Rihanna's secret to macaroni and cheese is ketchup, mustard, and pepper sauce - and it's surprisingly tasty

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Lauren Edmonds
·6 min read
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Rihanna Mac and Cheese New Preview
Rihanna's Macaroni and Cheese was a quick meal that's hassle-free and easy to make. Lauren Edmonds
  • Rihanna shared her macaroni and cheese recipe in a 2014 Esquire profile.

  • The recipe included ketchup, mustard, and Eaton's Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce.

  • The ketchup and mustard added an unexpected tang, while the pepper sauce added a dash of heat.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Rihanna first shared her family's macaroni and cheese recipe with Esquire.

Rihanna Getty Imagas
Rihanna. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Rihanna's secret to her beloved macaroni and cheese includes three special ingredients: ketchup, mustard, and pepper sauce.

In 2014, Rihanna appeared as Esquire's cover star for its December food and drink special issue. Besides sharing her shepherd's pie and rum punch recipes, the "Wild Thoughts" singer also described how her family's "Mac and Rih's" dish came about as a fluke.

"This was discovered by accident due to our gas running out halfway through making the original dish, but I fell in love with the taste and texture, so I've been making it to perfection ever since," Rihanna, born Robyn Fenty, wrote.

The macaroni and cheese recipe calls for 10 ingredients, including Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce.

Rihanna's Mac and Cheese Taste Test
Most of Rihanna's macaroni and cheese ingredients are everyday pantry items like shredded cheese and red bell pepper. Lauren Edmonds

To make Rihanna's creamy macaroni and cheese, you'll need:

  • 450 grams of small elbow macaroni

  • Salt

  • 1 medium white onion, grated

  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned

  • 6 spring onions, sliced

  • ¼ cup yellow mustard

  • ¼ cup ketchup

  • 1 ½ tablespoons Eaton's Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce

  • 900 grams Colby-Jack cheese, shredded

  • 1 cup water

Rihanna didn't say how long the recipe would take, but in my experience, food prep lasted 20 minutes, and the cooking process was about 15 minutes. The entire recipe takes around 40 minutes — making this an easy and quick dish.

Before boiling the elbow macaroni, the first task was prepping the vegetables.

Rihanna Mac and Cheese Taste Test
I was surprised that the recipe said to grate the onion instead of dicing it, but it created very thin slices. Lauren Edmonds

Per the recipe, I purchased a medium white onion and grated it into thin, tiny slivers.

I've never grated onion before, and despite some onion-related crying and a few accidental cuts, it was an absolute time-saver. The result was much finer than diced onions, meaning the slivers can blend seamlessly throughout the dish and guarantee a slight crunch.

Rihanna suggested the red bell pepper be julienned instead of chopped or diced.

Rihanna Mac and Cheese Taste Test
After cutting off the top and bottom, I removed the pepper's inner seeds and cut vertically down the fruit. Lauren Edmonds

I adore my grandmother's traditional southern baked macaroni and cheese, so learning that Rihanna included a whole red pepper into her recipe was an eye-opener.

She suggested people julienne the red pepper, meaning cut it into vertical strips. I sliced my bell pepper a bit too thick this time, but I recommend using thin strips so as not to overpower the macaroni and cheese.

The six spring onions were rinsed and sliced crosswise.

Rihanna Mac and Cheese Taste Test
I chopped off the roots and discarded the leaves after cutting six spring onions. Lauren Edmonds

After rinsing off my six spring onions, I chopped the scraggly roots off and began slicing crosswise.

The recipe said to follow the pasta box's instructions to cook the noodles.

Rihanna Mac and Cheese Taste Test
I cooked my noodles for eight minutes to avoid al dente or firm noodles. Lauren Edmonds

When it came to boiling the pasta, Rihanna said to simply follow the instructions on the box.

I decided to cook half a box of Ronzoni Elbows, so I boiled three quarts of water and added two tablespoons of salt. Although I love a good al dente pasta, I cooked my noodles for eight minutes to ensure they were tender.

Rihanna suggested people "leave a little of the water back in the pot, maybe a quarter cup or so" to make the cheese creamy and add a bit of salty flavor.

The grated onion, bell pepper, and spring onions were poured into the pot.

Rihanna Mac and Cheese Taste Test
The grated onion, julienned bell pepper, and spring onion added to the cooked elbow noodles. Lauren Edmonds

Over a low flame, I combined the grated onions, bell pepper, and half of the spring onions into the pot and stirred.

Then, I poured in ketchup, mustard, and Eaton's Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce.

Rihanna Mac and Cheese Taste Test
I incorporated the ketchup, mustard, and pepper sauce into the noodles and stirred it all together. Lauren Edmonds

As I poured the ketchup and mustard into my pot, I was both undeniably curious and a bit hesitant. While adding ketchup and mustard is common in Barbadian Macaroni Pie, I typically associate the condiments with summer barbecues and hot dogs at the ballpark.

The tangy flavor of the ketchup and mustard could either elevate my meal to new heights or completely overpower the Colby-Jack cheese.

I was also curious about whether Eaton's Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce would pack a heat-filled punch since less than two tablespoons were added.

Once combined, I stirred the ingredients together with my cup of pasta water and cheese.

The ketchup and mustard created a strong tang, while the pepper sauce's heat was barely noticeable.

Rihanna Mac and Cheese Final Slide
The Colby-Jack cheese was gooey, and the vegetables added a much-needed crunch to the recipe. Lauren Edmonds

All in all, Rihanna's macaroni and cheese was actually pretty good.

The Colby-Jack cheese melted wonderfully into the macaroni and created a creamy consistency that was drool-worthy. I was honestly surprised since the recipe didn't include any butter or milk.

But there was no mistaking the mustard notes in this recipe. Each bite was capped off by a sharp, tangy flavor that was only cut down by the ketchup's sugar content. While I'm usually all for drowning my food in condiments, I'm not a huge fan of tasting it in my macaroni and cheese.

I was also surprised that the pepper sauce didn't add more of a kick, which will work great for people with low heat tolerance, but spice-lovers will be disappointed.

The best thing about this meal was that it's so easy. Although taking pictures and making notes of the recipe extended my cook time, the actual process was less than an hour and required everyday pantry items.

Another standout point was the texture, which created three layers of crunch between the bell pepper, spring onion, and grated onion. Rihanna's stovetop version didn't have a crispy top layer like typical baked macaroni and cheese recipes, so those vegetables added dimension to the meal.

With that said, I definitely wouldn't refuse a bowl of Rihanna's macaroni and cheese if she offered it, but I'd rather dig into a bowl of my grandmother's recipe.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

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