Is Mac & Cheese A Thanksgiving Food? Answered

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Lauren Beck

If you were ever invited to a Thanksgiving feast, you would likely be served a traditional spread of turkey, pies, and cranberry sauce.

But is mac and cheese a thanksgiving food? Were Thanksgiving Dinners different during the Victorian era? Let’s find out. 

How Common is Mac & Cheese During Thanksgiving?

Mac and cheese are common in the South as they prefer carbs, which macaroni and cheese represent. Stories dating back so many years ago state that it was common seeing macaroni and cheese at holiday meals during Victorian times. 

But now, you’d least expect macaroni and cheese at a dinner table during Thanksgiving. But, it doesn’t mean that macaroni and cheese are not recommended dishes to eat during the special celebration. 

A Little History 

No one knows about the story of mac and cheese being at the Thanksgiving table. 

Food52 claims that the book “The Experienced English Housekeeper” by Elizabeth Raffald includes a recipe for making béchamel sauce and cheese over a noodle casserole with Parmesan and breadcrumbs.

It’s possible that Thomas Jefferson and Kraft Foods were responsible for the appearance of cheese and macaroni on a Thanksgiving meal. 

Stories about Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of a pasta-making machine have been around for a long time. He also imported grated cheese products such as macaroni and cheese during the 1700s.

What the Victorians Have To Do With Mac & Cheese?

Although the concept of mac and cheese has been around for a long time, it wasn’t until 1883 that it really established its identity. During the Victorian era, the Victorians would prepare different types of casseroles and still call it mac and cheese.

In Victorian times, people cook macaroni and cheese by boiling the pasta first, which sounds like a normal thing to do. However, they would add a layer of grated cheese or butter. 

They then topped the dish with various layers of cooked macaroni, cheese, herbs, and canned tomatoes.

The result looked like a baked ziti– not more of the macaroni and cheese we’re familiar with today. 

What’s A Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner? 

If you were to look at the Thanksgiving table in the 1880s, you would see many of the same food items that are commonly served today, such as:

  • Pickles or tomatoes
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pies
  • Cranberries (not canned)
  • Stuffing
  • Roasted Turkey
  • Green bean casserole

You may have also seen fried oysters, coleslaw, and occasional Victorian-style variations of mac and cheese.

Why Isn’t Mac & Cheese Considered Thanksgiving Food? 

Baked homemade Mac and cheese

Although macaroni and cheese is popular comfort food, it usually only makes an appearance on the Thanksgiving table in the South. But slowly, it’s making its way to the top of the country’s list of Thanksgiving Day [1] side dishes.

As time passed, most people preferred traditional foods over mac and cheese for their special blowout.

Mac and cheese is a standalone meal that can be served as an entree. People cook it as an alternative to the regular dish when kids don’t want to eat the prepared meal. 


Is macaroni and cheese a Southern Thanksgiving food?

Yes, macaroni and cheese is more of a Southern Thanksgiving food. It is a popular side dish you can usually find at Thanksgiving Dinner tables in the South up to this day.

Did the pilgrims have mac and cheese?

Yes. Pilgrims did have macaroni and cheese on their first Thanksgiving along with mashed potatoes, turkey, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, rolls, and glazed carrots. 

When did macaroni and cheese become part of Thanksgiving dinner?

Macaroni and cheese became a part of Thanksgiving dinner in 1883– during the Victorian era. You would usually find this lasagna-like recipe on most dinner tables along with other traditional recipes, stuffing, or any side dish people eat and share together. 

Final Thoughts 

Thanksgiving has been a part of the culture of America for a long time. 

It’s also a tradition that dates back to the pilgrims’ first trip to New England in 1621, and macaroni and cheese has been a part of the country’s Thanksgiving feast for a long time. 

Despite the changes in the way we eat, this Thanksgiving dish is still an essential part of the culture and cuisine of the US– along with turkey, stuffing, bacon, ham, cheeses, and other pasta dishes. 


Lauren Beck
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