Mac and Cheese Cups
These mini Mac and Cheese Cups are a fun hors d’ouerve for parties, and they’re easy to make using a mini muffin pan. This is homemade mac and cheese turned into fun finger food that makes for a great appetizer or pre-portioned side dish!
Seriously though, as a dish that you normally have to eat with a bowl and spoon, there is something really enjoyable about setting out a platter of these at a get together.
People always rave about these little bites. There’s something so fun about finger food appetizers like Coconut Shrimp and Bacon Wrapped Dates, and mac and cheese presented in this unique way is no different. Cheese recipes of any kind are always a huge hit at parties.
If you’ve seen recipes for baked pasta “pies” in the flavor of pasta carbonara, or classic red spaghetti, this is sort of like a mini version of that, with all the flavor of macaroni and cheese.
The trick to pulling these off is to make them more cheesy than saucy.
That way they hold together, and you can hold your mac and cheese cup in one hand and your glass of wine in the other!
That’s classy. We’re setting new standards today 😂
And since you all know I’m addicted to making recipes in my muffin tins (see Chicken Wonton Bites, Bacon Egg Cups, and Thanksgiving Stuffing Cups), it was time to take this American classic and present it in a fun, new way.
Step by Step Overview:
Begin by cooking the pasta according to package directions, with two minutes subtracted from the recommended cook time.
I usually bring water to a boil over high heat in a large pot, then cook elbow macaroni for for about 5 minutes, when the package directions say 7. This is because the noodles will cook further in the oven.
While the pasta cooks, grate your cheese. As with any dish with few ingredients, it’s important to use good quality components. This dish is all about the CHEESE!
I usually opt for a sharp cheddar, either white or yellow, depending on my mood.
Cracker Barrel aged reserve is my favorite, and you can find it at your local grocery store. Cabot seriously sharp is also excellent.
Can You Use Other Cheeses?
I like that cheddar cheese has great melting properties and flavor as well, but you can try to swap in a little bit of others to change things up. You can switch half the cheddar for mozzarella cheese, or one quarter of the cheddar for parmesan cheese, for a sharper flavor.
After you’ve grated your cheddar, melt butter with some paprika in a big pot or large saucepan over medium heat:
Add all purpose flour to make a roux, then whisk in some milk (whole milk preferred, but skim milk and low-fat milk also work).
Drain the mostly cooked al dente elbow macaroni and add it to the pot, along with your cheese.
That’s it, six ingredients! Pasta, butter, cheese, milk, flour, and paprika. So easy.
Cram big moundfuls of the pasta mixture into the cups of a mini muffin pan (affiliate) that has been coated with butter or cooking spray, then get ready to send them into the oven:
Bake them until they’re bubbly, gooey, and lightly golden brown around the edges.
Then top your muffin tin macaroni cups with some snipped chives or chopped scallion greens:
I like the color and flavor, but you can also sprinkle buttered bread crumbs on top if you prefer more of a crunch and crispy topping.
Let them cool for about 10 minutes in the muffin cup before attempting to take them out of the pan, then serve the baked macaroni promptly while warm.
They will dry out and get cold if left out too long, so try not to make them too far in advance. These also make for a great snack, or can be put into a lunch box for school!
Cheddar Scallion Biscuits, Potato Cheddar Frittata, and Broccoli Cheddar Soup are some of my other favorite cheddar cheese-focused recipes that certainly qualify as comfort food too. They are all easy recipes. Enjoy!
Recipe FAQ and Tips
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. They dry out easily so make sure it’s well sealed.
This recipe is developed for a mini muffin tin, so if you use a standard size, the cook time will be different. I also find that they don’t hold together as well since they’re larger. It’s possible but not recommended.
Mac and Cheese Cups
- 8 oz elbow macaroni
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- 1/4 tsp paprika (use smoked paprika if you have it)
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese grated
- chopped chives or scallions for garnish
- butter for greasing the pan
- Grease a nonstick mini muffin pan very well with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, then cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package says. My elbow macaroni said to cook for 7 minutes, so I drained it after 5.
- After you’ve cooked and drained the pasta, return the empty pasta pot to the heat and turn the heat down to medium. Melt the butter and add the paprika. Add the flour and stir the mixture around for 2 minutes. While whisking, add the milk. The mixture will be very thick, but that’s intentional. Just make sure you have stirred out any lumps. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cheeses and drained pasta, stirring it all together until the cheese and sauce are well distributed.
- Portion your mac and cheese into the muffin cups, either with a spoon or a 3-tbsp cookie scoop. Pack the mac and cheese into the muffin cups with your fingers really well. If you don’t pack the mac and cheese down, they won’t hold their shape when you take them out after baking, and you don’t want them to fall apart.
- Bake the mac and cheese cups for 15 minutes, until bubbling and gooey. Remove them to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes, then carefully run a plastic knife or toothpick (assuming you need to not destroy the nonstick coating on your pan) around the edges to loosen. Remove the mac and cheese cups from the pan and garnish with chopped chives or scallion greens. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in May 2019. Originally published June 2013.