seasonings for mac and cheese

9 Best Spices and Seasonings for Mac and Cheese 

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Ah, mac & cheese! Whether you prefer the classic boxed kind or a gourmet dish made from scratch, this creamy comfort food is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. But did you know that adding certain spices and seasonings can take your mac & cheese from good to great? 

What are the best spices and seasonings for mac and cheese? You can try classics like basil, oregano, garlic powder, or allspice. If you would like to surprise your tastebuds, then adding cayenne pepper, paprika, or mustard powder would do the trick! 

Tastes may vary, but these well-loved flavors will add both wonderful aromas and extra pizzazz to your bowl of cheesy goodness. In our blog post today, we’re diving into the best spices and seasonings for mac and cheese so you can make an unforgettable culinary experience every time! 

Why Add Spices to Your Mac and Cheese? 

Adding spices can turn any meal into something exciting. For starters, spices add flavor without adding extra calories. This means you can enjoy all the flavors of your favorite dish without having to worry about the calorie count. 

In addition, spices often have health benefits, such as reducing inflammation or boosting immunity. For example, turmeric can help reduce inflammation in arthritis patients, while ginger is known for its anti-nausea properties. 

When it comes to mac and cheese specifically, adding spices can enhance the flavor profile of the dish in a variety of ways. 

For example, nutmeg adds a smoky note that pairs perfectly with cheesy flavors, while paprika adds a hint of sweetness that complements the creamy cheese sauce. 

Hot chili peppers give the dish an extra kick of heat that will wake up your taste buds, while mustard powder adds depth and complexity to this classic comfort food. 

Finally, adding spices allows you to customize your mac and cheese recipe so that it appeals to everyone in your family. 

If someone doesn’t like spicy food, you can leave out the hot chili peppers; if someone enjoys more traditional flavors, you can add more nutmeg or paprika; if someone likes something really unique, try experimenting with some unusual spices like cardamom or saffron

Although there are some classic flavors that would please everyone, spices, and seasonings are definitely something that you can explore and experiment with when making a bowl of mac and cheese. The added benefit – you’ll feel like a gourmet chef! 

Choosing the Right Spices for Your Mac and Cheese

With the right spices, you can take your macaroni and cheese from good to great! Here’s how you can choose which spices will elevate your favorite dish. 

Type of Cheese

While it’s easy enough to grab a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese off the shelf, if you really want to elevate your mac and cheese game, you’ll need to use the right cheeses.  

Cheddar is probably what comes to mind when most people think of macaroni and cheese. It’s one of the most popular cheeses in the US, with a sharp flavor that pairs perfectly with pasta. 

Cheddar tends to be milder when younger and sharper when aged. For an especially flavorful mac and cheese, try using a mix of young cheddar (for creaminess) and sharp cheddar (for a more robust flavor). 

Gouda is another great choice for macaroni and cheese because it melts easily into creamy goodness. 

Its subtle sweetness complements other cheesy flavors nicely, making it an excellent addition for those looking to take their macaroni game up a notch. Gouda also adds amazing caramelized flavor when baked in an oven-baked dish. 

Parmesan is known as one of the “big three” Italian cheeses, along with pecorino romano and provolone. This hard cheese has a salty tang perfect for adding depth to any recipe requiring melted cheese—like macaroni and cheese! 

Parmesan can be freshly grated over your finished dish or mixed into your sauce for extra creaminess (and flavor!).  

Depending on what type of cheese you use, you will find the seasoning to go with the cheese flavors. 

Pair Flavors Together 

The key to choosing the right spices for your macaroni and cheese is to pair flavors together that complement each other. 

Think about ingredients like garlic, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, paprika, or chili powder. These are all excellent options for adding flavor to your macaroni and cheese, but depending on the type of cheese. 

If your cheese is mild, then you can explore all kinds of spices, but if your cheese is already strong, pairing it with a mild flavor will enhance the taste without overwhelming your tastebuds. 

When pairing these flavors together, think about what goes well with cheese —garlic pairs particularly well—and then think of spices that would add an extra kick of flavor without overpowering the dish. 

Think About Heat Levels 

When selecting spices for your mac and cheese, think about heat levels as well. Some dishes are best served mild while others are ideal when they have a bit of heat. 

Cayenne pepper is one spice that’s great for adding some heat to your dish without being too overwhelming. Paprika is another great choice if you’re looking for something a little more mild but still flavorful. 

You can also use chili powder for an added kick of flavor but remember that this particular spice has quite a bit of heat, so use it sparingly! 

