Creamy Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

Highly requested from my readers, this mac and cheese is made entirely in the slow cooker!  No boiling pasta, no making a cream sauce, and no standing over a hot stove.  Perfectly creamy and packed with flavor, this dish is great to take to a potluck, have as a holiday side dish, or even a fun family dinner!

Looking for other non-traditional crockpot recipes?  Check out my No Boil Crockpot Mashed Potatoes, Crockpot Meatloaf, Crockpot Chicken Lo Mein, and Crockpot Spaghetti Casserole!

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese is ultra creamy, and SO easy!  No boiling pasta, no velveeta, and no condensed soups needed.  Perfect side dish or kid-friendly dinner option! #macandcheese #macaroniandcheese #crockpot #slowcooker #easyrecipe #sidedish #potluck #holiday

CROCKPOT MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE

Here it is… the recipe you’ve been asking for!  You’ve LOVED, and continue to love, my Baked Mac and Cheese recipe… some of you have even won awards in cooking competitions using that recipe.  But we all love a great slow cooker recipe, and I’ve been busy developing the PERFECT crock pot mac and cheese recipe.  One that yields an ultra creamy sauce, doesn’t get too thick, and one that tastes every bit as delicious as the OG baked mac and cheese.

HOW TO MAKE CROCK POT MAC AND CHEESE

  • Add pasta and liquids to the slow cooker.  Sprinkle in seasonings and stir.
  • Cover and cook 1 hour.  Stir. Cover and cook another 10 minutes.
  • Stir in cream cheese and grated cheese.  Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes.  Stir and serve.

How easy is that?!  No fancy cream sauce to make… just hands-off cook time so you can go relax!

COOKING TIPS FOR CROCK POT MAC AND CHEESE

I’ve tested this recipe more times than I’d like to admit, and through all those trials and errors, I’ve come up with a few helpful tips.

  • Spray the crockpot.  I know it might sound weird, but it really helps keep the pasta from sticking too much to the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Use the right liquids.  For most of my attempts, I was using regular, whole milk, and every time it would thicken way too much and sort of seize up on me.  I’ve found that a mixture of chicken broth, evaporated milk, with a little heavy cream for richness, yields the best creamy sauce.
  • Grate your own cheeses.  I know… I know.  It’s SO tempting to open a bag of pre-shredded cheese from the store… and I’ve done it on occasion.  But most commercial pre-shredded cheeses are coated in cellulose, which essentially keeps the cheese from all clumping together in the bag.  Ever noticed how bags of pre-shredded cheese that are coming up on their expiration date usually have clumps of cheese stuck together inside?  It’s because the cellulose is just about gone from the cheese.  That coating prevents the cheese from truly melting down into a gloriously gooey cheese sauce, and can leave your sauce a bit on the gritty side.

Serving spoon of crock pot mac and cheese

VARIATIONS OF CROCK POT MAC AND CHEESE

  • Pasta Shapes – to mimic the classic recipe, I normally use elbow pasta.  But any short-cut pasta works just as well!  Medium shells, penne, rotini, etc.  Just note that different pastas will have slightly different cook times, so use the recipe times as an approximate.
  • Cooking Liquids – like I mentioned above, I prefer the taste and consistency of chicken broth, evaporated milk and heavy cream.  However, feel free to test out different proportions of those liquids, or try out different liquids.  Just note that I can only vouch for this recipe as written.
  • Cheeses – As with most mac and cheese recipes, the types of cheese called for are not the only ones you can use.  Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Colby, Gruyere, sharp cheddar… any and all!
  • Seasonings – feel free to add in additional seasonings that you love in your mac and cheese.

Holding a bowl of crock pot mac and cheese

MAKING CROCK POT MAC AND CHEESE AHEAD OF TIME

I don’t recommend making this ahead of time, as I think it loses texture and creaminess.  However there are some things that can be done ahead of time to prepare.

  • Combine the liquids and refrigerate.
  • Grate cheeses and refrigerate.
  • Combine seasonings and refrigerate.
  • Cube butter and cream cheese and refrigerate.

