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Easy Southwestern Mac and Cheese

5 from 3 votes

posted: 03/15/20

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

This Easy Southwestern Mac and Cheese is the perfect easy stove top dinner that your family will love! Delicious and done in 30 minutes!

overhead view of a gray skillet filled with homemade Mac and cheese flavored with southwestern ingredients on a cutting board

Happy Sunday, my friends.

We are in the midst of some very weird and trying times. Yesterday on Instagram I shared where I’m at.

Stay safe, everyone. And be kind.

I am hoping to keep up with easy recipes you can make at home. This is a great recipe for macaroni and cheese that is made with a lot pantry items and is done in 30 minutes.

I think when you are often making your kids boxes of macaroni and cheese it’s really easy to forget how simple it is to make mac and cheese from scratch.

But really, homemade mac and cheese is a dinner that can be done in about 30 minutes, and when you toss in some great spices and veggies, you can make it into easy Southwestern Mac and Cheese. This is delicious enough that kids and grown ups will love it on the monthly meal rotation.

How to Make Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

The basis of homemade mac and cheese is just a few simple steps.

  1. Cook your noodles on their own according to the box.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, make a roux. (See more on that below.)
  3. Add in half and half and then milk.
  4. Melt in cheese.
  5. Toss with your noodles.

You guys, that’s it. Isn’t that easy??

How to Make a Roux

Making a roux is a great basic kitchen skill to have. It is what makes sauces creamy. It can feel a little daunting if you are just starting out in the kitchen, but once you get it, you feel like a pro.

A roux is the combination of a fat and flour over heat. You then mix in a liquid – often stock or milk – to make a creamy sauce or thicken a recipe.

In this recipe we are melting butter, using that to sauté our garlic and onion with spices, and then whisking in flour. We slowly add in milk and the result is the backbone of our creamy cheese sauce.

In my experience, going slowly while adding your milk is key in getting the roux to work.

If you want to see this in action check out my New England Clam Chowder recipe and my Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup recipe. Both have videos in which I make a roux.

a bowl of southwestern easy Mac and cheese that has black beans, jalapeños, diced tomatoes, and corn in it

Making this Southwestern

At various points through this recipe we are adding ingredients that kick up the flavor and give it a great Southwestern vibe.

You are going to sauté onion and garlic with chili powder and cumin to bring a beautiful base flavor.

Then after stirring in our macaroni we add in diced tomatoes (don’t forget to drain them!), black beans, frozen corn, and green chiles. I have a friend who lives in New Mexico and she jokes that you can’t get anything there without green chiles in it.

You can stop there, or you can add more fresh ingredients on top. I like putting on some diced tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro.

If this recipe sounds incredible to you, but you want a slightly different spin, check out my One Pot Southwestern Alfredo Pasta.

overhead view of a gray skillet filled with southwestern macaroni and cheese recipe topped with fresh tomatoes, corn, and jalapeños on a cutting board surrounded by fresh ingredients

Storing Left Overs

This recipe makes A TON. A whopping 8 cups. That’s enough for six generous portions. The good news is that the left overs are delicious.

Store left overs in an air tight container for up to 4 days.

I do not recommend freezing this recipe.

Other Great Dinner Ideas

If you are looking for more easy dinner recipes, these recipes all have less than 10 minutes hands on time!

If you make this easy mac and cheese leave me a comment and let me know what your family thought!

two white bowls filled with southwestern macaroni and cheese with a fork going into it
overhead view of a gray skillet filled with homemade Mac and cheese flavored with southwestern ingredients on a cutting board
5 from 3 votes

Homemade Southwestern Mac and Cheese

Serves: 6 servings
(tap # to scale)
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
This Easy Southwestern Mac and Cheese is the perfect easy stove top dinner that your family will love!


  • 2 cups elbow maccaroni (uncooked)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups colby jack cheese shredded
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes drained
  • 4 ounces green chiles drained
  • 15 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup frozen corn


  • Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. When it is finished cooking, drain and set aside.
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add in the onion and garlic, then add the salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Whisk in the flour. Then slowly whisk in the half and half and the whole milk. Stir in the colby jack and stir until compltely melted. Add the cooked noodles to the cheese sauce.
  • Finally stir in the diced tomatoes, the green chlies, black beans, and corn.
  • Top with fresh chopped cilantro, fresh tomatoes, and jalapenos and enjoy!
Calories: 608kcal (30%) Carbohydrates: 75g (25%) Protein: 22g (44%) Fat: 22g (34%) Saturated Fat: 13g (81%) Monounsaturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 68mg (23%) Sodium: 731mg (32%) Potassium: 317mg (9%) Fiber: 8g (33%) Sugar: 9g (10%) Vitamin A: 108IU (2%) Vitamin C: 20mg (24%) Calcium: 120mg (12%) Iron: 23mg (128%)
Author: Lisa Longley
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
overhead view of a gray skillet filled with homemade Mac and cheese flavored with southwestern ingredients on a cutting board

did you make this

Homemade Southwestern Mac and Cheese

I’d love to see what you made! Tag me @lisasimplejoy and hashtag it #simplejoyrecipes!

Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.

Reader Interactions


    Have a question? Use the form below to submit your question or comment. I love hearing from you & seeing what you made!

    Rate This Recipe:

  1. Mir says

    My husband would LOVE this. The man wants to put salsa on everything. I can’t blame him…
    That’s a great memory of your dad. It’s amazing how those moments stick with us long after they’re over.

  2. Rachel says

    Totally love the competitive side that has been passed down through generations :) And this skillet looks delicious…and my kind of simple! #awesome

  3. Mickey Hunt says

    The 1st listed ingredient is 2 cups elbow macaroni ‘and cheese” – what cheese are you referring to, please?

    Of course, I assume that after adding diced tomatoes, etc, you add the cooked macaroni to the mixture

    I want to try this for a potluck and plan to add diced ham, just rally wanted to know what the 1st cheese reference pertains to

    • Lisa Longley says

      Sorry! That’s my over tired brain. The cheese wasn’t supposed to be listed there.

      • Donna Kelly says

        FANTASTIC recipe! Perfect in it’s simplicity!

  4. Amy Turner says

    5 stars
    We like!, My 12 yr old was able to make this for us. Easy..simple..tasty..especially scooped up on tortilla chips. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Lisa Longley says

      So happy you guys liked it Amy!

  5. betty says


    • Lisa Longley says

      Not yet, Betty, but we can add it to the list :)

  6. Bernie says

    Can this dish be baked?

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5 Secrets to Stress Free Dinners