Bourbon Is The Twist Your Homemade Mac And Cheese Needs

If your go-to homemade mac and cheese recipe is starting to get a little predictable, or if you want to elevate it to dinner party status, look no further than this one simple mac and cheese addition: bourbon.

To give your classic comfort food a fancy facelift, just whip up a béchamel sauce, and stir in a splash of bourbon. Then incorporate the cheese in small handfuls. Add more or less cheese and bourbon to taste, and adjust the heavy cream and flour levels to achieve your desired thickness. You can use this sauce to make regular saucepan mac and cheese, or with casserole dish-style baked mac, layered with breadcrumbs. For a brighter, deeper bourbon flavor, add less bourbon during the cooking process, then add an extra splash right at the end once the cheese is all melted.

As you cook with it, keep in mind that liquor is highly flammable, so never add bourbon directly to a hot pan of oil. Stir it into the cream sauce slowly, using a plastic or glass measuring cup. This bourbon mac makes a great side for blackened catfish, barbecue chicken, ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, or sloppy joes. You could also use the same bourbon cheese sauce on other dishes like beef Wellington, steamed veggies, and baked potatoes.

Yes please, boozy cheese

Perhaps the best part about this mac and cheese upgrade is that bourbon will pair well with pretty much whatever cheese you were going to use anyway. Sharp or white cheddar, gouda, and Jarlsberg would all make a delicious fit. You could even make a bourbon blue cheese sauce for your mac and top it with some blue cheese crumbles. To really up the bourbon flavor, something like rich a Tennessee Whiskey BellaVitano cheese from Sartori totes oaky, smoky, caramel notes, and a wedge can be purchased from the Sartori website. Whatever cheese you select, just make sure it's finely shredded for even melting and thorough distribution throughout your noodles.

Feel free to get creative with different pasta shapes. Classic elbow macaroni would work great, as would penne, radiatore, or farfalle. You could also add seasonings into the mix like rosemary, thyme, cracked black or white peppercorns, ground mustard, red chili flakes, Cajun seasoning, or homemade Old Bay. Mix-ins like diced red onion, garlic, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, or grated horseradish would add just the right kind of flavor too.

The right spirit for your supper

Save your top shelf sipping bourbons for the rocks glass. But, that said, only cook with a bourbon that you would actually want to drink. The whole point of adding the whiskey to your mac and cheese is to create a delicious kick of flavor, and if it isn't tasty in the bottle, then there's only so much it'll be able to do for your recipe. Jim Beam and Old Crow offer the same grain mash profile, a traditional bourbon taste with a lower ABV if you want the flavor without the burning booziness. Wild Turkey 101 totes a high-proof 50.5% ABV, sweet and smoky with a grainy malt and notes of nutmeg, caramel, and cinnamon. Just keep in mind that it takes less time for the alcohol to cook off when you use lower-proof spirits, and vice versa, so you might need to adjust your cook times accordingly.

Evan Williams Black Label offers a darker profile with toffee, caramel, and charred oak, which could add savory dimensionality to your dish. If you prefer a brighter bite, Four Roses Yellow Label has notes of apple, pear, and brown sugar; it's a budget-friendly and accessible option with complementary flavors for a delightful mac and cheese.