What Are Good Spices For Mac And Cheese?

Mac and cheese is an American favorite that is versatile and can be made in multiple ways. For example, you can make it from scratch with your choice of high-quality cheeses, or you can make a boxed mac and cheese bought from the supermarket. In either case, the flavor can always be improved by adding herbs and spices. Because it can serve as a blank canvas, you have a range of options when it comes to the seasonings that you can add to it.

Table of Contents

White pepper

White pepper is the same as black pepper, with the dark outer part of the peppercorn removed. White pepper has the benefit of providing a complementary heat without the dark specks that you would get from black pepper. You can use it to flavor your mac and cheese without any alteration to the appearance. Black pepper will provide the same flavor profile but with black specks, which may not appeal to everyone.

–> Learn More: White Pepper Vs. Black Pepper – How Do They Compare?

Cayenne pepper powder

Cayenne pepper is a popular addition if you want to add a little extra heat to your mac and cheese. Not only does it improve the flavor, but it can also give it an appealing touch of red as well. Sprinkle it over the top to maximize the visual benefits. Because the cayenne pepper is in powder form, it offers a consistent heat that you can modulate by adding exactly the amount that you want.

Chopped jalapeño

Mac and cheese made with fresh jalapeños will not be quite as hot as the variety made with cayenne pepper powder. Jalapeño pepper is usually added to baked mac and cheese rather than the stovetop variety. You can also opt for jalapeño powder as a dried spice alternative.

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Chili powder

Chili powder differs from cayenne pepper powder not only in terms of the pepper that is ground to make it (typically ancho pepper rather than cayenne), it offers a more complex flavor profile. Along with ancho, chili powder often contains cumin, oregano, and garlic. Chili powder will usually not be as hot as cayenne pepper.


Paprika is yet another way to improve your mac and cheese with chili pepper. Most forms of paprika lack heat, so you will mostly be using it for its brilliant red color. If you want flavor along with the color (but not heat), you have the option of using a smoked paprika.

–> Learn More: Paprika Vs. Smoked Paprika (at PepperScale)

Italian herbs

You can use any of the most popular Mediterranean herbs in your mac and cheese. These include oregano, marjoram, and basil. Each of these herbs has an established track record of pairing well with both cheese and pasta, which means that they are perfect for mac and cheese. You can also add a blend that contains all of them, such as an Italian herb blend.


If you are used to boxed mac and cheese, mustard might seem out of place; however, it is actually a great ingredient with a long history of use in the dish. Consider the fact that tangy ingredients like mustard are often used to cut the fat in rich dishes. Mac and cheese qualifies as a rich dish. You can use Dijon mustard or dry mustard.


Garlic can work in most savory preparations and, as any fan of Italian cuisine knows, fits in perfectly with cheese and pasta. You can add garlic to mac and cheese either in a dry form, such as garlic powder, or as fresh garlic cloves that have been crushed and finely chopped.