Five Tasty Mac and Cheese Variations

Macaroni and cheese is a classic family favourite in so many parts of the world. It’s also one of the most versatile dinner options since you can change up mac and cheese in so many ways. Let’s find out how!

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

mac and cheese with bacon
mac and cheese with bacon

Tasty Mac and Cheese Variations

There are so many options on how to make it your own, you’re spoilt for choice.

Customize the dish by switching the pasta or combining cheeses to enhance the flavour. You can also add an endless combination of vegetables, protein, and seasonings.

And for people with special diets, it’s easy to make amazing vegan or vegetarian versions of macaroni and cheese too. Best of all, you can add what you have in your fridge, freezer or pantry, cutting down that your grocery bill.

Pasta Options

This is rather obvious, isn’t it?

I know it’s called “macaroni and cheese,” but you don’t really have to limit the dish to traditional elbow macaroni noodles. Here are some different pasta options to try that’s going to liven up this dish to no end:

  • Pasta shells
  • Cavatappi
  • Farfalle (bow ties)
  • Penne
  • Ziti
  • Rigatoni
  • Orzo
  • Rotini

If you have dietary sensitivity, use whole-wheat pasta or avoid gluten by substituting grain-free options like gluten-free or chickpea pasta. You can also use a spiralizer to create zoodles, which are noodles made from fresh zucchini. Which were all the rage a few years ago.

a sprinkle of curry powder or paprika works a treat


While there are dozens of different cheeses, here are some great choices for macaroni and cheese dishes:

  • Cheddar (sharp or mild)
  • Mozzarella
  • Havarti
  • Brie
  • Gruyere
  • Parmesan
  • Gouda
  • Blue Cheese is also good too

Experiment with different cheeses to find your family’s favourite flavour combinations.

Meat, Seafood and Protein

Here are some protein options to add to your macaroni and cheese:

  • Ground beef
  • Chicken or turkey
  • Bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto
  • Smoked sausage
  • Ham
  • Canned tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Shrimp
  • Lobster
  • Crab meat
  • Egg
  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • White beans

While meat is an easy and obvious way to add extra protein, some vegetables like peas, corn, and mushrooms are high in protein. With 6 grams of protein per egg, including an egg in your mac and cheese can add flavour and protein to your entrée.

Adding protein is also a great way to use up leftovers. Put leftover ground beef into a macaroni casserole, or dice or shred chicken or turkey and mix it into the macaroni and cheese.


To freshen up your mac and cheese and give it a healthy spin, you can add tasty vegetables from the garden or grocery store, such as:

  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Spinach

From your Pantry

Use up some of these staples when you’re making your meal:

  • Bread crumbs
  • Crackers
  • Salsa
  • Pesto
  • Spices
  • Canned soup

Spices can drastically change the taste of your macaroni dish. Add garlic or Italian seasonings for a savoury dish, or throw in some Cajun spices to make a meal with a kick. Impress guests with a pizza-style macaroni dish topped with sausage and pepperoni, or create an Italian version with pancetta and pecorino cheese. You can even add a can of cream of bacon soup to make this delicious bacon mac and cheese.

Use these suggestions to experiment with noodles, cheese, protein, and other flavourful additions. Your family will surely enjoy some of these fun and tasty mac and cheese variations. And totally thank you for it!

Pasta Ideas on LinsFood

Easy Canned Tuna Pasta (15-minute Pantry Recipe)
A super easy pantry recipe using ingredients many of you will have at hand, pasta and canned tuna.
Get the Recipe!
Easy canned tuna pasta, pantry recipe
Pasta with Marinated Vegetables (a Pasta Recipe for All Seasons)
This Pasta with Marinated Vegetables is a pasta recipe for all seasons. It is one of my go-to lazy lunches, whether for the family or when friends drop by unannounced.
Get the Recipe!
Pasta with Marinated Vegetables

Share this with someone who'll love it!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *