Why does my homemade mac and cheese curdle? What am I doing wrong?



vfrgurrl January 23, 2012
I use this recipe and never has it failed me!
12 oz of macaroni
3/4 of cup chopped onion
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbls flour
1 13 oz can evaporated milk
4 cups shredded cheese (sharp)
8 oz American cheese, chopped
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tbls chopped pimento
1 cup shredded parmesian

Cook noodles, set aside. Saute onion and green pepper in butter. Add flour, cook 1 min. Gradually add milks, cook over medium heat until thickened. Add 3 cups chedder cheese, American and pepper. Stir until smooth. Add macaroni. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 350 for 20 min. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses, piemento and bake 5 more min.

I know it's sinful, but if you are trying to eat healthy what the heck are you making mac and cheese for?


If you use low-fat or fat-free (skim) milk, the lack of enough fat can make the sauce break. If you bring the sauce to a hard boil after adding the cheese, and you used lower-fat milk, that also can break the sauce and make it grainy. Good luck!
Robyn-Allise January 23, 2012
Thank you. Forgot I switched to skim milk, I've been using 2%. Great suggestion to try, thanks
pierino January 23, 2012
You may be right about the mustard. It works as an emulsifying agent (in things like salad dressings) so that could be your problem in that it might be tightening up your roux/bechamel too much. But Cracker Barrel is a pretty lousy cheese---God knows what other things are in there.
Robyn-Allise January 23, 2012
Thanks so much. You have a point about the mustard & the crap cheese. Next time I make it, I'll go back to my old ways and see if it makes a difference. Thanks
MTMitchell January 23, 2012
Is it for sure curdling or is the sauce getting kind of strangely grainy? If it's the latter, I have the same problem, and I asked a friend in culinary school about it -- she said that that happens because of the kind of cheese(s) you're using, and that the best way to address it/correct for it is to bake the mac-and-cheese for a little while. i think she said 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes? I am of the "mac-and-cheese is a good way to use up odds-and-ends of cheese" school, so I was totally mystified as to how the sauce sometimes appeared to break or get grainy and sometimes it didn't -- it was because of the different cheeses I was using. So I guess that means that there might be some differences between Cracker Barrel and Cabot, although I can't imagine what. Now I want mac-and-cheese for dinner....
Robyn-Allise January 23, 2012
Yes you are right, strangely grainy describes it best. Makes a lot of sense in regards to a different type. I have always used Cabot, so maybe the Cracker Barrel doesn't melt in same manner. I will be baking it later so maybe that will help. I also agree the extra mustard could also be the cause. I must admit it did taste great, looking forward to having it for tonight's dinner thanks.
jmburns January 23, 2012
Are you making roux and folding in grated cheese? This always works for me.
Robyn-Allise January 23, 2012
Yes that's exactly what I'm doing. There are two things I'm doing differently but I can't imagine either one would cause curdling. I'm using cracker barrel cheddar instead of Cabot, my usual brand. I'm using for large tablespoons of Dijon mustard instead of the two I normally use, I guess that could be it? Thanks.
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