The Soul Food Pod Episode 9: Southern Mac And Cheese

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

On this episode of The Soul Food Pod, host Shaunda Necole introduces her best friend, Teresa, as they tell the story of when they were young adults first learning how to cook, on a seemingly never-ending quest looking for the ultimate recipe for Southern baked mac and cheese!

The Soul Food Pod Episode 9 Southern Mac And Cheese

Shaunda and Teresa explain how they went from cookouts to church events to potlucks rating the best mac and cheese.

Listeners will laugh at their saucy tales and hilarious journey through time to deliver you the ultimate Southern soul food baked mac and cheese recipe!

Including a quick lesson down history lane with a thank you to James Hemings, the African American chef who created Southern baked mac and cheese.

Apple Podcasts: Southern Mac And Cheese

Spotify: Southern Mac And Cheese

How do you make Southern mac and cheese from scratch?

Southern mac and cheese – the Black way – is made from scratch, with elbow noodles boiled in milk, then prepared with a combination of soul food seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, onion, ground mustard, paprika, flour, milk, and a mix of cheeses.

Commonly used are sharp cheddar cheese, mozzarella, and American cheese, baked until creamy on top and golden brown on the edges!

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

Ingredients for Southern mac and cheese

  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (divided – 1 tablespoon & 3 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • ¼ cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded Colby-jack cheese
  •  ½ teaspoon of salt 
  •  ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 3 cups of water
  • 4 ¼ cups of milk (divided – 1 ¼ cups & 3 cups)
  • 8 oz. uncooked macaroni noodles

*Get the list of instructions for Southern baked mac and cheese in the recipe card below!

Easy Baked Mac And Cheese

Southern mac and cheese recipe pro tips

  1. First: Southern mac and cheese must include sharp cheddar cheese.
  2. Then start with a good quality macaroni. 
  3. Making baked mac and cheese the Black way – boil the macaroni in a mixture of half water and half milk. The milk coats the macaroni and gives it a smooth, silky texture. Perfect for layering on cheese!
  4. Make sure you’re using a baking dish that’s not too deep. An 8-inch baking pan or 8-inch cast iron skillet is perfect for this oven recipe!
What to serve with soul food baked mac and cheese?

What to serve with soul food baked mac and cheese?

The host and her guests suggest the following Southern soul food side dishes to serve with Southern mac and cheese:

Southern fried chicken,  Southern soul food cabbage, soul food collard greens, a Black folks’ Southern potato salad recipe, and homemade cornbread.

They also note that Southern mac and cheese can be eaten as a side dish or a main course, depending on how hungry you are!

Black Folks Southern Baked Mac And Cheese

What you’ll learn in this episode?

  • Two friends’ mission to find the ultimate recipe for soul food baked mac and cheese 
  • Tips for making the perfect macaroni and cheese dish, including the importance of sharp cheddar cheese and the soul food seasonings
  • Learn how to make Southern baked mac and cheese the Black way (Black mac and cheese)
  • James Hemings and the origin of baked mac and cheese
  • Netflix soul food docuseries High On The Hog and the story of baked mac and cheese
  • African American history of Southern macaroni and cheese
  • What to serve with soul food baked mac and cheese

Southern mac and cheese FAQs

Is mac and cheese popular in the South?

Topping the list of Southern soul food main dishes is Southern mac and cheese.

Southern African Americans have always included baked mac and cheese in Sunday dinner line-ups for a sit down feast, cookout side, tailgating, or a when watching the game, enjoying a well-seasoned flavorful bite with each play!

 
And according to Due South, “Southern Mac and Cheese has been a staple dish in the Southern United States since its first recorded appearance in Mary Randolph’s cookbook, The Virginia House-Wife.”
 
 

 

What is the best cheese combination for macaroni and cheese?

You can combine cheeses for Southern mac and cheese. Just be sure that one of the cheese blends is sharp cheddar cheese.

Favorite cheeses combined with sharp cheddar cheese include American cheese, Colby-Jack cheese, or mozzarella cheese.

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

Yes, and warn your guests that the recipe will have a bit of a spicy kick!

Also, it’s important that you keep the sharp cheddar cheese in the mix with the pepper jack cheese.