STORING CROCK POT MAC AND CHEESE

The leftovers from this mac and cheese recipe need to be refrigerated.  Let the leftovers cool completely, cover, then refrigerate for up to 3 days.  For optimal texture, add enough milk to thin the sauce before packing up the leftovers, that way you can easily scoop out a portion to reheat, and the milk will meld into the cream sauce as it reheats.

Bowl of creamy mac and cheese

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  1. Slow Cooker – I prefer using a smaller slow cooker for this recipe, as I think it cooks the pasta more evenly, and this is the model I have and love.  The exact slow cooker used in the photos is this one, but it’s pretty pricey!

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese is ultra creamy, and SO easy!  No boiling pasta, no velveeta, and no condensed soups needed.  Perfect side dish or kid-friendly dinner option! #macandcheese #macaroniandcheese #crockpot #slowcooker #easyrecipe #sidedish #potluck #holiday

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Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese is ultra creamy, and SO easy!  No boiling pasta, no velveeta, and no condensed soups needed.  Perfect side dish or kid-friendly dinner option! #macandcheese #macaroniandcheese #crockpot #slowcooker #easyrecipe #sidedish #potluck #holiday

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

The ultimate creamy comfort food, this mac and cheese recipe is made completely in the slow cooker!
4.58 from 19 votes
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Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 745
Recipe Author The Chunky Chef

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. uncooked elbow pasta (or other shortcut pasta)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter cubed
  • 12 oz. can evaporated milk (use whole milk, not low fat)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (unsalted or reduced sodium)
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika (or cayenne pepper if you like a small kick)
  • 2 to 3 oz. cream cheese (cubed) at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Spray a 4 quart slow cooker insert with cooking spray. Add pasta, butter, evaporated milk, chicken broth, heavy cream, salt, ground mustard, black pepper, and paprika. Stir well to combine.
  • Smooth pasta into an even layer, trying to press it down into the liquid. Not all of it will be submerged, and that's okay. Cover and cook on LOW for 1 hour.
  • Remove lid and stir. At first it will be a big clump, but as soon as you start to stir, it will break up easily. Spread back into an even layer again. Cover and cook on LOW another 10-15 minutes or so, or until pasta is chewy. Not crunchy, but not finished cooking either.
  • Remove lid and add cubed cream cheese and grated cheeses. Stir well, cover and let sit (with the heat off), for 5-10 minutes.
  • Keep stirring and you'll see a glorious cheese sauce appear! Serve hot.

Video

Notes

  1. Mac and cheese will thicken slightly as it cools.
  2. Other cheeses can be used if desired.
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Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese is ultra creamy, and SO easy!  No boiling pasta, no velveeta, and no condensed soups needed.  Perfect side dish or kid-friendly dinner option! #macandcheese #macaroniandcheese #crockpot #slowcooker #easyrecipe #sidedish #potluck #holiday

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66 comments on “Creamy Crock Pot Mac and Cheese”

  1. Can this recipe be halved?  I only have a 2.5q crock pot….

  2. I so wanted to love this recipe because of the short amount of cooking time, but it didn’t work for me. Maybe because my crockpot was larger? It took another hour to get the elbows so they weren’t chewy and the final consistency was gluey. The flavor was excellent however, I may try the award winning recipe instead. 

  3. I followed this recipe exactly and it turned out to be the best Mac n Cheese I have made yet.. if you like creamy Mac this recipe will not disappoint…Dee

  4. Mine turned out very tasty, but stringy-cheesy? I grated my own cheddar…also need to add some more pasta to it as well…otherwise it’s really good.

  5. Hello! I tried this recipe and was a bit disappointed because the pasta was not cooked completely in the hour and 25 mins as described in the recipe. I even left the crockpot on the low setting after the last step of adding chesses. But still not cooked through. Perhaps because I used a larger crockpot (6-quart)? Has anyone else had this happen? I turned on high for an additional 15 mins and the pasta was done. The flavor was crazy good. I would highly recommend.

