This Baked Crab Mac and Cheese requires JUST ONE pot and is loaded with perfectly-cooked pasta, crab, a creamy cheese sauce, white wine vinegar, Old Bay seasoning, and a crunchy breadcrumb topping!
If you love seafood and you love mac and cheese then this baked crab mac and cheese is for you!
This might just be the best mac and cheese I’ve made yet. It’s so rich, so creamy, SO CHEESY, and bonus: this all cooks in one pot, so you don’t need to boil your noodles separately!
Tender pasta, three kinds of cheese, seafood, and a bit of tang from the vinegar. Are you drooling? Cause I am!
This isn’t your mom’s mac and cheese. This crab mac and cheese is loaded with elevated flavors such as jumbo lump crab, white wine vinegar, asiago cheese, and old bay seasoning.
- Pasta Shells – I love to use pasta shells for this recipe, but you could also use elbow macaroni noodles. Keep in mind, if you use a different noodle, cook time may vary.
- Crabmeat – the perfect addition for all you seafood lovers out there. If you can, go for fresh crab. If it’s not local to you, the canned variety will be just fine.
- White Cheddar Cheese – adds a sharp, earthy flavor.
- Monterey Jack Cheese – gives the mac and cheese a creamy, buttery taste.
- Asiago/Parmesan/Romano Cheese Blend – this blend of cheeses adds a delicious nutty, salty flavor. If you can’t find this blend, either buy the cheeses separately or just use one . . . although the combination is outta this world.
- Vegetable Broth – provides this dish with an even richer, heartier taste.
- Evaporated Milk – gives body and richness to the cheese sauce. Evaporated milk also adds a subtle sweetness that complements the crab.
- Butter – adds a rich, creaminess to the sauce.
- Yellow Onion – adds a slight sweetness.
- Garlic – provides a subtle nutty flavor.
- White Wine Vinegar – cuts the richness of the cheeses and pairs beautifully with the crab.
- Water – thins out the cheese sauce making it the perfect creamy texture.
- Old Bay Seasoning – a blend of celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika. A classic seasoning for seafood!
- Salt – brings out the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Breadcrumbs – when baked, the breadcrumbs add a delicious crunchy texture to the pasta dish.
- Fresh Herbs (optional) – tops the mac and cheese off with some freshness.
- Hot Sauce (optional) – the perfect garnish for all you spice-lovers out there. Add more or less to taste! I like mine extra spicy. 🙂
Other than the crab, the cheese is the most important ingredient in this crab mac and cheese. Therefore, shred your own cheese!
Pre-grated packaged cheeses contain an anti-caking agent which can leave a gritty texture. This won’t happen if you grate your own cheese.
How to make crab mac and cheese
Remember: this is a ONE pot mac and cheese, so add your noodles to the pot UNCOOKED:
- Cook butter, onion, garlic, white wine vinegar, and Old Bay seasoning in a large stockpot until the onion is tender.
- Stir in pasta, milk, broth, water, and salt then let simmer until the pasta is tender.
- Stir in more vinegar, cheese, and cooked crabmeat then taste and re-season if necessary.
The vinegar is added in two steps for depth. In the first step, it gives the onions flavor, but most of the “zippy” flavor is cooked out. The vinegar is stirred in after the cooking so it doesn’t lose its bold flavor and can cut through the richness of the cheese.
This crab mac and cheese is DELICIOUS as is, but if you want to take this meal to the next level, follow just a couple more steps and bake it!
How to bake mac and cheese
- Pour the cooked mac and cheese into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.
- Top with more cheese, breadcrumbs, and Old Bay seasoning then bake at 375 degrees F for just 10 minutes before serving!
I actually prefer this recipe un-baked, because I’m a purist, and I despise dishes, but Trevor loves the additional flavor and crunch from the breadcrumbs. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Should i use fresh crab or canned crab?
Either is fine! I prefer to use fresh crab, because it’s local to us and has more flavor. It is, however, way more expensive. If you’re unsure of what kind of crab to buy, check out this how to choose crabmeat by grade article!
If you’re cooking on a budget, use canned crab instead! It’ll still be absolutely delicious and definitely more friendly on the wallet. 😉
There usually aren’t too many options at the store, so I just buy whatever I can find. Be sure to drain the can before incorporating it into the recipe.
What are the best cheeses for mac and cheese?
For this recipe, I decided to use sharp white cheddar, monterey jack, and an asiago/parmesan/romano cheese blend. I think this combination of cheeses is THE PERFECT blend to make this mac and cheese dish ultra-creamy, flavorful, and delicious.
If you prefer the flavor of other cheeses to the ones I used here, I’m sure other types would work as well although I can’t guarantee the results.
Try to use something flavorful – like sharp cheddar, something that melts well – like monterey jack, and something salty – like the cheese blend.
Whatever you choose, be sure to grate your own cheese to prevent grittiness.
What are your favorite types of cheese to use for homemade mac and cheese? Let me know in the comments below!
What to serve with crab mac and cheese
Obviously, mac and cheese pairs with basically everything (cause it’s so good 😉 ) but since this recipe is on the richer side, I like to pair it with a light salad with some extra veggies on the side:
What would YOU serve with this crab mac and cheese recipe? Let me know in the comments below!
How to store
This baked crab mac and cheese recipe should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat, just pop it in the microwave! If it’s dry, just add a splash of milk or broth.
If you prefer a crispy topping, you could also place this back in your greased baking dish, top with some more breadcrumbs, and reheat in the oven until crispy and warm.
. . . like I said, this mac and cheese has it ALL goin’ on.
Baked Crab Mac and Cheese
Equipment for this recipe
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 7 tablespoons white wine vinegar divided
- 2 tablespoons old bay seasoning divided*
- 1 (16 oz) box medium pasta shells uncooked
- 2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt more or less to taste
- 1 (8 oz) block white cheddar cheese shredded and divided*
- 1 cup monterey jack shredded and divided*
- 1/2 cup asiago/parmesan/romano blend shredded and divided*
- 1 pound cooked crabmeat
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Fresh herbs and hot sauce as garnish if desired
- Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.
- Add in onion, garlic, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, and 1 tablespoon old bay seasoning.
- Cook, stirring regularly, for 3-5 minutes, or until onion has softened
- Add in pasta, milk, broth, water, and salt.
- Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked to your liking. Stir OFTEN to prevent sticking.
- Remove pot from heat and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of vinegar, half the white cheddar, half the Monterey jack, and half the asiago blend.*
- Once melted, gently stir in the crab.
- Taste and re-season, if necessary.
- Optional baking step: preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a baking dish with cooking spray.
- Pour in the cooked mac and cheese and top with remaining cheeses.
- Top with panko and 1 tablespoon old bay seasoning
- Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until panko is golden brown and the cheeses have melted
- Serve with fresh herbs and hot sauce, if desired, and enjoy!
*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.
This post was originally published October 7, 2019 and has been updated to provide more detailed content.