Do you love mac and cheese? Did you know you can make it in the slow cooker? My easy recipe for creamy slow cooker mac and cheese will become your best friend on a busy week night!
In the evenings when time is really up against us, a slow cooker really can be your best friend in the kitchen. I use it so much in the Autumn and Winter months. I know I’m not alone in this!
can you cook pasta in a slow cooker?
Up until recently, I was kind of skeptical of cooking pasta in the slow cooker – I was afraid it would become overcooked and stodgy. We all know there’s nothing much less appetising than overcooked, mushy pasta.
But I am very happy to tell you that by following a few simple guidelines, it absolutely can be done!
This slow cooker/crock pot macaroni cheese is so comforting to eat. The cheese sauce is everything you want a cheese sauce to be – so rich and creamy!
While this is not one of those slow cooker meals that you can simply leave in the pot for a few hours without it coming to any harm, it’s a wonderful recipe for those nights when you get home and need something easy and fuss free for dinner.
easy slow cooker recipe
All you need to do is place all of the ingredients in the slow cooker, stir well to combine, set it on LOW and let it do its thing!
why you’ll love this recipe
Maybe you’ve come home from work or the school run at 3.30pm.
You have approximately 15-20 minutes to prep something for dinner because you need to take your kids to the after school sport club/music lesson/drama club/delete as appropriate.
You have to be somewhere else at 7pm, so you need something that:
- Takes no more than 10 minutes to throw together
- Ideally ready to serve up when you get back home.
- This slow cooker macaroni cheese is the answer!
list of ingredients
- Macaroni. I prefer to use elbow macaroni for this particular recipe – it soaks up the sauce beautifully.
- Whole Milk – you could also use semi skimmed.
- evaporated milk gives this macaroni cheese a slightly sweet taste. Were you a fan of Kraft box macaroni when you were growing up? Maybe you still are! Nigella’s macaroni cheese recipe uses evaporated milk, so if it’s good enough for her, it’s definitely good enough for me.
- Sour Cream or cream cheese give the sauce a lovely velvety texture.
- Cheddar Cheese. I like to use a strong flavoured mature cheddar. If I have any Red Leicester in the fridge, I’ll add some. It gives the mac and cheese a vibrant, orange colour.
- Parmesan Cheese adds that addictive umami flavour, but you can easily swap this for more cheddar cheese.
- Mustard – I use English mustard, but you could also use Dijon or Wholegrain (if you don’t mind the seeds)
- sweet or smoked paprika
- Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
how to make slow cooker mac and cheese
- The first thing you should always do is rinse the dried macaroni in boiling water. This will remove some of the starch and help prevent it from sticking together while slow cooking.
- Place the macaroni in a colander. Pour the boiling water over and give the macaroni a stir to separate any pieces that might be stuck together.
- Place the rinsed macaroni in the slow cooker. Add the milk, sour cream, evaporated milk, cheeses, mustard, paprika and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
- It won’t look too pretty at this stage, but don’t worry. Have faith.
- Place on a lid, set the cooker to LOW and leave for one hour. Once the hour has passed, open the slow cooker lid and stir well.
- IF the pasta is soft, the sauce has thickened and is coating the pasta nicely, then your mac and cheese is ready. This will very much depend on your make and model of slow cooker! I own a 3.5L Crockpot.
- If the sauce is looking pretty thin at this stage and isn’t coating the pasta, pop the lid back on and cook for a further 15-20 minutes. Stir well again. The sauce should have thickened up considerably.
- Serve the macaroni as soon as possible. The longer the pasta sits in the pot, the thicker the sauce will become.
- Don’t have a can of evaporated milk in the cupboard? Don’t worry – you can still make the recipe. Simply replace with more milk.
Can you make slow cooker mac and cheese in advance?
While this is a really easy recipe, it’s unfortunately not suitable for making a day in advance. If left for any period of time, the pasta and sauce can go rather stodgy and claggy.
However, it is a great recipe for those days when you have a short window of opportunity to prepare dinner.
can you reheat slow cooker macaroni cheese?
Technically you could make it ahead of time and reheat later in a saucepan on the hob, but if you do this you’ll need to add a good splash of milk and heat slowly to avoid the macaroni turning claggy.
recipe tips for perfection
- Please bear in mind that all slow cookers vary. My model cooks this recipe perfectly in 1 hour 15 minutes, but you might find it only needs 1 hour, or even 1 hour 30 minutes.
- The seasoning will make all the difference to this recipe. Please don’t skimp on it! I add a decent amount of salt and pepper. However bear in mind that cheese is salty anyway, so don’t over do the salt.
- If you like the flavour of garlic, half a teaspoon or so of garlic granules are a tasty addition.
Delicious add-ins for your mac and cheese
There are countless ingredients you could add to your slow cooker macaroni cheese! Here are some ideas…..
- cooked bacon pieces
- cooked ham, sausage or chorizo
- crispy fried onions
- chilli flakes or hot sauce.
- onion salt
- roasted vegetables such as sweet onions, peppers, courgette (zucchini)
More Macaroni Cheese Recipes to try
want to see more slow cooker recipes?
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought by leaving a comment. If you have any questions, I’m here to help.
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- 400g elbow Macaroni pasta
- 750ml Whole Milk
- 170ml evaporated milk (if not available, replace with more milk)
- 50G Butter
- 100ml Sour Cream or full fat cream cheese
- 125G full flavoured Cheddar Cheese, grated
- 50G Grated Parmesan Cheese (or more cheddar)
- 1 teaspoon Mustard
- 1/2-1 teaspoon sweet or smoked Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Preheat the slow cooker/crockpot to LOW, if necessary. Lightly grease the bowl of the slow cooker with butter.
- Pour boiling water over the macaroni, then drain well and place in the slow cooker.
- Add the milk, sour cream or cream cheese, grated cheeses, mustard, paprika and salt and pepper. Cook on LOW for 1 hour.
- Once an hour has passed, stir the macaroni cheese well. It very much depends on your make and model of your slow cooker, but if the pasta is soft and you have a creamy, thick sauce, then its ready to serve. If the sauce looks quite thin and watery, cook for a further 15-20 minutes. By this time the sauce should be thick, creamy and coating the pasta nicely. Serve immediately.
When the macaroni is ready to serve, feel free to throw in some add-ins! Cooked bacon is a lovely addition! Fried mushrooms, fried golden onions, chilli flakes, chunks of ham or sausage all work perfectly with mac and cheese.
For the absolute best eating experience, serve the mac and cheese immediately. It doesn't like to hang around!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 484Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 810mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 2gSugar: 11gProtein: 19g
Calories and nutritional information are provided by a third party application and should be viewed as indicative figures only.