Easy Crockpot Mac and Cheese

5 from 3 votes
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A deliciously creamy crockpot mac and cheese is like a hug from the inside and this slow cooker macaroni and cheese recipe is the ultimate comfort food.

mac and cheese in a small bowl

Whether you’re enjoying a hearty bowl of it yourself or serving to friends and family, this crock pot mac and cheese is great for bringing to potlucks, parties or serving among Thanksgiving and Christmas side dishes. It’s a classic comfort food that everyone can enjoy.

Ingredients

Ingredients for crockpot Mac and cheese
  • Macaroni Pasta: Use uncooked macaroni – elbow works best. You can use any kind of pasta like cavatappi, conchiglie, farfalle, or fusilli pasta.
  • Milk: Whole milk is best for a creamy dish, though you can use unsweetened plant milk if you prefer.
  • Cheese: I use a mix of American cheese and cheddar for classic mac and cheese. You can also try variations with parmesan, Colby Jack, or even a bit of Mozzarella for a gooey texture. If you want a more complex taste, experiment with Gouda or Monterey Jack.
  • Butter
  • Cream: I use normal whipping cream or evaporated milk.
  • Seasonings: Paprika, onion powder, dry mustard powder, salt and black pepper. You can experiment with other seasonings if you prefer – cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and dried herbs all work great.

How to make crockpot mac and cheese

Wash the Pasta: To start, wash the pasta. As we’re using uncooked macaroni (it will cook in the crockpot), this process is just to remove some of the starch on the pasta.

Grate the Cheese: Don’t use pre-grated cheese. When you shred the cheese yourself from a block, you retain the maximum flavor of the cheese. A lot of the time, the bags you buy in the supermarket have extra ingredients and preservatives to keep them fresher for longer, which can affect the taste and texture of your mac and cheese. Invest in a good grater and buy a block of cheese for this recipe – it’s slightly friendlier on the budget and so easy to do.

steps for grating the cheese for Mac and cheese

Layer the Ingredients in the Crockpot: Once you’ve shredded your cheese, grease the bottom of the crockpot using some oil (I suggest using an oil spray for ease). This will stop your mac and cheese from sticking or making a crust on the base of the crockpot.

Pour the macaroni into the bottom of the slow cooker, then add all the seasoning. Sprinkle over the cheese, then add the cream, milk, and cubed butter. Mix so the ingredients are completely incorporated and have formed a cheese sauce around the pasta before putting the lid on.

steps for how to make mac and cheese in a crockpot

Slow cook: Cook the mac and cheese on LOW for about an hour, removing the lid several times throughout cooking to stir the ingredients. You may need to cook for longer depending on how al dente you like your pasta – don’t be afraid to taste test (it’s the best part).

Top Tips

  • Skip Boiling The Pasta: The joy of a slow cooker is it does all of the hard work for you – you don’t even have to boil the pasta. Pre-cooking pasta will make it too soft in the crockpot, so just wash the dry macaroni before adding it to get rid of any starch.
  • Freshly Shredded Cheese: Pre-shredded cheese might seem convenient, but often, you’re getting more than just cheese. It can often make the mac and cheese taste gritty and change the texture of the dish. I recommend grating it at home.
  • Slow Cooking: Low and slow is the best method for cooking crockpot mac and cheese. Not only will it cook the pasta, but it’ll allow the flavors of the spices to meld into the melted cheese and sauce – making for a deliciously creamy final product.
  • Adjust Cooking Time: Depending on how you like your pasta, you can adjust the amount of time this spends cooking. For more al dente, you can stop before the 1hr mark or, for softer, you can keep it cooking for longer. Remember to taste test or use a fork to determine the softness of the pasta before serving.
mac and cheese in a crock pot

How to store

To make ahead: Follow the mac and cheese recipe as usual, but slightly undercook the pasta. This helps prevent it from becoming too soft when you reheat it. Allow the mac and cheese to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in an airtight container for 2-3 days. If you’re planning to keep it for longer, consider freezing it and labeling it with the date. Mac and cheese can be frozen for 2-3 months.

To Reheat: Allow the frozen mac and cheese to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. If refrigerated, you can reheat it directly. Heat in the microwave in 30-60 second bursts, stirring between, and add a splash of milk for creaminess, if needed. You can also reheat in the oven – transfer to a baking dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at a low temperature until cooked through. Alternatively, heat it slowly on the stovetop while stirring. Add some milk to maintain creaminess.

Check my freezing and reheating guide for more tips.

More crock pot meals

If you try this recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

5 from 3 votes
By: Samira
A deliciously creamy crockpot mac and cheese is like a hug from the inside and this slow cooker macaroni and cheese recipe is the ultimate comfort food.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 8

Equipment

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni pasta 5 cups dried uncooked;
  • 16 oz cheddar cheese 4 cups sharp shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups American cheese shredded
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream or 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup butter cubed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder optional – gives more cheesy flavor
  • 1/2 tsp paprika optional
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions 

  • Rather than pre-cooking the pasta (it'll be overcooked in the slow cooker), wash the dry macaroni in cold water. This will get rid of some of the starch.

Assemble the Mac and Cheese

  • Spray the bottom of the crockpot with oil so the mac and cheese doesn't stick during cooking.
  • Layer the macaroni on the bottom of the pan. Add the seasoning, then the cream and milk. Add the shredded cheese.
  • Mix until combined and the pasta is completely covered in the cheesy sauce. Add the cubes of butter.

Cook

  • Place the lid. Cook the mac and cheese on LOW for up to an hour, removing the lid every so often to stir the mixture.
  • Depending on how soft you want your pasta, you can adjust your cooking time. The pasta should be tender and the sauce thick and creamy.

Making ahead and reheating

  • To make ahead: Follow the mac and cheese recipe as usual, but slightly undercook the pasta. You may need to add a little milk to loosen the sauce and cook for a few extra minutes to get it piping hot. If you're planning to keep it for longer, consider freezing it and label with the date. Mac and cheese can be frozen for 2-3 months.
    To Reheat: Allow the frozen mac and cheese to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. If refrigerated, you can reheat directly. Heat in the microwave in 30-60 second bursts, stirring between, and add a splash of milk for creaminess, if needed. You can also reheat in the oven – transfer to a baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake at a low temperature until cooked through. Alternatively, heat it slowly on the stovetop while stirring. Add some milk to maintain creaminess.

Notes

  • Freshly Shredded Cheese: Pre-shredded cheese might seem convenient, but often, you’re getting more than just 100% cheese. It can often make the mac and cheese taste gritty and change the texture of the dish. I recommend investing in a high-speed shredder or a normal grater and making your own at home. It’s cheaper to buy bigger blocks of cheese and you can experiment with more varieties.
  • Adjust Cooking Time: Depending on how you like your pasta, you can adjust the amount of time this spends cooking. For more al dente, you can stop before the 1hr mark, or, for softer pasta, you can keep it cooking for longer. Remember to taste test or use a fork to determine the softness of the pasta before serving. 
Course: Main, Side
Cuisine: American
Freezer friendly: 4 Months
Shelf life: 3-5 Days

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup, Calories: 560kcal, Carbohydrates: 8g, Protein: 23g, Fat: 49g, Saturated Fat: 29g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 152mg, Sodium: 1351mg, Potassium: 267mg, Fiber: 0.1g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 1604IU, Vitamin C: 0.2mg, Calcium: 910mg, Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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