Love and Olive Oil

Brussels Sprout Mac ‘n Cheese

Brussels Sprout Mac ’n Cheese

It’s been a long time coming, this mac ‘n cheese.

I’m fairly loyal to the boxed stuff, and will admit I had never really tried a homemade version before this year. Why? I have no idea.

I first attempted to recreate a version from a local restaurant in town. Word of warning: do not use buttermilk when making mac ‘n cheese. Silo, it turns out, uses a buttermilk cheddar cheese from a local farm, not actual buttermilk. Want to know what happens when you heat up buttermilk? Curds. Glorious, chunky, unappetizing curds. It’s not pretty and it sure as heck isn’t creamy like cheese sauce should be.

Once we’d given up on that idea (it only took 3 tries to realize it was NOT going to work), we moved on to a basic mac and cheese, figuring if we could get a foundation in place, then we could start experimenting with add-ins. Batch after batch we made, and batch after batch we ate without being entirely pleased with the results. White pepper ruined it one night, too much mustard powder another. Not wanting to throw out perfectly good cheese, we ate more gritty, pasty mac and cheese than I care to admit. But the cheese turned out to be the most important factor of all. Extra-sharp cheddar cheese might sound promising, but it imparts an oddly bitter taste that has no place in my ideal mac and cheese.

Once we figured out that last part, replacing the sharp with a mild, white cheddar (the raw milk cheddar from Trader Joe’s to be precise), it was like the planets aligned and everything came together in perfect, cheesy harmony.

Brussels Sprout Mac and Cheese Recipe

Our favorite variation is this one, with thinly sliced Brussels sprouts interspersed amongst the cheese and noodles. With the right balance of cheese and spice, the Brussels sprouts fit into the mix perfectly, without a trace of bitterness to be found. It’s creamy beyond compare, with the perfect bit of crunch from the cheese and breadcrumbs on top.

Brussels Sprout Mac and Cheese Recipe

Granted, I’ll still indulge in the odd box of instant mac, probably more often than I really should. Because really, there’s something about that neon cheese powder, an intense craving, that homemade just can’t satisfy. And yet, this homemade version is really growing on me. We’ve made it multiple times since we found our golden cheese ratio, and I find myself craving it at odd times of the day (like, uh, now?) Leave the Brussels out if you must, or play around with your own mix-ins, but I will say this: cheese matters. Stick to the varieties and the proportions listed in this recipe and you’ll be saying cheese for a long time to come.

Brussels Sprout Mac 'n Cheese

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  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces mild white cheddar cheese, grated and divided
  • 2 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces pecorino cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, cored, and very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish (about 11×7 inches in size) and set aside.
  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions until just barely al-dente (about 1 minute less than recommended cook time). Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saute pan or high-sided skillet set over medium heat. When butter is melted and frothy, add flour and whisk until smooth and begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly pour in warm milk, a little at a time, whisking vigorously, until all the milk is incorporated and mixture is smooth. Don’t worry if the mixture gets oddly chunky for a bit, just keep adding milk a little bit at a time and whisking constantly to break up the chunks.
  4. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking regularly, until sauce bubbles and has thickened slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cayenne, paprika, and salt and pepper. Slowly add cheeses, a handful at a time, whisking until melted before adding more. Add all but 1/2 cup of cheese (a mix of the three, set this aside for sprinkling on top). Stir in macaroni and sliced Brussels sprouts until evenly coated.
  5. Pour into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and breadcrumbs over top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until filling is bubbling, then broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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  1. I have made several times, AWESOME!

  2. I made this and we loved it, perfect recipe

  3. I made this tonight. I thought it was too pasty. After some thought and research, I think the ratios for the roux are off. Should be 2 parts fat to 3 parts flour, and then 1 part roux to 10 parts liquid. The excess roux makes the sauce taste floury. I would make the sauce thinner (maybe use some chicken stock instead of all milk), and add some more spices– maybe some onion and/or garlic powder. I might even add some fresh chopped herbs. Felt like it needed something more. I used the TJs raw milk cheddar, and maybe that didn’t have enough flavor?

  4. Have you ever made this with whole wheat pasta?

  5. I was looking through older posts when I happened to stumble upon this gem of a recipe. It combined all of my favorite things: fancy cheese, brussel sprouts, and macaroni noodles. I printed the recipe and left it on the counter, hoping my mother would take the bait. Luckily, she was as intrigued with the recipe as I was, and I came home from school to a large pan of fancy macaroni! The recipe was delicious, but make sure you add enough salt or the macaroni will be a little bland. As much as I liked the macaroni, I probably won’t make this recipe too often, as the cheese is pricy and coring the brussel sprouts can be a pain.

  6. Ha- I made a rookie buttermilk mistake myself back in the day. Somehow I thought it would be the perfect thing to add to thin frosting. Big curdley mistake!

