I’m sure we all have fond memories of mac and cheese. I remember as a kid my parents would make this dish using that orange powdered cheese that we all know and love from the box. To make it even better, they would cut up hot dogs and mix it in the macaroni.

But now that we’re in college, I would like to introduce a more adult version of this childhood favorite by using some ingredients that all college kids love – cheese, sausage, junk food and of course, beer.

Obviously, my inspiration for this dish draws from my childhood memories, but I usually try to go for a rustic, gastropub-style mac and cheese as well as beer and pretzels.  In order to elevate this dish to a college student’s standard, I intend to make the cheese sauce with a dark stout beer and sharp cheddar. Moving away from the standard hot dog, I choose to use a kielbasa sausage, since it’s got a more complex flavor and has a great snap from the casing.

For the finish, I decide to use pretzels instead of standard breadcrumbs simply because I know that I always have junk food lying around the house.

This is definitely a step away from the stereotypical mac and cheese that everyone is used to, but trust me. This is going to taste great.  You’re going to make liquid gold with beer in it, so there’s no way this can go wrong. Just make sure you don’t “misplace” the booze while cooking because you’re actually going to need it for this recipe.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Total Time: 42 minutes
Servings: 4

1 ½ cup of 2% milk
½ bottle of dark stout Guinness (option: any dark beer can be substituted)
8 ounce grated sharp cheddar (option: use your favorite melting cheese)
1 kielbasa sausage
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup of crushed pretzels
Box of pasta (tip #1: use pasta that has ridges and that allows sauce to coat pasta better)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
(tip#2: Make sure you preheat your oven to 375°F)

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Photo by Alex Vu


1. Cook pasta until it is al dente, since you’ll be cooking the pasta more in the oven. By cooking it al dente, or at a low doneness, you will get the right texture once everything is done (tip #2: do not rinse pasta, since rinsing removes the starch that helps the sauce cling to the pasta. Also, remember to salt your boiling water).

2. Boil kielbasa sausage in beer until plump. I’m pretty sure you can figure out what to do with the rest of that bottle of Guinness.

3. In a separate pot, slice the kielbasa and brown in a little olive oil. Remove and set aside for later.

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Photo by Alex Vu

4. Add 3 tablespoons of the butter and flour to the pot to make roux. Cook over medium-high heat until butter and flour have combined. (NOTE: a roux is a thickening agent)

5. Slowly incorporate beer into roux. Whisk in milk once the sauce begins to thicken. Whisk until all lumps have been removed and it’s fully incorporated. Lower heat so that sauce just bubbles.

6. Add the cheese a little at a time to avoid lumps. Add a couple cracks of black pepper to taste. The cheese sauce should be a caramel color.

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Photo by Alex Vu

7. Toss in the pasta and kielbasa.

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Photo by Alex Vu

8. For the pretzel topping, add the remaining butter with pretzel crumbs in a pan. Toasting over medium heat should be just enough for the butter to coat all pretzel crumbs.

9. Pour the pasta mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle pretzel crumbs over the mac and cheese.

10. Bake the mac and cheese in 375°F for 15 minutes. Finish under the broiler for an additional 1-2 minutes in order to create a nice golden brown crust.

(NOTE: This dish can be made in advance. All you need to do is take it out of the fridge, and proceed to bake and broil to perfection on the day of!)

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Photo by Alex Vu

Tip #3: Leftovers can be used to make mac and cheese balls.  Simply remove the leftovers from the fridge and scoop them out in order to be formed into balls. Then you can coat the balls with some pretzel crumbs and then deep fry at 350°F until they turn golden brown.

Tip #4: Another way to use your leftovers is simply putting it between two pieces of bread.  This would make an amazing grilled cheese sandwich.

Shout outs to Jenny Shen from Spoon McGill University and Amanda Gajdosik from Spoon Northwestern for the inspriation.

You can find their posts here:

5 Ways to Upgrade Mac and Cheese

Four Awesome Ways to Cook with Beer