This Crock Pot Mac and Cheese is ultra rich and creamy thanks to FOUR kinds of cheese: Asiago, Sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Gouda! Bonus: the noodles cook directly in the sauce which saves time and dishes!
Holy cheesiness. This crock pot mac and cheese is SO GOOD and full of not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR kinds of cheese. Yep! You saw that right.
I haven’t always been a homemade mac and cheese girl (gimme all that boxed stuff), but ever since my one pot mac and cheese, I’m a changed woman.
Now, I’m a homemade mac and cheese girl all the way and this crock pot mac and cheese does not disappoint. It’s cheesy, creamy, and full of perfectly cooked noodles. PLUS, it’s made in my all-time favorite kitchen tool: the crock pot.
Classic mac and cheese ingredients kicked up a notch!
- Macaroni Noodles – the base for this dish. Do NOT cook these beforehand or you WILL get a mushy mess.
- Broth – chicken or vegetable broth both work. Use vegetable if you want to keep this dish vegetarian! I highly recommend using broth for added flavor.
- Half and Half and Evaporated Milk – creates the PERFECT creamy texture and flavor. Half and half for creaminess and evaporated milk for a touch of sweetness. If you don’t have these ingredients on hand, heavy cream can be used to replace the half and half and whatever milk you have in your fridge can be used to replace the evaporated milk.
- Salt and Pepper – adds flavor and a little spice. I kept the seasonings simple to mimic that classic macaroni and cheese flavor.
- Asiago Cheese – adds a nutty flavor to the mac and cheese. This is my twist to elevate the flavor. I think it’s a little boring without it! If you don’t have or don’t like asiago, try parmesan cheese instead.
- Monterey Jack Cheese – gives the mac and cheese a smooth, buttery taste. This cheese melts really beautifully and is very mild in flavor. Feel free to use pepper jack for a little spice instead.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese – contributes that sharp, tangy flavor. You could also use mild cheddar, but it’s not going to be quite as flavorful.
- Gouda Cheese – this is another twist to elevate the flavor and texture. It’s one of the best melting cheeses, so it provides a gooey texture and amazing a caramel-y taste.
This is a relatively forgiving recipe, so feel free to play around a bit with that you have on hand. Don’t have macaroni noodles? Try using medium shells instead (although you may need to adjust cooking time). Not a fan of evaporated milk? Use that leftover 2% you have hanging out in your fridge. Only have pepper jack? Use it up! While you can certainly play around with flavors, keep amounts the same.
How to make crock pot mac and cheese
This is one of my favorite throw and go recipes that I promise you won’t mess up. My biggest tip? Know your crockpot! If your noodles are ending up mushy, it’s probably because your crockpot runs hotter than mine.
- Combine everything in your crock pot and let cook on LOW for 2 hours, stir, top with more cheese, then cook for an additional 30 minutes.
Don’t have 2 1/2 hours of time to spare? Try this instant pot mac and cheese instead!
Tips for making the best crock pot mac and cheese recipe
This truly is one of the easiest recipes to make. A “throw and go” at its finest. But to ensure that you don’t have a disaster on your hands: clumpy cheese, burnt pasta, mushy mess, be sure to follow these tips:
- Spray the crock pot. This prevents the noodles from sticking and burning to the bottom of your crockpot.
- Grate your own cheese. Pre-grated, prepackaged cheeses contain an anti-caking agent which can leave a gritty texture in the mac and cheese after the cheese is melted. To prevent this, grate your own cheese instead! It’s a little extra work but makes a big difference!
- Use the proper liquids. I found that the combination of half and half, evaporated milk, and broth created the best flavor and texture!
- Pay attention to cook time and know your crockpot. Mac and cheese in the crockpot tends to get mushy if it cooks too fast or too long! Keep in mind, all crockpots cook differently (some run hotter or colder than others). Pay more attention the first time you make this, so you get the perfect timing for YOUR crockpot.
- Serve right away. This mac and cheese is definitely best right away. Once it becomes cold, it’s difficult to reheat while maintaining the original creamy, cheesy texture. If you do want to reheat leftovers, try adding a little bit of milk to the mac and cheese beforehand to loosen the thickened sauce.
Why are my noodles mushy?
Your noodles should be perfectly al-dente (or maybe slightly softer) when this crockpot mac and cheese has finished cooking. Here are some culprits if your noodles are mushy:
- Did you accidentally cook the noodles beforehand? Noodles should go into the crockpot UNCOOKED.
- Did you use a different shape? I’ve only tested this with regular elbow macaroni.
- Did you use gluten free or whole wheat? You should be using “regular” elbow macaroni.
- Did you over measure your liquids? Ratios are very important in this recipe.
- Did you overcook the dish? Your crockpot may run hotter than mine or maybe you forgot about it and left it on the “warm” setting for too long!
Why is my sauce soupy?
After cooking, the noodles should be coated in a luscious cheese sauce. If your sauce didn’t thicken up like you expected, here’s what probably happened:
- You over measured your liquids or didn’t use enough noodles. Again, ratios are important in this recipe. The noodles can only soak up so much liquid before they become mush.
- Your crockpot runs colder than mine. If you have an older crockpot, it may be time to invest in a new one (they’re only $50!), because they just don’t work as well as the newer ones. I love this crockpot by hamilton beach.
Can i double this recipe?
Assuming you have a big enough crock pot – you’ll need at least a 6 quart crockpot – this recipe is easily doubled. The cook time should not be affected.
How to store
This crock pot mac and cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I don’t recommend any longer than that because the noodles will start to get mushy and the cheese sauce may become gummy.
To reheat, add a little bit of milk to thin out the sauce, if necessary, and heat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warm.
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese Recipe
Equipment for this recipe
- 1 (16 oz) box macaroni uncooked
- 1 cup broth chicken or vegetable
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon salt more or less to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper more or less to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded Asiago approx. 2 oz
- 1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese shredded (approx. 4 oz)
- 1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded (approx. 4 oz)
- 1 cup Gouda Cheese shredded (approx. 4 oz)
- Grease crockpot with cooking spray and combine uncooked macaroni, broth, half and half, milk, salt, and black pepper in crockpot.
- In a separate bowl, combine all the shredded cheese.
- Set aside 1/2 cup of the cheese in a smaller bowl and pour the rest into the crockpot.
- Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook on LOW 2 hours.
- Stir, top with the additional 1/2 cup cheese and cook an additional 30 minutes (covered).
- Serve immediately!
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*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.
This post was originally published Nov 23, 2016 and has been updated to provide more detailed content.