Soul Food Southern Mac And Cheese

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Who doesn’t love a good serving of soul food Southern mac and cheese (mac n cheese)? 

I think we might all take it for granted. The fact that our Southern grandmas and moms have been producing great pots of soul food mac and cheese for years. From family gatherings, holidays, and good ole soul food Sundays

It just might’ve gotten lost how impactful this recipe is to the Black community.

Soul Food Southern Mac And Cheese

Why is Southern mac and cheese so important to Black culture?

Southern baked mac and cheese is just one of the many soul food cuisines turned American dishes. And this yummy dish has a really old history.

Learn more about the African American history of macaroni and cheese HERE.

Did a Black person invent mac and cheese?

Known initially as macaroni pie, baked mac and cheese was created by James Hemings, an African American enslaved and trained as a culinary chef in France.

James Hemings was a highly trained cook known to many modern-day chefs and culinary historians alike. A notable African American chef who helped create and define American cuisine as we know it today.

Hemings placed sharp American cheese in between layers of butter and milk-coated macaroni. Then baked in a Dutch oven (similar to an Instant Pot) over an open-hearth fireplace stove with hot coals placed on the pot’s lid.

Today, we can make easy macaroni and cheese while still incorporating the original recipe’s culinary technique. Much safer (no open fire needed) inside an Instant Pot! 

Southern Macaroni And Cheese Recipe

How do you make Southern mac and cheese?

So how do you make soul food Southern mac and cheese from scratch?

There’s a fine line between the perfect creamy, ooey-gooey cheesy “mac” and a gritty, oily mess of a “mac.” 

This Southern macaroni and cheese recipe, however, is no mess! 

No gritty oiliness, no gummy mess, just super creamy, rich, and cheesy. Simply mouth-watering. 

It’s merely homemade cheese sauce and silky smooth pasta – with sensational soul food seasonings.

Out of hundreds of macaroni and cheese recipes, some are pretty exotic, with additions like truffles, caviar, lobster, and oysters. Others are chock full of spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, and other goodies. 

Many are super creamy, with a not-so-secret ingredient like Velveeta cheese (or processed cheese) lurking in the background. 

How do you make Southern mac and cheese the Black way?

The best macaroni and cheese is a simple macaroni and cheese like my soul food Southern macaroni recipe here.

So grab your soul food seasonings, and don’t forget the milk.

Let’s get started!

Soul Food Southern Macaroni And Cheese

 

Kitchen equipment for soul food Southern mac and cheese

Shop my kitchenware HERE!

How do you make Southern mac and cheese the Black way?

Ingredients for soul food Southern mac and cheese

  • 8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1 cup of water 
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter 
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded Colby-Jack cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon of onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon of dried mustard
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of salt 
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper

Instructions for soul food Southern mac and cheese

  1. Open the Instant Pot lid and add to the stainless steel inner pot: water, milk, noodles, garlic powder, onion powder, dried mustard, paprika, salt, and black pepper.
  2. Stir the mixture to blend the ingredients and ensure the noodles are submerged in the liquid.
  3. Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 3 minutes.
  4. When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural pressure release for 5 minutes.
  5. To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable. 
  6. Give the macaroni a stir to loosen any clumps.
  7. Then fold in the butter and cheese until the cheese mixture is thoroughly combined and smooth.
  8. Allow the sauce to sit and thicken for about 5 minutes on the instant Pot ‘keep warm’ setting.
  9. Serve Black folks soul food mac and cheese right away, and enjoy!

The baked version of this recipe is HERE!

🎙 Check out my Southern mac and cheese recipe in episode 9 of The Soul Food Pod!

Soul Food Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe

Can mac and cheese be made on the stovetop?

People ask, “Would this recipe turn out the same on the stovetop instead of the Instant Pot?”

The answer is just like they say on TikTok – Yep!

But it will take a bit longer to make.

