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What to Serve with Macaroni and Cheese: 21 Delicious Main Dishes & Side Dishes

When you’re trying to figure out what to serve with macaroni and cheese, you should first decide whether it’s going to be your main dish or a side. My family likes this yummy pasta dish either way, so it’s completely up to you.

serving macaroni and cheese from the pan

I typically choose one of the many classic American recipes in my rotation to go with the mac and cheese and then include something else that adds color to the plate.

For example, I might serve these crispy chicken thighs along with a colorful salad, such as this watermelon cucumber salad.

chicken thighs in an air fryer
Watermelon cucumber salad on a plate

However, if the mac and cheese is the main dish, I’m more likely to add a couple of vegetables and then maybe some sort of bread.

Since I have to be gluten-free, I enjoy this cloud bread or a slice of this delicious southern-style cornbread.

cloud bread stacked on a plate
Slice of cornbread on a plate

Whatever the case, it’s best to pick something your whole family or group of friends will eat. Below you’ll find a bunch of options to try. Or maybe they’ll inspire you and give you other ideas.

Best Baked Mac and Cheese

The most important thing to do is make some amazing macaroni and cheese.

This baked mac and cheese casserole is one that I make often. In fact, it’s my absolute favorite mac and cheese.

Or you can add other ingredients and make this mac and cheese with ham.

There are so many different ways to make macaroni and cheese. You can use all cheddar cheese or add feta cheese for extra flavor. You can even use parmesan, but if you do, I recommend mixing it with cheddar to balance the strong flavor.

dishes to serve with macaroni and cheese

Variety of Ways to Make Mac and Cheese

Another thing you can do is make a white sauce with Monterey Jack cheese and buttermilk. For extra gooey sauce, mix in some mozzarella cheese.

I normally use butter, but you can also use olive oil. This does alter the flavor a bit, but we like it.

Whatever macaroni and cheese recipe you use, make sure you have a recipe card for it in case you want to make it again. Otherwise, you might forget what you did.

Start with either regular macaroni or one that’s gluten-free. Many of the national brands make pasta for people who can’t tolerate wheat or wheat products.

I like to make mine in a large pan, Dutch oven, or casserole dish so I can have plenty of leftovers. However, if you’re feeding a lot of people, you might not have any left.

If you want to mix something into the mac and cheese to cut back on the carbs and increase the nutrition, consider using butternut squash or cauliflower. For the cheese sauce, you can use cream, regular milk, skim milk, or almond milk.

When I make a mac and cheese casserole, sometimes I top it with a mixture of shredded cheese and bread crumbs. But not always. Plain ol’ shredded cheese works just fine all by itself. 

Offer Options When Serving Macaroni and Cheese

My easy macaroni and cheese casserole is delicious with or without the crunch because I bake it until the top turns a golden brown. Every bite is so satisfying!

Although you can make a full meal out of a bowl of macaroni and cheese, I think it’s a good idea to include some sides.

You don’t have to offer a lot of different dishes. Choose foods that add color to the plate to make the meal a more satisfying experience.

You can also set aside a bowl of cooked plain macaroni for anyone who can’t have dairy products. If you offer a few add-ons, such as bacon bits, garlic salt, or ham, the person can doctor it up according to his or her personal taste.

Main Dish Recipes to Go with Macaroni and Cheese

Barbecue Pork Chops – If you can’t decide whether to serve macaroni and cheese, potato salad, or sweet potatoes with any main dish, go ahead and serve all of them. Sometimes you just need a little extra comfort.

Hot Dogs – Serve hot dogs on buns to go with the macaroni and cheese. Or another great option is to chop up the hot dogs and cook them with the macaroni and cheese.

Juicy Meatloaf – This recipe is on my friend Julie’s Back to My Southern Roots blog, and it’s extremely yummy.

Pork Tenderloin – When I see these on sale at the grocery store I usually pick up several. They’re delicious cooked in a slow cooker or in the oven.

barbecue pork tenderloin - perfect main dish to serve with macaroni and cheese

Roast Beef – Cook the roast yourself or get deli style thin roast for sandwiches.

Salmon Cakes – This is an easy recipe that you can cook on the stovetop or in the oven. Be sure to include some of this delicious tartar sauce along with some fresh lemon juice.

plate of salmon patties with tartar sauce

Chicken Strips – These delicious chicken tenders can be cut in half if you prefer to make homemade chicken nuggets.

They are absolutely delicious dipped in a barbecue sauce, creamy sauce, or even honey mustard dressing.

Actually, almost any salad dressing is good on chicken.

plate of oven-fried chicken strips to serve with macaroni and cheese

Side Dishes Perfect for Mac and Cheese

When you’re looking for something to serve with comforting Mac and cheese, don’t make it too difficult.

The best thing about all of my side dish recipes is that they are easy to make and delicious. 

Brussels Sprouts – A great way to enjoy Brussels sprouts is to roast them in your air fryer or oven. You only need a few simple ingredients to get a boatload of flavor.

bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts

Green Beans – I often steam some green beans and set them out in a bowl for those who want some. You can steam them in water or chicken broth on the stovetop or in your microwave.

Air Fryer Carrots – Although they’re a similar color to the macaroni and cheese, the nutritional value and amazing sweet flavor gives them the right to hold court on the table.

plate of air fried carrots

Garlic Zucchini Parmesan – Serve this dish with your mac and cheese, and you really don’t need anything else. 

Creamed Spinach – This is one of those vegetable dishes that gets more requests for the recipe than anything else I make … because it’s that good!

bowl of creamed spinach

Scrumptious Salads

A simple side salad is good with anything, including mac and cheese. And the good news is that many salads are packed wit nutritious ingredients, so you can feel good about adding them.

Coleslaw – Easy to make, this coleslaw adds lots of flavor and crunch to your meal.

Broccoli Slaw – Packed with nutrition, this colorful salad is perfect to serve with your favorite comfort food.

2 bowls of broccoli slaw with a spoon and a fork

Chickpea Salad – Did you know that chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are loaded with protein? This salad is perfect for any meal.

Greek Olive and Feta Salad – The tart flavors from this salad offset the creaminess of the mac and cheese.

Fruit Salad – Okay, so technically, this tastes like dessert. But since it’s loaded with fruit, we’re calling it a fruit salad.

creamy cool fruit salad in a bowl

Complementary Condiments to Serve with Macaroni and Cheese

Hot Sauce – Whether you like Frank’s or Tabasco, a splash of hot sauce livens up mac and cheese unlike anything else.

Salt and Black Pepper – Some people like to add salt and pepper to everything, so make sure you have some on the table.

Red Pepper Flakes – This is another condiment that adds heat to balance the creaminess.

Ketchup – Some people like ketchup on almost anything, and macaroni and cheese is no exception.

Mustard – Add a little zing to your mac and cheese with a bit of mustard—either regular or dijon. Or you can use dry mustard, but remember that a little bit goes a long way.

pan of mac and cheese

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