  6. Made this for family Christmas. I did use packaged cheeses, we found it to be too cheesy. I know, not sure that is actually a thing, but it was. When we spooned it out it was mostly cheese. Will make again but will use less cheese for sure.

  7. AWESOME recipe! Made it for Thanksgiving and by popular demand it is back for Christmas! THANKS- it works just as she describes!

  8. Great recipe

  9. Want to make this for the holiday.  Don’t moisture from the lid drip on to the Mac and cheese and make it watery?

    • That can happen, to counter act that, you can place a thin, clean kitchen towel over the crockpot and put the lid on top of that. That way it will catch the condensation. I’ve only done this when I’m home and right by my kitchen though, as I don’t know if it would cause the crockpot to get too hot on the outside.

  10. This all sounds amazing really! But I will like to know if this can be done on an Ninja Foodi (pressure cooker) for it to be faster. Any plans on making a recipe for making it in the Ninja Foodi? Many thanks in advance!

  11. Can I substitute with gluten free pasta in this recipe? I saw another user had used gnocci as well, just keeping my options open!

  12. I’m making this for a family pot luck, I notice you put short cut pasta, I just got regular pasta is that going to make a difference?

  13. Can you double this recipe easily?

  14. I made this and doubled the recipe. Not much more on the cooking time and it turned out so good. I made another recipe for crockpot mac and cheese and it turned out gluey. This recipe is hands down the easiest and best slow cooker mac and cheese. 🙂 My only mistake with the first time run was I used regular full salt chicken broth and a little extra kosher salt and guess what, it was a little salty. No complaints from the coworkers from the Thanksgiving feed at work so it was okay. I loved the creamy sauce and nice texture of the mac. Making this again for the neighborhood Christmas party. Thanks for the recipe. Good Stuff.

  15. Apparently the blogger doesn’t allow reviews with  1 or 2 stars so I had to give 5 stars to get this posted. It really deserves zero stars. It’s the worst Mac and cheese ever. If you have ever had good Mac and cheese you will know this. I took a few bites and threw the rest out. So glad I tried it before serving it to anyone. It would have been embarrassing. Mac and cheese is not meant to be cooked in a crock pot….most foods aren’t. The good reviews must be coming from friends and family. Wasted a lot of money making this.

    • Actually Janice, all comments have to be approved by me, unless the commenter has commented on my website previously. This cuts down on the enormous amount of spam comments. I’ve been ill, and am going through a backlog of comments, so no, I don’t “not allow reviews with one or two stars”, and I honestly resent the implication. I’m sorry you didn’t find this recipe to your tastes. I posted this recipe as I was getting a LOT of commenters on my baked mac and cheese post asking for a crockpot recipe. I’m curious, if you are so adamant that most foods aren’t meant to be cooked in a crockpot, then why did you make a crockpot mac and cheese recipe?

    • You are rude! No need to be mean in your comments. And I’m wondering why you own a crock pot. I’m not a mac and cheese fan, but I recently tried someone’s crock pot mac and cheese and it was really good, so I looked up this recipe and will be trying it for the first time with my family for Christmas. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it!! 🙂 W

  16. I doubled this recipe and the cooking times essentially remained the same. I made the mistake of buying Medium cheddar rather than mild cheddar and the recipe was too sharp tasting for my liking, maybe too salty, hard me to tell the difference sometimes. I’m not very skilled in the kitchen, so operator error, I’m sure. The texture and creaminess were amazing though.
    Anyone try any other cheese combos that were satisfying?

  17. Made this for Thanksgiving and it came out AMAZING!! so easy to make and so delicious. Will definitely be saving this as one of my go-to recipes year-round. Thank you so much for posting this!

  18. I made this for thanksgiving. It was so easy and necessary to free up my oven for the turkey. There wasnt any left!

  19. Made for Thanksgiving, everyone loved it! It’s the only thing my daughter ate. I used sharp cheddar, but followed the rest of the recipe as is. Had to keep in crockpot on warm for about an hour and a half, but was still super yummy! I try a new Mac and cheese recipe every year and this is my fav so far. Always looking for one with no velveeta. 