Herbs Are Your Friend 

Herbs are another great way to add flavor to your mac and cheese without making it overly spicy. 

Thyme and oregano both work wonderfully in this particular dish; just remember not to overdo it! A little bit will go a long way when using herbs in cooking, so start off small and add more as needed until you get the desired flavor profile you’re looking for.  

When adding herbs, you can use fresh herbs from your garden or even sprinkle a little bit of dried herbs on the mac and cheese. You don’t have to “cook” the toppings, just add the herbs right before serving and the aroma will instantly be elevated. 

Look for Classics 

When it comes to cheese, there are many classic combinations providing a delicious experience.  

Spicing up your macaroni and cheese doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming—just reach for one (or all!) of these classic seasonings.  

Paprika adds smokiness, garlic powder adds garlicky goodness, and allspice adds the perfect amount of flavor without being too overpowering. 

9 Best Spices and Seasonings for Mac and Cheese 

Although there are many types of herbs and spices that you can use in mac and cheese, here are 9 of the best to enhance the cheesy flavors and leave your tastebuds delighted. 

Spice or SeasoningFeatures
1.BasilRich, fragrant; Adds a unique flavor without overpowering the cheese; Provides visual appeal; Can be used fresh or dried for different sensations.
2.OreganoA subtle yet rich herby flavor that pairs well with pasta and cheese dishes; Adds flavor and nutritional benefits; Can be used as a dry seasoning or fresh herb.
3.Cayenne PepperAdds a kick of heat to mac and cheese; Can be adjusted to desired spiciness; Offers health benefits such as reducing inflammation and boosting metabolism.
4.PaprikaThe intense depth of flavor with a smoky undertone; Adds a bright orange hue and mild heat; Can be used as a topping or garnish; Dried or smoked paprika options available.
5.Garlic PowderEnhances flavor with a savory boost; Complements cheesy dishes without overwhelming the taste; Fresh garlic can also be used for a stronger flavor.
6.NutmegElevates the flavor depth of mac and cheese; Adds warmth, complexity, and a creamy finish; Prevents lumps in cheese sauces; Ideal for fall days.
7.Mustard PowderA tangy flavor that enhances cheesiness without being too heavy; Adds a kick to the dish; Use it in moderation to avoid overpowering the taste.
8.Celery SaltEnhances buttery cheese flavor and provides a subtle hint of crunch; Contains potassium and sodium for added nutrition; Adds an exciting element to the dish.
9.AllspiceCombination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a bold flavor profile; Intensifies the taste of mac and cheese; Ideal for those who appreciate bolder flavors; Pair it with mild cheese to balance the spice.


Adding a pinch of basil to your mac and cheese is the perfect way to mix up an otherwise traditional dish.


Basil has a rich, fragrant aroma that can bring any dish to life – and it does just that with mac and cheese! When added in moderation, basil adds a unique flavor without overpowering the cheese, adding just the right level of contrast and complexity. 

Alternatively, basil also makes for stunning visual appeal, allowing you to turn the classic combination into an Instagram-worthy plate. 

When adding basil, you can either use fresh basil from your garden or even sprinkle a little bit of dried basil over the mac and cheese right before serving to awaken your senses. 


Adding oregano to your mac and cheese is an easy way to kick up the flavor! Oregano has a subtle yet rich herby flavor that pairs perfectly with pasta and cheese dishes. 


Not only does it add flavor, but studies have also found that oregano has antioxidant properties due to its carvacrol content. So, next time you make mac and cheese – try adding some oregano as either a dry seasoning or fresh herb – and enjoy the added taste and nutritional benefits!

Cayenne Pepper 

For those looking to give their mac and cheese an added kick, cayenne pepper is the perfect ingredient to add! Whether you like your macaroni just a little spicy or extra hot, you can easily adjust the amount of cayenne pepper used to get that perfect flavor. 

cayenne pepper

Not only does it add flavor variety, but cayenne also has numerous health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and boosting metabolism. 

If you want to add spice but don’t have any cayenne pepper in your pantry, you can also try adding chili powder or even a little bit of crushed chili to the bowl right before serving. 

Make sure to adjust the amount of added chili, depending on the type, so that it doesn’t get too overwhelming. 


Adding paprika as a topping can take mac and cheese from ordinary to extraordinary! Paprika is made from a variety of sweet and hot pepper varieties and provides an intense depth of flavor that matches the creaminess of mac and cheese. 


