Mac and Cheese Canapés

My guests adore these delectable two-bite mac and cheese “canapés.” Consider this recipe a formula rather than a singular recipe. You can vary the cheeses, add herbs or spices, and personalize it in myriad other ways.–Ellen Brown

LC Fancy Schmancy Mac and Cheese Note

Fancy schmancy mac and cheese canapés? Yup. Why not? You can now eat mac and cheese while holding your pinky finger aloft. Though it may be tempting to take your fave macaroni and cheese recipe and make it in mini-muffin tins, bear in mind that since you’ll be serving these canapés to guests who will be holding them aloft, dangerously close to your carpets and rugs, you require a mac and cheese incarnation that’s not runny and ooey and gooey. Which is precisely why you need this recipe. We have a hunch that a flute of Champagne would be terribly nice with these nibbles, the effervescence cutting the richness and serving as a playful sidekick to the fancy schmancy mac and cheese. For the full effect, plop the lovelies on a silver platter. We also have a hunch they’d be swell in lunch boxes—minus the bubbly, natch.

Special Equipment: Mini-muffin tin

Mac and Cheese Canapés Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 40 M
  • Makes 16 to 24

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs (optional)
  • 1/4 pound ditalini, which are essentially mini macaroni shapes, or other small, similarly shaped pasta
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for the tins
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole milk, warmed
  • 2 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 2 ounces Gruyère, grated
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC). Generously butter a 24-cup mini-muffin tin and, if desired, sprinkle the cups with breadcrumbs. (If you’re baking the canapés in batches, reserve some of the butter and breadcrumbs, if using, for the second batch.)
  • 2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it’s just barely beginning to soften and is at the early stages of al dente. Drain the pasta, rinse it under cold water, and return it to the pot.
  • 3. Meanwhile, melt the 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, still stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until the mixture turns slightly beige and is bubbly. Increase the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the warm milk. Bring to a boil, whisking almost constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cheeses to the sauce in 1/2-cup increments, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir well.
  • 4. Beat the egg yolk with the cream and mustard, if using, and stir it into the pasta. Season with salt and pepper, and press the mixture into the prepared mini-muffin cups. (You may not fill all 24 of the cups.)
  • 5. Bake the canapés for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the tops are light brown. Let them rest for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a platter and pass ASAP. The canapés can be baked, cooled, and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 2 days. Reheat them in a 375ºF (190ºC) until warmed through, 7 to 10 minutes.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

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Testers Choice
Colleen Bloxham

Dec 04, 2012

A lovely little mouthful! What can one say about the flavors as familiar to most of us as apple pie? Well, this cheesy, creamy, slightly crunchy bite was really quite delightful. I loved the addition of the mustard—made it feel a little more sophisticated—but I also think a little pinch of cayenne would go down a treat. A little time-consuming in that you need to make the cream sauce and then fill the fiddly little cups, but really all in all a good bit of nosh. I used ditalini pasta, as mac and cheese for me is always elbow macaroni, so I found this the best shape to hold the sauce and the perfect reminder of childhood. I think this is something most everyone can do and would be loved by all.

Testers Choice
Joan Osborne

Dec 04, 2012

These are very tasty and not that hard to make. Do be sure to press the mixture into the mini muffin tins and to let them sit in the tin for at least 5 minutes, if not more, before placing them on your serving platter. Some of mine came apart when I was trying to get them out and I think it was because I didn’t press some of them in well enough or I didn’t let them sit long enough. Mine were perfectly baked after 12 minutes. I chose to use ditalini and used the optional Dijon mustard, which I think gave them a nice touch. I did reheat a few as directed and it worked perfectly. We all thought these were a fun way to make mac and cheese and would be a great appetizer.

Testers Choice
Kim Venglar

Dec 04, 2012

This was a nice little appetizer. I used ditalini pasta because I always have it on hand. I did add the Dijon mustard but will probably leave it out the next time. I made these as written the first time and decided to make them again and fancy them up. So I made Parmesan cups by melting piles of Parmesan cheese and draping them over the bottom side of the mini muffin tins to form little cups. When they cooled I placed a mini mac and cheese in each cup. They looked so fancy!

Testers Choice
Lori Widmeyer

Dec 04, 2012

Great idea and great recipe. I’ve made this three times in the last two weeks—the first time I made the recipe exactly as written, the second time made as written but ahead of time and reheated a day later with extra cheese on top (extra wonderful), and the third time I used our family-favorite mac n’ cheese recipe but in the mini muffin tin as this recipe states. They each turned out great, came out of the pan with ease, and were easy to serve. Perfect for parties or just when you don’t have enough time to cook a 9-by-13-inch pan full of pasta.

Testers Choice
Jill R.

Dec 04, 2012

This recipe is simple, tasty, and fun. It’s also a great way to get a picky eater to eat. Once you start putting this recipe together you don’t get a chance to stop, so make sure all your ingredients are lined up and ready to go. Being a bit of a traditionalist, I chose to use Rienzi I Bambini 62, mini elbows. I think the addition of a little garlic and onion to these would be great. When you make the cheese sauce I’d recommend making it in a nonstick saucepan, as it becomes sticky enough to form a ball. In order to make sure you’ve enough to fill your tins I’d suggest that you place a tablespoon in each cup and then go back and continue filling each cup until you use all the mac and cheese mixture. All in all this is a recipe that I’ll definitely make again, as it was well received and tastes great.

Testers Choice
Tracey G.