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

Mac and cheese is warm, gooey, and cheesy – everything you want on a chilly evening.

And when you make Southern mac and cheese the Black way – there’s the unrivaled addition of delicious, heart-warming soul food flavors!

Southern Mac And Cheese The Black Way

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

Baked mac and cheese is among the many soul food cuisines turned American dishes. And this yummy dish has a really old soul food history.

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.

Hemings was born in Virginia in 1765. At eight, he became one of Thomas Jefferson’s many enslaved persons at his Monticello plantation.

At age 19, Jefferson takes young Hemings with him to France to train in the art of French cooking.

Did a Black person invent mac and cheese?

Southern baked mac and cheese the James Hemings way –

James Hemings was a highly trained cook known to many modern-day chefs and culinary historians. 

A notable African American chef who helped create and define American cuisine as we know it today.

According to Netflix’s soul food documentary High On The Hog, where an all-Black creative team tells the story of African American food. Baked mac and cheese is initially cooked by Hemings in a mixture of boiling water and milk. 

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

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

How did mac and cheese become soul food?

Hemings’ legacy of baked mac and cheese continued long after the Emancipation Proclamation in the 1860s.

Macaroni and cheese began to have new meanings and multiple identities in the Black community. Mac and cheese became “a celebratory dish, a convenient comfort food, and a meal stretcher for impoverished families.”

We recognize this dish today as authentic soul food – now easy enough for anyone to make and everyone to love!

 

Southern Baked Mac And Cheese The Black Way

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

When you think of a traditional Southern soul food meal, baked mac and cheese is one of the first things that come to mind.  

A delicious combo of two perfect comfort foods- macaroni and cheese can be found all over the Southern states.

Southern baked mac and cheese – the Black way – is still boiled in milk and then baked.  

But nowadays, this iconic recipe includes additional ingredients along with traditional elbow noodles, butter, and milk.

What is Black mac and cheese?

Black mac and cheese, or Black folks mac and cheese, is Southern baked mac and cheese the way Black people make it with milk and lots of soul food seasonings and flavors

Rich in delicious Southern, soulful flavors. Mac and cheese is one of my favorite Southern comfort soul foods and a favorite of many households.

It’s a staple for soul food Sundayssummer cookoutsJuneteenth celebrations, and always a featured item at a soul food Thanksgiving or on a Black folks’ Christmas dinner menu.

Even though I love macaroni and cheese, I don’t always want to make it the traditional way.

What can you add to your mac and cheese to make it better?

Asked another way, what are some variations of this Southern mac and cheese recipe?

Pro tip: First – Southern mac and cheese must include sharp cheddar cheese.

You can bake this recipe.

Or make this recipe without baking using only the stovetop or the Instant Pot.

You can also add protein like crab meat or lobster meat to this recipe.

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

Prepared with a combination of soul food seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika, flour, milk, and a mix of cheeses. Soul food baked mac and cheese recipes incorporate milk, interchanging whole milk, evaporated milk, or sweetened condensed milk.

Why put mustard in baked mac and cheese?

This recipe calls for ground mustard powder. 

The mustard in this recipe is just enough to cut the overwhelming creaminess and round out the flavors.

Why add egg to baked mac and cheese?

Some Southern baked mac and cheese recipes call for an egg as an ingredient for binding and adding creaminess.

However, you won’t need eggs for this recipe. Instead, the flour is a binding and texture agent, and the milk adds the necessary silkiness and creaminess.

What is the difference between evaporated milk and regular milk?

Evaporated milk has gone through a cooking process to vaporize and remove (evaporate) over half of the water content.

The refined result is creamier and thicker than regular whole milk. Making it the perfect addition to sweet and savory dishes!

Could you use a glass baking dish instead of a casserole dish?

Yes, and a good size for either is 8 inches.

Can this recipe be doubled or tripled for the same result?

For example, if you use a whole box of elbow macaroni, does the recipe remain the same?

You’ll want to use the dynamic recipe card below to adjust the ingredients for a custom proportionate-size recipe (less, double, or triple).

How do you reheat leftover mac and cheese without drying it out?