The spice adds a smoky flavor to the dish, as well as a bright orange hue. It also gives it a little bit of heat without overpowering the other flavors in the dish. If you don’t have any paprika on hand, you can also use cayenne pepper as a substitute. 

Dried paprika also works as garnish; sprinkle it on your mac and cheese for an added eye-catching presentation. Alternatively, for a crunchier texture, try pan-frying the paprika first in some oil before sprinkling it onto macaroni and cheese.  

Paprika has a mild flavor, so if you want a stronger kick, you can also experiment with smoked paprika. Smoked paprika adds a touch of smokiness that enhances the flavor of mac and cheese. 

The complexity this particular spice brings to the dish is well worth it, as it boosts the type of flavors that tend to stand out in cheese-based dishes. 

Use it with caution, though, as stronger spices can dominate the recipe; a generous pinch of smoked paprika is usually enough to do the trick. 

For an added kick, sprinkle some fresh parsley or chives when you serve up your mac and cheese for family or friends – get ready for compliments!

Garlic Powder

If there’s one true pairing when it comes to food, it’s cheese and garlic. 

garlic powder

A natural antibiotic, garlic promotes cardiovascular health, aids digestion, and helps improve cholesterol levels. This humble spice can also enhance the flavor of your mac and cheese, creating an aromatic yet subtle layer of taste. 

Garlic powder adds a hint of flavor, which complements cheesy dishes perfectly – not too much that it overwhelms the cheesy taste, but just enough to give it a savory boost.  

If you don’t have garlic powder, you can also try adding fresh garlic while the mac and cheese are still in the pan. Since fresh garlic is very strong, cooking it in the pan along with the mac and cheese can make the flavors milder but still delicious. The aroma will be to die for! 


Adding nutmeg to your mac and cheese is a great way to elevate the flavor depth of this classic comfort food. Nutmeg is an aromatic spice that lends warmth and complexity, transforming plain mac and cheese into something out of the ordinary. 


A pinch of nutmeg can also help prevent lumps in cheese sauces, giving you a smooth, creamy finish! Plus, the heady aroma of nutmeg works perfectly with the cheesy noodles – it’s sure to make dinner time more enjoyable. 

Since nutmeg will create a warm, earthly feeling, it’s best for mac and cheese on a chilly fall day. It will instantly warm up your tastebuds. 

Mustard Powder

Mustard powder is an excellent addition to your next batch of mac and cheese! With its distinctive tangy flavor, mustard powder adds another dimension of taste and texture to your dish. It’s also a great way to enhance the cheesiness in any recipe without making it too heavy. 

mustard powder

You can add just a pinch at the end or mix it into the cheese sauce for an extra kick. Make sure to use it in moderation because mustard powder can get quite overpowering. We recommend only using this spice with mild cheese to allow the flavors to complement one another. 

However you choose to use it, adding mustard powder is sure to take your mac and cheese dish up a notch. 

Celery Salt

You can easily shake up your mac and cheese to make it even better by adding celery salt. This mild, savory ingredient will enhance the buttery cheese flavor while providing a subtle hint of crunch. 

celery salt

Not only that, it can even boost the nutritional content of your meal! Celery salt is a great source of both potassium and sodium, two essentials for keeping your body energized and healthy. 

With such a simple change, you can turn this standard dish into an exciting meal, and it will definitely please the pickiest eaters.  


If you want to give your mac and cheese an extra bite of flavor but are not sure what to go with, consider adding allspice to the mix.


A combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, this specialty seasoning adds a whole new layer of flavor to your dish. 

Not only will it give your mac and cheese a more intense flavor profile overall, but it will also make it more enjoyable for those who appreciate the bolder flavors in food. 

Since allspice is quite strong, we suggest pairing it with a mild cheese so that the spice won’t be too overpowering. 

Wrapping Up

Spicing up your macaroni and cheese doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming—just reach for one (or all!) of these classic seasonings!  

How you like your mac and cheese is definitely a personal preference, so don’t be afraid to experiment and combine some of these herbs and spices to find the perfect recipe for you. 

seasonings for mac and cheese

9 Best Spices and Seasonings for Mac and Cheese


  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Nutmeg
  • Mustard Powder
  • Celery Salt
  • Allspice


  1. Pick your spice or seasoning from our list according to your taste buds.
  2. Think about food pairings and the texture you want to achieve.
  3. Cook your macaroni.
  4. Add cheese and spices according to your taste.
  5. Enjoy and experiment with spices as they will bring your ordinary Mac and Cheese to another level!

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