Add Some Sweet Heat To Mac And Cheese With Bbq Sauce

Homemade barbecue mac and cheese
Homemade barbecue mac and cheese - RFondren Photography/Shutterstock

If you're looking to take your mac game to the next level, look no further than that trusty, reliable bottle of barbecue sauce waiting in your fridge. This mac and cheese upgrade is a great opportunity for showing off your homemade barbecue sauce (which can be especially helpful if you've already slathered it on as much barbecued chicken as you can stand.) Store-bought barbecue sauce also totally works here. Either way, your mild, creamy comfort food gets a rich, tangy, sweet-smoky kick -- not to mention this is a super-flavorful vegetarian meal. Plus, you can customize the flavor profile of your mac, steering smokier with mesquite barbecue sauce or sweet-spicy (aka "swicy," the unofficial flavor trend of the year) with honey barbecue.

To do it, simply stir the barbecue sauce into your regular cheese sauce for your mac. Using ½ to ⅔ cup of barbecue sauce per pound of pasta should be enough, but feel free to adjust to taste. Opt for a sharp or smoky cheese that's bold enough to stand up to complement the intense flavor of the barbecue sauce. Gouda, pepper jack, smoked mozzarella, extra sharp white cheddar, and Havarti would all make terrific fits. For a super lush mouthfeel, you could also stir in an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese. To finish, top each individual serving bowl with a final drizzle of barbecue sauce to serve, garnish with a sprinkling of green onions and black and white sesame seeds, and pair with a slab of buttered cornbread.

Read more: Styles Of Regional BBQ In The US

Your Favorite Cheesy Comfort Food Just Got A Tangy Upgrade

Barbecue sauce in dish
Barbecue sauce in dish - Goskova Tatiana/Shutterstock

Good ol' barbecue sauce is a versatile pantry staple, and it's easy to whip up a batch yourself. It's made from a tomato base, usually ketchup, plus brown sugar for sweet depth, red wine vinegar for acidic balance, a few dashes of hot sauce, and flavorful spices like Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and black pepper. To make it, simply puree all the ingredients together until thoroughly mixed. In an airtight container in the fridge, it'll keep for up to a week.

To bulk up your barbecue mac, you could add some smoky mix-ins like pulled pork, shredded chicken, leftover brisket, center-cut bacon, diced red onion, or fresh cilantro. You could even top your bowls with some crushed kettle-cooked potato chips for a little crunch. To complete the meal, pair with smoked green beans, grilled zucchini, collard greens. You can get creative with your pasta shapes, too. Spiral cavatappi, small shells, pipette, or even wagon wheels would all add a playful mouthfeel to your homemade mac and cheese.

Rock the tailgate or the backyard potluck party. Barbecue mac and cheese is also simple enough to incorporate into your regular dinner rotation for getting something impressive, filling, and crowd-pleasing on the table on busy weeknights. Leftovers hold up well for envy-worthy make-ahead lunches, too. You could also assemble your barbecue mac in a casserole dish for an ultra savory baked mac and cheese topped with breadcrumbs.

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