Crock pot mac and cheese, and other slow cooker pasta recipes are great go-to options when you need a yummy but uncomplicated meal. This crock pot pasta recipe makes it easy to prepare a delicious dinner with very little prep work. Our crock pot mac and cheese has three types of cheese and a few surprise ingredients.
You can have a cheesy, custard-style mac and cheese that everyone loves, while the crock pot does most of the work! Oh, and did I mention the breadcrumb topping? Yes even in the crock pot.
So let’s start!
You can make this recipe even tastier by using spices you probably already have in the pantry. I love adding a few teaspoons Italian seasoning, which if you’re a regular reader you may have noticed, is one of my favorite spice blends. More reasons I love this recipe:
- Three types of cheese!
- Ease of assembly
- Yummy seasoning blend
- Crunchy topping
Mac and cheese is comfort food at its best. Using the slow cooker means you can make this mac and cheese year round without heating up the kitchen too much. Your family will ask for this recipe over and over.
Southern Crock Pot Mac and Cheese Ingredient Notes
Southern mac and cheese is a staple on holiday tables and at celebratory meals across the southern US. There are countless variations, including adding pimento cheese or even jalapenos, and bacon, because of course, bacon makes everything better. Even Mac and cheese!
Pasta: We love elbows (or other tube shaped pasta) for slow cooker mac and cheese because as the sauce forms a cheesy custard, the elbows are held tightly within it. Any short pasta will work in this recipe, but those with ridges tend to hold the sauce best.
Cheeses: We like cheddar, fontina, and mozzarella for the rich flavor they impart to this dish. I really like the taste of gruyere in this dish and fontina also works really well. If you’re feeling creative, mix up your own blend of your family’s favorite cheeses. Most softer cheeses will work well here. However, very firm cheeses, and some smoked varieties, tend not to melt smoothly.
Nutmeg: Many people think of nutmeg as being just for bakery goods. Actually, nutmeg adds warmth to many types of cream sauces too. Freshly ground whole nutmeg produces a more vivid flavor than the pre-ground type. And did you know nutmeg has one of the longest shelf lives of all spices – whole nutmeg can last 2-4 years at room temperature.
Dry mustard: When using dry mustard in sauces, choose one with a mild flavor. Dry spicy or hot mustard can sometimes leave a bitter aftertaste. I use Colemans Dry Mustard
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese Storage Tips
Be sure to let your warm crock pot mac and cheese cool off for 15-20 minutes before you put it in the fridge. A piping hot meal can actually raise the interior temperature of your refrigerator by a few degrees, forcing it to work harder to stay cool. No worries, though. A brief cooling period solves this issue.
While it might be tempting to use the ceramic slow cooker insert for storage, these containers aren’t designed for such use. A glass or plastic lidded dish is best for storing your leftover crock pot mac and cheese.
Can You Freeze This?
Experts have varying opinions about freezing cooked pasta, but most seem to agree that the noodles and sauce turn out the best when frozen separately. This pasta recipe just may be one of the few exceptions to that general opinion. Since this mac and cheese is a custard-style mac and cheese rather than a saucy mac and cheese in a cheesy white sauce, it freezes rather well. The pasta is, of course, a little softer than when first served. My family doesn’t seem to mind softer pasta at all.
To keep the pasta as firm as possible it should be cooked to al dente, or even undercooked by 60-90 seconds. This prevents it from getting mushy when thawed. Frozen pasta without sauce can be thawed in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Any sauce that you freeze should be thawed on a low setting to prevent scorching.
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
While it probably won’t last long because it’s so tasty, the USDA recommends that most cooked leftovers will keep for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Be sure to cover the mac and cheese tightly so it doesn’t dry out.
Crock pot mac and cheese is so versatile that the variations are almost limitless! With a few easy swaps you can make a meal that is perfectly suited to your hungry family.
Can I Make This Recipe Cheesier?
Our motto should be “The cheesier, the better!” If that’s your motto too, try our 3 cheese mac and cheese. For a dish certain to make everyone swoon, make our 5 cheese mac and cheese.
What Other Crock Pot Pasta Recipes I Can Try?
If you need a hearty meal but don’t have lots of time to fuss over the stove, try our easy crockpot lasagna. Simply layer the ingredients and let the slow cooker do the work. Crock pot spaghetti is another great pasta recipe that is simplified in the slow cooker.
What Other Ways Can I Cook This Recipe?
Are you feeling like you need mac and cheese right now? Instant pot mac and cheese is done in a flash. Want to make it on the stovetop with little cleanup? One pot mac and cheese leaves you with a happy belly and few dirty dishes.
Can I Cook This Differently?
A beloved staple at pubs and fairs, fried mac and cheese is usually made into bite-sized pieces. Often coated in breadcrumbs, this is perfect for snacking.
Another popular cooking method is baked mac and cheese. The noodles are slightly undercooked before mixing them with the sauce. Baking in the oven allows the pasta to absorb even more cheesy flavor. A bread crumb topping will become deliciously crunchy when baked.
How Do Famous Personalities Make Their Mac and Cheese?
Every celebrity chef has their own recipe for mac and cheese, and they ALL sound amazing! There are so many creative variations, each with a twist that makes it unique.
Known for her decadent meals, Paula Deen’s recipes are the epitome of southern hospitality. Try Paula Deen mac and cheese at your next family gathering for a special treat.
Ree Drummond cooks delicious meals for hard-working farmhands. They always have a smile on their faces when she makes a big batch of Pioneer Woman mac and cheese.
Crock Pot Mac And Cheese
- 8 ounces pasta elbow or other tube shaped pasta
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 12 ounces can evaporated milk
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter melted and cooled
- 3 large eggs slightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 12 Ounces shredded cheese mixture of sharp cheddar, fontina and mozzarella
Bread Crumb Topping:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups dry homemade bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 Teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to taste (1-2 Tablespoons). Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain immediately.
- Spray the inside of a crockpot with nonstick cooking spray. Add whole milk, evaporated milk, butter, eggs, salt, pepper, dried mustard, and nutmeg. Whisk ingredients until smooth and well combined. Add cooked pasta and stir to coat. Add cheese and stir to evenly distribute throughout the mixture.
- Cook on High for 30 minutes then reduce to Low and cook for 1 1/2- 2 hours or until pasta is tender. (All crockpots cook at different temperatures so I give you a range. It's important to check this dish for doneness and not rely on just a set time. If overcooked it will appear curdy.)
- Meanwhile, make the breadcrumb topping; melt butter in a large skillet. Add bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook on medium to medium-high heat stirring frequently until crumbs are nicely toasted and crispy. Cool a few minutes and stir in thyme leaves.
- Sprinkle the top of cooked mac and cheese with bread crumb topping and serve!
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If you love recipes like this (and who doesn’t?), try these delicious variations:
- Mac and Cheese with Cream Cheese
- Velveeta Mac and Cheese
- Chili Mac
- Mac and Cheese Casserole
- Tuscan Chicken Mac and Cheese
Our crock pot mac and cheese tastes like you spent all day cooking. You don’t need to tell anyone that the slow cooker does most of the work! Easy and so satisfying, this recipe is an instant classic.
Did you make this recipe? Do you have questions? Please share your comments below.