Exploring Culinary Companions: What Goes with Mac and Cheese?

What goes with mac and cheese to make it even more delicious? This classic comfort food, beloved for its creamy, cheesy goodness, can be transformed into a complete meal with the right accompaniments.

Whether you’re looking to add some freshness with a side salad or go all out with a savory meat dish, there are countless ways to enhance your mac and cheese experience. Keep reading to discover some of the best pairings that will take your mac and cheese from good to unforgettable.

Fitting Main Course Matches for Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese dish on a table

Wondering what dishes pair best with mac and cheese? Look no further than these classic comfort foods that will bring out the best in your creamy, cheesy macaroni.

Barbecue Ribs

Picture this: juicy BBQ ribs alongside creamy mac and cheese. The smoky flavor of the ribs, enhanced by a sticky hickory glaze, pairs wonderfully with the rich, velvety texture of mac and cheese. This duo is a culinary classic, mixing contrasting textures and harmonious flavors for a truly satisfying meal.

BBQ Ribs with Mac and Cheese in tray placed on a table


For an ultimate comfort meal, combine meatloaf with mac and cheese. The hearty, flavorful meatloaf complements the soft creaminess of the mac and cheese, creating a combination that feels like a warm hug to your palate.

Related Article: For more ideas on what to serve with this classic dish, check out our guide on what to serve with meatloaf.

Pulled Pork

Elevate your comfort dining experience by pairing mac and cheese with tender, slow-cooked pulled pork. The succulence of pulled pork, with its rich barbecue flavors, melds perfectly with the creamy consistency of mac and cheese. It’s a combination that’s both hearty and heartwarming.

Related Article: For additional side dish ideas that complement this duo, be sure to check out our suggestions on what to serve with pulled pork.

What Goes with Mac and Cheese: Refreshing Salads

Let’s face it, mac and cheese is the quintessential comfort food. It’s rich, it’s creamy, and it can feel like a warm hug on a plate. But even the most die-hard cheese enthusiasts know that the best way to enjoy mac and cheese is to add a little greenery to the mix.

Here are some perfect salad pairings to brighten up your mac and cheese experience:


Coleslaw is another great side that pairs beautifully with mac and cheese. Its crisp texture and creamy dressing provide a refreshing counterbalance to the richness of the pasta. To learn more about what goes into making this classic side dish, check out our article on What’s in Coleslaw.

Harvest Salad

Enjoy a harvest salad alongside your mac and cheese for a delightful contrast. This salad features roasted sweet potatoes, crunchy pumpkin seeds, and is dressed with a tangy vinaigrette that cuts through the richness of mac and cheese, adding a sweet and earthy flavor to your meal.

Kale Caesar Salad

The bold flavors of a Kale Caesar Salad, with its robust Caesar dressing and hearty kale leaves, make it an excellent companion for mac and cheese. The crispness of the kale and the savory dressing refresh the palate between bites of creamy pasta.

Strawberry Arugula Salad

Combine the sweetness of fresh strawberries with the peppery bite of arugula, topped with slivered almonds and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. This Strawberry Arugula Salad introduces a fruity and tangy element that lightens up the meal, making each forkful of mac and cheese even more enjoyable.

bowl of strawberry arugula salad on a table.

Classic Greek Salad

A Classic Greek Salad brings a Mediterranean flair to your mac and cheese dinner. With juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, briny olives, and sharp feta cheese, all tossed in a zesty lemon-olive oil dressing, it offers a refreshing bite that complements the creamy pasta.

Greek salad with meat on a red plate.

Arugula Goat Cheese Salad

Light and peppery arugula paired with creamy goat cheese make for a simple yet sophisticated salad. The tanginess of the goat cheese and the peppery arugula enhance the creamy and mellow flavors of mac and cheese, making for a well-rounded dish.

What Goes with Mac and Cheese: Enticing Bread Pairings

Is your mac and cheese feeling a little lonely? Let’s change that. It’s high time to introduce some irresistible bread pairings that will transform your creamy pasta into a culinary extravaganza.

Garlic Bread

Imagine biting into a warm slice of garlic bread with its golden, buttery crust, the aroma of garlic and herbs wafting through the air. Now pair that with your savory mac and cheese and you’ve got yourself a match made in comfort food heaven.

Hand holding garlic bread.

The key to perfect garlic bread lies in the freshness of your ingredients. A baguette smothered with a mixture of melted butter, finely chopped fresh parsley, and minced garlic, then toasted until perfectly crisp, can escalate your mac and cheese from satisfying to divine.


Turning our attention to another classic, cornbread earns its place at the table with its slightly sweet, crumbly goodness that pairs impeccably with the creamy, cheesy lushness of mac and cheese.

Whether baked in a skillet for that irresistible crunchy edge or whipped up fluffy and light, cornbread offers a delightful textural contrast that makes it a necessary side in any bona fide Southern spread—or any meal for that matter.

What Goes with Mac and Cheese: Vegetable Variations

Mac and cheese, while a stand-alone favorite, pairs wonderfully with vegetable sides for a healthy and colorful addition to this comfort dish. Here’s how you can combine the creamy delight of mac and cheese with the robust flavors of various roasted vegetables:

Roasted Broccoli

Oven-roast broccoli florets with olive oil and sea salt to achieve a satisfying earthy flavor with a delightful crispness. This simple preparation brings out the natural sweetness of broccoli, making it a perfect complement to creamy mac and cheese.

