This foolproof crockpot mac and cheese is the ultimate cheesy comfort food. It’s perfect when you’re craving baked mac n cheese, but either don’t have access to an oven or don’t want to heat up the house.
This post is sponsored by BUBBL’R.
Creamy Crockpot Mac And Cheese
If you’re looking for a vegetarian kid friendly dinner idea that literally everyone will love, this simple Southern style slow cooker mac and cheese is the recipe you’re looking for!
It’s super easy, so creamy, and so incredibly tasty. The fact that it’s made in the slow cooker just makes it even better. If you loved our Cream Cheese Chicken Chili recipe, this recipe will be right up your alley.
I’ve partnered up with BUBBL’R to bring you this easy dinner recipe. It’s the perfect comfort food for the cold nights that are coming, and I absolutely love serving it with a can of their pitaya berry nect’r flavor. Such a delicious combination! You can find out where to buy BUBBL’R here.
How Can I Spice Up My Mac N Cheese?
My favorite spices and herbs to elevate macaroni and cheese are garlic powder, onions powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, buffalo hot sauce, and truffle salt.
For this recipe, you’ll need a few different cheeses and dairy products for maximum creaminess and flavor. We’re also adding in some spices to bring the flavor to the next level.
The base of this is elbow macaroni. Try to use a brand you’ve used before that you know holds up really well. I don’t recommend gluten free noodles because they tend to break down more quickly.
The dairy products you’ll need are butter, evaporated milk, half and half, sharp cheddar, gruyere (you can substitute mozzarella if you don’t have or like gruyere), and Velveeta (the low melting point is what makes the homemade cheese sauce so smooth).
For spices, we’re adding some onion powder, salt, dry mustard powder, pepper, paprika, and cooking spray.
Step By Step Instructions To Make Slow Cooker Mac And Cheese
Start by cooking the pasta to two minutes less than al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain the noodles, spray the interior of the slow cooker with spray oil, and transfer the noodles to the slow cooker. Add the butter and stir until it has melted into the noodles. (See the recipe card below for the full printable instructions.)
Add the evaporated milk, half and half, cheddar, gruyere, Velveeta, and spices. Stir to mix. Cover and cook on LOW.
Stir the pasta every 30 minutes until it’s cooked through and the sauce is lusciously creamy. See the recipe card below for the full written instructions, including ingredient amounts, cooking times, and helpful tips, etc.
All slow cookers cook differently, so there is a range in the cooking time. It’s important to check the pasta so that it doesn’t overcook. This is especially true if you’re using an older slow cooker, because they can run hotter than the newer slow cookers do (even on the LOW setting).
Why Use Evaporated Milk In Mac And Cheese?
Evaporated milk is an important ingredient in this crockpot mac and cheese. Much of the moisture in it has evaporated off, which helps stop the cheese sauce from breaking while it cooks. It’s important to use full-fat evaporated milk, so be sure to check that in the store.
How To Make Evaporated Milk
- You can make your own evaporated milk by simmering 3 1/4 cups of full-fat milk in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
- Once it has simmered, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the milk to continue simmering until it has evaporated enough liquid that you only have 1 1/2 cups remaining.
- Stir the milk occasionally while it simmers to make sure it doesn’t scorch. It will take about 25 minutes.
- Once it’s finished reducing, pour the milk through a fine sieve to remove any solids, and then it’s ready to use.
Can I Use Condensed Milk Instead Of Evaporated Milk?
No. Condensed milk is sweetened and a better fit for dessert recipes. It cannot be used interchangeably with evaporated milk in this recipe.
Can I Put Uncooked Pasta In A Slow Cooker?
You would need to use a recipe that’s specifically written that way, and it won’t work with this recipe. It’s possible with the right recipe, but the starch that’s released from the pasta while it’s cooked creates a super thick texture.
If you want mac and cheese that’s smooth and ultra creamy instead of dense and thick, it’s best to boil the elbow macaroni first.
Why Do I Have To Use Freshly Shredded Cheese?
The cheeses that are pre-shredded are coated in an anti caking agent that stops the shreds from sticking together. That same anti-caking agent causes them to not melt smoothly, and will create a really clumpy sauce.
Even some low quality block cheeses have a gritty texture after they melt. That’s why the best way to make sure that you get a creamy luscious mac and cheese sauce is to use high quality freshly grated cheese.
If you want to serve this as a main instead of a side dish, feel free to try playing with some add-ins. Just make sure that whatever you add is already cooked. Meat needs to be cooked for safety (and preferably browned or crispy for ultimate flavor and texture), and vegetables need to be cooked so that they don’t release too much water during the cooking process. These are my favorite add-ins:
- Ground Beef
- Shredded Rotisserie Chicken
You can also play with the cheeses if you’d like. If you don’t like or have gruyere, try swapping that for shredded mozzarella or jalapeno pepper jack cheese.
If you’re making this for a crowd, feel free to double the recipe. Just make sure you’re using a large enough slow cooker to accommodate the extra ingredients.
Keep In Touch
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If you like this recipe, be sure to check out these reader favorite macaroni recipes in our pasta recipes section!
- 1 pound dry elbow macaroni
- 1/4 cup butter (cubed)
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 (12 ounce) can full-fat evaporated milk*
- 1 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese**
- 1 cup freshly shredded Gruyere or Jarlsberg cheese**
- 1/2 pound Velveeta (cubed, 1/2 of a 16 ounce block)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Cooking spray
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than al dente, according to the package instructions.
- Spray a 4 or 6 quart slow cooker with spray oil, then add in the cooked macaroni. Add the butter, and stir until the butter has melted.
- Mix in the half and half, evaporated milk, cheddar, gruyere, Velveeta, onion powder, salt, dry mustard powder, black pepper, and paprika.
- Cover and set the slow cooker to LOW heat. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours***. Stir approximately every 30 minutes, and make sure to stir as quickly as possible and close the lid quickly so that as much heat as possible stays in the slow cooker.
- Once the mac and cheese is finished cooking, stir until you have a creamy and smooth mac and cheese sauce that is fully coating the noodles.
*The evaporated milk cannot be substituted with regular milk, because it will curdle. You can make your own evaporated milk by simmering 3 1/4 cups of full-fat milk in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once it has simmered, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the milk to continue simmering until it has evaporated enough liquid that you only have 1 1/2 cups remaining. Stir the milk occasionally while it simmers to make sure it doesn’t scorch. It will take about 25 minutes. Once it’s finished reducing, pour the milk through a fine sieve to remove any solids, and then it’s ready to use.
**It’s important to use high quality freshly grated cheese. The cheeses that are pre-grated are coated in a starch to prevent the shreds from sticking together, but that also means that the starch prevents the cheese from melting smoothly. If you use pre-grated cheese, the mac and cheese will have a gritty texture. Even some low quality block cheeses have a gritty texture after they melt. That’s why the best way to make sure that you get a creamy luscious mac and cheese sauce is to use high quality freshly grated cheese.
***All slow cookers cook differently, so there is a range in the cooking time. It’s important to check the pasta so that it doesn’t overcook. This is especially true if you’re using an older slow cooker, because they can run hotter than the newer slow cookers do (even on the LOW setting).
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 598Total Fat: 31.8gCarbohydrates: 53.2gFiber: 1.9gSugar: 11.5gProtein: 24.7g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Crockpot mac and cheese will be your new favorite comfort food! This easy dinner will be a family favorite.