What Goes Well With Mac and Cheese? (21+ Most Delicious Side Dishes)

Are you trying to figure out what goes well with mac and cheese? Turn your bubbly golden dish into a feast with the best mac and cheese side ideas. 

Old Fashioned Baked Macaroni and Cheese with a spoon scooping some out.

Macaroni cheese has to be one of the ultimate comfort foods – the combination of its rich and creamy sauce and soft pasta gets topped off with a crusty cheese topping. It’s totally delicious.

If you haven’t already, try my Old Fashioned Macaroni and Cheese ( it’s extra creamy and sooo good).

With this recipe, I share my tips for getting the best flavor while still using simple ingredients that you know and love. 

Read also: The Ultimate Cheese Sauce for Mac and Cheese where you’ll learn how to make super-smooth and tasty cheese sauce that’ll never be gritty, grainy or bland.

Now let’s dive into the best ideas for what to eat with your fav mac and cheese recipes, whether you’re serving it as a side or a main dish.

What Goes Well with Mac and Cheese: The Best Proteins

If you’re serving up you bubbly macaroni as a side dish, here are some of the most delicious mains to choose from.

The Meatloaf Recipe That’ll Turn You Into a Meatloaf Lover

This is hands-down the best meatloaf recipe I’ve ever made, and tens of thousands of readers agree (making it one of the most popular recipes on Foodess!).

File it under “must try” as a delicious, cozy beef and pork main to serve with your mac and cheese.

The best meatloaf, sliced on a plate with snap peas.

Baked BBQ Ribs 

These are my absolute favorite BBQ ribs in the oven. They’re so tender they practically fall off the bone, and that smoky barbecue sauce? Out of this world.

Pair them with some cozy mac and cheese, and you’ve got yourself a meal to remember.

Spicy Sticky ribs on a plate with extra sauce.

Baked BBQ Chicken Drumsticks

Try these oven baked BBQ chicken drumsticks for a finger-licking addition to your mac and cheese.

The crisp-skinned drumsticks are coated in a rich, smoky BBQ sauce that’s both sweet and tangy. (Or try one of my 41+ other favorite chicken drumstick recipes)

easy oven baked bbq chicken thighs

Honey Garlic Ribs 

These fall-off the bone honey garlic ribs are sticky and soft. I adore them as one of my macaroni cheese side dishes. Make them with baby back pork ribs – there won’t be one left!

Who doesn’t love saucy ribs? 

Honey Garlic Ribs

Light and Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Give this light and crispy buttermilk fried chicken a go – it’s a real game-changer.

The chicken gets its crunch from a buttermilk batter, making it perfectly crispy on the outside while staying juicy inside. It’s a great contrast to creamy mac and cheese, adding a satisfying crunch to your meal. You could get the crispy chicken vibe with frozen chicken tenders, too, if you prefer the easy route. Shh, I won’t tell.

Light and crispy buttermilk fried chicken.

Tandoori Fried Chicken

Spice up your meal with some Tandoori Fried Chicken, a flavorful twist on a classic.

This chicken is marinated in tandoori spices and fried to perfection, offering a burst of flavor and a crispy texture. It pairs amazingly with the creamy richness of mac and cheese, bringing a vibrant edge to your dinner.

This delicious, authentic tandoori chicken recipe is packed with flavour, but so simple and easy to make at home. Baked in the oven, this flavour-packed Indian chicken recipe is the perfect solution for those chicken drumsticks you can't wait to have for dinner.

Slow Cooker Pulled Chipotle Chicken

Ah, man, I love this pulled chicken taco meat so much that I serve it alongside mac and cheese as often as I serve it in soft tortillas for tacos.

It’s sticky, a bit spicy from chipotle pepper, and completely addictive.

Crockpot Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken tacos.

Weekday Pulled Pork Tenderloin

I’m all about this easy-to-make pulled pork tenderloin, which is just as perfect with mac and cheese as it is in a sandwich or taco.

It’s tender, has a subtle kick from the spices, and is downright delicious. You’ll want to add it to everything!

Pulled Pork Tenderloin Tacos

Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings

Here’s a sweet, sticky, and spicy recipe for crispy baked buffalo chicken wings to serve alongside your mac and cheese.

The classic buffalo sauce is simple and flavorful and takes your chicken wings to another level. It pairs perfectly creamy cheddar cheese sauce!

Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings.

Spicy Korean Chicken Wings

Check out this recipe for crispy, baked Spicy Korean Chicken Wings that’ll add some sweet heat to your mac and cheese night.

These wings are slathered in a sticky Korean sauce, with just the right amount of spiciness to make them irresistible.

Spicy Korean Chicken Wings.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Whip up these baked sweet and sour meatballs for a tangy twist on your meal.

Coated in a deliciously sticky orange ginger sauce, these meatballs taste so good alongside creamy macaronik.

Sweet and sour meatballs.

What Goes Well With Mac and Cheese: The Best Vegetable Sides

If you’re serving macaroni and cheese as the main dish at a meal, you want to balance it out with something crisp and lighter on the side. Here are my favorite veggie side dishes to serve:

Tossed Green Salad

Add a fresh touch to your meal with a simple salad, with cucumbers, red onions, a few tomatoes, and maybe some shredded carrot. Add some colorful fruit (like pomegranate, below) if you want it to be a bit more special.

Whip up this lemon dressing for couscous salad (which is super versatile for all salads). It’s light, crisp, and the perfect way to balance out a rich dish like mac and cheese.

Green salad.

Cabbage Slaw

I originally made this cabbage slaw to go with my fish tacos, but they are great with anything. This crunchy coleslaw is a perfect side for mac and cheese. 

The tangy, fresh flavors cut through the ultra creaminess of mac and cheese so you can keep going. 

Cabbage slaw for fish tacos.

