Mini Mac and Cheese Bites: Comfort Food Goes Handheld

One of my favorite things about macaroni and cheese is that you rarely find someone who didn’t grow up eating it as a kid.

It’s one of those classic recipes that practically everyone knows and loves.

Vertical image of a round gray serving platter with a scalloped edge topped with homemade bite-sized baked macaroni, on a gray surface with a piece of parchment paper topped with more of the appetizers, with a water glass at the bottom right corner of the frame, printed with orange and white text in the top third and at the bottom of the frame.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I sink my teeth into a bite of macaroni and cheese, I am taken right back to my mom’s kitchen table. It doesn’t matter whether it’s homemade or from a box, I remember being a kid, shoveling pasta covered in cheese sauce into my face like it was only yesterday.

Did you grow up with this classic recipe being homemade, or made from a box?

Vertical image of a stack of five golden baked macaroni and cheese bites, on a piece of parchment paper with scattered shreds of cheddar and more of the appetizers in the background on the paper and on a gray serving dish, against a mottled blue backdrop, on a dark gray surface.

For my mom, it was all about the boxed stuff. And I have to admit, I still love it.

However, as a somewhat responsible adult who is trying to be better about what’s being put into my body, I am all about the homemade macaroni recipes.

Vertical closely cropped oblique overhead image of baked macaroni and cheese bites piles on a round gray serving dish with a decorative scalloped edge, against a blue background.

The biggest surprise here is that making this pasta from scratch is actually a lot easier than you would think. Now, not only can you make it from scratch, you can turn it into something that is handheld.

I swear, whenever I make these tasty bites, they disappear in about 10 seconds flat.

Vertical image of mini baked macaroni bites on a white piece of parchment with scattered pieces of shredded cheddar, and on a gray display pedestal in the background, against a mottled blue backdrop.

Are you really surprised by that though? It’s basically a handheld version of your favorite comfort food, so it appeals to adults and kids alike.

Vertical close-up image of elbow macaroni with cheese sauce that has been baked in a mini muffin pan, on a crumpled piece of white parchment paper with scattered shreds of cheddar.

Here are a few tips to make these bites the best that they possibly can be:

  • Make sure that you don’t overcook the pasta. Nothing is worse than overcooked noodles, so you should cook them until they are al dente and no further. You want them to be a little underdone, because they will cook more in the oven when they are baked in the mini muffin cups.
  • Let the roux become golden, but not too brown. You don’t want to overcook the roux that acts as the base of the sauce, because it’ll add a bitter note to the final flavor.
  • Make sure the cheese is totally melted before removing the pan from the heat. When you add it, whisk and whisk and whisk until the sauce is smooth. You don’t want any unmelted chunks in the sauce, or the texture of the bites won’t be perfect.
  • If the sauce thickens up too much on you, be sure to whisk in a little more milk. Sometimes the thickness of the sauce can get away from you, so just whisk in about 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce is smooth and creamy.

The spices, cheese, and pasta all come together to make this recipe a true standout.

Vertical overhead image of a hand with manicured and polished nails holding a mini macaroni and cheese appetizer, with more in soft focus in the background on a piece of wrinkled white parchment paper, with scattered shreds of cheddar cheese, on a gray slate surface.

Pro Tip: you can even make this pasta recipe and serve it as is for dinner, if you want to. You don’t even have to make the mac and cheese into bites. I’ve done this before and stirred in some leftover cooked chicken. It’s unbelievably tasty, and satisfies that comfort food craving!

Vertical image of mini macaroni and cheese appetizers that have been baked in a muffin tin, with a bite taken out of one in the foreground, on parchment paper with scattered shredded pieces of cheddar, with more on a display pedestal in the background, against a mottled blue backdrop.

These make a fantastic appetizer or snack for parties and tailgating events on game day, but you can also serve them as a fun and interesting dinner option for the kids. Sometimes a little change-up in the program makes dinner more fun, you know what I’m saying?

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Overhead horizontal image of miniature baked macaroni appetizers on a crumpled piece of white parchment paper, with shredded cheddar cheese scattered on the surface, on a gray table.

Mini Mac and Cheese Bites


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 48 bites 1x

Description

There’s nothing like the comfort of a tasty mini mac and cheese bite fresh out of the oven. The dish that you grew up with is now bite-sized.


Scale

Ingredients

  • Cooking oil spray
  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 4 oz)
  • 1 cup whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 oz)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Spray four 12-cup mini muffin pans with cooking oil spray. (If you only have one, just refill the pan and bake in batches.)
  2. Cook the macaroni according to package directions until al dente. Be sure to avoid overcooking, as the pasta will cook more while it bakes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and continue cooking for 2 minutes while whisking constantly, to make a roux. Once golden brown, slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, whisking for 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk in both types of cheese until they are melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in egg, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and mustard powder. Stir in cooked macaroni and continue to stir until combined.
  5. Spoon macaroni into the muffin cups in slightly rounded tablespoons, gently pressing it into the cups.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes. Gently loosen each bite from the cup using a butter knife, then lift from the pan. Serve warm.

