This creamy crockpot mac and cheese starts with uncooked elbow pasta; no boiling these noodles. Simply throw the milk, cheese, and seasonings in the slow cooker for a meal everyone will love!
We’ve also made homemade stovetop macaroni and cheese and baked macaroni and cheese, but the slow cooker is super portable and the dish won’t dry out. This is a great casserole to take to a potluck or family get together.
Creamy Crockpot Mac and Cheese
There are lots of different ways to make mac and cheese, but two of them are more popular than others. The first type is southern or baked mac and cheese, which includes eggs and is almost like a casserole. The second type is cooked on the stovetop in a béchamel sauce. There are no eggs and it is super creamy.
In order to get that ultra creamy texture in a crock pot, you either have to use condensed cheese soup or Velveeta cheese, neither of which appealed to me.
The next best thing is to use evaporated milk and American cheese, the kind you get from the deli counter. Barring American cheese, using a melty cheese like Monterey Jack or White American will also produce creamy results.
If you are making for the holidays
If you’ve never made this before, please do a dry run before the holiday! Everyone’s slow cooker acts differently, so it’s important to try this out first. Please read through the FAQ below as well for best results. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!
Frequently Asked Questions
There have been quite a few questions on this recipe, please check here before asking in the comments as it may already have been answered. PLEASE READ the notes in the printed recipe.
Can I double this recipe and does it change the cooking time?
Yes, this recipe can be doubled provided you have a large enough slow cooker. The cooking time will not change.
The recipe says to use uncooked noodles, however, it also says to rinse the pasta?
Yes, rinse the uncooked pasta simply to remove any dust and foreign particles from the manufacturing plant.
I don’t eat yellow cheese, what is a good white substitute?
Monterey Jack works well, as does White American and White Cheddar. A marble cheese should work as well. Sharp cheddars will give this dish the best flavor, try Vermont white sharp cheddar!
Can I make this ahead and reheat it?
We don’t recommend reheating macaroni and cheese as it never tastes quite the same and there’s a possibility that the macaroni will become mushy. However, if this is a deal breaker, you can reheat it – simply add some milk to loosen the thickened sauce while reheating. We recommend making it and having it ready right before you leave. Turn off the slow cooker but leave the lid on. When you arrive stir it and loosen with milk if needed.
How many servings does this make?
This serves 6-8 people. A serving size is 2 ounces of dry pasta which expands to approximately 1.5 cups with sauce when cooked.
Why was my mac and cheese gritty?
Prepackaged shredded cheese contains an anti-caking agent that can cause your final product to taste gritty. Purchase your cheese from the deli and shred it yourself. We’ve also discovered that some less expensive cheeses are gritty even when you shred them yourself, but after the mac and cheese sits for a while the grittiness goes away.
Why was my mac and cheese mushy?
If it cooks too fast or too long it will get mushy. The biggest culprit is thin macaroni noodles. We use Barilla brand and have also used Creamette. These noodles are thicker and sometimes have ridges. Thinner noodles will cook much faster and turn mushy.
Another reason could be an older slow cooker that may cook hotter (even on low) than a newer crock pot. Leave the lid on for one hour on low. DON’T increase the temp to High! Stir after one hour then check after 15 more minutes. Check and stir every 15 minutes after that if needed. Mine was done is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Mushy mac and cheese can also be the result of using gluten free macaroni noodles as they do not hold up as well. One of our readers made this successfully with gluten free pasta. she said hers was done in 90 minutes but began to get mushy at 2 hours, so it’s important to keep an eye on it!
Can I mix all of the ingredients, refrigerate overnight, and put in the crockpot a few hours prior to serving?
Yes, with the exception of the pasta. Wait until you take it out of the fridge and are turning the slow cooker on before you add the macaroni.
I’m confused by the cooking time, is it 2 hours or 3?
Actually, it’s up to 3 hours. You should cook the dish on low for 1 hour, then stir it and check for doneness. After that, check it periodically (every thirty minutes or so) until it is done. The actual cooking time is completely dependent on the slow cooker you have (similar to ovens, they all cook differently), hence the “up to 3 hours” instruction.
Can I use regular milk instead of evaporated milk?
Don’t use regular milk. However, you can create your own evaporated milk. To make 1 cup of evaporated milk, simmer 2 1/4 cups of regular milk down until it becomes 1 cup.
Is evaporated milk the same as condensed milk?
Condensed milk is sweetened and the two cannot be used interchangeably.
Ingredients you will need for crockpot mac and cheese:
- 1 pound elbow pasta
- 2 1/2 cups milk (whole is best)
- 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
- 3 cups (12 oz) shredded sharp cheddar
- 1 cup (4 oz) shredded American cheese (or Monterrey)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)
- 1/4 cup butter, cubed
Helpful kitchen tools:
To keep our mac and cheese from being bland we added mustard, garlic, and cayenne to ours in addition to the basic salt and pepper. These can all be adjusted to your taste.
