I’m sad to say that there was a point in my life when I hated Mac n’ Cheese.
Doesn’t that make you sad for my childhood? Oh, the wasted years!
For much of my life, I didn’t realize that there was anything else out there other than the watery, powder-made instant cheese sauce from a box. No thank you!
Then I discovered the joys of baked Macaroni and Cheese at a barbecue a few years back, and then I realized that, of course, you can make Mac ‘n’ Cheese with real cheese on the stove top.
And I thought to myself, “What a wonderful world.”
I have had a deep, soul-encompassing desire to eat Macaroni and Cheese at every opportunity from then on out. There’s just something so… comforting… about this comfort food. (How eloquent of me, right?)
In the time since, I’ve made many forms of Mac ‘n’ Cheese and featured some of them here, like Grilled Mac ‘n’ Beer Cheese Sliders with Tomato-Bacon Jam, Chicken Enchilada Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and Cauliflower Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Holy yum to all of the above.
But it wasn’t until just recently that I realized that I would love a way to make Macaroni and Cheese with as little effort and heating up the house as possible.
I mean, 1) I’m
a bit lazy. 2) It’s summer. I’m not turning on the oven unless there’s a gun to my head. Or brownies that need baking. But that’s it!
Anyway, then it came to me. Mac ‘n’ Cheese made in the crock pot. Genius, genius, genius! But would it taste good?
Oh yes. Oh yes it would.
This Three Cheese Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese might be some of the cheesiest, creamiest, richest Mac ‘n’ Cheese I ever had. The first time I made it, I left it in too long and the macaroni was too overcooked for a good picture (but my brother and I loved it anyway), and then my brother begged me to make it again for his birthday weekend.
I tweaked a few things, didn’t cook it as long, and wound up with this amazing side dish. Well, I eat it as though it’s a main course. Woops?
Try out this recipe for Three Cheese Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese for your next summer barbecue and let me know what you think!Print
Three Cheese Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 8 1x
- 12 oz dry elbow macaroni (NOTE: whole wheat pasta does not work well here!)
- 1 1/4 cups gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 10 slices American cheese, chopped
- 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 cups skim milk
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Paprika, to garnish (optional)
- Chopped parlsey, to garnish (optional)
- Spray the inside of the crock pot bowl with nonstick cooking spray.
- In the bowl of the slow cooker, combine the macaroni, cheeses, evaporated milk and skim milk. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours. NOTE: (Your crock pot cooking temp and time may vary. The first time you make this in your crock pot, check every once and a while before the 1 1/2 hour mark to see if your cheese is melted and your pasta is nearly al dente. This may be 45 mins, an hour, or possibly longer than 1 1/2 hours. If you check, you’ll be alright!)
- Fold and stir in the dry mustard, nutmeg, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Make sure you’re folding enough to break up any pocket of cheese or milk that may exist from the previous hour and a half of cooking. Let cook on low for another 30 minutes.
- At this point, your Three Cheese Crock Pot Mac ‘n’ Cheese should be creamy, cheesy, and fully cooked. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and chopped parsley.
Feel free to mix in jalapenos or cooked ham for a tasty twist!
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 2 hours
amanda @ fake ginger says
Oh goodness, I’m definitely going to be craving mac & cheese after seeing this.
Thalia @ butter and brioche says
anything that has three cheeses in it i definitely know i will love.. i am so craving a bowl right now. looks seriously, rich, delicious and SO cheesy!
You and me both– the more cheese the better =)
If I triple the ingredients, do I cook it for six hours instead of two? I’m doing this tomorrow for Thanksgiving so if you can get back to me ASAP, I’d really appreciate it!! 🙂
Hi Mary, Do not triple the cooking time if you triple the ingredients. Two hours should be plenty, but you may have to check as you go (you’ll be able to tell when it’s ready so that you don’t overcook it). You can keep it on “warm” after it’s cooked until you’re ready to serve. I have never tried tripling it myself, but I would think this recipe would do fine if tripled.
This sounds so good! I’ll be making this for a party this weekend, do the noodles get soggy?
The noodles should not get soggy unless cooked too long. As long as you follow the recommended cook time, you should be fine! I hope you enjoy it!
It was AMAZING and a huge hit! Definitely going to be making again SOON! 🙂
So glad to hear it, Leann!
Morgan do I keep my crock pot on low cooking time? Or high
I’m gonna try this on Saturday! Excited … Question: I love Velveeta, which melts so well. Could this be swapped for the 10 slices of American cheese?
