This Thanksgiving, as the host for the family gathering, I found myself faced with a considerable amount of cooking. In an effort to ease some of the stress, I opted for the simplicity and deliciousness of slow cooker Mac and Cheese. The process is incredibly straightforward—just toss all the ingredients into the slow cooker, let it work its magic, and stir occasionally. It’s an ideal solution for Thanksgiving, allowing you to concentrate on the main dishes while the mac and cheese practically prepares itself. With a mix of dry pasta, milk, and cheese, you’ll be rewarded with a plate of comforting macaroni and cheese after a few hours. Ready to bask in the applause of a superbly crafted meal? Let’s delve into making this macaroni and cheese your own.
Fast And Easy Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
- 1 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-quart slow cooker
- 1 Spatula
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 1 Knife and cutting board
- 1 Box grater
- 12 oz dried elbow macaroni
- 2 cups whole or 2% milk
- 4 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
- 1 1/2 heavy cream
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard, or 1 teaspoon Dijon or yellow mustard
- 3 1/2 cups shredded cheese, such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Colby
- Combine ingredients in the slow cooker: Coat the insert of a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-quart slow cooker insert with cooking spray. Add the macaroni, whole milk, heavy cream, cream cheese, salt, mustard, and ground red pepper, if using. Stir to combine, making sure everything is evenly distributed. Smooth the top so the pasta is submerged.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 1 hour. Cover and cook on LOW for 1 hour.
- Stir the pasta. Working quickly so the slow cooker retains as much heat as possible, stir the pasta and cooking liquid, breaking up any large chunks of noodles.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 1 hour. Cover the slow cooker again and continue to cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until pasta is tender.
- Stir the pasta and add the cheese. Again, work quickly to stir the pasta and cooking liquid to break up any clumps of pasta or cream cheese, especially around the edge and bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the pasta and cooking liquid, but do not stir the cheese into the noodles.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 15 to 20 minutes. Cover and cook on LOW for 15 to 20 minutes. Use a fork to pluck out a noodle from under the cheese to see if it is plump and soft.
- Stir in the cheese and serve. Stir the warmed cheese into the cooked pasta and sauce. Lower the heat to WARM setting and serve macaroni and cheese straight from the slow cooker.
Go for Elbow Macaroni
Stick to regular elbow macaroni for consistent cooking. While you can use other shapes, be prepared for slight adjustments in cooking times and liquid amounts.
Mac and Cheese — No Special Sauce Required
This slow cooker Mac and Cheese relies on heavy cream and cream cheese. The pasta cooks in the milk, enhancing creaminess. Watch the dish as it nears the end of cooking to prevent curdling.
Your Patience Will Be Rewarded
The dish may seem milky and watery until the last 30 minutes, but patience pays off. The remaining liquid is absorbed, and the casserole magically firms up. Be vigilant in checking after the two-hour mark, as every slow cooker varies.
How We Improved This Recipe
We revisited and enhanced the recipe for more consistent results. Start by slow-cooking the noodles in a mixture of milk, heavy cream, and cream cheese for a plumper, creamier texture. Add shredded cheese towards the end to avoid separation. Stir just before serving, and enhance the cheese flavor with a bit more salt or a pinch of ground red pepper for a slightly spicey flavor and dry mustard powder for a bit of tang.
This mac and cheese satisfies both creamy and scoopable preferences when served immediately or offers a baked, casserole-style texture when kept in a warm setting.