More recipes you will love:
- Bought too much elbow macaroni? Try our Chili Mac for dinner, or this easy tuna pasta salad for your next get together!
- I love cheese. I love the variety and how it spans cultures from Italian Beef and Cheese Manicotti to Mexican Corn in a Cup.
- We sure love our Mac and Cheese around here. If you have an Instant Pot at home, put it to the test with this creamy, delicious Instant Pot Mac and Cheese. You won’t be disappointed!
- Don’t miss one of the most popular dinner recipes on the blog- Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta. It’s the perfect weeknight dinner, but beware, once you make it everyone will be asking for it again and again!
- This Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Ham in Peas is a crowd pleaser and great for a weeknight dinner!
- Our Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings soup is another huge hitter when it comes to family favorites.
- Lastly, pair your delicious mac and cheese with the best meatloaf EVER! Creating a delicious, comforting dinner.
- If you love to use your Crockpot, this Crockpot Roast Beef will definitely be a recipe you want to add to your meal rotation.
Creamy Crockpot Mac and Cheese
IMPORTANT – There are often Frequently Asked Questions within the blog post that you may find helpful. Simply scroll back up to read them!Print It Rate It
- 1 pound elbow pasta uncooked (regular, NOT gluten free, NOT quick cook pasta) We use Barilla brand
- 2 1/2 cups milk whole is best
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- 12 ounces Extra sharp cheddar 3 cups shredded (from the deli, shred yourself, don't buy bagged)
- 4 ounces American cheese (or Monterrey) 1 cup shredded (from the deli, not processed slices)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Dash of cayenne pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup butter cubed
Things You’ll Need
- Spray 6-quart slow cooker with non-stick spray.
- Rinse the uncooked pasta well in cold water and drain.
- Add uncooked pasta to crockpot along with milks, cheeses, salt, pepper, mustard, garlic and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine, making sure macaroni is submerged in liquid as much as possible.
- Dot with cubed butter.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour. Remove lid and stir. Depending on your slow cooker, your dish could be done at this point or require UP TO 1-2 more hours.
- If not done, continue cooking and checking periodically (ever half hour or so).
- When done, pasta will be tender and liquid will be thick and creamy. Sauce will thicken even more after lid is removed and mac and cheese sits.
Expert Tips & FAQs
- IMPORTANT – please do not use the bagged shredded cheese. It contains an anti-caking agent that can make your mac and cheese gritty. Get the cheese from the deli and shred it yourself.
- PASTA – please use a sturdy pasta, not the really thin noodles. Thin noodles will cook much faster and turn to mush. We use Barilla brand elbow noodles.
- Also, every slow cooker is different. WNewer slow cookers should work fine for this recipe. Cook on low for one hour without disturbing. Remove lid and stir well. Replace lid and check every 15 minutes after that. DO NOT turn the heat up! You will make your macaroni mushy. My slow cooker is only a couple years old and my mac and cheese is done after about 1 hr and 45 minutes.
- For BEST RESULTS be sure to read the Frequently Asked Questions in the blog post before making your mac and cheese.
- Making for the holidays? If you’ve never made this before, please do a dry run before the holiday! Everyone’s slow cooker acts differently, so it’s important to try this out first. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!
This post was originally published on August 21, 2017
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No stars at all. This recipe was awful. I’ve been cooking for 50+ years and know how to cook very well so it wasn’t me. It was almost not edible.
I made this recipe for a work Christmas party. I was so embarrassed when my co-worker took the lid off the Crockpot to serve. It was a a gloppy gritty greasy mess! I used GV macaroni and Aldi Block cheese which I Shredded myself. Maybe the ingredients does make a difference, but from all the comments I have read, no matter what brands are used, the recipe pretty much comes out the same. There is not enough liquid to make it good and creamy. I will not be using this recipe in the future.
Folowed recipe to the t.
Tasted awful and was dry and clumpy… yes I shredded my own cheese. Will not use this recipe again.
I made this last night as a test-run for a potluck. It was great. I used about 6 slices of american cheese from the deli counter, and a mix of vermont white cheddar and sharp cheddar (not from the deli counter, but freshly shredded by me). The flavor was fantastic. It was on the white side of the mac and cheese spectrum. After one hour I stirred and it still looked like milk noodle soup with clumps of cheese. At 1:45 it was looking promising. At around 2:15 I called it and it was very good, although we agreed it could have cooked longer. The noodles were not at all crunchy, but were a little on the firm side. The sauce was melted and creamy and thick, not soupy, but would have benefited from being a tad bit hotter. My crock pot is over 20 years old. I could easily have kept it until 2:30 or even 3 hours stirring and checking it. By my portioning, it would make about 5-6 servings as a main dish, and 8-10 with side portioning of just a scoop. THANK YOU!