Mac and cheese is a classic comfort dish that everyone seems to love. From kids to adults, it pleases the entire crew.
Sure, you can serve it as a side to a big meal, like your Thanksgiving dinner, but sometimes mac and cheese deserves to be the star.
Whether you make it from scratch, choose a frozen variety, or even bust out a box of the stuff, you can create a fantastic meal with the best sides for mac and cheese.
You might want to avoid serving another pasta or rice-based dish to go with it.
You may also want to avoid serving other creamy dishes, but if you’re putting a bunch of sides on your table, another rich side shouldn’t steal mac and cheese’s thunder.
Front and center on your table, you might be wondering what goes with mac and cheese? How do you pair it with the right mac and cheese sides?
Never fear, for we’ve got your covered with plenty of tasty sides to go with your mac and cheese that will round it out for a perfect meal.
What to Serve with Mac and Cheese: The List to Make You Drool!
Here are our favorite sides, whether you have a fresh batch or leftover mac and cheese, you’ll end up with a winner of dinner!
1. Cobb Salad
What could be better than chicken, bacon, eggs, blue cheese, and avocados all thrown together?
Perhaps nothing at all, except your homemade macaroni and cheese recipe!
And even if you’re simply microwaving a family-size tray of it, the beautiful presentation of a true Cobb salad will dazzle everyone.
It’s a hearty salad that will truly fill everyone up at your table, one that you’ll want to make again and again.
We love this recipe by Two Peas and Their Pod which shows you just how to make this classic salad!
2. Tunisian Vegetable Ragout with Quinoa
Quinoa eats like a grain but tastes like a carb. Believe it or not, it’s related to spinach!
It’s an awesome side for mac and cheese because of the contrasting flavors, plus it’s an easy way to eat more vegetables!
This amazing recipe by Fat Free Vegan gives you a taste of Tunisia with smoked paprika, cumin, harissa, turmeric, and a bounty of vegetables in a divine, all-vegan recipe.
3. Easy Chicken Caesar Salad
In a hurry to get dinner on the table? With your mac and cheese, you’ll have it made with Easy Chicken Caesar Salad as your side.
No bottled dressing for you! It’s so much better this way, just like at your favorite restaurant.
With this great side for mac and cheese, you’ll have a fabulous dinner ready to go in no time!
Entertaining with Beth shows you how to make it from scratch fast.
4. Roasted Brussels Sprouts Quinoa Salad
There’s something about roasted Brussels sprouts that we just love.
It elevates their flavor, making them a total mac and cheese side game-changer.
Mixed with quinoa and pomegranate seeds, this colorful and delicious recipe by Primavera Kitchen will add more depth to your dinner when you use it to serve with mac and cheese!
5. Scrambled Egg Toast with Roasted Asparagus
Healthy, quick, easy, and delicious, you might just want to call this side dish idea eggs-ellent!
Puns aside, we just love eggs for dinner.
Asparagus is such an elegant vegetable too, and if you have some in your fridge that you haven’t used up yet, get them ready to go.
Along with the toasted bread, it makes for a very filling macaroni and cheese side dish that everyone will most certainly enjoy.
Erin over at Well Plated shows you how she puts this one together. Check out her magnificence at: WellPlated.com
6. Classic Tomato Soup (Lightened Up!)
You can cut corners by serving your mac and cheese from a box or frozen tray, but when you do that, you have to make your other sides from scratch.
Tomato soup is a perfect pair for mac and cheese, but out of the can it’s full of sodium.
You probably have everything you need to make it in your pantry right now too.
And if you need to make it vegan, there’s details on it in the recipe!
Cookie and Kate shows you how to make it from scratch in this lightened up version that will have you wondering why you ever settled for the canned goop.
7. Baked Eggs in Tomato Cups
As we mentioned, we love eggs for dinner. And baking them inside tomatoes is a wonderful and easy way to make a macaroni and cheese side that everyone will adore.
Plus, when tomatoes are cooked, they’re an even better source of lycopene which is great for your health!
Katerina from Diethood makes it even easier with step-by-step instructions that you’ll be drooling over by the time you scroll down. See her at: Diethood.com
8. Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad
Fun fact: the Chinese food you get from your local takeout restaurant has been Americanized.
One of the best Chinese side dishes you’ll see everywhere in China is cucumber salad, made crushing cucumbers to unleash their full flavors and mixed with sesame oil, minced garlic, and rice vinegar.
This recipe from Omnivore’s Cookbook gives you the full details for a mac n’ cheese side that beautifully contrasts and adds a bit of fusion and variety to your dinner table.
9. Crispy Oven-Fried Garlic Mushrooms
With the richness of high-calorie oh-so-good mac and cheese, it’s important to have balance.
Fried mushrooms would be too much, but oven-fried? Now you’re talking! You’ll love these so much that you won’t be able to stop eating.
Which is fine since the coating is made from healthy things like almond flour and ground sunflower seeds.
If you’re wondering what goes with mac and cheese, this should definitely be part of your spread!
Just don’t forget to add some tasty dipping sauces for these fried mushrooms.
Stacy from Beauty and the Foodie has a fantastic recipe for oven-fried garlic mushrooms.
10. Coconut Milk Creamed Spinach
We absolutely love creamed spinach but with mac and cheese as the main, it might be overwhelming.
The taste is superb and just creamy and heavenly enough to be a mac and cheese side without overpowering it.
