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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
slow cooker mac & cheese 1

Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

Recipe link

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February 22, 2014

  • Makes: Serves 8-10.

Ingredients

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)

Directions

1Combine 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.

2Serve warm.

Makes: Serves 8-10.
00:00
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49 comments on “Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

  1. erin
    February 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

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

  2. Renee
    February 22, 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@ foraginghere.com
    February 22, 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
    February 22, 2014 at 9:54 pm

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

  5. Susy
    February 22, 2014 at 10:53 pm

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

  6. Kathy
    February 23, 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
    February 23, 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 (or..as I type more like!) and cannot wait to have some philly turkey tacos 😀 Happy Sunday! x

  8. Julie
    February 23, 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
    February 23, 2014 at 2:43 pm

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

  10. Katherine
    February 23, 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
    February 24, 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
    February 24, 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
    February 27, 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
    February 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    What size of slow cooker do you use?

    Thanks and best regards,

    Anja

  15. Teresa
    March 2, 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
    March 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

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

  17. Julie
    March 4, 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!

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  19. hmwrkmom
    April 27, 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.

    • Julie
      April 28, 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!

  20. Michelle
    May 4, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Can you use light cream cheese?

  21. Anna
    October 8, 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.

  22. Jennifer
    November 23, 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!

  23. kari
    December 17, 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 :(

  24. Suzanne
    January 15, 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.

  25. Donna
    January 31, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Can you use gluten free pasta with this recipe?

  26. Stephanie
    February 28, 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 :*(

  27. Kristin
    March 1, 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.

  28. Kristy
    March 2, 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!

  29. April
    March 2, 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!!

  30. Sharron
    April 4, 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.

  31. Carolee
    April 25, 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.

  32. Siohan
    November 19, 2015 at 3:38 pm

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

  33. Nicole127
    November 21, 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!

  34. Deb
    January 16, 2016 at 7:57 am

    I won’t be making mac & cheese like this again the texture is mushy and on the dry side…I will go back to my other recipe in the slow cooker that always came out similar to how you bake it in the oven.

    • Julie
      January 17, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      Sorry to hear it! It sure sounds like the results of this recipe varies with peoples’ slow cookers!

  35. Cathy
    January 30, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    didn’t work for me either. It’s a mushy mess. Not one in tact noodle! I was so excited…then sadly disappointed :(

    • Julie
      February 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      Oh no – so sorry to hear it! It’s crazy that it works so well for some people (including myself!) and not for others.. must be the differences between slow cookers. Perhaps yours is hotter than mine?

  36. Mary
    February 5, 2016 at 7:51 am

    I just made this today and it was absolutely fantastic, not mushy or liquid at all. I’ll definitely be making it again.

    • Julie
      February 7, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      So great to hear!

  37. Ella-Max
    March 5, 2016 at 3:36 am

    No pinch of garlic or chopped onion? Bland without it. Needs some kick..including a dash of tabasco sauce and a 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Don’t you have any creativity lady?

  38. Ella-Max
    March 5, 2016 at 3:37 am

    And butter too..God do I have to teach you how to really cook?

  39. Anna from Guelph
    March 12, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Have made this many times and EVERYBODY loved it. However, I included dehydrated onion flakes (1 tbsp.) , dried mustard (1 tsp.) and tabasco sauce (1 tsp.). It’s become a staple – especially with my vegetarian daughter-in-law.

    • Julie
      March 13, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      I’m so glad you like it Anna!

  40. Danielle
    March 17, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I made a different slow cooker mac & cheese recipe and my kids didn’t like the flavor. I came across your recipe, which is much simpler in flavor so I’m going to give it another try. My feeling is that they didn’t like the tang that the cream cheese imparted. Any suggestions for substitutions? Evaporated milk, perhaps?

  41. Kim
    March 23, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I made it and it is delicious! Mine cooked for 3.5 hours and was ready. I didn’t add the macaroni until an hour in to make sure it didn’t disinigrate… Wonderful! Thanks so much!

  42. Joanna
    April 25, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Maybe it’s the type of pasta? If u use whole wheat or something other than white pasta? Could that be why it’s mushy?

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