Stovetop instructions

  1. According to the package directions, boil the macaroni noodles in a mixture of half water and half milk (instead of only water).
  2. Drain the cooked noodles, reduce the heat to low, and add the butter to the pot.
  3. Return the noodles to the pot with the butter on low heat.
  4. Add the cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, dried mustard, paprika, salt, and black pepper, and stir to combine the ingredients.
  5. Once the cheese is melted and the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, remove the macaroni and cheese from the stovetop, serve right away, and enjoy!

Can you make macaroni and cheese in the slow cooker?

Yes, but it will take longer than this Instant Pot recipe. You can use a Crockpot or the Instant pot on the slow cooker setting.

Soul Food Southern Macaroni And Cheese Recipe

What to serve with Black folks soul food Southern mac and cheese?

Baked macaroni and cheese can be eaten as a side dish or main course, depending on how hungry you are! 

But what else should you serve with it

Check out these great soul food ideas for veggies and sides to go great with Southern mac and cheese.

Southern fried chickenSouthern soul food cabbagesoul food collard greenssoul food candied yamsSouthern sweet tea, and homemade cornbread.

What toppings can you put on Southern mac and cheese?

The options for macaroni and cheese toppings are endless! 

From crunchy to creamy, spicy to sweet, there’s a topping out there for everyone! 

Take a look at some top favorite combinations.

  1. Bacon bits
  2. Panko bread crumbs topping
  3. Fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly
  4. Chopped green onions
  5. Diced bell peppers or pimientos
  6. Dry thyme or fresh thyme sprigs
  7. Shredded parmesan cheese
Southern Macaroni And Cheese The Black Way

Soul food Southern mac and cheese FAQs

What makes Black folks soul food mac and cheese so different?

This Southern soul food recipe is made from scratch. Prepared with a combination of soul food seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika, milk, and a mix of cheeses. 

Why is Black folks Southern mac and cheese the ultimate comfort food?

Mac and cheese is warm, gooey, and cheesy – everything you want in a soul food seasoned, belly-filling meal. Just as satisfying any time of the year.

Mac and cheese is enjoyed by Black people from summer cookouts to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners

Southern Macaroni And Cheese

How do you make Southern macaroni and cheese creamy?

For creamy mac and cheese, add milk to the recipe ingredients. Milk has lots of proteins and fats, which will thicken the sauce, giving your mac and cheese that creamy consistency. 

Also, it doesn’t matter whether you make homemade cheese sauce or store-bought sauce. Add milk and it will turn out creamier and tastier!

Is macaroni pasta necessary for mac and cheese?

It’s nice to use traditional elbow macaroni pasta for mac and cheese, but there’s no reason you can’t use a different pasta shape. For example, you can add penne or rigatoni pasta to this recipe. 

By following this recipe carefully, you can substitute any shape you like. So try out different varieties as you experiment!

It may take some experimentation to find out which shapes you prefer, but it’ll be worth it once you find a match.

Why do you put eggs in baked macaroni and cheese?

So, does this recipe call for whole eggs or egg yolks? 

No, but some people like to put an egg in their baked macaroni and cheese.

The egg will keep the noodles from clumping together in the casserole dish. 

Although this isn’t an issue nowadays, in the past, with home cooks using metal casserole dishes and heating food in the oven in a baking dish, the egg would keep the noodles from sticking together.

An egg can also help the cheese to gel and become creamier. It can also be helpful if the macaroni and cheese is more on the watery side.

Soul Food Southern Mac And Cheese The Black Way

What cheese makes the best mac and cheese?

So what type of cheese goes into Southern mac and cheese?

This recipe calls for shredded cheese – sharp cheddar and Colby-Jack cheese.

But you can add any of the following cheeses to make a finger-licking mac and cheese at home.

  • Sharp cheddar cheese is a cheese that will bring out a rich flavor in the dish.
  • Mozzarella is mild and creamy, giving a creamy texture to the macaroni.
  • Colby-Jack cheese is a combination of cheddar and Monterey Jack, making the mac and cheese stand out in flavor.

What is the best cheese combination for macaroni and cheese?

