Here are lots of mac and cheese topping ideas for setting up a mac and cheese bar! It's the perfect meal for big get togethers because it's fun, interactive, and customizable. Plus, who doesn't love mac and cheese?
I love mac and cheese. I especially like it jazzed-up with toppings. ESPECIALLY if it's like a build-your-own toppings bar kind of set up.
Not only is a mac and cheese bar a good way to make all the people happy, it's easy to get your whole meal in a bowl. And when you can fit your entire meal into a single bowl, you're winning at life.
Mix and match, use what you have on hand, or get totally wild and fancy. There's really no way to go wrong when you're loading up a bowl of mac and cheese!
How To Set Up A Mac + Cheese Bar
Setting up a mac and cheese bar is easy and can mostly be done in advance! It's a perfect meal for big get togethers because it's fun, interactive, and customizable. Plus, who doesn't love mac and cheese? To set up your own mac and cheese toppings bar you'll need to:
- Make the mac and cheese. Frozen, homemade, or stovetop will all work here!
- Prep the toppings + put them in bowls. Pretty much every topping can be prepped and plated ahead of time. Just refrigerate or store until you're ready to put it out.
- Set out bowls, forks, and napkins. I love using small bowls so people can get smaller servings and try lots of different toppings combinations as they go back for more. If you want to use disposable, these ice cream cups are the perfect size!
How Much Mac + Cheese Per Person
Plan for about 2 cups of mac and cheese per person for a mac and cheese toppings bar. Since mac and cheese is the main dish, you'll need more than if it were just a side - but keep in mind that people do tend to be heavy-handed with the toppings when there are so many good options!
If you're making my favorite mac + cheese, it'll make a good amount for 4 adults, likely with some leftovers.
Keeping Mac + Cheese Warm
You - of course - want your mac and cheese warm for your mac and cheese bar! Here are a couple ways to do this:
For baked mac + cheese: A chaffing dish will work, or you can bake the mac and cheese in a dish with a lid and keep the lid on when not in use. mac and cheese retains heat really well, so it should stay hot for about half an hour just from keeping the lid on.
For stovetop mac and cheese: Once it's done cooking, transfer to a slow cooker and keep it on “warm”. Stir it occasionally and add a splash of milk if it seems like it’s starting to dry out.
Toppings For A Mac And Cheese Bar:
Meats + Proteins
I like to have 2-3 meat options for a mac and cheese bar. Bacon is the obvious choice, but you really can't go wrong with any of these! All meats should be cooked and diced/sliced (if needed).
In the name of health! Put some veggies on your mac and cheese! Just kidding, these are delicious.
Roasted red pepper
Chopped green onion
Chopped red onion
Chopped fresh garlic
Charred Brussels sprouts
Sautéed green beans
Roasted butternut squash
Condiments & Sauces
This might be my favorite category of topping. Different condiments and sauces can take your mac and cheese in a whole different direction.
Pico de gallo
So many good toppings in the canned aisle! Just chop (if needed) and transfer to a cute bowl.
Diced green chiles
Chipotles in adobo
If you've never put extra cheese on top of your mac and cheese, you are missing out!
Blue cheese crumbles
It's nice to have a few different crunchy topping options for mac and cheese for a variety in texture.
Crushed Ritz crackers
Toasted pine nuts
Crushed potato chips
Herbs and Spices
Some extra flavorings that can really bump your mac and cheese bowl to the next level.
Cracked black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
Some favorite combinations:
Bacon + Brussels sprouts + tomato + homemade breadcrumbs
Hot dog + barbecue sauce + crushed jalapeño potato chips + sliced jalapeño
Buffalo chicken + blue cheese crumbles + green onions + cilantro
Ham + peas + crushed Ritz crackers + nutmeg
Fresh garlic + fresh basil + roasted red pepper + toasted pine nuts
The Best Mac + Cheese Bar EVER
- 1 recipe homemade mac and cheese (see note)
- 8-10 assorted toppings (see list in post)
- Make the mac and cheese according to recipe directions. Keep it warm in a chafing dish or slow cooker. You can also keep the lid on the dish the mac and cheese was baked in and it will stay warm for at least half an hour. Prepare toppings and place in bowls. A good starting point is to choose 1-2 toppings from each category (meat/protein, produce, condiments, canned, cheese, crunchy, herbs/spices), but feel free to tweak to your tastes.Arrange the mac and cheese and toppings on a bar or table. Let everyone dish out their own mac and cheese and choose their toppings. Discuss at length which combination is best. Enjoy!