Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese may just be the easiest, most delicious way to get dinner on the table! This creamy, saucy, and most of all, cheesy pasta dish can be prepped right in your slow cooker in under 5 minutes. Perfect for those busy weeknights when you want something warm and comforting without having to spend too much time in the kitchen.
Why You’ll Love This
All The Sauce – Dry mac and cheese who? This recipe ensures that each bite is covered in that cheesy, delicious sauce.
No Boiling Required – Skip the pot of boiling water and let the macaroni cook in the creamy sauce!
Simple and Easy – This recipe only requires 5 minutes of prep time and occasional stirring, the rest of the work is done by the Crockpot.
One Pot Wonder – All the ingredients go directly into the crock pot, keeping the mess to a minimum.
Mac and Cheese Lovers – This is a game changer for all you mac and cheese connoisseurs out there.
Picky Eater Approved – But then again, what picky eater is going to deny pasta drowning is a delicious cheese sauce? They will cheer when crockpot mac and cheese is on the menu!
Crockpot Mac and Cheese was invented to make your busy weeknight so much easier and much more delicious. When macaroni and cheese is on the menu, even the pickiest of eaters will be all smiles. With just a few minutes of prep time, and a little bit of stirring, you can focus on other things while your slow cooker helps get dinner on the table.
Let’s discuss how to make this crockpot macaroni and cheese recipe, as well as the ingredients that are needed. Please take note that below you will find discussion, expert tips, and answers to frequently asked questions about this recipe to help you recreate it in your kitchen. If you *just* want the recipe itself, scroll down. The full printable recipe itself, with exact measurements and instructions, is found at the bottom of this page.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Cheddar Cheese Soup – The secret ingredient! That’s right, no messing with flour and butter to make a roux. This will give your mac and cheese a thick, delicious texture that won’t taste grainy and dry. This should be fairy easy to find at most grocery stores in the soup aisle.
- Elbow Noodles – Elbow noodles are the classic choice for mac and cheese. If you don’t have any on hand you can try using pasta shells, rigatoni, bowtie, penne or even rotini noodles. Larger or thicker noodles may increase the cook time a bit.
- Milk – I highly recommend using 1% or fat free milk for this recipe. Because most crockpots have hot spots, any milk with a higher fat content will curdle and possibly burn if you aren’t constantly stirring. (And you don’t want to constantly stir for 3 hours.)
- Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated parmesan cheese is ideal, but the pre-shredded stuff works just as well.
- Colby Jack Cheese – Freshly grated Colby Jack cheese tends to melt down better, and will give you a better taste and texture. However, pre-shredded cheese will work fine if that’s all you have. You can also use other types of cheeses like sharp cheddar, white cheddar, Monterey Jack, etc. You can also use a mix of cheeses.
- Pepper – This is optional but adds a little depth of flavor if that’s your thing.
Step By Step Directions
- Begin by pouring the elbow noodles into a slow cooker that can hold at least 6 quarts.
- To the uncooked noodles, add the cheddar cheese soup, milk, parmesan, and black pepper. Stir this mixture together until evenly combined.
- Once combined, place the lid on top of the Crockpot, and turn the heat to low. Let the macaroni and cheese cook for 1 hour. During that hour don’t touch the slow cooker.
- When the hour is up, remove the lid and stir the mac and cheese together well. Let the pasta cook for about 30-45 more minutes, then stir again.
- Every 20-30 minutes continue stirring, then let it cook until the sauce has become smooth and creamy and the noodles are fully cooked. Depending on the quality of your Crockpot, this whole process should take anywhere from 2 and ½ to 3 and ½ hours.
- Once the macaroni is cooked, turn off the Crockpot, and add the shredded Colby Jack. Stir the cheese until it is melted and saucy. Serve the mac and cheese while hot and enjoy!
Tips and Advice
Storage – If you manage to have any leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3-4 days. You can also freeze the leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for 3 months. To reheat the the leftovers you can either microwave them, heat them on the stove, or back in the Crockpot. If you choose to microwave, you’ll have to stir it after every 30 seconds to avoid burning. If you chose to freeze the leftovers, it may be best to undercook the noodles, because when you reheat them they won’t be mushy.
Equipment – For this recipe you’ll need a 6 quart or larger slow cooker, a strainer and something to stir with.
Crock Pot Variations – Slow cookers can vary widely in how hot and quickly they cook. One crockpot’s low setting can be like another one’s high setting. It’s important to know your crock pot and adjust cook times and temps if necessary.
Tending to the Mac – After the first hour of cooking, you should pay attention to the sauce and noodles every 30 minutes after that. If you just leave it to sit the whole time you may notice some noodles are less cooked than others, and the sauce has an uneven texture. It will still taste fine, but to ensure even cooking, I recommend keeping an eye on it every once in a while.
Make the most of your mac
This CrockPot Macaroni and Cheese recipe can be customizable in so many ways. Want some extra flavor in the sauce? Feel free to add whatever spices you want. You can also use 1 can of cheddar cheese soup, and substitute the other can for a different soup flavor like cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, or cream of celery. Want to add some protein? Stir in some diced and cooked ham, chicken, or even ground beef. You can top the finished product with some crumbled bacon, bread crumbs, or even extra cheese if you’d like.
The short answer is yes, some cheeses will curdle in a slow cooker. This is why the Colby Jack cheese gets added after the cooking is done. Parmesan cheese will be fine in the slow cooker because it has a low fat content.
If you can, you usually want to use the low setting on your slow cooker as much as possible to preserve the quality of the slow cooker. With this crockpot macaroni and cheese recipe you want to use the low setting just because you’re cooking with cheese and milk. I don’t recommend using the high setting to speed up the process for this recipe.
What To Serve With Mac & Cheese
- Crockpot Mac and Cheese can make a wonderful main dish. Serve this with sides like cornbread, coleslaw, brussel sprouts, or salad.
- If serving as a side dish, enjoy with main dishes like honey mustard pork chops, meatloaf, BBQ chicken sandwiches, fried chicken, pork, turkey and much more.
- You can also use the leftovers of this mac and cheese to make some Mac and Cheese Bites.
Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 Crockpot
- 16 ounces elbow noodles uncooked
- 21 ounces condensed cheddar cheese soup this is two 10.5 ounce cans
- 3 cups milk 1% or skim work best
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces freshly grated colby jack cheese cheddar or monterey jack can also be used
- Place the elbow noodles in a strainer and rinse with cold water, stirring well while rinsing, 2-3 times or until the water runs clear.
- Place the noodles in a 6 quart or larger crockpot.
- Stir in the cheddar cheese soup, milk, grated parmesan cheese and black pepper until well combined.
- Place the lid on the crockpot and then turn it on to low and allow it to cook for 1 hour without touching it.
- Stir the mac and cheese well and then replace the lid and allow to cook for another 30-45 minutes before stirring again. Continue cooking, stirring every 20-30 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and creamy and the noodles are cooked through. Depending on your crockpot the total cook time may take anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
- Once the noodles are cooked through but not mushy, turn the crockpot to warm and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese is melted and smooth.
Nutrition information is estimated as a courtesy. If using for medical purposes, please verify information using your own nutritional calculator. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.