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Irish Mac and Cheese

Add a touch o' the Irish to your mac and cheese! Guinness and Dublin cheddar turn an American comfort food classic into Irish mac and cheese.

A dish of Irish mac and cheese on a blue dish towel

With a name like Coleen, and red hair, do you think I might be a little bit Irish? Well, you'd be right! Might explain my love of cheese, alcohol, and the color green.

I will not get on my annual soapbox about how corned beef is not part of traditional Irish cuisine. OK, maybe a quick review: Ireland produced a large quantity of corned beef; almost all of it was exported. Irish immigrants in America used it as a substitute for bacon, which was more expensive in the New World. Anyway ...

A wooden spoon digging into a casserole dish of Irish mac and cheese.

No, this Irish mac and cheese isn't traditional, either. Consider it Irish-American fusion. The classic American comfort food gets an Irish twist with Irish stout beer and Irish cheese in the sauce.

The dish also gets a generous helping of bacon, another food commonly found in Irish cuisine. Minced fresh sage leaves add even more flavor.

A plateful of Irish mac and cheese sitting in front of the casserole dish.

For my Irish cheddar, I used a combination of Kerrygold Irish Aged Cheddar and Kerrygold Dubliner Irish cheese. Gruyere is a kind of Swiss cheese, and if you see a variety of "ages" (the labels say "aged 3 months" or "aged 9 months"), go with the "older" cheese if your wallet allows. Both will be delicious, but the older cheese has a more complex, nutty flavor.

Some tips for mac and cheese success: do not let your milk mixture boil. If your milk is too hot when you add the cheese, it will break, and become a greasy, gloppy mess. For perfect pasta texture, subtract one minute from what the manufacturer's instructions give for al dente. Your pasta will cook a bit more and absorb some of the cheese mixture while in the oven, and come out just right.

A plateful of Irish mac and cheese with a bottle of Guinness beer behind it.

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A plateful of Irish mac and cheese in front of a casserole dish.

Irish Mac and Cheese

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Add a touch o’ the Irish to your mac and cheese! Guinness and Dublin cheddar turn an American comfort food classic into Irish mac and cheese.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 3 tbsp salted Irish butter
  • 2 ½ tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ⅛ tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • ⅓ cup stout Irish beer
  • 3 oz shredded smoked Gruyere
  • 8 oz shredded Irish Cheddar
  • 4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ½ cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, minced

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 2 ½-quart casserole or baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside. 
  2. Fill a large saucepan ⅔ full with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water, then add the macaroni and cook according to the instructions until just al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the hot cooking liquid, then drain the pasta. Set aside. 
  3. While the pasta is cooking, in 3 quart saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the milk, half-and-half, and evaporated milk just to a simmer, keep hot. 
  4. In a 4 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir in flour until it begins to turn golden brown. Gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture, mustard, salt, cayenne, and stout, and bring to a simmer. Do not let it boil. 
  5. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheeses until melted. If the macaroni is stuck together, loosen it with the reserved pasta water. Add the macaroni and bacon crumbles to the cheese mixture and stir to coat. Transfer to a baking dish.
  6. Combine the breadcrumbs and minced sage. Spread over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Spritz lightly with nonstick baking spray or an oil mister. Bake for 15 minutes, until the breadcrumbs have turned deep golden brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. 
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 468Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 794mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 1gSugar: 8gProtein: 22g

I am not a certified nutritionist. This nutrition information is automatically calculated by third party software and is meant as a guideline only.

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Adapted from Food Network

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A plateful of Irish mac and cheese with a bottle of Guinness beer behind it.

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Art R

Thursday 14th of January 2021

What’s the cup of pasta water for?

Coleen

Thursday 14th of January 2021

To loosen the pasta if it has stuck together before the sauce is ready. I've updated the instructions.

Joan Tonkinson

Monday 28th of December 2020

Hey, what do I do with the extra 2 Tbs of butter? Ingredient list called for 5 T but recipe only called for 3.

Coleen

Monday 28th of December 2020

Sorry about that, the recipe I adapted originally called for 5 tbsp of butter, and used the remaining 2 tbsp to saute the breadcrumbs for the topping. I omitted that step, and forgot to omit the remaining 2 tbsp of butter from the ingredient list.

Stephanie

Tuesday 17th of April 2018

I've heard about this dish before. My friend makes this dish like an expert. Irish mac and cheese have a perfect relationship. -Stephanie

Framalang

Monday 19th of March 2018

Thank you for the info and clarification.

Ray Morneau

Sunday 11th of March 2018

Party Food!!! My youngest son emphasizes his Irish side (via Grandma O'Neil, I guess). So, for his birthday last week I wanted a special side/main ... and Coleen deserves a sincere hug and a kiss!!! So easy that even this arborist can grab a few pots & pans and fairly quickly orchestrate this masterpiece in a mere hour and a half by delegating to another son and brother - you, fry the bacon without burning it; you, grate the cheeses without finger abrasions; you, sink, dishes - yep, this one really generates a LOT of pots + pans + spoons + spatulas! But the creamy combination of nuances of the flavors and textures was a winner at our family party table! I devoured more this than the steak and asparagus accompaniments!!! The one major enhancement was that I let my son doing the bacon de-glaze the pan with a big glub of Guinness (his suggestion) and add it to the cheese sauce :-)) Thank You, Coleen!!!

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