That’s why we were thrilled to find this recipe from Health Starts in the Kitchen which uses coconut oil and coconut milk to lighten things up.
11. Roasted Lemon Garlic Broccoli & Cauliflower
Easy? Check! Healthy? Check! Delicious? Check, check, and check!
Sometimes just keeping it simple is the way to go.
Just a few simple ingredients is all it takes to get restaurant-quality flavor.
Make sure you use fresh broccoli and cauliflower for the best possible taste!
You can have this mac and cheese side ready in no time at all, thanks to Crème de la Crumb.
12. Creamy Pea, Bacon, Pecan Salad
This delightful salad hits all the right notes. It’s lightly creamy and full of crunch from the bacon and pecans.
And how can you ever go wrong with bacon? It’s always so right!
Especially when you serve with mac and cheese! With all the textures and flavors, we’re betting there will be no leftovers with this side!
Check out this awesome recipe from Julia’s Album. This is one you’ll definitely want to click over to and try!
13. Roasted Garlic Parmesan Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are always a sure bet when it comes to sides for mac and cheese.
They’re robust while being healthy.
You only need a few ingredients to get cooking which makes it even better!
With this recipe from Together as Family, sweet potatoes are oven-roasted with garlic and parmesan for a taste the whole squad will love.
14. 5- Ingredient Corn Casserole
This is the perfect mac and cheese side when you’ve got a big crew to feed and need to round out the table with more food.
Think hungry teenagers back from soccer practice.
Corn casserole is always a hit and will make for a great complement to your mac and cheese.
Need something foolproof? Then go with this super-simple 5-ingredient recipe by Tastes of Lizzy T.
15. Ham and Bean Soup
And finally, we’ll leave you with one of our favorite recipe finds.
This ham and bean soup recipe takes just 15 minutes. Yes, you read that right.
So there’s no excuse not to at least have one homemade thing on your dinner table to be the perfect side for mac and cheese.
Created by Café Delites, once you taste how amazing 15-minute soup can be, you’ll make it every time.
What Goes with Mac and Cheese: More to the Story
Where Did Mac and Cheese Come from Anyway?
Most of us grew up on the boxed mac and cheese as kids on ordinary days.
And while we loved it and rejoiced when Mom said that’s what was for dinner, the only thing that made us happier was when she announced she was making it from scratch.
Out of box or completely homemade, there’s no denying mac and cheese is an American comfort food that everyone loves.
But how did it come to be?
Kraft first started making macaroni and cheese in its famous boxes back in 1937. But the first mac and cheese recipes ever known to man were from the late 13th century in Italy’s southern region.
Not surprising since it is made with pasta. In a publishing called Liber de coquina, there is a recipe for something called ‘lasanis’ which experts surmise was the original template for mac and cheese.
The difference here was that this recipe was made from lasagna sheets (hence the name ‘lasanis’) which were cut into little squares about 2 inches big.
They were boiled as is usual for pasta and then tossed with grated cheese.
Of course, it arrived in America with Italian immigrants but that’s about all anyone can agree on.
There seems to be two different claims of mac and cheese as we know it in the states today. The first claims that it was served at a New England church’s potluck supper.
The more famous story though is that it came from southeastern Connecticut and was called macaroni pudding.
Accordingly, this version of macaroni and cheese went along with Thomas Jefferson back to Virginia after he spent time in Italy.
He’d brought along a pasta machine from his travels. When his daughter Mary Rudolph took over as hostess in the family house after her mother passed away, she is said to have invented the iconic American dish with macaroni and parmesan.
As time went on, parmesan was soon shoved to the side in favor of cheddar cheese.
While the second story has more merit, it is believed that this was contorted by rumors and that perhaps the more likely scenario was that Thomas Jefferson brought the recipe back with him from Italy after tasting it there.
As if we didn’t have enough to thank him for anyway!
Quick Tips for Mac and Cheese from Scratch
We certainly won’t judge you if you do make your mac and cheese from a box, the freezer, or buy it pre-made from your supermarket.
But if you do have the time to make your own from scratch, make sure you don’t overcook the pasta. Nothing is worse than mushy macaroni.
Also, don’t feel like you need to commit to macaroni as the pasta shape. You can make mac and cheese with other pasta varieties, though we suggest using tubular shapes as the cheese gets in there, making it extra gooey and delightful.
Go for it with the cheeses too. Using a mixture of different cheeses can totally heighten the mac and cheese experience.
And now that you have some ideas for what to serve with mac and cheese, you can enjoy a fulfilling dinner tonight!
Related Meals, More Great Sides
Check out these side dishes for your other favorite meals with pasta.
- Lasagna sides: A true hearty, pasta dish with a wide range of sides.
- Spaghetti sides: The king of pasta dishes for many of us.
What to Serve with Mac and Cheese
- Cobb Salad
- Vegetable Ragout
- Caesar Salad
- Quinoa Salad
- Egg Toast
- Tomato Soup
- Baked Eggs
- Cucumber Salad
- Oven-Fried Garlic Mushrooms
- Creamed Spinach
- Broccoli & Cauliflower
- Pecan Salad
- Sweet Potatoes
- Corn Casserole
- Bean Soup
- Choose your desired Mac and Cheese side dish recipe.
- Gather and organize needed ingredients.
- Create a tasty Mac and Cheese side to complete your meal!