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Let your guests have some fun by setting up a Mac and Cheese Bar at your next party! A big bowl of creamy Mac & Cheese and some delicious toppings and mix-ins are all you need for the ultimate cheesy celebration.

Mac and cheese bar with toppings

People are going to be begging for an invitation once they hear about your Mac and Cheese Bar!

It’s fun, it’s hype, it’s “gourmet”! But, at the end of the day, it’s just everyone’s favorite comfort food and a variety of toppings.

Yes, some prepping is required, but it’s all super easy and, come party time, you’ll be able to have fun instead of running to and from the kitchen!

I am a huge advocate for “make-your-own” stations. Not only they are a great way to feed a crowd, but they make the party a hundred percent more fun.

A macaroni and cheese station table.

How to Set Up a Mac and Cheese Bar

Here’s the thing: people love macaroni & cheese so much that if you put out a bowl of it and call it a Mac and Cheese Bar, no one will complain.

Here’s the thing: people love macaroni & cheese so much that if you put out a bowl of it and call it a Mac and Cheese Bar, no one will complain.

Of course we won’t do that, as toppings are what make this fun. My point is: make sure your macaroni and cheese bar is amazing! It is the star of the show, after all! The best advice I can give you is to get in your car and head to Walmart so you can bring home the creamy, cheesy goodness of STOUFFER’S® Macaroni & Cheese.

It is so cheesy, rich and velvety. A carb-lover’s dream come true! And now that it’s summer, it makes the perfect side dish for our backyard BBQing.

I also love that they have a party size, which takes care of the whole calculating “how much macaroni I need” part of planning the party!

But this party is not gonna plan itself, so let’s get to all the deets.

Toasted breadcrumbs

Start by choosing the toppings

The possibilities are endless. Every time I start thinking, I come up with a new combination. It is fun, but can definitely get overwhelming!

So take a deep breath, get a pen and paper and jot down some ideas. Remember: less is more! Try to think of toppings that are versatile and could be combined in different creations.

How big or small your bar is going to be depends on the size of your guest list. Here we are creating a bar that can feed around 10 people, but you can easily halve or double/triple everything!

As always, don’t feel limited to what you see here. Get creative and add some personality to your party!

The basics

The stuff you simply gotta have! 

  • Toasted breadcrumbs – Gotta have some texture!
  • Salt and cracked fresh pepper – Great flavor enhancers.


  • Bacon – A must have!
  • Pepperoni
  • Ground Beef – Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese, anyone?!?


  • Broccoli – Because broccoli makes everything healthy, right…?
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms 

Other cheeses

Because there’s no such thing as “too much cheese”! (Besides, 4 Cheese Mac & Cheese has a spot in my heart.) 

  • Gorgonzola
  • Parmesan 
  • Gouda


  • Chives
  • Basil

Fun toppings

  • Fried Shallots – My absolute favorite! It’s always a struggle to not eat it all before the guests arrive.
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Jalapeños

Oils and sauces

  • Hot sauce – Because some people like it hot!
  • Chili Oil
  • Truffle Oil

Grocery List

Here’s what you’ll need to replicate my Mac and Cheese Bar. Just print this list and bring it with you to the store! You can also click in the photo above to buy at Walmart.

And don’t forget to redeem your $3 cash back (party size) or $1.50 cash back (family size) from Ibotta when you buy from June 13 to July 11, while supplies last!

The must haves: Pantry Staples:

STOUFFER’S Macaroni & Cheese Party Size (76oz.)
1 pound ground beef
5 ounces Pepperoni
1 pound Bacon
4 ounces Parmesan Cheese
4 ounces Gouda Cheese
4 ounces Gorgonzola
2 heads Broccoli
4 ounces Cremini mushrooms
4 ounces Shiitake mushroom
2 tomatoes on the vine
1 pint cherry Tomatoes
1 small red onion
1 small yellow onion 
1 head garlic 
5 jalapeños
1 lime
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh basil
0.25 ounces fresh chives
Chili oil
Truffle oil

Olive Oil
Vegetable Oil
Hot sauce



different bowls of Mac and cheese combinations

Some combination ideas

I have no doubt your guests will be able to come up with amazing creations. But if you feel like providing some guidance, you can always print (or write on a chalkboard) some suggestions.