    This mac looks glorious. The brussels are a great addition- I love a little hint of vegetable to make me feel less guilty. :)

  7. I often throw broccoli and cauliflower into our mac and cheese, but I never thought of Brussels Sprouts! The great thing is we are growing them for the first time this year, so this is a great recipe to introduce into the mix. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Love this dish! Tried it and was a big hit in my family!!
    Thank you so much!

  9. This sounds amazing!!

  10. This mac and cheese is awesome. What a great way to eat more veggies.

  11. This mac & cheese is beautiful, the crispiness on top is lovely :)

  12. I love making mac and cheese at home, I tend to cheat and add diced tomatoes so the acidity cuts it a little. Definitely going to hide the brussel sprouts in there though; I love them and it’s the only way my two and three year old will even take a bite :-)

  13. I don’t even care for brussels sprouts and I think I could eat an entire casserole of this without even blinking. Holy creamy goodness!

  14. Fine Cooking magazine had a GREAT feature on mac and cheese about a year ago and it’s up on their website. I previously had a beloved recipe for homemade, but I’ve totally switched to their formula. Best mac and cheese I’ve ever had! And I even made a brussels sprouts and fontina version. :) Here’s a link to their online create-your-own thing, using that formula:

  15. love everything about this except.. I think it could use some shallots! I’m a shallots freak and I especially love them in my Mac & Cheese recipes. Saute them in that butter before you add the flour, and trust me, the taste will be heavenly!

  16. Great twist on a classic! This recipe might even covert a few brussels sprouts hater’s! :)

  17. I was going to make maC and cheese tonight….. maybe I’ll try this one…

  18. Sometimes you just gotta have the boxed stuff, but then other times, you just can’t beat homemade! This looks so perfectly cheesy!

  19. Brussels Sprouts + Mac N Cheese= HEAVEN. This looks out of this world fantastic!!!!

  20. Mac n cheese is a meal that I fell in love with while my visit in USA. I know, maybe I should fell in love with something else, but it’s so creamy and delicious. I made t few times and it’s high time for a next one.

  21. This reminds me—I need to roast up some brussels sprouts for the week!

  22. Oh my gosh! I should not be reading this while I’m hungry!

  23. It’s hard to beat Macaroni Cheese but I think you just did by adding sprouts! Looks like a really tasty combination – I guess leeks would work well too… Yum!

  24. That is a very valid solution, I should visit more often!

  25. I don’t think I even knew they made a mild white cheddar. Dang it for TJs being 3 hours away! I must have this mac and cheese.

    • It doesn’t necessarily say “mild” on the package… just doesn’t say sharp or extra sharp. :) Maybe you need to come visit more often!

  26. This looks amazing! All that cheese! I’m a box fan, too, specifically the spirals. I love how that neon cheese gets all up in the twists of pasta. Yum!

  27. Two of my very favorite things in one dish… I love it!!

  28. Looks amazing, Lindsay. I love the Brussels addition!

  29. Not the biggest fan of Brussels Sprouts, but I do love Mac and Cheese. This might be the best way for non Brussels Sprouts to add the vegetable to your diet!

  30. This recipe looks great and so inviting!

  31. I can’t even see straight.

  32. Nix the buttermilk – noted!! Love the brussels sprouts addition Lindsay :)

  33. I would have never thought to add brussels sprouts to mac & cheese, but wow, this sounds awesome! :-)

  34. Homemade is the best….and your version looks perfectly creamy. Love the addition of brussels sprouts, too!

  35. This sounds so good!! Love the look of it, and I love brussels sprouts!

  36. The little springs of green are so cute. Green equals healthy right. Homemade mac and cheese is so much easier than people realize to make. Love it!

  37. It looks creamylicious and I did not know that about buttermilk!

  38. I’ve never made Mac ‘N Cheese (aside from the one in the box) until a few years ago either. It was one of the first things I learned how to make all on my own as a child, something I grew up with. I guess I never outgrew the childhood favorite Mac ‘N Cheese in a box. The photos look delish!

  39. I love homemade mac n cheese but I’m usually too lazy to make it myself and just end up using the box mix. Mac n cheese is one of my favorite foods though, so I really should try making it myself more often!

  40. “Word of warning: do not use buttermilk when making mac ‘n cheese. ” — Good to know. I never make mac n cheese at home. Just not really my thing. Cookies though..I can swap stories :) This post reads like a Cooks Illustrated cookbook with what you tried, what worked, what didnt work, until finally you got it right. I would have never had the patience for batch after batch of gritty or slightly off mac n cheese, so your dedication is admirable! And nothing wrong with some neon orange either.

  41. NO buttermilk!!! Got it!

    Homemade Mac and cheese is the best. There is nothing like it and this looks killer!! Brussel sprouts are my favorite!

  42. Do not use buttermilk in mac n cheese – noted! This looks so good, Lindsay. While I too love the boxed mix, there is nothing like homemade mac n cheese. And adding brussels sprouts sounds amazing. It’s one of my favorite veggies!

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