Roasted Broccolini

Broccolini, roasted until the edges are crispy and golden, pairs wonderfully with mac and cheese. Roasted broccolini’s mild and peppery notes offer a sophisticated twist to the traditional mac and cheese experience.

Roasted broccolini with garlic on a dish.

Roasted Green Beans

Roasted green beans are a crunchy, vibrant side that brings a fresh snap to each bite. Lightly season with garlic and olive oil for a fragrant addition that complements the creamy pasta.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Toss Brussels sprouts in olive oil and roast them until they’re caramelized and crispy. Their nutty and slightly bitter flavor contrasts beautifully with the richness of mac and cheese, providing a complex flavor profile.

Roasted Brussel sprouts and bell peppers in a bowl.

Roasted Zucchini

Slices of zucchini roasted with herbs and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese offer a savory taste with a hint of umami. This pairing enhances the richness of mac and cheese with zucchini’s subtle flavors and soft texture.

Irresistible Toppings to Elevate Your Mac and Cheese

Ever find yourself staring at that creamy, dreamy bowl of mac and cheese thinking, “Let’s make this dish pop”? Whether you crave a bit of crunch, a touch of spice, or some extra creaminess, here are some top choices to make your mac and cheese even more irresistible:

Mac and Cheese topped with bacon and green pepper in bowl with spoon and chips  placed on a table
  • Crumbled Bacon: Add a crispy, smoky bite with crumbled bacon. It’s a crowd-pleaser that brings a rich flavor and crunchy texture to the creamy pasta.
  • Spiced Ham Bits: Toss in spiced ham bits for a savory touch with a hint of sweetness. This addition enhances the dish with a new depth of flavor.
  • Diced Pepperoni: For a slightly spicy and very meaty enhancement, sprinkle diced pepperoni over your mac and cheese. It’s perfect for adding a zesty kick.
  • Sautéed Mushrooms: Mix in sautéed mushrooms for an earthy flavor and a tender chew. They pair wonderfully with the richness of the cheese.
  • Chunky Salsa Con Queso: Dollop some chunky salsa con queso on top for a creamy texture with a vibrant, tangy flavor that cuts through the richness.
  • Warm Chili: Top your mac and cheese with warm chili for a hearty and satisfying upgrade. It’s an excellent way to add a bit of heat and a lot of flavors.

These toppings not only add exciting flavors and varied textures to your mac and cheese but also customize your meal to fit your taste preferences. Experiment with these additions to discover your favorite combination and turn your mac and cheese into a special dish every time.

Decadent Desserts to Follow Mac and Cheese

After savoring a comforting bowl of mac and cheese, why not end your meal with a delightful dessert? Here’s a guide to choosing the best desserts to complement your cheesy feast.

Light and Fruity Endings

For those who prefer a lighter dessert, fresh fruit makes an excellent choice. An assortment of seasonal fruits can cleanse the palate and refresh your taste after a rich meal. Alternatively, consider a cream cheese jello salad—its light, creamy texture and sweet flavor provide a refreshing contrast to the hearty main course.

Sweet Treats for the Chocolate Lovers

If you’re a chocolate lover, treat yourself to a decadent finale. Flourless chocolate cookies are a superb option for those who adore deep, rich flavors. Brownies, with their fudgy centers and slightly crusty tops, are always a hit. For something extra special, try buckeye turtle brownies— a delightful mix of chocolate, peanut butter, and pecans that’s sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.


While mac and cheese stands proudly on its own, pairing it with the right side dishes can elevate your meal to new culinary heights. From light, refreshing salads like a crisp coleslaw or a tangy strawberry arugula salad to heartier options like BBQ ribs or grilled vegetables, there’s a pairing for every palate.

Experiment with these combinations to discover your favorite and turn your next mac and cheese dish into a feast. Each pairing not only complements the rich, creamy pasta but also adds layers of texture and flavor, making every bite exciting.

So next time you serve up this beloved dish, remember these pairing suggestions for a truly satisfying meal.


What are some quick sides to serve with mac and cheese?

Quick side dishes like steamed broccoli, garlic bread, or a simple garden salad can complement mac and cheese beautifully by adding a fresh or crispy texture to your meal.

Can I pair mac and cheese with seafood?

Absolutely! Shrimp and lobster, especially when grilled or sautéed with garlic, make luxurious pairings that elevate mac and cheese to gourmet status.

What goes well with mac and cheese at a barbecue?

At a barbecue, mac and cheese pairs wonderfully with grilled meats such as chicken, ribs, or brisket. The smokiness of the barbecue contrasts nicely with the creaminess of the mac and cheese.

Chicken Mac and Cheese in tray on a table

Are there vegetarian options that pair well with mac and cheese?

Yes, roasted vegetables like cauliflower, asparagus, or bell peppers are great vegetarian options that add both flavor and nutrition to a mac and cheese meal.

What side dishes go well with mac and cheese?

Want to add a little crunch to that creaminess? Mix in some crispy coleslaw or give it a sweet twist with tangy applesauce. If you’re after something green, why not go for a refreshing salad?

What drinks pair well with mac and cheese?

Light-bodied white wines like Chardonnay or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc pair well with mac and cheese. For non-alcoholic options, sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or lime complements the dish without overwhelming it.