  20. So I did a trial run and did half the recipe in my small slow cooker. I subbed out gnocchi for noodles so it could be gluten free. For cheese I used sharp cheddar, Swiss, and Monterey Colby. Ooooo…eeeee this recipe has my taste buds happy dancing! 

  21. I am making this for friendsgiving and want to double the amount of pasta, do I have to double everything else? Also how long can it sit in the Crock-Pot on warm before noodles go bad?

    • I haven’t tested doubling this recipe, but yes, anytime you want to double something you have to double all the ingredients. I wouldn’t keep it in the crockpot super long before serving, as the pasta can get too overcooked.

  22. I just made this and there seems to be so much sauce and not nearly enough Mac. Can I just boil some Mac and mix it in with it? I love the flavors of it, it’s just so much and mine came pretty thick too.

  23. I was planning on making this to serve at my sons school tomorrow. Do you recommend just making it on a stove top if I will be reheating and serving  tomorrow?

    • I’ve only tested the recipe to be eaten pretty soon after making it, so I honestly can’t say for sure. I would think cooking it on the stovetop might help it not overcook, since you could intentionally undercook the pasta.

  24. How long can this sit in the crock pot once it’s ready? I’m serving it for Thanksgiving so can I leave it in the crock pot on warm for a couple hours after it is ready?

    • If it’s just sitting on warm while you’re eating and whatnot, that should be okay, but I wouldn’t purposefully make it super early in the day and keep it on warm, as it may end up drying out a little bit and/or the pasta could get too mushy.

  25. Can you double the recipe? 

    • I’ve not tested doubling this recipe, but I’m sure it could be. Since I haven’t tested it, I can’t be certain on times, but I would try cooking it for 2 hours at first and then seeing how the texture is.

  26. If I left out the heavy cream and added some milk do you think that would make this recipe more creamy?

  27. This looks sooo yummy! I am going to make it for a Friendsgiving tomorrow, but the issue is I am not sure when dinner will be served, our group of friends tends to run behind! Lol. So! I keep it on warm, after the above cook time, do you think it will have an issue of drying out? I think I am going to just have it in the pot and cook it there, but i doubt we will be eating an hour after we arrive…. would adding a small amount of additional liquid make sense? Thanks!

    • I’ve only tested the recipe to be eaten pretty soon after making it, so I honestly can’t say for sure. I don’t *think* it would dry out although a little extra liquid wouldn’t hurt. I would be concerned about the pasta overcooking, so I would try to time it the best you can.

  28. I’m looking for a recipe for an office potluck as a side dish. This looks very doable. One question though… I have a number of vegetarian colleagues. Would it be horrible (tasting) to swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth?

  29. Do you think this would be enough for a potluck or do you recommend doubling the recipe?

    • That would depend on two things: how many people will be there, and if the mac and cheese will be served as a main dish, or a side?

    • I just made this for my work. We had a pot-luck and I decided to try this. There were probably 15-20 people that actively ate the food and this dish was completely gone. If you have a large group, I would double it.

  30. I hope this isn’t too dumb of a question, but if I double the recipe, should I also be doubling the cook time then? 

    • Not a dumb question at all! Unfortunately I just can’t tell you for certain, as I’ve not tested this recipe except as written. I would guess it would be fairly similar, so check it and see how it’s looking.

  31. I tried this recipe for a potluck. It was so easy. Everyone loved it. I started it a bit too early so it was a little too soft but it still tasted great.

  32. Can I double the recipe?

  33. Love this classic recipe! I am adding this to my dinner line up for the week! Looks amazing!

  34. This crock pot mac and cheese looks absolutely delicious! Yummy!

  35. Creamy and dreamy! A reason to pull out your Crock Pot to make some comfort food!!

  36. This might just become my new potluck dish! Love how easy it is and portable too. 

  37. This was amazing so tasty and creamy. Thanks for sharing this fantastic recipe.

  38. This will come in so handy at christmas time when the oven is occupied all day

  39. I’ve never prepared this recipe, but I’ve eaten it a time or two… And it is delicious!!