Notes

Adapted from Food and Wine.

  • Category: Bite-Sized
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Appetizers

Keywords: macaroni and cheese, cheddar, mozzarella

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Shred Cheese and Measure Out Remaining Ingredients

Shred 4 ounces of sharp cheddar. You should have 1 cup total.

Shred 4 ounces of mozzarella. You should end up with 1 cup total.

You can buy your cheese pre-shredded, but I like to use the shredding disc on my food processor for this. You could also use your box grater.

Horizontal overhead image of square and round glass and metal bowls of various sizes, filled with a raw egg, spices, flour, butter, shredded mozzarella and cheddar, milk, and uncooked elbow pasta, on a mottled dark blue-gray painted surface.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Preheat your oven to 425˚F. Grease four 12-cup mini muffin pans with cooking spray.

If you only have one pan, you will need to let it cool, clean out the pan, and grease it between batches.

Step 2 – Cook Macaroni

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions until the pasta is al dente.

The key is to make sure you avoid overcooking the pasta. Remember that it will cook a little more as it bakes.

Horizontal overhead closely cropped image of cooked elbow pasta draining in a metal colander, on a blue-gray surface.

Drain the pasta and set it aside. If you like, you can coat it with a little oil at this point, to keep it from sticking.

Step 3 – Make Sauce

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.

Overhead closely cropped close-up horizontal image of a silver wire whisk stirring a yellow flour and butter roux in the bottom of an enameled saucepan, on a sponge-painted blue surface with white speckles and streaks.

Once the roux is golden brown, whisk in the milk, adding it in a slow and steady steam. Be sure to whisk thoroughly, to remove any lumps. Continue to cook while whisking for 5 minutes.

Horizontal closely cropped overhead image of a wire whisk stirring a cream sauce in an enameled saucepan, on a blue-gray sponge-painted surface.

Whisk in the cheeses until they are completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool slightly, for about 5 minutes.

Closely cropped close-up overhead horizontal image of a silver metal whisk stirring a cheese sauce in an enameled pan, on a mottled blue-gray surface.

Whisk in the egg, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and mustard powder until combined.

Step 4 – Combine

Stir the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce until the noodles are covered completely.

Close-up overhead closely cropped horizontal image of a wooden spoon stirring cooked elbow macaroni into a homemade cheese sauce in a stainless steel mixing bowl, on a blue-gray surface.

Spoon the mixture into the mini muffin cups. You want to fill the cups, using about one tablespoonful per cup.

Overhead horizontal image of portion of elbow macaroni with cheese sauce evenly distributed in a metal mini muffin tin.

Gently press the mixture into each cup.

Step 5 – Bake

Bake for 10 minutes. The bites will be golden on top and around the edges when they are done.

Vertical overhead image of a gray serving platter of mini macaroni and cheese appetizers, with more on a white piece of parchment with pieces of scattered cheese at the base, on a gray background.

Remove the pans from the oven and set aside to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of each mini bite, then gently lift from the pan. Serve immediately.

Change Things Up with Your Favorite Cheeses

After you make these bites a few times, you might want to shake things up in terms of flavor. You can mess with some of the spices, but I like to change the flavor profile with the types of cheese that I use.

Instead of using sharp cheddar, you can use a milder version if that’s what you prefer. You can also substitute a spicy pepper jack, Mexican cheese blend, or Colby jack.

Try swapping out the mozzarella with Gruyere, or Swiss. Have some American in the cheese drawer? Tear up the slices and toss it in!

And if you want some meaty goodness, add some chopped cooked bacon, crumbled sausage patties, or crumbled meatballs (the recipe from our sweet and tangy meatballs would be perfect!)

Each combination brings a different element of creamy flavor to the mix, ensuring that this recipe will never be boring. As long as you have a quality melting cheese on hand, your options are basically limitless.

Overhead horizontal image of miniature baked macaroni appetizers on a crumpled piece of white parchment paper, with shredded cheddar cheese scattered on the surface, on a gray table.

For more delicious appetizer options that are hand-held and perfect for snacking, check out the following recipes:

What kind of cheese is your favorite to add to a creamy sauce for homemade macaroni and cheese? Tell us in the comments below. Once you try the recipe, be sure to come back to rate it here!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on March 24, 2011. Last updated: November 27, 2019 at 14:10 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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