Mac and cheese canapés? Yup. Why not? If you feel like being fancy schmancy, you can eat mac and cheese while holding your pinky finger aloft. We like to set them out on a fancy platter alongside flutes of Champagne as the effervescence cuts through the richness and serves as a playful sidekick to the fancy schmancy mac and cheese. For the full effect, plop the lovelies on a silver platter. And, as a favor to all the moms, the leftovers work magnificently in lunch boxes—minus the bubbly, natch.Renee Schettler Rossi

Why You Can’t Use Your Favorite Mac And Cheese For This Recipe

Though it may be tempting to take your fave macaroni and cheese recipe and simply plop it in mini-muffin tins, don’t try it. [Editor’s Note: Trust us. We speak from experience.] The technique of making backed mini mac and cheese canapés requires a mac and cheese incarnation that’s not runny and ooey and gooey. Especially when you bear in mind that you’ll be serving these canapés to guests who will be holding them aloft, probably in the vicinity of your carpets and rugs. That’s all to say precisely why you need this recipe.

A grey plate half-filled with mac and cheese canapes, with a few resting beside the plate.

Mac and Cheese Canapés

4.86 / 7 votes
These mac and cheese canapes, essentially baked mac and cheese bites, are made from macaroni and sharp Cheddar cheese and baked in mini-muffin tins. Perfect finger food for kids and adults. Cocktail party, anyone?
David Leite
Servings16 to 24 servings
Calories80 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


  • Mini-muffin tin


  • 1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs (optional)
  • 1/4 pound ditalini, which are essentially mini macaroni shapes, or other small, similarly shaped pasta
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) 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


  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
Mac & Cheese

Adapted From

Mac & Cheese

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 canapeCalories: 80 kcalCarbohydrates: 7 gProtein: 4 gFat: 4 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 23 mgSodium: 53 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Ellen Brown. Photo © 2012 Steve Legato. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Sometimes it can be quite tiresome finding recipes that appeal to both children and adults. We were hosting a party for 13 children and 8 parents last weekend and I decided to make a double batch of these. Turns out they are wonderful for parties because 1. You can make them ahead of time and reheat them for a few minutes before serving, 2. You can pull extras out of your refrigerator and reheat them quickly when the kids start fighting over the last one, and 3. You can pull even more out to be heated when the parents start fighting with the children over the last ones. I didn’t use the bread crumbs but will definitely incorporate them next time for a little added crunch.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

4.86 from 7 votes (3 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Oops. Talk about autopilot. Discovered when I went in for a final kitchen cleanup that I didn’t use ditalini after all! It was De Cecco elbows No. 81, the small ones. Had bought them before I found the ditalini. Oh, well. They worked.

    And another couple of notes – when you’re making the very thick sauce, do not be surprised when seeming extra oil appears at the edges of the mixture. If you haven’t melted many real cheeses before (as opposed to things like Velveeta), you’ll learn that this always happens. Just keep going, it’s normal with this. Also, the barely al dente cook helps keep these little babes firm after they’re turned out of their pans. Also helps with the chewiness, which is part of the fun. I did freeze this first batch and thawed one out this morning. It was fine. I do think I may take my electric griddle to the party on a very low setting to put the canapes on, just a wee bit above room temp.

  2. I found the yummy bites tastier at room temp than hot–the cheese is cheesier then. Be aware that the sauce is VERY thick, mainly melted cheese with the flour roux only a starting point. Used ditalini, a little heavier on the Dijon (I often use dry mustard in my mac and cheese) and a shot of Cholula, just because. Not spicy hot even with all that. Yielded 18 for me. I will double the recipe next time as I’m making these for a large shower, and I will freeze them. Also will consider salting and peppering the buttered cups before I breadcrumb them; the very first taste is quite bland to me, especially when they’re still quite warm from the oven.

  3. 5 stars
    These are insanely good as written, though you need to cook them until very crunchy to get them to pop out properly. I think they would be even better and hold together better if cooled before unmolding and then reheated on a cookie sheet.

    1. Rebecca, thanks for writing, and so glad you liked them. I’m contacting the author and having her weigh in.

    2. Hi Rebecca, you’ve got to be very generous with the butter in the muffin tins. That’s the key to popping them out easily. If you let them cool in the tins some of the cheese may adhere, so I fear it would work against you. Also, I find that times I don’t sprinkle the cups with breadcrumbs they are more difficult to remove. But I’m so glad you liked them! Ellen, author of Mac & Cheese