Gruyere Mac and Cheese with French Onion Crust
This baked Gruyere Mac and Cheese is topped with a combination of buttery panko, parmesan, and crushed-up French onions. Loaded with three types of cheese and this baked mac and cheese is creamy perfection! The best kind of comfort food for the holiday!
I could polish off an entire casserole dish of this stuff on my own.
This certainly beats the stovetop mac I ate growing up. Nutty, buttery, crunchy, and creamy gruyere mac and cheese. The cheese sauce recipe has three types of cheeses and this tastes so much like perfection it could make an adult cry. It will most definitely be polished off at the Thanksgiving or Christmas table.
And let’s think about this intense flavor for a second. Nutty gruyere cheese, shredded fontina, and loads of pepper jack all folded into the white cheese sauce tossed with al dente pasta. We season the cheese sauce with garlic salt and onion powder so not only is it comforting, it packs a flavorful punch. And if you wanted to take the liberty of switching out pepper jack for sharp white cheddar, I would not be mad at that. And then comes the buttery panko bread crumbs laced with french onions. Yes, I’m talking about the stuff that comes in a tub around Thanksgiving. Crush it up in a bag and sprinkle it into your panko mixture with a generous handful of parmesan cheese.
I promise you, if you like onion-flavored anything, you will thank me for the rest of your life! The onion flavor runs throughout the casserole and into the buttery crust. But don’t worry, it’s not overpowering at all.
It has the max level of onion flavor that would still be considered acceptable to eat in public!
Ingredients for gruyere mac and cheese:
- Elbow Macaroni: We’ll start by boiling the pasta in a large pot of salted water. You’ll want to make sure you underboil the pasta as it will finish cooking in the cheese sauce in the oven.
- Butter: You’ll need a full stick of butter for this recipe. We’ll use it with some flour to make the roux. The rest we’ll melt and toss with the bread crumbs.
- Flour: all purpose flour combined with the melted butter makes the roux that is the starter for the creamy cheese sauce.
- Whole Milk + Half and Half: For me, both of these ingredients give the baked mac and cheese the right amount of creaminess. For my folks that don’t live in the US, half and half is a 50:50 blend of cream and whole milk. So if you didn’t want to use half and half or can’t find it, just replace half of it with whole milk and the other half with cream (for 1/2 cup of each in this case.)
- Seasonings: This is not a bland gruyere mac and cheese, so we’re seasoning this bad boy up. I use onion powder, garlic salt, and white pepper in the cream sauce. White pepper just makes it so that it has all of the pepper flavor, without speckles in your mac and cheese. But black pepper would certainly work if you don’t mind the little specks.
- Cheeses: I’m using Swiss gruyère cheese with fontina and pepper jack. I love the slight kick that the pepper jack gives. Other cheeses that would work well: white cheddar cheese, Monterey jack cheese, Muenster, Asiago, and Gouda.
- Panko bread crumbs: You’ll want to use this kind specifically. The flakey texture helps provide the perfect crunch topping.
- Crispy Fried Onions: These are just shallots dusted with a seasoned flour mixture and fried. They’re what a lot of families use on their green bean casserole. Crush them up in a small bag and mix them with butter, panko, and parmesan. This just gives this whole thing the perfect flavor *chefs kiss* The onions just build on the onion powder we’ve added to the cheese sauce.
- Parmesan Cheese: grated parmesan cheese just builds on the nuttiness of the gruyere.
How to make gruyere mac and cheese:
- Prep everything first. Start by preheating the oven, spraying a casserole dish with cooking spray, and bringing a large pot of salted water to boiling. You’ll also want to combine 1 cup of each gruyere, fontina, and pepper jack in a bowl. This will go into the cheese sauce. We’ll sprinkle the remaining cup of gruyere on top of the mac and cheese before the panko goes on.
- Boil the pasta. When the water is boiling, add the pasta. Cook the pasta for 3 minutes less than the package instructions. When the pasta is done, set aside 1 cup of pasta water, drain the pasta in a sieve and keep warm.
- Make the cheese sauce. Add a few tablespoons of butter to a large saucepan. When the butter melts, whisk in the flour and continue to cook it so that it doesn’t taste raw. Then slowly pour in the whole milk as you whisk. Once the milk is added, add the half and half. Season the cream sauce with garlic salt, onion powder, and white pepper. Let it cook and thicken for a few minutes. You want the cream mixture to easily coat the back of a spoon. Then lower the heat or pull the saucepan off the heat entirely if you’re scared. Add 1 cup of shredded cheese into the sauce at a time until it melts. Then add the next. Repeat this until all the cheese has been added. Stir in the pasta and add 3/4 cup of pasta water. Until it forms a sauce thin enough to coat the pasta. This will act as cooking liquid for the pasta so that it finishes in the oven.
- Bake until bubbly. Pour the macaroni and cheese mixture into your prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining cup of shredded gruyere. In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the panko and fried onions. Then add the parmesan and sprinkle this all over the gruyere cheese layer of the mac and cheese. Bake the casserole until golden and bubbly, about 20-30 minutes. If the crust starts browning too quickly, just tent it loosely with foil so that it stays golden brown. Serve warm and watch the crowd go wild!
If you like this recipe, you might also like these other cheese recipes:
- 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Caramelized Onion Dip
- Roasted Garlic Asiago Mashed Potatoes
- Buttermilk Cheddar Bay Biscuits
- Bubbly Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole
- 16 ounces dried elbow pasta (macaroni)
- 8 tablespoons salted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1½ cup whole milk
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
- 1 cup EACH: shredded fontina AND pepper jack cheese
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup crushed up crispy fried onions (such as French’s)
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- PREP: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. Combine 1 cup of Gruyère, fontina, and pepper jack cheese in a bowl and set aside for now.
- BOIL: Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 3 minutes shy of al dente (timing should be on the packaging.) Set aside 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta in a sieve and set aside.
- SAUCE: Melt 3 tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk and cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the whole milk as you whisk, then add the half and half. Continue to whisk until the sauce is no longer lumpy season with garlic salt, onion powder, and white pepper. Let cook until it starts to bubble and slightly thicken; about 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat to low or remove the saucepan from the heat. Add 1 cup of shredded cheese and whisk until combined. Then add the next cup and continue to whisk. Repeat until all the cheese has been added to the sauce. Stir in the pasta. And add ¾ cup of pasta water. If the sauce looks a little dry after stirring, add the remaining ¼ cup of pasta water. I usually use the whole cup.
- BAKE: Pour the macaroni and cheese into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining cup of shredded Gruyère. In a small bowl, melt the remaining 5 tbsp of butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir in the panko and crispy fried onions. Then add the parmesan. Sprinkle this all over the macaroni and cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 20-30 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if the top starts browning too quickly. Serve warm from the oven.
- Cheese: You can swap the pepper jack for Monterey, gouda, muenster, asiago, or any other kind of white melting cheese you like!