Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

slow cooker mac & cheese 1

We’re taking turns catching colds around here. As I write this I’m wrapped in a blanket with a stiff neck (my mom keeps telling me to wrap a wool sock around it, like my grandad did, and I just might) and a mug of warm lemonade (yes!), sneezing approximately every 3 minutes, my face fixed with that expression you get when you’re just about to sneeze. (This cold is such a cliché.) We’re anticipating a high of -19 tomorrow, not that we’ll likely leave the house anyway after getting up at 5 to watch the gold medal hockey game. My ambitious plan is to make doughnuts and bellinis – or perhaps fizzy wine smoothies – and plenty of coffee. But later in the day, when everyone is cold and sleepy and huddled on the couch to catch the last of the Olympics, a batch of mac & cheese will be in the slow cooker. Oh yes it will. I wish it was in there now.

Slow cooker mac collage 1

The first time I made this was back in late December, when some friends threw a house party and asked me to bring slow cooker mac & cheese. I have not had good experience with slow cooker mac & cheese in the past, and I debated cheating and making a regular batch of mac & cheese and bringing it in a slow cooker to keep warm. But I love the idea of a gooey, extra cheesy mac & cheese done in the slow cooker – it’s something that should work well, and there should be no need to have to precook the pasta – its starch should contribute to the thickening of the sauce and all that. It should work. And its success should not rely on a can of condensed cheddar cheese soup.

Also: I need crispy bits.

slow cooker mac collage 2

Mostly when I make mac & cheese I cook the noodles while simultaneously turning butter and flour into a paste to which I add milk and cook to thicken (or if you want to get fancy about it, make béchamel with a roux) and add big handfuls of grated old cheddar to melt. But this macaroni with lots of cheese went about things differently, amalgamating pasta, butter, milk and cheese into one delicious unit, rather than dousing cooked noodles with cheese sauce. A variation worked in the slow cooker – huzzah! I used up half a cheese ball from our Christmas party, which was really just grated cheese and cream cheese anyway, but if you don’t happen to have half a leftover cheese ball, cream cheese will work just fine. And there will be crispy bits aplenty.

slow cooker mac & cheese 6

And while it was meant for the kids at the aforementioned party, the adults devoured it and asked for the recipe, and I’ve made it twice since. Soon to be three times.

Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

1 lb (450 g) elbow macaroni, uncooked (41/2 cups)
1 – 1½ lb (454-750 g) old cheddar cheese, grated
one 8oz (250 g) pkg cream cheese, cut into chunks
4 cups (1 L) 2 % milk
salt and pepper
pinch freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker; cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours, removing the lid to give it a stir about once an hour.

Serve warm. Serves 8-10.

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February 22 2014 05:26 pm | one dish and pasta and slow cooker

35 Responses to “Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese”

  1. erin on 22 Feb 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Go Canada Go!! I don’t remember ever saying “I can’t wait until 5 am” before.

  2. Renee on 22 Feb 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Sorry to hear you are under the weather. Speedy recovery to you! And you are so right – the crispy bits are the best part. :)

  3. Elizabeth@ on 22 Feb 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    This is kind of blowing my mind. I work on-call and have recently realized slow-cookers keep me alive. Thanks for sharing! Hope you feel better soon.

  4. Robin @ Farewell, Stranger on 22 Feb 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    I think I need to eat a whole batch of this.

  5. Susy on 22 Feb 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    A kilogram of cheese to a pound of pasta?? Then it better be delicious!!

  6. Kathy on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you. Golden!
    Did you line your slow cooker pot with tin foil (picture looks like it, but not mentioned)? Is that for easier clean-up?

  7. Jules @ WolfItDown on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:26 am #

    This looks heavenly! I have yet to make mac’n’cheese myself, this looks like such a great simple recipe! Using my slow-cooker as well as we speak ( I type more like!) and cannot wait to have some philly turkey tacos 😀 Happy Sunday! x

  8. Julie on 23 Feb 2014 at 11:51 am #

    Yeah, it’s definitely cheese heavy! I used a whole block of cheddar.. you could experiment with less, but I’m afraid to :)

  9. Cathy on 23 Feb 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Yes indeed, this was THE HIT of our party! People still bring it up to me. LOL.

  10. Katherine on 23 Feb 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    In my family you slather your neck with Vicks, wrap a wool sock around it and use a large safety pin to keep it there.

  11. Julie on 24 Feb 2014 at 9:12 am #

    Nope, no foil Kathy – I can’t see where it looks like it’s pictured? I know you can get slow cooker liners to ease clean-up, but I’ve never used them. I have a husband who scrubs!

  12. Laurie from Richmond on 24 Feb 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    I got up at 4 to watch the gold medal game – everyone else got to sleep longer than BC! But it was worth it to see them win – though I would have liked Sweden to get one goal! (but not the US :) )
    I’s suffering from allergies – I’m allergic to tree pollen, and it normally starts in March, but this year it started in February – sneezing, my eyes and ears are itchy

    So I have sympathy for you being sick, Julie. Get well soon

  13. Ingrid on 27 Feb 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    This sounds fantastic! Though my only concern would be mushy pasta (my pet peeve) by the time it’s done. Does it stay somewhat firm? Thanks!

  14. Anja on 28 Feb 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    What size of slow cooker do you use?

    Thanks and best regards,


  15. Teresa on 02 Mar 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    Looks yummy, though I’d be tempted to get by with a little less cream cheese…what a great idea!

  16. Clever Hen on 04 Mar 2014 at 8:55 am #

    This is Brilliant! Can’t wait to try it!

  17. Julie on 04 Mar 2014 at 10:09 pm #

    Anja – I made mine in a 6 quart slow cooker, but it certainly didn’t fill it, so there’s no need to use such a big one!

  18. healthy dog treats uk on 06 Mar 2014 at 10:21 am #

    What’s up, its nice article on the topic of media print, we all be aware of media is a great
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  19. hmwrkmom on 27 Apr 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Unfortunately, The Mac and cheese turned out like glue. Was very disappointed. I followed the recipe exactly. It didn’t even cook three full hours. My daughter tried it and had the same results as me. Sorry! But worst Mac and cheese I have ever tried.

  20. Julie on 28 Apr 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    I’m so sorry to hear it! I’ve made it several times now and always get asked for the recipe – I wonder if it makes a difference what slow cooker you make it in? I’ve done it in two different ones, and both have been successful. Sorry it didn’t work out for you!

  21. Michelle on 04 May 2014 at 9:33 pm #

    Can you use light cream cheese?

  22. Anna on 08 Oct 2014 at 8:49 pm #

    Great and easy recipe. I added 3/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp dehydrated onion and 1/2 tsp dry mustard. My entire family LOVES it. Can even be reheated as long as you add about a 1/2 cup milk.

  23. Jennifer on 23 Nov 2014 at 4:33 am #

    I was super excited to try this recipe because it’s making mac and cheese in the crock pot! Unfortunately, it didn’t come together at all and ended up being a soupy mess. Oh well!

  24. kari on 17 Dec 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    Sounded delicious but ours also came out a soupy glue mess. Followed the recipe and temps exactly. I’ve never seen that happen before :(

  25. The Cheesiest Crock-Pot Macaroni and Cheese - The Gracious Wife on 11 Jan 2015 at 4:00 am #

    […] thankfully, I happened upon this recipe from Dinner with Julie, and decided to give it a go.  Even more thankfully… It was THE BEST.  Cheesiest Crockpot […]

  26. Suzanne on 15 Jan 2015 at 3:53 pm #

    I made this today for a potluck at work and it turned out very well. It’s still not as good as the old fashioned oven baked kind but still very good. I used medium shell pasta instead of elbow macaroni. I wonder if people who had problems used a type of pasta that was…maybe not as good a quality?? Just a thought. I’ve found some pasta to be better than others.

  27. Donna on 31 Jan 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Can you use gluten free pasta with this recipe?

  28. Stephanie on 28 Feb 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    Didn’t work for us either. Really too bad since cream cheese and an entire block of cheddar was wasted :*(

  29. Kristin on 01 Mar 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    I made this today and was disappointed it came out mushy and dry. And it was only on for two hours. The flavor was good but I was not happy with the texture. Next time I will try using more milk and an hour and a half in the crock pot–hopefully that will work better.

  30. Kristy on 02 Mar 2015 at 9:44 am #

    Made this yesterday and ohmygod it was TO DIE FOR! It was exactly what I was looking for – rich and creamy without requiring velveeta or canned soup. Delicious!

  31. April on 02 Mar 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    Best mac and cheese ever!! I also added bacon and a little bit of garlic powder, white pepper and worcestershire sauce. Huge hit! Everyone loves it. Thanks for the recipe!!

  32. Sharron on 04 Apr 2015 at 9:06 am #

    Wondering if I should be using 450 grams of uncooked pasta, or 4-1/2 cups of uncooked pasta in this recipe.

  33. Carolee on 25 Apr 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    did not work, from a family that loves oven baked mac and cheese this was not good. A gluey block of pasta and cheese.

  34. Siohan on 19 Nov 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    Making this for a company potluck and need more than 8-10 servings…can I simply just double everything?

  35. Nicole127 on 21 Nov 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    I doubled the recipe and made it as described minus the salt and nutmeg. 2 lb block of Colby Jack grated, 2 lbs elbow noodles, 1/2 gallon whole milk, two 8-oz packages cream cheese cut up into 1-inch cubes, and a little pepper. I was freaking out halfway through, thinking it was not going to thicken up properly, but by 3.5 hours it was perfect. I soaked about 1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs in melted butter and smoothed that over the top. Served straight out of the crock at my potluck event and basked in the compliments! Will definitely do this again, planning to bring it to my in-laws’ for Christmas dinner. Thanks, Julie!

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