Garlic, Bacon, and Beer Macaroni and Cheese has pub cheese, bacon, and garlic for a ridiculously good bacon and mac and cheese of your dreams. This baked mac and cheese with bacon has become a cult classic in our home and just might be the best gourmet mac and cheese recipe ever. Try it once, and you will be hooked.
This recipe was originally posted July 2014 and updated October 2019 for content and photos.
FIST BUMP!! This is just about one of the most mind-blowing things I have ever made, so I would get out the fat-pants if I were you. Because you are going to love this. The best bacon mac and cheese recipe ever.
In case you were not aware, I take cooking with beer pretty seriously. Check out these 41 Recipes that Prove Beer is the Best Ingredient as evidence.
Reasons to love beer macaroni and cheese with bacon:
- Macaroni and Cheese.
Just let that sink in for a minute. Am I right? ..YES.
It is so obvious – why didn’t I think of this macaroni and cheese ages ago! I made this to go with a fourth of July dinner, along with Whole Grilled Snapper and Grown-up Berry Shortcake, and this creamy mac ‘n cheese just made the whole day…
…of course, in addition to time with my family, Florida sunshine, fireworks, celebrating the birth of our nation, yada-yada-yada.
Now I have to warn you, this is crazy garlicky and hoppy in an awesome, cheesy, crazy garlicky, cooked-in-beer-sort-of-way. Holy depth of flavor! So you have to commit.
You have to go for it and just make this. Just do it. Because it is awesome …Then write me and tell me about it 😬.
Where did this bacon and mac and cheese recipe come from:
This recipe is a modification, adaptation, conglomeration of a couple of my favorite recipes and ingredients.
What we do is take my traditional Macaroni and Cheese and add elements from my Cheddar Beer Pumpernickel Bread Dip – namely, beer and pub cheese. Then also garlic and bacon and WHOOOP. We are happy happy.
Other than those additions, plus a little fresh thyme, this is a standard macaroni and cheese recipe: make roux, add milk, add cheese.
All of my macaroni and cheese recipes are around that foundation, I just mess with the ingredients ratios and add fun flavors like here.
What are the steps to making Garlic, Bacon, and Beer Macaroni and Cheese?
- Cook the pasta.
- Make the cheese sauce.
- Transfer the macaroni with the cheese sauce to a bake dish.
- Top with crunchy bacon topping.
- Bake and enjoy.
What is pub cheese?
Pub cheese is a soft, spreadable cheddar cheese served commonly in New England where I grew up. I remember it being served as a favorite local restaurant with crackers instead of a bread basket while we waited for our food to be cooked.
To buy it, you can find it in the grocery store in the produce section. I have never had a hard time getting it, but I have had to try different recipes because what is sold varies across the country.
In Massachusetts, we get Wispride. In Florida, I get Kaukauna. At Walmart (so, literally everywhere), we can get Merkts.
(Note: with the Wispride and Kaukauna brands, get the regular variety, not the varieties with port wine. That’s a different thing.)
I have used all of these varieties in this recipe and they all work the same, so I recommend them all equally. I once tried President pub cheese, and that is the only one that I do not recommend for this recipe.
What can be substituted for the beer?
Honestly, the flavor of the beer kinda makes this dish the sexy thing it is. And I serve this to my kids with no issue, because the alcohol cooks off as it bakes.
That said, yes you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock for the beer and have yourself a yummy plate of Garlic and Bacon Mac n Cheese.
Can bacon mac n cheese be made ahead?
Yes! BUT (there’s always a but, right?), if you do, I recommend adding an additional 1/4 cup milk to keep this creamy when reheated.
I don’t recommend adding additional beer because A) 3/4 cup is plenty for the flavor and B) stout beer is dark beer and we don’t want brown macaroni and cheese.
Can this recipe be made vegetarian?
Yes again! Just sub out the bacon for tempe bacon. Chop and fry it up with a little oil, and you are good to go vegetarian.
What dishes go with macaroni and cheese with beer?
Goodness, so many! First, Garlic, Bacon, and Beer Macaroni and Cheese can be served as a side dish or as your main event.