Candied Brussels Sprouts

My toasty Candied Brussels sprouts are such a good side dish – sweet and caramelized from the maple syrup paired with smokey, saltiness from the bacon. 

As far as sides to go with mac and cheese are concerned, this one is a goodie. I love the textural contrast it provides. 

By the way – a combination of these sprouts,  mac + cheese, and my meatloaf make an excellent trio! 

Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Bacon on a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pan-fried Asparagus 

Nothing beats a pan of perfect asparagus on the stove – here’s how to make them.

Asparagus is a gentle flavor and one of the more easy-going side dishes for macaroni cheese. It’s quick to make and adds a touch of elegance to your spread.

Tomato Soup

This is my best-ever tomato soup recipe. I love serving it with mac + cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich. You can serve this as is or add a little cream to make it even more indulgent.

If you’re serving soup, why not serve some warm buns and butter as well?

Homemade Tomato Soup in a bowl with cream and croutons

Kale Caesar Salad 

This kale caesar salad is one of my best side dishes for mac and cheese. You can add any dressing you like, but I recommend a bacon and garlic dressing like the one I’ve used in this recipe.

Top with lots of parmesan cheese.

Kale caesar salad.

Sweet Potato Fries

Brighten up your plate with some crispy sweet potato fries, a delicious and colorful side.

The natural sweetness and crispy texture of baked sweet potatoes make a great pairing with creamy mac and cheese. They add a delightful contrast in both flavor and texture to your meal.

crispy baked yam fries with chipotle aioli.

Panzanella Salad

This tomato and bread salad is one of the Italian classics and a great side to macaroni cheese. It’s loaded with sweetness and acidity, which is great alongside the richness of your pasta bake.

Check out my easy recipe for Panzanella salad here.

Strawberry Spinach Salad (Almonds + Goats Cheese)

Speckled with poppy seeds in a yummy dressing, this strawberry spinach salad is so good! I love the tangy goat’s cheese with the toasted almonds. It’s super fresh and super pretty.

I find, in general, that fresh salads like this go well with the rich cheese sauce of mac + cheese.

Strawberry Goat cheese salad with spinach.

Wilted Endive with Orange, Dates, and Almonds 

Here is another light, zesty salad to have with mac and cheese. This simple endive lettuce salad boasts chili, orange, and other delicious ingredients.

This is perfect if you want a nicely complex flavor to pair with your simple mac and cheese.

Sauteed Veggies

Simple vegetable side dishes like carrots, green beans or broccoli are another classic side to macaroni cheese – I like to keep my green beans tender, bright green and with a little bite to them still.

You can choose to serve a simple plate of steamed or sauteed green beans.

FAQs About What to What Goes Well with Mac and Cheese

Just skimming through? Here are some quick answers to the commonly-asked questions about what goes with mac and cheese.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese ingredients

What are you supposed to eat mac and cheese with?
Mac and cheese is versatile and can be eaten as a side dish with meats like chicken, brisket or bbq ribs, or as a main dish with a vegetable side dish like an acidic green salad or simple steamed vegetables.

What mixes well with mac and cheese?
Adding ingredients like bacon, broccoli, caramelized onions, jalapeños, shrimp, sausages (or hotdogs, if you want to go old school), or different cheeses mix well with mac and cheese.

What meat goes in mac and cheese?
Popular choices are bacon, ground beef, shredded chicken, cooked sausage or pulled pork, which add a savory depth to the dish.

Is mac and cheese for dinner?
Absolutely! Mac and cheese can be a satisfying main dish, especially when paired with sides like a protein or a salad.

What is the best cheese combination for Mac?
A mix of sharp cheddar, Gruyère, and a bit of Parmesan creates a rich and flavorful mac and cheese. Here’s everything to know about the best cheese for baked macaroni and cheese as well as my fav baked macaroni and cheese recipe.

What can I add to box mac and cheese to make it better?
Stir in sour cream or greek yogurt instead of milk and add extra cheese for a flavor boost.

Do more people eat mac and cheese with a fork or spoon?
Most people prefer a fork for its ability to easily scoop up the pasta and cheese.

Up Next:

More Creamy Pasta Favorites:

Old Fashioned Baked Macaroni and Cheese with a spoon scooping some out.

What Goes Well With Mac and Cheese? (21+ Most Delicious Side Dishes)

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 8
Side Dish
American
Keyword Mac and cheese side dishes, Macaroni and cheese sides, Side dishes for Mac and Cheese, What goes with mac and cheese, What to serve with mac and cheese

Ingredients
  

  • Barbecue Ribs
  • Baked Chicken Drumsticks
  • Meatloaf
  • Salad

Instructions
 

  • Whether you're serving macaroni and cheese as a side dish or a main course, here are all the best ideas for what goes perfectly with creamy mac and cheese.
Keyword Mac and cheese side dishes, Macaroni and cheese sides, Side dishes for Mac and Cheese, What goes with mac and cheese, What to serve with mac and cheese

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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Kendall
Kendall
1 month ago

5 stars
Thanks for the delicious ideas!

Celeste
Celeste
1 month ago

5 stars
I love experimenting with side dishes, and your suggestions are so creative. I’ll definitely be trying some of these with my next mac and cheese batch!

Adelyn
Adelyn
1 month ago

5 stars
These side dish ideas take mac and cheese to a whole new level. I tried the roasted Brussels sprouts, and they added a great crunch and flavor contrast.

Lucille
Lucille
1 month ago

5 stars
This is a staple in my house, but sometimes, I get stuck in a rut. Your side dish ideas are a game-changer. I can’t wait to try them.

Sydney
Sydney
1 month ago

5 stars
Mac and cheese is a classic, and your suggestions for pairings are fantastic. I’m thinking of trying it with baked BBQ ribs first!

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