Why Too Much Cream Can Ruin Your Mac And Cheese

What's not to love about mac and cheese? It's cheesy, gooey, and the epitome of comfort food. But what makes a bowl of this stuff great? Is it the type of cheese used? Or, does it have to do with breadcrumb toppings or mix-ins like tuna or chicken? Both aspects are certainly important, but for us, it's all about creamy mac and cheese.

Creaminess, as explained in an article published in the Journal of Texture Studies, "is a complex, multimodal sensory perception" that highlights thick and smooth textures and a mouth-coating experience. It's typically achieved via the use of dairy products, such as butter, milk, heavy cream, and cheese varieties like burrata, ricotta, and cottage cheese, per Epicurious. If you cannot consume dairy, One Green Planet suggests vegan butter, soy yogurt, or non-dairy milk for luxuriously smooth sauces.

Many home cooks utilize some of the above ingredients to take their mac and cheese to the next level, especially when it comes to heavy cream, which contains up to 40% of milk fat content, via Food.com. Thus, it might be a no-brainer to add more cream to a mac and cheese mixture if you want it creamier, but we're here to tell you why that's a bad idea.

Overly thick cheese sauce

Ever heard of the phrase, "the more the merrier?" Well, that definitely doesn't ring true when it comes to cooking. In fact, too much of anything may result in dishes that are too salty, too sweet, too crunchy, and of course, too creamy. (Cooking is about balance, after all.)

You'd be correct to enhance a pot of simple mac and cheese with some heavy cream, but don't add too much of it, because the mixture may end up too rich, creamy, and thick, per Pip and Debby and Southern Living. The latter source goes on to explain that an excess of heavy cream also affects the water content and consistency of the cheese sauce. They advise turning to whole milk instead, though you can certainly use heavy cream in smaller quantities.

So how small are we talking? Well, that depends on the recipe, but we've found that most food bloggers tend to use between ¾ cup to two cups of heavy cream, (per Paula Deen and The Cookful, respectively). Others, like Food Network, combine two cups of heavy cream with two cups of milk. If you're looking to substitute heavy cream for milk, you can either dilute ¾ cup of heavy cream with ¼ cup of water or opt for an equal part substitution. And remember — you can always add more heavy cream later if the mac and cheese mixture needs it.