Side Dishes

August 4, 2021

Beer Mac'n'Cheese

This Beer Mac’n’Cheese could be the next star at your game-day spread, holiday table, or even just a weekend dinner. It’s a new twist on tradition, but easily adapted to a “regular” mac’n’cheese, too.

In my family, mac’n’cheese made frequent appearances on the dinner table. At home, it came from a box (you know the kind). At grandma’s house, it didn’t come from a box, but it did use the cheese in a box (you know the kind). Still, grandma’s mac’n’cheese was the gold-standard because it was extra creamy and had crispy edges around the pan, which we all fought over. And she knew that making it was a sure-fire way to get us to come for dinner.

Some time as an adult, I started making my own mac’n’cheese, developing a recipe over time that uses real cheeses. My absolute favorite cheese for making mac’n’cheese is extra sharp cheddar (and if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, it has to be the brand that comes in the black packaging - if you know, you know). This recipe has easily become one of my-most requested dishes from my family for birthdays and holidays.

In this version, I combine milk and beer for the liquid, to make Beer Mac’n’Cheese. This version came about for a Super Bowl party one year, and it was a touchdown. You can totally skip the beer, and replace it with low-sodium broth to make a more traditional version of mac’n’cheese. The beer addition is a fun twist, and perfect for game-day spreads or parties. (Note: I have absolutely made this gluten-free with no trouble, using gluten-free pasta, gluten-free 1:1 flour, and gluten-free beer!).

Ingredients assembled for beer mac and cheese
Assemble and prep your ingredients.

Stages of making the cheese sauce for the mac
Make your cheese sauce (see Step 3 below).

Cooked pasta stirred into prepared cheese sauce
Stir cooked pasta into cheese sauce...mmm, cheese sauce.

Finished, baked mac and cheese with crispy bread crumb topping
Top with bread crumbs and bake until golden.
Beer mac and cheese served with sriracha and pickled jalapeños
I like my mac with a spicy kick! Here I've drizzled it with sriracha and topped it with pickled jalapeños.

Original publication date: November 23, 2020

Beer Mac'n'Cheese

This Beer Mac’n’Cheese could be the next star at your game-day spread, holiday table, or even just a weekend dinner.


Kira Freed - The Joyful Plateful











12 oz. short-cut pasta, such as elbow macaroni (see note)

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (see note)

1 1/2 cups milk

12 oz. (1 1/2 cups) lager beer (see note)

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dry mustard powder

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

12 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

For topping:

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook your pasta according to package directions, making sure to not overcook it. Stop right at al dente, as the pasta will continue to cook in the cheese sauce. Set cooked, drained pasta aside.
  3. Prepare the cheese sauce. Start by melting butter over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottom pot such as a Dutch oven. Once butter is melted and just beginning to bubble, at flour, whisking to combine. Stir the butter and flour mixture frequently for about 1-2 minutes, which helps cook out the raw flavor of the flour. Whisk in milk and beer, and whisk to combine with the butter-flour mixture (roux). Stir frequently until thickened. Once sauce becomes thick, add all the spices, and stir to combine. Stir grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses in one handful at a time, until melted. Remove from heat.
  4. Add reserved, cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to combine. If you are using an oven-safe pot such as a Dutch oven, you can leave your mac’n’cheese in the pot to bake in the oven. Or, at this point you can transfer your mac’n’cheese mixture to a greased 9x13” baking dish to finish in the oven.
  5. Assemble the topping: melt butter, then pour it over the panko bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine and coat bread crumbs in melted butter. Spread topping evenly over the mac’n’cheese.
  6. Bake mac’n’cheese at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, until edges are brown and bubbling. If you like your topping extra crunchy, finish your mac’n’cheese under the broiler (watching closely so you don’t burn it!).
  7. Serve as it is, or garnished with your favorite additions, such as hot sauce, crumbled bleu cheese, or candied or fried jalapeños (my favorite!).


  • You can certainly substitute your favorite gluten-free pasta, flour, and beer in this recipe. I have had great success using a variety of gluten-free pastas, gluten-free all-purpose 1:1 flour, and gluten-free beer.
  • You can substitute low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth for the beer if you want to make a traditional mac’n’cheese.
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