These are some of my favorites:

  • Umami Mac & Cheese: macaroni and cheese + fried shallots + bacon
  • Broccoli Mac & Cheese: macaroni and cheese + broccoli + toasted breadcrumbs
  • 4 Cheese Mac & Cheese: macaroni and cheese + gorgonzola + gouda + parmesan + breadcrumbs + a drizzle of truffle oil
  • Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese: macaroni and cheese + ground beef + chives 
  • Pizza Mac & Cheese: macaroni and cheese + pepperoni + cherry tomatoes + basil
  • The Queso Mac & Cheese: macaroni and cheese + pico de gallo – Close your eyes and you’ll think you’re eating queso!
Setting the table for Mac and cheese party
macaroni and cheese bar sign

Set the table!

Once you got the whole food part figured out, it’s time to think of presentation! After all, people eat with their eyes first.

The tablescaping options are endless and there are many elements to play around with that can enhance the whole food experience. You can play with colors, textures, props, flowers, etc.

The only rules are:

  1. Plan to have enough bowls (you can use disposable if you prefer), utensils, napkins and serveware so your guests can serve themselves.
  2. Make sure everything is fresh! If your party is going to last a long time, maybe replace some toppings as they start to look “not their best”.

Other than that, have fun! I like to look for inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram for ideas that won’t break the bank.

A big bowl of Mac & cheese and some toppings

A few tips for the best Mac and cheese party

  • The macaroni and cheese is the star of the party and should always be hot! I like to keep mine warm in a slow cooker.
  • If your toppings are too elaborate, consider labeling them so you don’t have to keep answering questions all party long! This can also be helpful if you know your guests have allergies or food restrictions.
  • To minimize stress, you can prep everything – minus the macaroni and cheese, which should be cooked right before serving – the day before. Just reheat what needs to be served warm before the party begins.
  • Choose small bowls. You want your guests to be able to come back for different combinations instead of stuffing themselves in the first sitting.
  • Got leftovers? Consider making my Fried Mac and Cheese Balls! You can even mix in the toppings like you would with arancini.
Make-Your-Own Mac and Cheese Bar

Make-Your-Own Mac and Cheese Bar

Yield: 10
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours

Let your guests have some fun by setting up a Mac and Cheese Bar at your next party! A big bowl of creamy Mac & Cheese and some delicious toppings and mix-ins are all you need for the ultimate cheesy celebration.



  • 2 broccoli crowns
  • Salt
  • Water

Pico de Gallo

  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt, to taste

Crumbed Bacon

  • 1 pound bacon

Fried Shallots

  • 1 pound shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • Salt

Ground Beef

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 4 ounces baby Shiitake mushrooms, halved
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Macaroni and Cheese

  • STOUFFER’S Macaroni & Cheese Party Size (76oz.)

Other toppings and mix-ins:

  • 5 ounces Pepperoni
  • 4 ounces parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 4 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 jalapeños, sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped chives
  • 1/3 cup basil, cut into strips
  • Truffle Oil
  • Chili Oil
  • Hot Sauce
  • Salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper


Cooking the broccoli:

  1. Break the broccoli crowns up into bite-sized florets. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook until crisp-tender, no more than 2 minutes.
  3. Drain and immediately run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Making Pico de Gallo:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Season with lime juice and salt.

Cooking the bacon:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Lay bacon in a single layer on the baking sheet, making sure not to overlap.
  3. Cook until crispy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and transfer the bacon slices to a paper towel-lined plate.
  5. When cool, chop with a sharp Chef's knife or crumble with your hands.

Making the fried shallots:

  1. Place shallots in a medium saucepan and cover them in enough oil to submerge. Cook, over medium-low heat, stirring often to encourage the slices to separate, until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
  2. Pour shallots and oil into a fine-mesh strainer set over a heatproof bowl. Once drained, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.

Toasting breadcrumbs:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick pan, over medium heat. Once the oil is simmering, add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown. This won't take more than a couple minutes, so be careful not to burn it!
  2. Season with salt and transfer to a bowl.

Cooking the ground beef:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking the meat into large pieces. Let the meat brown for 4 to 5 minutes, without stirring. Then, break it into smaller pieces using a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally (but not too often), until the moisture has evaporated and the meat has browned and shows no signs of pink.
  3. Add the onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 2 more minutes.

Sautéing mushrooms:

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.

Cooking the Macaroni and Cheese:

  1. Cook the Mac & Cheese according to package instructions.
  2. Transfer to a big bowl or to a slow cooker, to keep it warm.

Assembling the Mac and Cheese Bar:

  1. Serve the warm macaroni and cheese alongside toppings and mix-ins.


  • The oil resulting from frying the shallots is so flavorful and can be used whenever olive oil is asked for.
  • Toppings can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and reheated (if needed) before serving.

Tim serving creamy macaroni & cheese
Tim loves his Mac & cheese
cheese love
cheese porn
foodie loves cheese