Slow cooker Old Bay®️ mac & cheese is a creamy and wonderful classic. This easy twist on everyone's favorite comfort food is not to be missed.
Macaroni and cheese in a crockpot should be easy, right? Everyone under the sun seems to make it and rave about it. Why then did it take me almost 10 tries to come up with a recipe I loved? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have many self proclaimed mac and cheese "experts" living in my house! Nothing I made got the seal of approval from them all.....until this!
- shredded cheddar cheese - Shredding it yourself is always best and freshest, but I am lazy(!) and always buy it already shredded. Still delicious!
- grated parmesan cheese - again, fresh grated is best - but... (refer to bullet point above)
- cream cheese - full fat works best here, but if you can only get the lighter kind, it will work as well
- whole milk
- evaporated milk - the kind in the can is great
- Old Bay Seasoning®!
- Dijon mustard - any brand will do
- macaroni/elbow pasta - a full 16 oz box!
🥣Putting it together
There are two ways to put this dish together. The first involves boiling the pasta the old fashioned way - stove top. I started on my crockpot macaroni and cheese quest assuming that there is no way I would ever cook the pasta separately. After all, this requires both time standing at a stove as well as extra dishes to wash (pot and strainer!!!). But, I have done a full 180º. Boiling the pasta is my preferred method. The key is to just slightly undercook the pasta. If your pasta package has al dente cooking instructions, those are the ones to follow.
Making the entire dish in your slow cooker may sound appealing, but it was more work than I bargained for. If you cook it too long, your macaroni can quickly go from delicious to mush. Therefore, it requires a lot of babysitting. By boiling the pasta separately, you can add all of your other ingredients into your slow cooker and walk away for a while. Half an hour before you are ready to serve, you can boil your pasta while you set the table and prep any other dishes you plan to serve. When you are ready to eat, just stir the pasta into the melted ingredients in your slow cooker and your are set.
IF you have leftovers (and that's a big IF), they will store very well in both the fridge and freezer. Wrapping up leftovers in individual sized portions works well for grab and go snacks and meals. Airtight containers or plastic food storage bags work best. Refrigerated leftovers should last 3-4 days and frozen will last up to 3 months.
The easiest way to reheat leftovers is in the microwave. If your reheated leftovers are thicker than you would like, you can thin them out by stirring in a few tablespoons of milk at a time until desired consistency is reached.
😉Hints & hacks
- Sharp cheddar cheese adds the most flavor to this dish, although any type of cheddar will work.
- To make it even sharper tasting, you can sub out one cup cheddar for one cup shredded gruyere cheese.
- Are you a HUGE fan of Old Bay Spice? Sprinkle a little more on top for even more goodness.
- I generally recommend the use of a slow cooker liner. As always, this an optional step. I like to purchase my liners in bulk for a less expensive per-piece price. Here are the liners I buy.
- In the market for a new slow cooker? Here is the one I am currently lusting after.
❓Frequently asked questions
Absolutely! Some great mix ins that will turn this dish into a stellar one pot meal are: grilled chicken pieces, steamed broccoli, cooked baby shrimp, crumbled bacon, sautéed mushrooms, roasted asparagus pieces and or bean free chili.
Evaporated milk is thicker than regular milk and adds to the creaminess of the finished dish. If you don't have evaporated milk, you can substitute with whole milk.
More crockpot pasta recipes
Lazy Slow Cooker Old Bay Mac & Cheese Recipe
- 4 qt slow cooker or larger
- measuring spoons and cups
- pot to cook noodles
- slow cooker liner (optional)
- spoon to mix
- 3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup whole milk
- 12 oz can, evaporated milk
- 2 teaspoon old bay seasoning plus more to sprinkle on top
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 16 oz macaroni, cooked according to al dente instructions on package
- place slow cooker liner in slow cooker, if using
- add cheeses, milks, cream cheese and spices to slow cooker
- stir just to combine, cover and cook on low
- prepare macaroni according to the al dente instructions on the package**
- once all cheeses have melted (this can take anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on how hot your slow cooker runs), open slow cooker and stir to fully combine.
- add in drained macaroni and stir again until fully incorporated
- serve with additional old bay seasoning sprinkled on time (optional)
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