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The Cheesy Taste of Haitian Mac and Cheese – Making Makawoni au Graten

Are you ready to dip your fork in some cheesy goodness? There’s no better comfort food than a bowl of mac and cheese topped with parmesan (of course, more cheese) and a glass of your favorite drink.

You have tried the classic American mac and cheese, but have you ever tasted Haitian makawoni au graten? It’s a dish that will have your taste buds dancing and singing hallelujah.

History of Mac and Cheese

While no one knows the exact origin of mac and cheese, dating back to when it was introduced, it most likely came from Northern Europe. The earliest record of its scribbled recipe is from 1769. It became an American staple cuisine when Thomas Jefferson became enamored with the pasta dish on his visit to Europe. Impresses by the rich goodness of cheese mixed with the supple flour dough, he bought a pasta machine and noodle recipes to the United States because such luxuries weren’t available in the colonies. The first time mac and cheese were served in the US was during Jefferson’s term at an 1802 state dinner.

How Mac and Cheese Became Makawoni au Graten

After 1802, mac and cheese slowly started to make its way around the world. Every country had its recipe with a twist that would set it apart. One of these was Haiti. There, this cheesy ooey-gooey dish was called Makawoni au Graten.

The difference between “regular” and “Haitian” mac and cheese is the noodles. The former uses simple elbow macaroni with cheddar and mozzarella cheese. In contrast, the latter uses big noodles such as penne and rigatoni. The classic version does not contain any meat, although some people like to add shredded chicken or ground beef to it. The two ingredients that Haitians use are Edam cheese  (tête de maure or tête de mort) and evaporated carnation milk. Some people also use epis, coconut milk, and mayonnaise.

Epis is a Haitian seasoning base, which is made of garlic, green onions, parsley, pepper, and various herbs. It is mostly used for marinating meats but can also be added to stews, rice, and soups.

Makawoni au Graten 

Haitian mac and cheese is primarily made with evaporated milk, pasta, and Edam cheese. However, you can substitute the third ingredient with any cheese of your liking. You can add more than one type of shredded cheese.


  • Two cans of evaporated (carnation) milk (24 oz.)
  • Penne or Rigatoni (1 Lb.)
  • Edam Cheese (4 cups)
  • Water (9 cups)
  • Laughing cow cheese (2 wedges)
  • Salt (2 Tsp.)
  • Onion or Shallot (1 cup chopped)
  • Bell pepper (1/4 pepper)
  • Maggi (1 Tablet)
  • Thyme (2 sprigs)
  • Parsley (2 sprigs)
  • Cloves (6)
  • Garlic (1 clove)
  • Oil (1 Tsp.)
  • Shredded chicken or ground beef (optional)

*Substitute cheeses: sharp cheddar, mozzarella, Gouda, and parmesan

Makawoni au graten


  • Add water, salt, oil, thyme, parsley, and cloves to a pot and bring to a boil on medium to high heat. Once the water starts boiling, add the macaroni and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  • In a separate pot, add the milk, Maggi, onions, bell peppers, cheese, and cook on low heat, stirring often. Add one cup of cheese at a time for a total of three cups. Allow the sauce to cook for about 20 minutes. If you choose to add shredded chicken or ground beef, add the meat to the sauce.
  • Once the macaroni is ready, use a large strainer to drain the water. Remove the cloves, thyme, and parsley. Add the macaroni to the sauce and stir for one minute. Turn off the stove.
  • Grease a pan (9″ X 13″) and add the mac and cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese on top of the mac and cheese. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the mac and cheese for 25 minutes.
  • Switch the oven to broil and broil the mac and cheese for up to three minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and allow the makawoni au graten to cool off for a few minutes.

*Serves 8-10 people.

Prep time: 1-1.5 hours

Makawoni au Graten is mostly served as a side dish.

We bet your mouth is watering right now to try this new version of mac and cheese.