Have you ever gone to make mac and cheese, only to stare blankly at the collection of spices in your cabinet, unsure of how to craft the perfect flavor concoction?
Well, consider this article a beacon of help.
Here you’ll find insight on what spices work best when it comes to spicing up your go-to mac and cheese dish.
From savory herbs to zesty dried peppers, we’ve got all the tips and tricks for making your mac and cheese stand out from the crowd.
Read on to unlock all the secrets of perfecting your favorite dish.
Benefits of Putting Spices in Mac and Cheese
Adding different spices to mac and cheese can truly elevate the flavor of this classic dish.
Whether you’re using store bought macaroni and cheese or a homemade version, spicing up the flavors with herbs and spices is sure to be a hit.
Spices can add incredible flavor, as well as health benefits.
Using spices instead of processed ingredients also helps keep your dish healthy.
Different seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and basil contain anti-inflammatory agents that work against inflammation caused by unhealthy fats in the body.
Additionally, various spices have antioxidants to help prevent cell damage from free radicals in the body.
What Spices to Put in Mac and Cheese? 10 BEST Options
Adding spices to mac and cheese can drastically enhance the flavor of the dish.
The addition of savory and earthy flavors can transform a traditional macaroni and cheese recipe into an exciting, flavorful main course.
Here are 10 of the best spices to add to your macaroni and cheese recipe.
Basil is a great addition to mac and cheese.
Use dry basil for a more intense flavor or finely chopped fresh basil for a milder taste.
Basil pairs especially well with other Italian herbs such as oregano, garlic, and rosemary.
You can add it during the cooking process or sprinkle it freshly on top of your mac and cheese before serving.
Adding too much basil can make your mac and cheese dish tastes bitter, so start small and add to taste.
Oregano is a popular culinary herb that pairs incredibly well with the flavors of mac and cheese.
Adding oregano to your mac and cheese will give it an earthy, citrus-like flavor.
It’s also known for having antiseptic properties and can help make your dish more digestible.
A little bit of oregano goes a long way, so start with just a pinch or two before adding more to suit your taste.
Be sure to add oregano at the end of the cooking process or you may lose its flavor.
3. White pepper
One of the more pungent spices is white pepper.
It gives a flavor to mac and cheese similar to black pepper, but with less heat and a more earthy taste.
White pepper can be used either as a powder or ground into small flakes.
For maximum effect, whole peppercorns can also be boiled in milk then strained before being added to the cheese sauce.
When using white pepper, it is generally best to add it at the beginning of cooking so that the flavor can develop while cooking.
This will help heighten the flavor of your mac and cheese significantly with only a small amount added.
4. Cayenne powder
Cayenne powder made from ground capsicum annuum peppers, creates a fiery and mildly sweet flavor.
Cayenne adds an extra layer of flavor to any dish, elevating the other ingredients while creating a pleasant heat and aroma.
Because it is quite strong, you should use cayenne sparingly if you would like to avoid an intense spice level.
A sprinkle of cayenne will add a hint of smokiness as well as complex flavors that are far more interesting than adding salt alone.
This spice pairs excellently with cheese dishes and is particularly recommended with mac ‘n’ cheese for added zest.
5. Chopped jalapeño
Chopped jalapeños add a little heat and flavor to any macaroni and cheese dish.
Not everyone loves a spicy dish, so it’s best to stick to the milder varieties of jalapeños.
They can be dried, fresh or pickled.
When adding them to your dish, be sure to mince them finely so the spice of the pepper isn’t too aggressive.
And adjust the quantity according to taste — start off with not too much and then add more if needed once you have tasted it cooked.
6. Chili powder
Chili powder is a spice blend made from dried chilies and other ingredients such as cumin, oregano, garlic powder and black pepper.
It provides a subtle but unmistakable chili flavor to macaroni and cheese that is both comforting and delicious.
Try adding a few pinches of chili powder to your macaroni and cheese while it’s cooking or sprinkle over the top before serving for a burst of flavor.
You can also experiment with combining different spices to create your own unique blend of chili-based mac and cheese seasoning.
Paprika is a spice blend made from ground peppers and is extremely versatile, making it great to add to mac and cheese.
It has a mild flavor and provides color to the dish.
It goes particularly well with mature cheddar or Parmesan cheese, but you can use it in combination with other flavors such as nutmeg, thyme, red pepper flakes or cayenne.
Paprika can be added at the end of the cooking process to give a touch of heat that complements the creaminess of cheese sauce.
If you want more color, try smoked paprika which provides an intriguing smokiness to your dish.
Marjoram is a light and aromatic herb that is related to oregano, but has a more delicate flavor.
It can be used fresh or dried, and adds a wonderful vibrant flavor to macaroni and cheese dishes.
The leaves are usually used, and the flavor pairs nicely with other ingredients like garlic, onion, thyme, parsley and basil.
When sprinkling Marjoram on top of your mac and cheese dish for garnish or added flavor, it’s best to use it in small doses as it has quite a strong taste if too much is used.
Too much marjoram can make your dish bitter, so be sure to taste test before serving.
9. Garlic Powder
Garlic powder is perfect for giving your mac and cheese a subtle, savory flavor.
This pantry staple is one of the oldest known seasoning agents, dating back to as early as 3000 BCE in Ancient Egypt.
Adding just a pinch of garlic powder can take your dish from average to gourmet.
To start, use 1/4 teaspoon and adjust to taste from there.
Garlic powder is also great for adding depth of flavor to many other dishes such as pizza, chili, sauces, and so much more.
Nutmeg is a very versatile ingredient, making it the ideal addition to macaroni and cheese.
Adding a small bit of nutmeg to your mac and cheese will give it a unique flavor and make it stand out from the crowd.
It also helps balance out some of the other ingredients in the dish.
When using nutmeg in macaroni and cheese, use just a pinch as it can overpower other flavors if you’re not careful.
You can find nutmeg already ground or you can buy whole nutmegs and grind them yourself for a fresher flavor.
In conclusion, adding spices and other seasonings to mac and cheese is a great way to take a classic comfort food dish to the next level.
With an array of flavors and textures, you can customize your mac and cheese for any occasion.
No matter the combination of spices you choose, the best mac and cheese will satisfy all flavor preferences.
From sweet cinnamon sugar to spicy chipotle chili powder, there are so many ways to get creative with your mac-and-cheese recipes using these top rated spices.
Always be sure to taste as you go so that your spice balance stays in check.