Great taste, wonderful creamy texture in the easiest slow cooker mac and cheese you will ever see using uncooked pasta. No boiling for you. You can make this tonight.
Just put that uncooked macaroni in the crock pot. Yep, uncooked. Add some milk and spices. Cook. Then add cheese, and in a few minutes, you're done. No can of soup needed. Serve FRESH today.
My previous slow cooker mac and cheese has been well received. It is consistently in the top 10 on a Google search, and it made my top 10 recipes for last year. But still, something bothered me, and I keep experimenting to the point I feel like American Test Kitchen here. I have lost count, but I'm in the high teens here.
So what bothered me so much? The precooking of the pasta, the effect of heat on the cheese, which makes it separate some, and last (and the real thorn in my paw) was that can of soup.
I HATE recipes that call for that can of soup. You shouldn't need a can of soup or a package of mix to make something. And crock pot cooking seems to be the epicenter for it. IT DRIVES ME CRAZY...
They were OK but just not worthy... But the stove-top mac I did last month convinced me that I did not need to pre-cook the macaroni. I just had to do it.
I went through a lot of trials and errors here. A lot of mac and cheese was eaten, and a lot went down the sink as not worthy of a reheat.
I never thought I would rate a mac and cheese a five, but this is it.
♨️The Crock Pot
This fits well in most crock pots 2 quarts or above. Even a double recipe will fit in a 3.5 qt crock pot. You can use bigger as long as the milk completely covers the pasta in the first part of the recipe.
Cooking uncooked pasta in a crock pot is always an exercise in variability. You have thousands of different versions of pasta, and every crock pot is different. Guess what, your pasta in your crock pot will cook differently than mine—just a fact.
My instructions are to use standard dry pasta. If you want to use whole wheat or gluten-free pasta, you MUST pay attention to the pasta's endpoint is just al dente. More than that will make mush. The time of cooking WILL be different.
Many kinds of cheese should not cook for long periods. Put it in near the end and let it melt and deliver its creamy goodness.
American made shredded cheese that we all buy does not like long or high heat. It is waxier than block cheese, and it just won't take it and will separate some.
I'm sure a better cheese like a block of Cabot would do better, but are you going for a $10 cheese for this?
Feel free to vary the cheese type.
We are using seasoned milk for cooking the pasta. The amount of liquid I suggest will be correct for most people.
A little fat is needed. I have only fat free milk, usually. So since I was using that, I added a tablespoon of butter. That is enough fat to equal just over 2% milk.
So if you use whole or 2% milk, you may not need the butter, but I would keep it for taste. Or even leave it out with 0% for health reasons, but the texture will suffer a little.
I have too much liquid.
No, you don't, really. Once your pasta is al dente, you are done with the free liquid. So you MUST drain it. Don't worry about getting every drop of the liquid out. Just use a cup and remove the liquid you can easily remove before adding the cheese.
Should I cook longer to get rid of the liquid? No, drain per the instructions.
My pasta is mush. Your pasta is cooking too fast. You need to look for al dente.
My cheese looks bad. Some cheap cheese will separate quickly. Get better cheese.
📖Mac and Cheese Recipes
Things you already have. Oops... I left the salt out of the picture.
Dump 2 cups milk, 1 cup standard (not whole wheat or other non-standard) macaroni, ½ teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon each of pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, and l tablespoon butter into a smallish slow cooker.
Cook on low. Stir well at 1 hour into the cooking and check the texture. Cook until pasta is al dente, another hour or so for me. Slow cookers vary some; your time may vary some. DO NOT COOK BY TIME ONLY HERE.
When the pasta is al dente, drain any free fluid, add 1 cup of shredded cheese. I used sharp cheddar this time. Mix very well.
Continue on low until cooked to your taste. About 5-15 minutes.
This is the crock pot after the meal. My wife scooped it all out into bowls within 30 seconds of her first bite. I think she liked it.
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Originally published January 13, 2013. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.