Yes you could definitely swap them =)
I’m so sad. This was a disaster! The Mac was gooey and chewy. Had to dump it all. 🙁
I’m sorry to hear that, Carl! I don’t think the issue would have had anything to do with using velveeta instead, unless the amounts of cheese used were perhaps not the same. Is there anything else you can think of that might have differed when you tried it? I’d love it if we could figure out why yours didn’t turn out so we could prevent the same problem from happening in the future. Again, I’m so sorry to hear that the mac didn’t work well for you =(
Thanks, Morgan. Not your fault! I just don’t know what I did wrong. I checked it at the exact cooking time you said, but I knew right then that it wouldn’t turn out. Oh well. Thx for replying!
If I figure something out, I’ll let you know right away Carl! I’m going to try to fit in a go with Velveeta soon to see if that impacts anything by any weird chance.
check out my comment below for some advice 🙂
Mine also came out as a disaster. The noodles overcooked but i also think the amount of cheese was the problem. The sauce came out very heavy and was hard to stomach. Also, maybe i’m just not a fan, but i feel like the nutmeg gave it a weird taste. I think i’d cut the american cheese in half if i were to try this recipe again.
Check out my comment below
This turned out terrible, unfortunately I made it for guests for lunch! A gross blob of starchy cheese.
Back to the old standby method.
I’m so sorry to hear that, Nancy. To me, it sounds like the pasta overcooked and broke down in the cheese. There are a few reasons this could happen that I can think of: 1) using cooked macaroni instead of uncooked, 2) using a brand or type of pasta that requires less cooking time, or 3) a hotter-running crock pot.
I saw that a few people were having issues with this recipe, so I tried again with a different crock pot and had the same results, although that crock pot might also have a cooler temperature for “low” than yours.
By any chance, do you remember what brand of pasta you used? Next time I try it I will see if different pasta brands might have an effect to prevent anyone from having the same issue in the future.
Thanks again for commenting, and I’m so sorry that it didn’t work out for you.
Also if you used pre shredded cheese. It just doesn’t melt right. Shredding a block of cheese makes a big difference I’ve noticed when making mac n cheese. Btw Morgan i made this on Thanksgiving and it was gone in 5 minutes lol it was delicious. Also made again after and used unsweetened Coconut milk because i didn’t have evap. milk and it was outstanding!
I was reading the comments and seeing that a lot of people had problems with this recipe. I had a good experience with it. My first thought was, perhaps the temperature on your crock pot is higher than others (yes, this is possible). Next time, cook the noodles for an hour and check instead of 1.5 hours. I did the full 1.5 hours, though. My noodles were not soggy – they were cooked through perfectly. I mixed mine often during the 1.5 hours. I recommend doing that as well. One thing I did change, half way through the cook time, I added another 1/4-1/2 cup of milk (i eyeballed it). This made it even creamier.
Carl – the cook time was probably too long for Velveeta cheese. Although, that was a good idea to try. I love that stuff!!
Michelle – try adding more milk. And, you probably did more than a pinch of nutmeg if you could taste it that much.
Hope this helps!
also, let me point this out – Do not cook the pasta prior to adding it to the crock pot! the pasta will cook in the crockpot itself.
I did a trial run of this today, as I wanted to test it before serving it at a potluck later this week. It worked quite well! However, the the yield was less than I’d expected, so I’m thinking of trying to double it, which would I think would fill my 4-quart Crock Pot. Have you ever doubled the recipe? Does it affect the cook time? (Slow cooker recipes seem to be touchy in this way, so I’m concerned.) Should it be made in a bigger slow cooker if doubled? (I also have a 5-quart Crock Pot.) Any thoughts about doubling this recipe would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Ah Lindsay, I’m so sorry– for some reason I didn’t see the comment until just now. Did you wind up doubling the recipe, and if so, how did it turn out for you? I personally have never doubled it but am interested in hearing your results!!
Stephanie N says
Morgan – Can you share what brand of macaroni you have been successful using? Thanks!!
Stephanie– I’ve used a couple of brands and not had issues. I believe I usually either use my generic grocery store brand, or Barilla. Do not attempt this with whole wheat or other non-standard pastas! Apparently that has caused some issues for people.
Also, don’t necessarily just stick to my cook time. Different crock pots come in different sizes and reach different temps– sometimes the small differences will have a huge impact. Check occasionally to see when your pasta is near al dente and the cheese is melted. Then mix in the dry mustard, nutmeg, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and go from there.
Stephanie M says
I’m finally going to get around to making this recipe this week and after reading the comments I have one question. By using a standard macaroni, do you mean using the one that says flour enriched macaroni…? Or something of that variety? Thanks!
