Trinidad macaroni pie is a Caribbean comfort food classic.
The dish is similar to a baked macaroni and cheese casserole, but the cheese isn't melted down into a sauce before baking.
Macaroni pie is a staple dish in Caribbean cuisine, and one that I grew up eating a lot in my Trinidadian household.
My mom has always made a sweet (kid-friendly) macaroni pie for me and my brother, which is essentially a basic macaroni pie recipe with the addition of 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (or condensed milk).
I love how the sweet pie pairs with stewed chicken, and no matter how many other versions I try, I will always prefer my mom's pie over everyone else's.
I shared that recipe on my blog about six years ago, and it's one of my most popular recipes today. However, I recently realized that no one else I know makes their macaroni pie sweet...
🥣 What Goes In Trinidadian Macaroni Pie?
"Traditional" Trinidad macaroni pie is a baked dish made with macaroni, eggs, grated cheese, evaporated milk, salt and white pepper.
Optional add-ins include grated onion or carrot, chopped herbs and tomato.
At least, those are the ingredients that are listed in the 2002 edition of the Naparima Girls's High School Cookbook (officially titled The Multi-Cultural Cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago & the Caribbean).
This is the quintessential book on Trinidadian cuisine, and every Trinidadian family seems to have a copy of the book in their home.
The first edition, published in 1988, lists only macaroni, eggs, cheese and carnation milk as the ingredients for the recipe. Salt, black pepper and grated onion are optional.
Personally, I can see why they altered the recipe in the second edition of the book... I can't imagine that the original recipe would be very tasty!
📖 Recipe Variations
I asked my friends and family to share what they put in their macaroni pies, since every family has their own twist on this classic recipe.
Everyone said their pies are savoury, and everyone said they use milk and eggs. Some people use a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, while others prefer just aged cheddar cheese.
Some people add herbs, others add ketchup and mustard, and I have one aunt who makes a really tasty version with powdered ginger.
My friend Heather from Heather's Eats shared a Bajan (meaning from Barbados) macaroni cheese pie recipe with me too. That one was heavy on the mustard, using both hot English mustard and regular yellow mustard. It also included ketchup, onion and red pepper sauce, with optional sweet bell peppers, butter and breadcrumbs.
The recipe really varies from family to family, which makes me wonder who gets to decide which version of Trinidad macaroni pie is authentic?
I'm Trinidadian-born, my parents are also Trinidadian, as are my grandparents on both sides. My mom has always made our macaroni pie sweet, and no one else seems to. I often worry that the versions of Trinidadian recipes that I grew up with aren't "authentic" enough to publish on my blog.
But lately, I've been wondering who gets to decide which recipes are the gold standard and which are not?
There are so many variations in recipes, from country to country, village to village, even person to person, that it's a bit ridiculous to think that certain recipes should be made one way and one way alone in order to be "authentic".
🍽 My Best Macaroni Pie Recipe
After a lot of trial and error, I've come up with a savoury Trinidad macaroni pie recipe that my friends and family seem to enjoy.
My mac pie combines the sweetness of cooked onions with white pepper, garlic, mustard, thyme and cayenne.
I tried making one with raw grated onion added in, just a quarter cup of it, and I really disliked it. So I've opted to cook my onions down so they become a bit sweeter before adding them to the pie.
If you want the onion flavour without the work, you could substitute a teaspoon of onion powder instead.
I went with white pepper just because I didn't want to see any black flecks in my pie. If you don't have white pepper (or don't like it), you can use black pepper instead.
I've also used dry mustard powder instead of prepared mustard, but you can use whatever you have on hand. I've made this with yellow mustard, dried mustard, Dijon mustard, and all of those taste great in this recipe.
For the cheese, you can use any cheddar that you like. I used a blend of white and orange aged cheddar cheese, but I've also used marble cheese in the past and it works out great (although the flavour is milder).
My mom told me that when we lived in Trinidad, she would make her macaroni pie with New Zealand cheddar cheese, so if you can find that it might be a good option.
If you try making this recipe, I'd love for you to leave a comment and let me know if you enjoyed it. Or, if you usually make macaroni pie at home, let me know what you like to add to yours!
🙋🏽 Frequently Asked Questions
Macaroni pie pairs well with anything stewed or grilled, so long as it has sauce. The pie itself isn't creamy like mac and cheese, so it's best to pair it with something saucy. The strong flavours of stewed chicken or saucy barbecue chicken pairs very well with the subtle sweetness of the pie.
Trinidadian macaroni pie always has an egg or two in it, which binds the filling together. If you prefer a lighter/less eggy flavour, just use one. You can also try omitting it all together, but I haven't tested that myself.
I do not recommend using cow's milk in this recipe. Cow's milk can easily curdle when cooked at high temperatures, whereas evaporated milk remains stable even when cooked at high temperatures.
I used a 9" x 11" enamelled cast iron baking dish to test this recipe. If you don't have that size, a 10" x 10" baking dish will also work. You can use a standard 9" x 13" baking dish, but your pie may turn out a little bit thinner than mine.
🖨 Printable Recipe
Trinidad Macaroni Pie
- 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
- 2 large eggs
- 2 ⅔ cups evaporated milk, (measure from 2 cans of Carnation milk)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- a pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
- 3½ cups grated aged cheddar cheese, reserve ½ cup for topping
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Grease a medium baking dish*, and set aside.
- Boil macaroni in salted water according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the macaroni and place back into the pot, leaving it off the heat to cool down.
- Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions, cook until softened and slightly caramelized. Scrape the onions and melted butter into the pot with the macaroni. Stir to combine.
- In a large bowl, beat eggs until fluffy. Add milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dry mustard, dried thyme and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine.
- Pour the egg mixture over the macaroni and stir until well coated.
- Stir in 3 cups of the shredded cheese.
- Pour into the greased baking dish and top with reserved ½ cup of shredded cheese.
- Bake until the pie is firm, and the top is golden brown. About 35-40 minutes.
- Allow pie to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Cold cheese is easier to shred than warm cheese
- This dish is traditionally made with Trinidad-style cheese (New Zealand cheddar) but you can use any cheddar you like, or use a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella.
- Aged cheddar will taste more "cheesy" than a mild cheddar
- If the cheese on top begins to brown too quickly, cover it with tin foil for the remaining baking time.
Please read the blog post for detailed tips and explanations.
Nutrition Disclaimer: please note that the nutritional information for this recipe is only an estimate, and has been calculated using a plugin.
This post was originally published on March 31, 2017. Since then, it has been updated.