While pasta is cooking, make the beer cheese sauce.
- Prepare the ingredients before starting to cook the sauce because this is a fast recipe and you will want to have the ingredients next to you. Measure ingredients and grate the cheese.
- Melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour until smooth.
- Start pouring in beer while slowly whisking. Let the mixture come to a simmer.
- Whisk in milk, mustard, salt, and paprika.
- Add cheeses a handful at a time while slowly and constantly stirring.
- Once all cheese is melted and smooth, add pasta. Stir until all completely combined. Let it cook on medium-low for just a couple more minutes and take off heat.