Unexpected Ingredients That Go Great With Mac And Cheese

Biting into the delicious dish that is mac and cheese has always been a delight for children and adults. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the cheesy dish has been around "as long as there has been a United States of America." It's a classic dinner-table staple that complements meats and serves as a comfort dish for the entire family. 

It's easy to make the best mac and cheese ever — cheese of your choice, milk, butter and elbow macaroni will do the trick. But if you're hoping to transform the traditional recipe into an over-the-top creamy, cheesy and flavorful dish, adding a few unexpected ingredients will leave everyone wondering whether you're a Food Network star

We found 15 ingredients worth adding to your mac and cheese the next time you want to mix it up. But be warned: deliciousness may ensue.


Is there anything that doesn't go great with bacon? Other than being one of the most iconic breakfast foods in America, it is the perfect addition to a traditional macaroni and cheese recipe thanks to its saltiness and savoriness. You can prepare the bacon as crispy or flimsy as you'd like. Simply fry up a few pieces, chop it into bits and add it to your recipe. For a quicker solution, use store-bought bacon bits. And if you'd like to add a healthy spin to this meal, try your hands at a gluten-free bacon macaroni and cheese recipe

Cheese crackers

Cheez-Its or Goldfish or any brand of cheese cracker might not appear to go hand-in-hand with mac and cheese, but adding the snack to your recipe is an addition of crunch you never knew you needed. Mix breadcrumbs and crushed cheese crackers in a bowl with melted butter and sprinkle it on top of your mac and cheese before baking. The result is a creamy and crunchy mac and cheese recipe.

Ground beef

If you grew up in the '70s, you definitely remember Hamburger Helper. The product, launched in 1971, was a box of pasta and powdered sauce that only required adding ground beef for a classic family-friendly meal. Now you can bring this retro recipe back to life by adding ground beef to your macaroni and cheese recipe. Add a layer of the meat to your mac and cheese mix and bake at high heat. It'll be a nice, meaty surprise for all who cut into your dish.


Here's an unbiased opinion: potatoes are excellent when added to or on the side of any meal. So it only makes sense that adding them to your macaroni and cheese will take it to the next level. Our spicy "home fries" mac and cheese recipe combines cheesy potatoes with a traditional mac and cheese recipe. The savory concoction can be served for breakfast or dinner, and you'll never want to skip breakfast again with this dish on the table.


Add imitation crab or Alaskan crab meat to your mac and cheese recipe for a delicious, cheesy seafood dish.

Powdered mustard

Diehard Food Network fans might know Alton Brown as the culinary mastermind behind the popular cooking show "Good Eats." But if you're searching for a perfect recipe for classics like scrambled eggs or the best mac and cheese, Brown has the answers. His stove-top macaroni and cheese is one of Food Network's most-saved recipes. The secret ingredient? Powdered mustard. Whisk the powdered mustard into your milk and eggs mix before stirring in the pasta for a creamy treat.


If you're searching for the perfect game day recipe and you want to go above and beyond chips and dip, look no further than chili chip mac and cheese. Add a layer of your favorite chili or our Texas no-bean chili to your mac and cheese before baking and enjoy the finished dish with tortilla chips for a fun snack.


Gochujang is a fermented chile paste commonly used in Korean dishes. Its consistency and level of heat are similar to the popular condiment Sriracha. Add gochujang to your macaroni and cheese for a flavorful spin with a kick. Try our Go-Chu-Jang mac and cheese recipe to spice up your dinner table.

Ham and peas

Ham and peas might sound like its own dinner dish but trust us, when combined with macaroni and cheese, you'll realize it's also a perfect accompaniment. Add a cup of frozen peas and cooked chopped ham to your cheesy mix and your new tasty mac and cheese is good to go.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash is a rich but healthy ingredient that will make your mac and cheese more flavorful. Try our mac and cheese with butternut squash recipe for a fresh take on a classic dish.


If you really want to go all out and class up your dinner, lobster is a great addition to mac and cheese. The next time you're tasked with bringing food to a shindig and you want to impress guests, give our lobster mac and cheese recipe a try.


Much like ground beef, chorizo gives a savory spin to an American classic. The Spanish twist will leave your mac and cheese slightly spicy, but the cheese mixed with the meat will combine to make a flavorful meal. Our manchego mac and cheese with fresh chorizo recipe is a great place to start if you want to give the delicious concoction a try.


If you're a fan of spicy foods and you want to amp up your mac and cheese, add diced jalapenos. The result might leave you sweating, but it's worth every bite. Our spicy three-cheese mac and cheese recipe will give you the heat you're looking for.

Pesto sauce

Pesto might appear to be best enjoyed with pasta on its own, but when mixed with mac and cheese, the result is a cheesy, creamy dish that'll spruce up basic mac and cheese. Give our pesto mac and cheese recipe a try if you're feeling creative.

Buffalo chicken

Buffalo chicken will give your mac and cheese a spicy and savory kick. It can be enjoyed on game day, at parties, or at dinner with the entire family. And if you have chicken from a previous meal, buffalo chicken mac and cheese is a great way to put that food to use. Chop up your leftovers into fine pieces, add it to your mac and cheese mixture before baking and ta-da, it's just one brilliant way to use up leftover chicken.

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