How to Make Roux for Macaroni and Cheese? [Step-by-Step Guide!]

Many macaroni and cheese recipes call for making roux as your first step, to start and built the recipe further. If you aren’t familiar with making a roux for macaroni and cheese, then do not fear, as in this article, we will understand roux and how to make a roux for your macaroni and cheese.

Roux is a French term that is pronounced as ‘RU’ or ‘ROO’. Roux originated in France and forms the base for four out of the five Mother Sauces of French Cooking. Roux is added to sauces, stews, soups, gravies, and casseroles to thicken and make them creamier.

Making a roux for your mac n cheese is highly recommended as this acts as a base for your cheese sauce making it thick and uniform in texture. Also, allowing the addition of cheese and dairy easier while ensuring the sauce does not separate.

Roux is made by cooking equal parts of flour and fat on low to medium heat into a smooth, uniform paste.

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What does a roux do in macaroni and cheese?

Roux forms a base for the macaroni and cheese sauce as well as acts as a thickener for the sauce. Without, the addition of roux, the sauce turns out to be runny and does not coat the pasta well. It also gives a smooth creamy texture to the cheese sauce.

Another major advantage of adding roux to your macaroni and cheese is that the fat in the roux allows for the addition of dairy and cheese to be added without it being grainy or gritty.

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Steps to make a roux for macaroni and cheese

Starting a roux is simple and easy. The good thing is, you don’t need to be an expert in cooking to make roux! Anyone who has some basic knowledge of cooking can easily make roux at home. Plus, with the steps that I’ve shared, the process will be a breeze.

Here are the steps to make a roux:

  1. Melt 1 part butter or any fat in a saucepan on low to medium heat. 
    Fats such as olive oil, canola oil, lard, margarine, or any fat of your choice can be taken. However, we recommend using butter as it imparts a good flavor and texture to your macaroni and cheese. Ensure that the fat of your choice does not have an overpowering taste or smell, as this combined with dairy will taste unpalatable. Avoid using lower fats such as margarine as they tend to separate while cooking.
  2. Gradually add 2 parts of flour to the saucepan. 
    You can make a roux with most flours other than wheat, such as arrowroot, cornstarch, and potato starch. However, the ratios might differ. So, if you are a beginner then it’s highly suggested to stick to wheat flour as it is easy to manage.
  3. Keep stirring continuously and vigorously for about 3 minutes until you get a light and fluffy paste. 

This uniform and smooth paste is called  ‘roux’. It is white in color thus alternatively it is also called ‘white roux’. Roux can be added to your recipes or cooked further into a bechamel sauce by adding milk.

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What is the correct ratio for a roux?

The correct ratio for roux is 1:1. Which is one part flour mixed with one part fat. However, for macaroni and cheese, it is recommended to use 2 parts of butter as it provides an enhanced texture and flavor.

Making a roux with higher fat content for creamy sauces does not allow the cheese in the sauce to separate easily. As the protein and the fat molecules create a base to allow the additional fat without separating. Hence, the sauce turns silky and creamier.

Alternatively, using fats that have a lower fat content such as margarine will make it easier for the cheese sauce to separate much more quickly.

Listed below are some of the reasons why adding 2 parts of butter or fat is recommended.

  1. Helps in evenly cooking the flour.
  2. Also, you do not have to fear the flour getting burned or charred.
  3. This ratio will result in a thicker roux, which will allow the additional fats to be incorporated.
  4. Beginners will find it very easy to use this ratio.

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Things to Keep in Mind When Making Roux

Making a roux is easier than you think. However, there are times when one might face some unforeseen difficulties that can arise while making a roux. A roux shouldn’t be too thin or drippy. It should be the consistency of the sauce. The right consistency is when it coats the back of a spoon. 

The roux is thick:

Although 2:1 is a pretty good ratio for cooking a roux for macaroni and cheese. However, if you have decided to make the sauce using a 1:1 ratio and the roux has turned out to be thick than you can:

  1. Add about one to two tablespoons of butter, oil, or fat and cook it a little more.
  2. Add half to one cup of pasta water or a tablespoon of milk.

The roux seems thin or runny:

  1. Add more flour.
  2. Add a mix of flour and butter or fat so it thickens.

How to make a roux cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese?

Some people also prefer to make roux cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese. This is slightly different from the roux that we’ve mentioned above.

Roux cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese can be easily made with the following steps:

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan on low to medium heat.
  2. Melt 2 portions of some butter or unsalted butter.
  3. Add 1 portion of flour.
  4. While cooking on gentle heat cook it for about 3 minutes until the raw smell of the flour goes away.
  5. The resultant light and fluffy paste are called a roux.
  6. Add in milk while whisking the paste.
  7. Add the spices – salt, pepper, and paprika.
  8. Gradually add in the grated cheese until the cheese melts.
  9. Macaroni and cheese sauce is ready until it coats the back of the spoon.
  10. Gently add in the cooked pasta. Your macaroni and cheese are ready.

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Is It Necessary To Make A Roux For Macaroni And Cheese?

It is not necessary to make a roux for macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese can be made without making a roux as a base. However, it is recommended to make macaroni and cheese with a roux as it allows the cheese sauce to be smooth, thick, and creamy. It will also act as a thickener.

Making macaroni and cheese with a roux works very well for the baked style of macaroni and cheese. Since macaroni and cheese can be made without a roux as well. So, thus it is totally your choice if you would like to make the cheese sauce with or without the roux.

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