Dec 04, 2012

Consider making a double batch of these because they’ll be eaten quickly! I’d recommend using small-size pasta like ditalini, if you can find it. Elbow macaroni may be too big to fit into a mini muffin tin. The cheese mixture looks very thick initially, but with the addition of the heavy cream and egg yolk, it’s smooth enough to cover the ditalini.

Testers Choice
Joel Jenkins

Dec 04, 2012

I used stortini pasta and this makes a nice little bite-size (well, honestly it really should be a two or three bite) canapé. Nice bite from the Gruyère yet still smooth. Word of caution: don’t forget to butter and bread the tins or getting them out is messy. (Whoops!) I ended up having about 1 cup of each cheese but I imagine that could vary. I’d definitely make these again.

Testers Choice
Karen Lynch

Dec 04, 2012

This is a great spin on an American comfort food and would be great for a casual get-together or a party of youngsters. The dish could be tweaked for a more mature palate that’d enjoy some adventure. If made ahead and reheated I’d probably use the tins again so the form wouldn’t fall apart in the reheating process.

Testers Choice
Dan Kraan

Dec 04, 2012

These mini-mac canapés are perfect appetizer nibbles! Two or three bites and you’re ready for another. The cheese combination is great. Variations on this theme could include a light drizzle of truffle oil or crumbled bacon, just to name a couple.

Testers Choice
Ellen Fuss

Dec 04, 2012

I just made a double batch of these for a bunch of 20-somethings who will be serving them at a party, and I’m so sad that I wasn’t invited because these are the perfect cocktail bites! The recipe came together quickly, and removing the canapés from the tins was a cinch since I’d toasted some breadcrumbs to line the tins. The cheese sauce is much thicker than my favorite mac n cheese recipe, but I assume this is why the canapés held together so nicely. I had to use every ounce of self control to eat only one!

Comments
Comments
  1. What a great idea! I’m definitely trying these.

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      Kathy, I hope you love them! They’re perfect for a fun cocktail party, but I think they’d be equally good as a laid-back dinner at home with a movie, don’t you?

  2. Oh my gosh. I would eat all of these at once. LOVE this idea and it’s a must try for Christmas eve!

  3. Silke says:

    Do you think I could freeze them and reheat? (Still working on the 30 people, 3 day party and desperate for ideas I can prep.)

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Silke, thanks for your query. I have to say, I am really quite leery of freezing these little guys. I’m worried about the resulting texture. The recipe does include a note about baking them earlier in the day and then rewarming them at the last minute. I know this may be more hassle than you’d like with 30 folks crowding around you, but I think that’s going to be best in terms of overall mac & cheese experience. I have, however, asked our recipe testers if anyone tried freezing them, and will be back with you if that’s the case. As for your party, we love menu planning, so if you’d care to share more about the theme and the rest of what you’ve got planned, we’d be happy to make some suggestions….

      • Silke says:

        Hah, still the 30 people, 3 day skiing adventure. Chili, baked sweet potatoes, and toppings one evening, après ski pizza at the ski hill the other one, and if I get lucky, I’ll have a private chef the third. He hasn’t committed yet, though, so I’m making plans in case I have to cook. Regarding freezing these – Ellen Brown herself just emailed me (what a service!) and said she does it all the time. Love this site!!!!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          First, many thanks to Ellen Brown for dropping in and explaining that she freezes these little guys. What a boon! Silke, can you share details? And your menu sounds splendid, wish we could be there! And thanks, we love you…!

  4. jody says:

    Followed the recipie, but needed at least 3 X as much milk to make anything resembling a ‘sauce’ : dont know if english tablespoons are bigger? I used macaroni, no breadcrumbs, really strong English mustard, didnt bother with the cream but just used the top of the milk….and they were FAB! I just dropped a small heap into a well buttered round-bottomed fairy cake tray and they came our beautiful. I’m serving them this evening, and i dont think Im going to bother to reheat them, as I prefer them at room temperature (less greasy, easier to handle and still scrummy).

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Jody, it’s my understanding that the UK tablespoon is a bit larger than our US tablespoon. That could have accounted for your need for additional milk. This is also a thicker sauce than is normally used in a mac and cheese, but it sounds like you adapted it beautifully.

  5. Kathryn says:

    I’m looking forward to making these for my dinner party on Saturday! I’m known for making Mac + Cheese, though I usually don’t follow a recipe. I’m wondering if this recipe would work well in regular sized muffin pans? I’m trying to keep this dinner low-cost, and I don’t own a mini muffin pan. People will actually be sitting down at a dining room table with an appetizer plate, so it’s okay that they wouldn’t be bite sized. Is there anything that I should change to make them larger?

    • David Leite says:

      Kathryn, I don’t think there’s any problem with making them larger. The only thing you’ll need to do is adjust the baking time. Since we didn’t test for a larger canapé, you want to make sure that they’re cooked through and hold together. I’d suggest making the mac & cheese slightly ahead of time and baking off one to know exactly how long you should bake the rest. Have a lovely party!

      • Kathryn says:

        Thanks David! I did end up making them in a regular sized muffin pan, and they worked out perfectly! After cooking them for the 12 minutes, I checked them every 2 minutes and ended up pulling them out at 18. They were great, everyone loved them. I even messed up and only used 1 tsp of flour, instead of 1 Tbsp, and they were still delicious. This seems to be a pretty fool-proof recipe – my favorite kind!

        • David Leite says:

          Kathryn, wonderful!! Ellen Brown write very good recipes, so I’m not surprised it could handle some changes and still be excellent. Happy holidays!

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