Standard macaroni will often say “flour enriched” on the box, yes! Just make sure you’re not using extra large macaroni or whole wheat macaroni, et cetera, and that you check occasionally to make sure that your macaroni doesn’t overcook. =)
Melissa Luther says
I’ve read a few of the comments and the majority who had trouble with the outcome made substitutions… with that being said, would it be possible to sub the American cheese for shredded Mozzarella?
Three Cheese Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese – Host The Toast
If you live in a higher altitude does the cooking time make a difference?
Hi Morgan! I just came across your recipe and have some questions before I eagerly try it! Can the recipe as stated be made in a 3-quart slow cooker? Also, I saw your response regarding what kind/brand of pasta you typically use (house brand or Barilla), but are you able to tell me what brands of cheese you use as well? I need the idiot’s guide to your recipe because of my lack of experience. Thank you!
The recipe should be fine in a 3 quart slow cooker, but make sure to check it every once in a while as the size may alter the cooking speed. I have used different brands of cheese for this recipe, and your generic store brands should be okay =) I hope that helps, Kristina!
Hi there! Im attempting this for superbowl this weekend for a big group so im planning on tripling the recipe (hopefully it works out)! What type of cheese would the american cheese slices be??? Sorry if thats a dumb question haha Thanks!!
Any sliced cheese will be fine, Tanya. I believe I used Kraft American Cheese Singles. Additionally, if you’re tripling the recipe, make sure you check your crock pot more often than I have listed. You want to make sure that your pasta doesn’t overcook!
This sounds heavenly and those photos are wonderful. Going to try this for Super Bowl Sunday. Think I will dice up some jalapenos and hope for the best! Thanks for this wonderful recipe and will report back.
I think jalapenos will be a great addition!
So delicious, but I think I might have to say it is too cheesy……I didn’t think it was possible but next time I would probably do 2/3 the amount of each cheese, or something along those lines. Also, I couldn’t find decently priced gruyere so I used swiss cheese, and it worked fine!
Will this work in a 3.5 quart crock pot? I have a small crock pot and would love to try the recipe, but I don’t know if my crock pot will be large enough.
Hi Mattie! Try reducing the recipe for your first go to see how it turns out. I’m a bit worried about cooking time with a small crock, so I’d do a test run to gauge the cooking time and amount of space.
We made this for a Super Bowl party and it came out amazing! We doubled the recipe for everything except the american cheese. Also, I prefer baked macaroni as opposed to a super creamy macaroni, so when it was finished we toasted some panko bread crumbs and butter in a pan and then sprinkled it on top.
Trying this again tonight using Gluten Free elbows. Hopefully it will turn out as good.
I tried it again with the Gluten Free pasta (rice pasta) and it came out just as good!
Thanks again for the recipe!
I made this recipe and noodles turned out great! Problem was I didn’t really care for the taste. I am not much for Mac n cheese but the recipe turned out as advertised and kids liked it!
I rarely eat pasta any more, but I plan to make your recipe for our Easter celebration. Looks phenomenally delicious!
Just curious ….have you ever substituted the American cheese for something else? I’d like to try with another kind of cheese but wonder if the results will be different…too grainy?
I have not, but you would need a cheese with similar melting properties. Velveeta would work, although it’d be a bit looser. I think that I’d try Muenster if going for a not super-processed cheese, but I have never tried it to say for sure.
This looks incredible! I’m curious…could you make this recipe on the stovetop?
You should be able to make this on the stovetop, but I’d recommend trying out this recipe instead: https://hostthetoast.com/classic-creamy-macaroni-and-cheese/ !
Thanks so much! Both recipes look incredible. As for the crock pot version, how long can you leave the Mac and cheese in the slow cooker after it stops cooking? Or do you need to serve it immediately?
I never comment on stuff but this is amazing! Thanks for the recipe and thanks for the comments. I took out half the american cheese (ended up using 7 slices) and turned it to warm as soon as the mac was barely al dente since I knew it would be a bit before we ate it. Delicious! I actually need to stop stealing bites or there won’t be any for the fam lol.
Hi Morgan! Can you tell me how I could maybe incorporate chicken into this? It would be a great meal for when my boyfriend has friends over.
I’ve made this recipe several times, and its always been a hit with everyone! The one thing that I can’t seem to figure out about this recipe is how to re-heat it! Its so creamy when its first made, but then when re-heating the cheeses congeal and tend to dry up. It is still tasty, but its definitely not the same. I’ve tried pouring milk over it before microwaving, re-baking in the oven, and turning the crock pot back on high. Any thoughts??
I’m glad to hear you’ve enjoyed it!
When I reheat creamy mac and cheeses, I usually do it over medium-low heat on the stove top with a bit of butter and milk to help loosen it up and get it back to the creamier consistency. As long as you warm it slowly and stir often, it should smooth out! I hope that helps, August!
