If you’re in search of an ultra indulgent mac and cheese recipe, you’ve come to the right place! This Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese is a super easy baked mac and cheese recipe with a creamy, luscious cheese sauce seasoned with zesty, bold ranch seasoning, smoky, salty bacon and a duo of cheddar cheese and cream cheese for a sharp and tangy flavor combination.
Cheddar Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese Recipe
If it seems like I share a new mac and cheese recipe on the blog every week… well, that’s kind of because I have been!
Today’s cheddar bacon ranch mac and cheese is the latest of 8 mac and cheese recipes that I’ve shared on the blog – and there are still three more coming up soon.
Once you get the hang of making homemade mac and cheese, it really only takes about 10 minutes extra compared to making the boxed kind. And I think we can all agree that from-scratch mac and cheese tastes worlds better than anything in a little blue box.
Cheddar, bacon and ranch is always a crowd-pleasing flavor combination so incorporating it into a mac and cheese makes for an amazing comfort food dish. Enjoy it as a side dish or add some protein to make it a main meal.
There are so many flavor elements in this one dish that it might seem like it would be disjointed and too much, but they all come together beautifully to create a mouth-watering mac and cheese. You’ve got rich, tangy cream cheese; bold, sharp cheddar cheese; smoky, salty bacon; zesty homemade ranch seasoning – it’s a far departure from a classic mac and cheese, but for some reason, it just works.
Note: A lot of people call recipes with the combination of ranch seasoning, cheese and bacon a “crack recipe”, due to the “addictive” flavor, and would call this a “Crack Mac and Cheese” or I’ve seen “Crack Mac” – but I just prefer to use the very long-winded term “Cheddar, Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese.” Use whichever term you prefer – it will still taste the same! (A rose by any other name, right?)
Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese Variations:
- use broth instead of water to boil the noodles
- swap out the ranch seasoning for your favorite seasonings or add even more to the recipe – like red chile flakes or cayenne pepper
- add protein – chicken, sausage or steak would be my preferences
- switch out the cheddar and cream cheeses for a different combination of cheeses (the cream cheese can be swapped out for ricotta or creamed cottage cheese)
- add some steamed veggies like broccoli
- add a bread crumb topping by melting 2 Tablespoons of butter in a skillet and add about 1 cup of bread crumbs to toast until lightly golden before adding to your mac and cheese. I personally love crushing fried onions over my mac and cheese
- or simply crush some Ritz crackers overtop before baking
- omit the bacon for a vegetarian version
- add a hit of spice with jalapeños, hot sauce or cayenne pepper
Keep leftover mac and cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. If the cheese sauce seems somewhat dry, add a few tablespoons of milk to add some moisture back in to the recipe.
Can you freeze mac and cheese? You can freeze the cheese sauce on it’s own, but freezing with the pasta will result in a soggy, grainy mac and cheese. Freeze in an airtight freezer container and allow to thaw at room temperature before reheating and mixing with freshly cooked pasta. (This set of freezer containers is a crazy bargain.)
A few tips to keep in mind while preparing this three cheese mac and cheese:
- do not rinse your pasta after boiling – this removes the starch needed for the sauce to stick to the pasta
- shred your cheese yourself as pre-shredded cheese often uses ingredients to prevent clumping that also end up thickening your sauce and preventing the cheese from melting as uniformly
- to make this recipe gluten-free, swap the flour for cornstarch and use gluten-free pasta noodles
- err on the side of under boiling and under baking the pasta. You want some crunchy golden spots on the cheese topping, but over-baking the pasta will start to make the cheese sauce clumpy and less creamy. Over boiling the pasta beyond el dente will result in a mushy mac and cheese after the final baking.
- as always, I highly recommend tasting your recipe throughout the preparation process so you can correct over- or under-seasoning.
Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Elbow noodles, uncooked
- All-Purpose Flour
- Heavy Whipping Cream
- Ranch Seasoning <– grab our homemade ranch seasoning recipe here
- Cream Cheese, cut into slices
- Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- Cooked Bacon, chopped
- Green Onions, sliced thinly
Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.
Tip: add a bread crumb topping by melting 2 Tablespoons of butter in a skillet and add about 1 cup of bread crumbs to toast until lightly golden before adding to your mac and cheese.
Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Cutting Board
- Sharp Kitchen Knife
- Large Pot
- Medium-Sized Saucepan
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula <— I like these spatulas because they are one solid piece and don’t have removable heads for bacteria to get trapped underneath. Plus they are heat-resistant and have a lifetime warranty
- Casserole Dish
How to Make Crack Mac and Cheese
Preheat oven to 325F
Grease a 9” x 13” casserole dish or two 8″ square dishes. Set aside.
In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat.
Meanwhile, in a separate pot, prepare the macaroni according to package directions.
Once the butter is melted, whisk in flour to form a roux (paste).
Whisk in the milk and cream and set heat to medium-high.
Whisk in 2 cups of the shredded cheddar cheese as well as the cream cheese (to personal taste) and ranch seasoning. Continue whisking as the mixture cooks and thickens.
Drain the pasta but do not rinse.
When the cheese has completely melted into the sauce, pour the sauce over the cooked macaroni.
Add most of the chopped bacon and green onions and stir to combine.
Fold the macaroni and cheese into the prepared casserole dish.
Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese, plus reserved chopped bacon and green onions.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese on top is browned and completely melted.
Grab your free printable recipe card for our homemade bacon ranch mac and cheese recipe:
- 4 cups elbow noodles, uncooked
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 3 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 cups Milk
- 1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1 Tablespoon Ranch Seasoning
- 4 to 8 oz Cream Cheese, cut into slices
- 3 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- 6 slices Cooked Bacon, chopped
- 2 Green Onions, sliced thinly
- Preheat oven to 325F
- Grease a 9” x 13” casserole dish or two 8" square dishes. Set aside.
- In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, in a separate pot, prepare the macaroni according to package directions.
- Once the butter is melted, whisk in flour to form a roux (paste).
- Whisk in the milk and cream and set heat to medium-high.
- Whisk in 2 cups of the shredded cheddar cheese as well as the cream cheese (to personal taste) and ranch seasoning. Continue whisking as the mixture cooks and thickens.
- Drain the pasta but do not rinse.
- When the cheese has completely melted into the sauce, pour the sauce over the cooked macaroni.
- Add most of the chopped bacon and green onions and stir to combine.
- Fold the macaroni and cheese into the prepared casserole dish.
- Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese, plus reserved chopped bacon and green onions.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese on top is browned and completely melt
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 857Total Fat: 68gSaturated Fat: 39gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 197mgSodium: 944mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 27g
Sugar, Spice and Glitter uses an auto-generate nutrition calculator. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate unless analyzed in a scientific lab, so these should be considered more of a guideline than medical information.
I hope your family loves this easy baked mac and cheese recipe as much as mine does!
For more perfect pastas, check out our full pasta recipe collection here:
For more scrumptious side dishes, check out our full side dish recipe collection here: