Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

Somedays I am completely surprised by the reaction certain posts receive. There are times when I think something is going to be hugely popular because of a great picture or my brilliant writing. Then it receives minimal reaction. Or I think something will bomb completely and it gets rave reviews, like my Pesto Pasta for One. That’s the beauty of a blog. I receive instant feedback.

Over the summer I made ribs and made a slow cooker mac and cheese to serve on the side. My guests ranted and raved about the cheesy piles of pasta. In fact, I think they liked it so much I could have skipped the ribs and they still would have enjoyed the meal. I decided to post a picture of the ribs along with some of my favorite tips called Four Tips for Great Ribs on this blog. You can clearly see the mac and cheese in the background of the picture. To my surprise, I received more requests for the pasta recipe than on my darn rib tips.

Well, I have updated the recipe from what I made over the summer. It’s even easier and wonderfully flavorful. The secret is in the Dijon mustard. You can’t taste the mustard, but it really brings out the flavor of the cheese and creates more depth to the entire dish.

Featured on BonAppetit.com

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
 
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
 
Author:
Recipe Type: Entree
Serves: 4-6 people
Ingredients
  • 3 cups pasta, uncooked
  • 3 Tbl. butter, unsalted
  • 8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 1 ¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 5 minutes or until it is just under al dente. Drain and place in the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients to the pasta and stir until well combined. Cook on high for 2 – 3 hours stirring about every 30 minutes.
  2. Note: Some people have mentioned their mixture finished cooking after 1 1/2 hours on high. It really depends on the type of slow cooker you have. So it wouldn't hurt to check for doneness at that time. The pasta should still hold its shape and the cheese is completely creamy. This makes about 6 servings as a side dish.
Author's Note
It’s important to choose pasta that is thick and hearty to gain the most benefit from this recipe. My favorite pasta to use is called Cavatappi. It is thick like penne pasta but has a twist to make hold all the cheesy goodness.

Comments

  1. Annamae says

    Is there a cheese I can use in place of the Velveeta? I got sick from it once and can’t eat it to this day. Thanks.

  2. Molly says

    I’m so glad your recipe includes Velveeta! So many people are snobs about it, but I think it gives the mac and cheese a consistent texture, which is super important. And I think if you didn’t tell the haters it had Velveeta, they’d never know.

  3. Kim says

    This recipe is AWESOME!!!! It only took about an hour with my crockpot. My 4 year old, who is one of the pickiest mac and cheese eaters ever, even loved it!!!! I even removed it from the crockpot, sprinkled more sharp cheese on top, put in the oven for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese! Wonderful!!!!

  4. Amy says

    I was wondering how this would turn out using lower fat/calorie ingredients? For instance, substitute using low-fat Velveeta, reduced fat heavy cream and skim milk… Thoughts? Do you think this will affect consistency and/or texture much?

    • says

      That’s a really good question Amy. I know the skim milk substitution will be fine. But I’ve never substituted low-fat Velveeta. My assumption is the texture will not be as rich as the original, but it should still be really tasty. Feel free let me know how it goes if you decide to try it.

    • says

      Hi Haven: Absolutely! This recipe works well in advance. What I do is cook the pasta to be a little underdone. I chill the pasta under cold water and store it in a large zip lock bag. Then I place all the wet ingredients in a separate zip lock bag. When I’m ready to cook it the next day, I pour both bags in the crock pot and cook as directed in the recipe. Hope you enjoy it!

      • Haven says

        Great! I’m a little nervous when it comes to making things in advance, but could it also all be mixed together and put in the crock (my crock is removeable) and refridgerated and then cooked the next day? Thanks so much for your advice!

        • says

          I would say it can be mixed in advance and cooked. Plan on extra cooking time because the ceramic insert will need time to be brought up to temperature before the pasta actually starts cooking.

  5. says

    I made this for a pot-luck at work today…one hour high,then to keep warm. Worked like a charm, people went back for seconds, said it was the cheesiest. (It’s a good thing.”

  6. Chitown Cooker says

    i choose flavor over texture any day. Plus the reason I rarely order mac and cheese while dining out is because you’re right…many low end restaurants use processed cheese like Velveeta. Avoid the processed cheese and stick with the real stuff. Your taste buds will thank you and so will your body.

  7. MrDifficult says

    To all the Velveeta haters… this is usually the secret ingredient in really great restauraunt mac and cheeses. Get over yourself and recognize that it is more about the texture it imparts.

  8. chitown cooker says

    I like the idea of using a slow cooker for this type of dish but I was a little disappointing in the use of Velveeta cheese. I rarely use Velveeta for anything so I was skeptical but I used it anyway. Unfortunately it made the dish less than desirable. I’d recommend a combination of shredded sharp cheddar and gruyere and skip the processed Velveeta. I also added some freshly grated nutmeg, white pepper, and a dash of white truffle oil. Overall this would have been great without the Velveeta.

    • Culinary Cory says

      Hi Vickie: I think whole grain pasta will work just fine in this recipe. Personally, I’m not a fan of using 100% whole grain. I like to do a 50/50 mix with regular pasta. Makes for a nice balance of textures.

  9. bigdogfields says

    This the best crock pot mac and cheese recipe. I added a few bacon bits, just enough to taste not overpower. It tasted even better the next day.

  10. Sheena says

    When I had to make something for a Super Bowl party, I knew this was it. It has been a go to recipe for awhile now. I always double it to make sure there is enough. Thanks.

    Cheers and happy eating :)

  11. valerie says

    came across your website/recipe while searching for a crock pot mac & cheese recipe. this was delicious! i am serving w/fried chicken for our NYE party but made a batch last night as a “test” – it is super easy and my stepkids said it was the “best macaroni ever” :) the only thing i changed was the heat setting on my slow cooker – 2 or 3 hours on high in mine would have killed it. i went 1 hour on high, 1 hour on low, then switched to “keep warm”. Thanks for the great recipe!

  12. Kathy Eustace says

    Hi,

    I would like to double this recipe and want to know if I need to change settings on the slow cooker and if I have to cook longer. I need to make this tonight for tomorrow so please advise me ASAp. It looks wonderful and I like the combination of the velvetta and regular chedder cheese. I’m from the old school and always made mine from scratch which means no velvetta. The group I’m making it for are all under 35 years of age which is a velvetta generation. :)

    • Culinary Cory says

      Hi Kathy,
      I have doubled this recipe before and recommend keeping the temperature settings the same. You may need to add about 15 minutes extra on the cooking time. It all depends on the type of pasta you use. I hope you enjoy it. :)

  13. sweet petunia says

    what if i try fresh olivieri pasta -stuffed tortellini -my kids love it
    it only takes 10 minutes to boil
    so i ‘m thinking put all ingredients pasta uncooked into to slow cooker then
    walk away
    cook for how long though?on high or low?
    any suggestions from a seasoned slowcooker expert would be greatly appreciated.

    • Culinary Cory says

      That is an interesting question sweet petunia. I have never tested the recipe using fresh stuffed pasta. However, I think if I were to use fresh tortellini. I would put it in the slow cooker, uncooked, on high for about 30 – 45 minutes. Another way to make the mac and cheese would be to use uncooked fresh tortellini and bake in a greased baking pan for 20 – 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

  14. Lorie says

    Just want to make sure I have this right…I lightly boil, than after the pasta is done, I put ice cubes in the water? Than drain and pour it into the bag with the rest of the ingredients, refrigerate it and cook the next day…Do I still cook it on high? Thanks for your help!!!

    • Culinary Cory says

      Sorry for the confusion. The last comment was my first attempt at commenting through my IPhone. This is what I have done for serving slow cooker mac and cheese at a work potluck. The night before, I would boil the pasta until just underdone. Drain and dunk in ice water for about 5 seconds. This will shock the pasta and stop the cooking. Drain and seal in a large zip lock bag. In a separate zip lock bag, combine the remaining ingredients. Then around 11 a.m, pour both bags in the crock pot and cook on high. It should be ready by 1 p.m. I wouldn’t recommend starting the mac and cheese when you get to work at 7:30 a.m. 6 hours of cooking, even on low, would be way too long.

  15. Lorie says

    Hi, I was going to make this for a potluck at work….but the problem is, we don’t eat till 1pm, can this been done on low ….. I get in at work at 7:30, but we don’t eat till 1:00? I don’t want it to be mushy or hard….but this recipe looks really good!!! I have to make enough for 30 people? Help?
    Thanks,
    Lorie

    • Culinary Cory says

      That is actually a really good question. What I would do is lightly boil the pasta and chill it in ice. Drain and pour in a zip lock bag with the rest of the ingrediants the night before. Then pour the bag in the crock pot at around 11 am when you are ready to cook.

  16. aunt gail says

    This sounds awesome! Your #1 fan (your Mom) suggested i go to your site for supper suggestions. I’ll try this and let you know

  17. says

    Oh this looks like a must try. I don’t use my slow cooker enough and I think it’s time I really start using it (or just justify buying that gorg. All Clad one from Williams Sonoma!)

  18. Mark says

    I made sure to get my crock from storage at my parent’s the last time I was there. I just need to remember to buy the brick of Velveeta and I will be set. Might be great for NYE. I can’t wait to finally make it…

  19. Tina E says

    I found your recipe while looking for a crockpot mac and cheese recipe for a family christmas get-together. This was perfect! Everyone ate it up, I tripled the recipe and there wasn’t much left over. Thank you!

  20. Erin M says

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I have been searching for the perfect recipe for Crock pot Mac&Cheese for quite a while. My search has ended! Perfect for my kids & those of us that are sick of the blue box kind! Best of all, easy.

    Thank you!

  21. says

    Hmmm – I guess I’m going to have to try this one day. You know, macaroni and cheese is in my culture. It’s in my genes…my blood…but I’ve never tried it slow cooked before. Hmmm….

  22. says

    Hehe…Thanks for the tip Lisa Marie. I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I decide to smoke beef ribs. :)

    I agree Lori, it’s a great recipe for kids. I say add some cut up hot dogs just like when I grew up.

    Well Kevin and CakeSpy…I’m glad to hear I reminded you of a old cheesy treasure.

  23. says

    That’s actually a really good question SwanDiver. I have not tried to used munster in this recipe. I have however subsitiuted bleu cheese or a milder cheddar. I would think munster might work well, but expect the dish to have a smokie taste to it.

  24. says

    This would definately get eaten first at my house. I have a renewed appreciation for my slow cooker so this is one of the first recipes to try this week.

  25. Lisa Marie says

    This looks yummy. We had ribs yesterday. Jerry smoked them. Do you know what you get when you smoke beef ribs?! Jerky! Ha ha.. live and learn.

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