Stovetop Gouda Mac and Cheese

By Jeri Mobley-Arias
November 30, 2023 | Updated on November 30, 2023

Making lusciously creamy gouda mac and cheese on the stovetop couldn’t be any easier. Skip the box of Kraft because this cheesy side dish tastes better and is ready in just 30 minutes.

Want another macaroni and cheese recipe? Try this Baked Mac and Cheese recipe next.

a bowl of gouda mac and cheese

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Gouda mac and cheese is the ultimate macaroni and cheese recipe. This is the recipe that comes to mind when I imagine gooey macaroni and cheese. Gouda is the best cheese for mac and cheese because it melts down to a velvety smooth sauce that’s as good as liquid gold.

This no-flour stovetop mac and cheese is incredibly creamy partially due to the cooking technique but there’s also a key ingredient that is essential to the recipe (keep scrolling to learn what it is). Making this on the stovetop ensures it stays perfectly creamy so you can gobble up each morsel by the spoonful!

Why This Gouda Mac and Cheese Recipe Works

  • Quick & Easy Homemade stovetop mac and cheese takes just 30 minutes to make, and that includes 10 minutes of prep work. There’s no roux required for this recipe either.
  • No Baking Required – No need to turn on the oven with this recipe so that’s one less dish to clean when dinner is done!
  • Kid Friendly – If your little ones are used to boxed mac and cheese, this has a similar look but far better quality. It’s also made with simple ingredients so picky eaters can enjoy its simplicity.
stovetop gouda mac and cheese in a bowl

Tools You’ll Need

Ingredients You Will Need for Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Although this is gouda mac and cheese, three cheeses are used to deepen the flavor and enrich the texture. We also use sodium citrate as a key ingredient.

  • Elbow macaroni – Elbows are the classic choice for macaroni and cheese.
  • Butter – Use unsalted so you can control the amount of sodium in this dish. The cheese itself is very salty.
  • Milk – Use a combination of heavy cream and whole milk.
  • Cheese – Use a mix of freshly shredded Cabot gouda, Cabot sharp cheddar, and parmigiano reggiano. Gouda has a rich, nutty flavor that complements sharp cheddar cheese. Parmigiano reggiano, also known as parmesan, offers a savory, salty taste that adds more flavor.
  • Seasoning – Season generously with garlic powder, ground mustard, smoked paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, ground nutmeg, and kosher salt to taste.
  • Sodium citrate Use this for a silky smooth sauce that won’t separate.
a plate full of seasonings

What is sodium citrate?

Sodium citrate is a food additive made of baking soda and citric acid. If you’ve ever eaten American cheese or Velveeta, and used it for hot cheese dips or mac and cheese, you’ve had sodium citrate.

It is often added to cheese dishes like Rotel Dip, Queso Dip with Chipotle, and Baked Mac and Cheese as an emulsifier, for silky smooth cheese. It ensures that cheese melts down smoothly without becoming stringy or grainy. It also prevents the separation of fats and proteins, for a cohesive cheese sauce. This is the specific brand I use.

How To Make Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Learn how to make gouda mac and cheese on the stovetop in just a few simple steps.

  1. Place garlic powder, mustard, smoked paprika, onion powder, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Stir and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. In a separate pot over medium heat, add butter. Small bowl of seasonings. Lower heat to low and keep a continuous stir for 1 minute to allow spices to bloom.
  3. Increase heat to medium. Add milk and heavy cream. Whisk to combine and cook for 4 minutes or until the mixture begins to bubble.
side by side images of cheese sauce for stovetop mac and cheese

4. Turn off heat. Add cheese in batches, about 1 cup at a time and keeping a continuous whisk until the cheese full melts. Do not rush this step. Repeat until all cheese is added and fully melted.

5. Meanwhile, add the pasta and cook until al-dente. You want the noodles to have a slight bite. Continue with cheese sauce.

cheese sauce in a large pot with a wooden spoon inserted

6. Turn heat to low and add sodium citrate. Whisk for 1 to 2 minutes or until you notice the cheese sauce becomes silky smooth. Season to taste with kosher salt.