Hmm…. not sure what happened, but this didn’t turn out anywhere near what the photo looks like. It also took 4 hours to get the pasta to cook, and even after 4 hours, it was still a bit short of al dente. (It’s not the slow cooker, as I’ve used it since then on tried & true recipes and it turned out perfectly.) The sauce also ended up being really clumpy and dry. After a few bites, we unanimously decided to throw the entire thing in the garbage, which I hated to do since we are on such a tight grocery budget. Very disappointed and won’t be making this again.
Heather Rogers says
This recipe is absolutely wonderful. My husband loves it more then myself! Anytime, I need a serious household repair I make this for him as a trade. Thank you so much! Because of you my house is in better condition!! Lol. Great job!
Gave this a shot, using just the mustard powder and a bit of paprika, and whole milk instead of skim. The taste is excellent, but it turned out a bit heavy on the sauce. Think I may cut down on milk next time to fix this, possibly a little less cheese as well, since the sauce isn’t runny, it’s just more than the noodles could handle.
Key thing I’d suggest is to keep an eye on your crock pot if you’re not sure how it’ll turn out just yet.
I decided to post a comment due to the numerous comments above to help anyone thinking of making this recipe. First of all…delicious! Try it! I did do a dry-run the night before the party just to make sure it would work out OK and to figure out the exact cooking time. I used 7 pieces of american cheese instead of 10 (based on the comments above) and think this worked well. I also wanted to let you know that i used the Kroger brand of elbow pasta. I did note that the recipe calls for 12 oz of pasta and the pasta comes in a 16 oz (1 lb) box, so i tried to measure out 12 oz. The total cooking time in my crock pot on low was about 2 hours. 1.5 hours before the pasta was cooked, then i added the mustard and other spices and cooked on low for 30 minutes more. I think if i make this again i will not use the dry mustard as i didn’t really care for the flavor (personal preference). Thanks for posting this and I hope people give it a try! Yum!!!
Aisha Gardner says
This may be a silly question, is the crockpot supposed to be on high or low heat?
The crock pot should be on low heat =)
Aisha Gardner says
Aisha Gardner says
I am so happy I read the comments before making! I watched it religiously! Between the turkey and this dish and it is coming out so well! I don’t know if it’s going to make anyone’s plate, I keep “taste testing’ the pasta 😉
I live in Australia and cooked this for the family tonight.
Followed the recipe and it was a hit.
It will go into my family meal cookbook.
Cate | Chez CateyLou says
I just got a slow cooker this fall (finally!) and made this today – absolutely loved it! I especially love that you don’t need to precook the macaroni – so easy! Mine cooked in the exact time you specified – 1.5 hrs + 30 mins after adding the spices. I did stir it twice during the 1.5 hours. Also I only had 1 cup of milk, so to make up the extra liquid I mixed cream cheese with chicken broth – sounds really weird, but it worked beautifully! Thanks for a delicious recipe. Hope you have a happy new year!
I just won a mac and cheese competition using this recipe!! Some of the comments had me scared, but it turned out great! I got deli-sliced smoked gruyere (the smoked was half the price of the regular, but it worked out because it gave the dish a delicious smoky, almost meaty flavor!), American, and cheddar cheeses (NOT pre-shredded) so I think that is why the cheese melted so well for me. Pre-shredded and sliced cheese sometimes has flour or other starches on it to keep them from sticking together. I also added probably close to double the amount of skim milk, but I had to keep it warm for a while until the competition time, so I just kept adding small amounts of skim milk as the cheese kept getting thicker. I’d say just really keep an eye on it, and add more cheese/milk as you see fit. The spices are what really put it over the top, but definitely just one teeny tiny pinch of nutmeg is all you need! Great recipe!
linda | low carb yogurt says
Great recipe. Delicious taste and great as a substitute to regular mashed potatoes. Even kids loved them
I attempted this recipe tonight and I definitely overcooked it. We may be used to the watered down version because this was too cheesy for us. I never thought I would ever say that! I’ve not used gruyere cheese in recipes before so this may have been what pushed us over the edge. It was very easy and I will be trying it again. I will use milder cheeses and watch it more closely. The cheese sauce was so creamy and abundant. No worries about dried out mac n cheese with this recipe!
I am always tenuous about crock pot recipes where pasta cooks in the slow cooker. It always has a gummy, weird consistency. Unfortunately this was also the case here. Followed recipe to a tee, but still noodles were weird and gummy and I decided I couldn’t serve it. I did like the flavor, but the consistency killed it for me. Used regular store brand elbows with fresh grated cheddar and gruyere and land o lakes American slices.