Most Southern cooks use a cheese combination of medium or sharp cheddar with another cheese variety for the best macaroni and cheese. Sharp cheddar provides a deeper flavor, while the medium cheddar melts quickly. 

The sharpness of the cheddar is an excellent contrast against a more mellow cheese like mozzarella or a Colby-Jack. The bite of the two makes a beautiful texture. 

This combo whips out the best mac and cheese. 

Could you substitute one of the cheeses for pepper Jack cheese?

Sure, you can! You can substitute any cheese of your choice as long as it is good enough to be grated and melted. 

Pepper Jack cheese is a cow’s milk cheese made with jalapenos and serrano peppers for added heat. It’s a variety of cheese with a milder flavor than traditional Jack cheese. 

 What kind of butter do you use typically?

This recipe calls for unsalted butter to have more control over how much salt goes into the meal. When you add the salt in stages, it’s easier to gauge how much salt you’re adding – which is a good thing! 

Also, unsalted butter tastes richer and creamier.

What is the difference between evaporated milk and regular milk?

While this recipe calls for whole milk (the James Hemings’ way), some soul food baked mac and cheese replace whole milk with evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk.

Evaporated milk is a type of milk but has a much higher protein concentration than regular milk. 

It’s the process of removing about half of the water content from milk by slow heating. This process also concentrates the milk’s nutrients, so evaporated milk has about three times the amount of protein as its liquid counterpart.

Why use evaporated milk in mac and cheese?

What is relevant here is that the evaporated milk is closer to cream than regular milk, so it’s an ideal substitute in this recipe.

African American Macaroni And Cheese Recipes

Can you use heavy cream instead of milk?

Heavy cream is an acceptable substitute too. Some folks also find a way to incorporate sour cream or cream cheese, too!

What do you think of this Southern mac and cheese recipe?

You can’t go wrong serving this classic Southern dish at a dinner party or to the family when you’re hosting.

Customization options for this recipe are plentiful, so you can make it fit the tastes of your crowd.

How would you rate this Black folks’ Southern mac and cheese recipe?

Leave your answer in the comments below!

The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
What is soul food? Soul food recipes are African-American recipes full of flavor! A legacy of Southern cooking the Black way. Check out this collection of the best soul food recipes!
Check out this recipe!
Soul Food Southern Mac And Cheese

Soul Food Southern Mac And Cheese

African American grandmas and moms have been producing great pots of soul food Southern mac and cheese for years!
It just might've gotten lost how impactful this recipe is to the Black community.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Pressure Release Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Soul Food, Southern Food
Servings: 6
Calories: 384kcal

Equipment

  • Instant Pot electric pressure cooker

Ingredients

  • 8 oz macaroni uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1 cup Colby-Jack cheese shredded
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon mustard dried
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Open the Instant Pot lid and add to the stainless steel inner pot: water, milk, noodles, garlic powder, onion powder, dried mustard, paprika, salt, and black pepper.
  • Stir the mixture to blend the ingredients and ensure the noodles are submerged in the liquid.
  • Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 3 minutes.
  • When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural pressure release for 5 minutes.
  • To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  • Give the macaroni a stir to loosen any clumps.
  • Then fold in the butter and cheese until the cheese mixture is thoroughly combined and smooth.
  • Allow the sauce to sit and thicken for about 5 minutes on the instant Pot ‘keep warm’ setting.
  • Serve Black folks soul food mac and cheese right away, and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Stovetop instructions

  1. According to the package directions, boil the macaroni noodles in a mixture of half water and half milk (instead of only water).
  2. Drain the cooked noodles, reduce the heat to low, and add the butter to the pot.
  3. Return the noodles to the pot with the butter on low heat.
  4. Add the cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, dried mustard, paprika, salt, and black pepper, and stir to combine the ingredients.
  5. Once the cheese is melted and the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, remove the macaroni and cheese from the stovetop, serve right away, and enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 384kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 463mg | Potassium: 167mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 688IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 323mg | Iron: 1mg
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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’m craving for Mac & Cheese now!