7. Add well-drained cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and fold the mixture onto the noodles until thoroughly mixed. Serve immediately.

cooking gouda mac and cheese on the stovetop in a large dutch oven with a wooden spoon inserted

Tips and Tricks for the Best Gouda Mac and Cheese

  • Shred block cheese instead of buying pre-shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese doesn’t melt down well and has a grainy consistency.
  • Do not overcook the pasta. Cook the macaroni until just al dente. It will continue to cook when combined with the cheese sauce.
  • Taste test the cheese sauce. Do this before adding additional salt as the cheese and sodium citrate add enough balanced salt to the sauce. You can make adjustments if necessary.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat leftovers on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave. You may need to add a splash of milk if it’s gotten too thick from refrigeration.
a pot full of stovetop mac and cheese

Variations

  • Macaroni Instead of macaroni, you can use shells or cavatappi; all three noodles cling to the cheese sauce.
  • Milk You can use half and half or evaporated milk, just keep in mind that different kinds of milk yield different levels of creaminess. I don’t suggest using 2% milk or nonfat milk because they are too thin.
  • Cheese Swap the sharp cheddar or parmesan for white cheddar, Colby jack, gruyere, fontina, mozzarella, or Monterey jack.
  • Protein Add crumbled bacon bits just before finishing for bacon gouda mac and cheese.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is gouda a good melting cheese for mac and cheese?

Gouda is a great melting cheese for macaroni and cheese because it is naturally creamy.

Is cheddar or gouda better for mac and cheese?

Although cheddar is the classic choice for mac and cheese, gouda is a close second. Cheddar has a sharp tangy flavor, while gouda is milder with a nutty taste. Both cheeses melt easily and complement each other when used as a blend.

How do you make stovetop mac and cheese taste better?

For delicious macaroni and cheese, season the cheese with a variety of spices and use more than one cheese for more flavor.

Why is my stovetop mac and cheese gritty?

If your macaroni and cheese came out gritty, you either used pre-shredded cheese or forgot to add sodium nitrate to the cheese sauce. Shred the cheese by hand to avoid pesky additives that prevent the cheese from melting properly and use sodium nitrate to enrich the cheese sauce so it remains creamy.

close up view of gouda mac and cheese

Looking for More Cheesy Recipes?

Loving this Cheddar and Gouda Mac and Cheese Recipe?

There’s a reason this stovetop mac and cheese recipe is loved by all! Leave a comment below and share your love for this recipe on Instagram and Pinterest. We love to see you get down in the kitchen. Thank you for supporting Whisper of Yum and happy eating!

a bowl of gouda mac and cheese

Stovetop Gouda Mac and Cheese

Making lusciously creamy gouda mac and cheese on the stovetop couldn't be any easier. Skip the box of Kraft because this cheesy side dish tastes better and is ready in just 30 minutes.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Jeri Mobley-Arias
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • 2 Dutch Ovens or Large Pots
  • Chesse Grater
  • Whisk

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, can use shells, cavatappi
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 8 ounces Cabot gouda, shredded, do not use pre-shredded
  • 8 ounces Cabot sharp cheddar, shredded, do not use pre-shredded
  • 2 ounces parmigiano reggiano, shredded, do not use pre-shredded
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • teaspoon sodium citrate
  • kosher salt, to taste Diamond Crsytal

Instructions

  • Place garlic powder, mustard, smoked paprika, onion powder, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Stir and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • In a separate pot over medium heat, add butter. Small bowl of seasonings. Lower heat to low and keep a continuous stir for 1 minute to allow spices to bloom.
  • Increase heat to medium. Add milk and heavy cream. Whisk to combine and cook for 4 minutes or until the mixture begins to bubble.
  • Turn off heat. Add cheese in batches, about 1 cup at a time and keeping a continuous whisk until the cheese full melts. Do not rush this step. Repeat until all cheese is added and fully melted.
  • Meanwhile, add the pasta and cook until al-dente. You want the noodles to have a slight bite. Continue with cheese sauce.
  • Turn heat to low and add sodium citrate. Whisk for 1 to 2 minutes or until you notice the cheese sauce becomes silky smooth. Season to taste with kosher salt.
  • Add well-drained cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and fold the mixture onto the noodles until thoroughly mixed. Serve immediately.
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a bowl of gouda mac and cheese

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jeri-mobley

Hey, I'm Jeri!

At Whisper of Yum, we explore ALL cuisines - comfort foods, classics, elevated originals. If you love food like me, I invite you to settle in to this place, where swoon-worthy food is attainable + inspo for your next meal awaits.

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