If serving baked mac and cheese with bacon as a side, I recommend grilled pork or chicken be served. If serving as a main course, I suggest light sides, especially salads, because this recipe is so rich. Here are some suggestions…
- Perfect Grilled Pork Chops
- Roast Chicken with Lemon and Garlic
- Grilled Mushrooms in Vinaigrette
- Oven Roasted Broccoli in Dijon Pesto Vinaigrette
- Simple Roast Asparagus with Lemon
- Arugula and Cucumber Salad
- Blueberry Balsamic Salad
- Chopped Salad with Buttermilk-Pesto Dressing
On the other hand, this mac recipe is legitimately perfect for football watching, in which case serve it with whatever the hell you like.
Handy Tips for Making Bacon Mac n Cheese
- Dried thyme can be substituted for the fresh, but if you do so reduce to use a 1/4 tsp in the cheese sauce and a couple pinches in the topping.
- To ensure our macaroni and cheese with beer comes out nice and creamy, take care not to overcook the cheese sauce so that it gets too thick. Pretty much anytime I make mac n cheese anymore, I cook until the cheese is mostly melted, but not all the way because the hot pasta will melt the rest when added.
- Take care when starting the cheese sauce: get the butter and flour going, then add the garlic and let it cook a bit before adding the milk and beer. If you forget the garlic, don’t just add it later raw. Cook it briefly in a little oil, then add to the sauce.
So that’s it kids. Garlic, Bacon, and Beer Macaroni and Cheese, the best mac and cheese recipe ever. Like I said, try it once and you will be hooked.
For more macaroni and cheese recipes, check these out
- Bacon and Boursin Macaroni and Cheese – This cheese sauce with Boursin is to die for.
- Coconut Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese – Super easy recipe, perfect for a special occasion like a date night.
- Cranberry Chorizo Macaroni and Cheese – Crazy tasty and creative recipe!
- Fried Salsa Verde Macaroni and Cheese Balls – Pub grub, football food, party perfect.
- Jalapeno and Chorizo Macaroni and Cheese – A little kick, but not that hot so this is a great all-around recipe.
- Macaroni and Cheese – The mac my kids ask for.
- Portobello, Spinach, and Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese – FULL flavored vegetarian recipe that will make even meat eaters happy.
- Pulled Pork Macaroni and Cheese with Crispy Bacon and Herb Topping – No words.
- Wine and Thyme Macaroni and Cheese – This is a gorgeous mac with crisp white wine.
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Garlic, Bacon, and Beer Macaroni and Cheese
Garlic, Bacon, and Beer Macaroni and Cheese. Try it once, and you will be hooked.
- 6 strips bacon cooked and crumbled, divided
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter divided
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 large cloves garlic minced
- 1-1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves divided
- 2 cup milk
- 3/4 cup stout beer such as Guinness
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- pinch fresh cracked pepper
- 2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese spread See Notes
- 8 oz elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- garnish: fresh thyme leaves and couple pinches barbecue seasoning such as Chef Prudhomme's, McCormick, or my Grilling Rub for Chicken
- Heat oven to 350F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
In a medium saucepan, heat 3 Tablespoons butter with the flour over medium heat, whisking until bubbly. Cook 2 minutes.
Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon thyme, and cook an additional minute. Slowly whisk in the the milk and beer.
Heat, stirring constantly, a couple minutes until warm and a little steamy.
Reduce heat to medium-low, add both cheeses, salt, and pepper, and cook, whisking, until smooth. Remove from the heat. Stir in half the bacon.
Cook the macaroni to al dente according to package directions in salted water (note that this can be done while making the cheese sauce). Drain pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Transfer to a 2-qt baking dish.
In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add the panko, remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and remaining bacon. Sprinkle over the macaroni.
Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes until bubbly. Serve garnished with fresh thyme leaves and a pinch of barbecue seasoning. Yield: 6-8 servings.
By sharp cheddar cheese spread, I’m talking about the pub-type spreadable cheese, found in the dairy aisle, that comes in a tub. I have tried Wispride, Merkts, and Kaukauna brands, and they all work for this recipe.