Reheat in the oven using the ‘warm’ setting.

If you’re using an Instant Pot, use the ‘keep warm’ setting. 

It’s also a good idea to mix a bit of milk into the mac and cheese before reheating.

Can this recipe be made ahead and cooked the following day?

Making macaroni and cheese ahead of time can be a huge lifesaver for those with busy schedules.

You could make this dish the day before, and the next day add toppings and bake.

  • Put all ingredients in a baking dish and cool completely (do not bake). Place in an airtight container or tightly seal with plastic and refrigerate.
  • Let the dish sit on the countertop for 30 minutes before baking.
  • Bake at the recipe temperature (350 degrees) for 20 minutes until hot, bubbly, and crispy.

 

Links & resources mentioned in the episode:

Would you like more soul food recipes?

Then check out The Soul Food Pot recipes and The Soul Food Pod podcast.

Where to listen to the podcast:

Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  Stitcher  |  Amazon Music 

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

Have you had it?

Would you make it? 

Comment below and lemme know. 

Then subscribe HERE for all the soul food!

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!
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The Soul Food Pod Episode 9 Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe

Southern Mac And Cheese

Southern Mac And Cheese

How do you make Southern mac and cheese from scratch?
Southern mac and cheese – the Black way – is made from scratch, with elbow noodles boiled in milk, then prepared with soul food seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, onion, ground mustard, paprika, and sharp cheddar cheese. Baked until creamy on top and golden brown on the edges!
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Soul Food
Servings: 6
Calories: 522kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided – 1 tablespoon & 3 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (pre-shredded cheese or grated cheese)
  • 1 cup Colby-jack cheese (pre-shredded cheese or grated cheese)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 ¼ cups milk divided – 1 ¼ cups & 3 cups
  • 8 oz. macaroni noodles uncooked

Instructions

  • Turn the Instant Pot on the sauté setting for 25 minutes (although you may not need this entire amount of time).
  • Fill the Instant Pot stainless steel inner pot with 3 cups of milk, 3 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of butter. (Or fill a large pot over high-heat so it comes to a boil.)

Pro tip: For baked mac and cheese the Black way, use milk to coat the macaroni and give it a smooth, silky texture. Perfect for layering on cheese!

  • Pro tip- For baked mac and cheese the Black way, use milk to coat the macaroni and give it a smooth, silky texture. Perfect for layering on cheese!
  • Once the liquid begins to simmer, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions, stirring occasionally to make sure the macaroni does not clump & stick.
  • Drain the macaroni and set it aside.
  • Add the 3 tablespoons of butter to the empty inner pot and turn it back on the sauté setting.
  • When the butter is melted, add the flour, 1 ¼ cups of milk, and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, and paprika) and whisk until smooth.
  • Change the Instant Pot cook setting from sauté to slow cook for 1-hour (although you will not need this entire amount of cook time).
  • While the cook setting changes from sauté to slow cook, allow the ingredients to simmer for about 3 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.
  • Stir in the cheeses (reserve some for topping when baking).
  • Close the Instant Pot with the lid and let slow cook for 5-10 minutes until the cheeses are blended.
  • Open the lid to add the cooked pasta and the heavy cream to the inner pot, stirring the cheese sauce mixture to blend evenly.
  • Transfer the cooked macaroni and cheese mixture into an 8-inch cast iron skillet or prepared baking dish.
  • Top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake in the Instant Omni Plus oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Or bake in the conventional oven for 25 minutes or until mac and cheese is golden and bubbly.
  • Serve this Black folks’ soul food baked macaroni and cheese recipe right away, and enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • First: Southern mac and cheese must include sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Then start with a good quality macaroni. 
  • Making baked mac and cheese the Black way - boil the macaroni in a mixture of half water and half milk. The milk coats the macaroni and gives it a smooth, silky texture. Perfect for layering on cheese!
  • Make sure you're using a baking dish that's not too deep. An 8-inch baking pan or 8-inch cast iron skillet is perfect for this oven recipe!
Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe Card

Nutrition

Calories: 522kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 92mg | Sodium: 541mg | Potassium: 386mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 1094IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 505mg | Iron: 1mg
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