Mac and Cheese with Spicy Breadcrumbs

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Chili-spiked panko makes a crisp and spicy topping for this baked mac and cheese.

By Jo Chan
Nov 10, 2022
30 Minutes
8 - 10 Servings

If mac and cheese isn’t a part of your Thanksgiving table, it’s time to change that. You can make this baked pasta dish any day of the year as the main event, but it’s sure to stand out in a holiday spread as well. This recipe fits perfectly in our Oval Baking Dish, which is naturally non stick and cleans up easily.

Chef Jo Chan adds creamy shio koji to her cheese sauce, which amps up the umami. Koji is made from grains (typically rice) and serves as the basis for fermented condiments like miso and soy sauce. Look for “creamy” rather than “liquid” shio koji, which can be found in Asian markets and well-stocked supermarkets, as well as online, along with gochugaru (Korean chile flakes) or Chinese red chili pepper powder.

Mac and Cheese with Spicy Breadcrumbs

Chili-spiked panko makes a crisp and spicy topping for this baked mac and cheese.

Jo Chan

30 Minutes
8 - 10 Servings
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni pasta
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup creamy shio koji (or substitute nutritional yeast)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup parmesan, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese red chili pepper powder or gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) (or substitute crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 2 tablespoons Italian herb blend (just dried herbs, no salt or spice)

    Preheat oven to 400F. Fill a Stockpot fitted with a Pasta Insert with water and bring to a boil. Season heavily with salt (it should taste like the ocean) and cook macaroni until just al dente. Drain and set aside.


    Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a 5 QT Saucier over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant,  stirring quickly to keep it from burning.


    Sprinkle in flour and whisk to create a roux. Stir constantly until roux turns golden brown and smells nutty, adjusting heat if necessary to avoid burning the garlic, 4–5 minutes.


    Add creamy shio koji and whisk to combine. Slowly stream in the milk, whisking as you incorporate it. Continue whisking until mixture comes to a boil, 5–8 minutes, to fully activate the roux.


    Remove from heat and slowly whisk in cheese until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


    Return the macaroni to the Stock Pot and pour in the cheese sauce. Stir to combine and transfer into Oval Baking Dish.


    To make the topping, melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a Butter Warmer over medium-low heat. Toss together breadcrumbs, melted butter, parmesan, chili pepper, and dried herbs in a small bowl.


    Sprinkle topping over macaroni and cheese, place on top of a Sheet Pan to catch any drips, and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.