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Is it still mac and cheese if...

...you add other stuff to it? Silly question, I know. But of such things are snowy Sundays made.

I made mac and cheese last night, but I wanted more of a one dish meal, so I sauteed some onions, ham and broccoli and tossed that in with my mac. Used the same amount of cheese sauce and pasta as usual.

So is it mac and cheese? Or does it start to nudge into casserole territory?

BTW, I've been using sodium citrate for my mac and cheese lately, and this time I used beer for the liquid instead of milk or cream. Kind of awesome and still gloriously creamy without the fuss of making a bechamel or custard.

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  1. You can call it whatever you want, as long as it tastes good! How about Loaded Mac & Cheese (a nod to the beer as well as the extra ingredients)?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChiGal1962

      It tasted awesome -- and I *love* the term!

    2. please talk to me about using beer instead of milk. sounds like a slam dunk for my beer-loving b/f. is the ratio a 1:1 sub?

      9 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Yes, I used all beer and no milk. I used about 1.5 cups of beer, 2 tsp of sodium citrate and maybe 3 or 4 cups of cheese. I just grated up the cheese in my fridge and didn't really measure. I find that with the sodium citrate approach, the sauce can be much thinner than with a bechamel or custard, as it thickens up quite a bit as it cools after baking. To the sauce I also added some dry mustard, black pepper and cayenne pepper.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          What a great idea using beer instead of milk. I occasionally make a beer and cheddar fondue, just by heating beer, mixing grated cheese with a few tablespoons of flour, gradually adding the cheese into the beer and season with dry mustard, pepper, Worcestershire and cayenne. Could just dump that over pasta, bake until bubbly and call it mac and cheese. Thanks for the inspiration.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            I'm trying to understand this sodium citrate thing.
            I'm not aware of this as an ingredient.
            what is it? where do you get it? how do you use it in this case? and where did you get the idea to do it?

            1. re: femmevox

              Sodium citrate is an ingredient most often used in molecular gastronomy, but for the purposes of mac and cheese, it's an emulsifier and allows you to perfectly melt any cheese (as aged and hard as you'd like) into a gorgeous, creamy sauce that will never break. No need to make a bechamel or custard. So for my mac and cheese, I heat a liquid of my choice (water, milk, beer, etc.), dissolve a couple of teaspoons of sodium citrate, then whisk in grated cheese and any other seasonings. So easy and SO good.

              Here's an example where sodium citrate is used to make what are essentially velveeta cheese slices:


                  1. re: melpy

                    I Googled sodium citrate after reading this thread, and read that you can find it in the Kosher foods section of some supermarkets labeled as "sour salt," but you have to read the label to make sure you're not buying citric acid, which is occasionally also labeled as "sour salt" and wouldn't work the same way.

                    I intend to try this as well!

                  2. re: TorontoJo

                    There's a similar method that uses a thickener (xanthan gum or carrageenan), and you measure out the water and cook the pasta in the exact amount of water needed, along with a brick of your homemade "processed" cheese, which is great because you can use just about whatever cheese (combination) you want.


                    post by davis_sq_pro

                    I've made this, and it's fantastic.

            2. Sounds terrific!!

              I call my hangover Mac and Cheese with tuna and frozen peas "Mac and cheese."

              Unless you go off the grid crazy it still is.

              Beer! Yum!

              4 Replies
              1. re: C. Hamster

                +1 on the tuna and peas. I add crushed potato chips on top if I have any.

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    OK - now you're in casserole/hotdish territory -- it's the crushed potato chips that move it to a new category ;-)

                    1. re: MidwesternerTT

                      I don't think so -- lots of mac and cheese only has potato chips on top.

                      My son tops his with crushed cheezits and bacon.

              2. My new standard version is made with chipotle chilies and bacon. Unbelievably good!

                1. It's no longer "mac & cheese"

                  It's become "mac & cheese with onion, ham and broccoli"

                  Quite often we make "macaroni cheese with onion, courgettes and bacon"

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Harters

                    I do like the "loaded mac and cheese" moniker, as it covers all the bases.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      "Loaded" is only just starting to be used in British English in this context, as our language becomes more Americanised (or, I suppose, that should be Americanized).

                      1. re: Harters

                        As in drunk or full of something? Which usage is new?

                  2. Sure it is. I always augmented my Kraft dinner with ground beef or chicken breast, red peppers, mushrooms and hot sauce.

                    's all good eatings.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: linguafood

                      I love that you call it Kraft dinner! For you non-Canadians out there, Kraft Dinner = Kraft Macaroni 'n Cheese. Same product, different branding.

                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        That's because my Canadian friend introduced me to it :-)

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          It used to be called that here in the US fifty or so years ago; it was my favorite from-the-box food (if you don't count Chef Boy-Ar-Dee spaghetti kits, which are also NLA) under that name and I still call it that. I have been known to make an impromptu tuna casserole with that stuff, if I want tuna and don't have either noodles or Cream of Mushroom soup.

                      2. as long as it's good, you're not going to hell.

                        Pax Vobiscum.

                        1. We call it French Mac and Cheese based on this recipe which we watched a French chef (Pierre Franey) make on TV. It's our house mac and cheese now.

                          1. I'm not a devotee of mac and cheese, but I like your creativity. I would enjoy tasting your version of the dish because it has the other ingredients in it.

                            Since my wife of 53 years is of Italian descent, I've seen enough pasta for 3 lifetimes. My DNA does not contain Italian genes. Mac and cheese is not on our menu...ever!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ChiliDude

                              There is never enough pasta.
                              I could eat it three meals a day and never get bored.
                              However, I would get even fatter.

                            2. Yup, loaded mac & cheese. It's been around since the caveman days.

                              There's always the fancy versions with bread crumbs on top. I'm a big fan of just adding cream cheese in addition to the regular cheese. It adds creaminess but also an extra layer of salt that makes the taste pop out.

                              Bacon, ham, vegetables....all fair in love and mac & cheese

                              1. Well, yes, but don't call it "mac and cheese" alone. This misleads people who may not want the added ingredients. Call it "Mac and Cheese with _______."

                                I hate it when I go into a restaurant and order "mac and cheese" or Caesar salad and get some fancified version without any warning. I might have wanted to order the fancified versions anyway, but advise me ahead time so that I can make the choice.

                                1. Sorry for being late to the party.

                                  <So is it mac and cheese? Or does it start to nudge into casserole territory? >

                                  To be honest, I think it really depends on the amount of onion, ham and broccoli you have. If they contribute a small amount to the entire dish, then it is still mac and cheese. If they become an important tasting experience, then I would say it is casserole.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I've made mac and cheese from scratch and incorporated cauliflower florets, to make me feel less guilty about making a meal of it. It certainly still tastes like mac and cheese.

                                    I have a recipe from a vegetarian cookbook that is mac and cheese, but with cabbage, tomatoes, gruyere and fontina. This, to me, seems like a real stretch as "mac and cheese", but it sounds delicious nonetheless, and healthier than the noodles, cheese, butter, milk and flour standard.

                                  2. I've added everything from ham to hot dogs in mine; my favorite current version has a lot of chopped and sautéed onion and poblano pepper and de-juiced and chopped Roma tomato stirred into the sauce. Said sauce is just a 12 oz can of evaporated milk cooked down to about a cup, then a couple of kinds of cheese stirred in gently – most commonly sharp cheddar and Fontina, maybe 3/4 cup of each. Or more.

                                    Anyway, it's your kitchen and your dish. You could call it Charlie if you wanted to.