Crock Pot Mac and Cheese with Uncooked Pasta has excellent taste, creamy texture, and tender pasta in one of the easiest recipes you can make for dinner tonight—no boiling for you.
👍Why you should make this recipe
- This Mac and Cheese has a wonderfully creamy, cheesy taste and tender pasta that the whole family will love, even picky kids.
- No need to boil—add the dry pasta uncooked.
- Easy cleanup with only the crock pot to clean.
- You cook the pasta in spicy milk in the crock pot to near done, drain any fluid, add cheese, and let it melt to creamy goodness.
- You can use any size crock pot, even as small as 2 quarts.
- There is no can of soup.
- Using your crock pot, you can free up the oven and stovetop space during holiday cooking, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Kids love mac and cheese, so combine it with Baked Chicken Legs, Grilled Chicken Drumsticks, Baked Chicken Tenders, or even Grilled Chicken Tenders.
Check out some other mac and cheese recipes. Start with my Creamiest Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese, One-pot Stovetop Mac and Cheese, Baked Mac and Cheese, and Roadhouse Mac and Cheese.
- Elbow macaroni
- Pantry ingredients—dry mustard, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper
👨🍳How to make Crock Pot Mac and Cheese with Uncooked Pasta
- Add milk, standard macaroni, spices, and butter to a crock pot.
- Cook on low. Cook until pasta is al dente—usually about 2 hours. Stir well every hour and check the texture. DO NOT COOK BY TIME ONLY HERE.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain any free fluid, add cheese, and stir well
- Continue on low for 5-15 minutes until the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted.
♨️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.
- Large crock pots with small amounts of ingredients may cook faster, so be careful.
- This should usually be done on low. This is NOT a recipe you should cook on high and cut the time in half and ignore. The endpoint is the pasta becoming al dente, not an amount of time.
- 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.
- If using non-standard pasta, you should usually be OK if you check the pasta more frequently, stop at al dente, and discard the excess fluid.
- Many kinds of cheese should not cook for long periods. But by adding the cheese near the end, it will deliver its creamy goodness.
- American-made pre-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 stuck on sharp cheddar cheese. Almost any cheese can work, like Velveeta, American, Colby jack, gouda, and gruyere.
- 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.
❓Trouble Shooting—I have too much liquid.
There are hundreds of different pasta, some requiring more or less fluid. The amount of fluid is for standard elbow macaroni and is usually correct for most standard pasta.
Once your pasta is al dente, you are done with the free liquid. So, you MUST drain any excess fluid. 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.
Your pasta is mushy from cooking too fast or you cooked too long. You need to look for al dente and stop cooking.
If using non-standard pasta, you should usually be OK if you check the pasta more frequently, stop at al dente, and discard the excess fluid.
Some cheap cheese will separate quickly. Get better cheese, and do not cook it too long.
Storage of leftovers
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 days or freeze for 2-3 months.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
This recipe will fit in a 2-quart or larger crock pot.
Add 2 cups milk, 1 cup standard macaroni, ½ teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon each of pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and 1 tablespoon of butter to the crock pot.
Cook on low until the pasta reaches al dente. Stir well one hour into the cooking and check the texture, then recheck every 30 minutes or more frequently until done—about 2 hours for most crock pots and pasta. But crock pots and pasta vary and your time may vary. DO NOT COOK BY TIME.
Drain any free fluid when the pasta is al dente, and mix in 1 cup of shredded cheese—sharp cheddar is recommended.
Continue on low until cooked the pasta is tender—about 5-15 minutes.
This is the crock pot after the meal. My wife scooped it into bowls within 30 seconds of her first bite. I think she liked it.
Crock Pot Mac and Cheese with Uncooked Pasta
- 1 cup Elbow Macaroni
- 2 cups milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup cheese of your choice - I used sharp cheddar
- Add 2 cups milk, 1 cup standard macaroni, ½ teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon each of pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and 1 tablespoon of butter to the crock pot. You can use a crock pot as small as 2 quarts, but be sure the pasta is covered with milk. Larger crock pots cook smaller recipes faster.
- Cook on low until the pasta reaches al dente. Stir well one hour into the cooking and check the texture, then recheck every 30 minutes or more frequently until done—about 2 hours for most crock pots and pasta. But crock pots and pasta vary and your time may vary. DO NOT COOK BY TIME.
- Drain any free fluid when the pasta is al dente, and mix in 1 cup of shredded cheese—sharp cheddar is recommended.
- Continue on low until cooked the pasta is tender—about 5-15 minutes.
Your Own Private Notes
- This is not a dump-it-in-and-go shopping recipe.
- I suggest a standard dry pasta. If you use whole wheat, gluten-free, or other standard pasta, you must be aware of the endpoint being the pasta cooked to al dente and not longer.
- You may have some free liquid when the pasta reaches the al dente stage. You need to remove the extra fluid. Do not try to cook the extra fluid off. Get most of it spooned out, you don't need to get every drop,.
- Use the cheese of your choice. I always like some sharp cheddar here. Add the cheese at the end of cooking so you don't adversely affect the texture of the cheese.
- This will fit in a 2 qt. crock pot as written. A double batch will fit in a 3.5 qt or bigger.
- You can use bigger crock pots, but the pasta needs to be covered by the fluid, and remember that small recipes in large crock pots will cook faster.
- The bigger batch you have, the more extra liquid you will have. That is fine since we are cooking to the pasta al dente point. Just drain the extra fluid.
- I have closed the comment so this recipe. There were so many comments, and I felt everything was covered. I have modified the recipe some with that input over the years.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Originally published January 13, 2013. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.
I had closed comments on this recipe last year but Ana has emailed me her experience and since comments are to expand the discussion, I wanted to post that and will leave the comments closed after this.
On Oct 20, 2017, at 1:07 AM, Ana C
I'm writing you via email as you closed the comments under the recipe.
I wanted to share how it turned out for me.
I doubled the recipe. Used smallest size shells, which were thinner than regular small elbows but about the same size.
I cooked it on high and added cheese once they were fully cooked. There was just enough liquid to make Mac and cheese nice creamy.
And this is where I made the mistake. Instead of transferring it to another bowl (which I'm doing next time), I left it in crock pot which kept it cooking, even though I turned it off. It dried my Mac and cheese although the taste was still good. But visually it kind of looked bit sticky and grainy.
Reason I'm writing is I noticed people who had liquid problems doubled the recipe. I think if the recipe is doubled, it should be cooked on high. Took me about the same amount of cook time. And cheese should be added at the end. No need to keep cooking it after the cheese is added. Just stir and transfer to a cold bowl.
As for shredded cheese, manufactures add some powder to keep each little piece separate. Otherwise eventually they'd all stick back together and we'd have this unsightly weirdly shaped ball of cheese.
Also my son asked me not to add cheese. He said the taste was phenomenal without it. I had him try the pasta to see if it was cooked and he was hooked lol.
Thank you for an awesome recipe that doesn't use condensed milk or can of processed chemicals aka the condensed soup.
Great recipe fantastic flavor. I doubled it and followed your advice and really kept an eye on the dish at the end. I drained out about 1/3 cup of milk at the end and that left just a little bit to mingle with the cheese. I used A bag of Sargento half sharp and half mild cheddar, really good. When I make this next I will go ahead and probably use 3 and 3/4 cups of milk so I don't have to scoop out pasta and boiling hot milk and pour it through a sieve to get rid of the excess. A winner for me, I'm glad I found your site. Tomorrow I'm going to try your BBQ sauce on some crock pot BBQ chicken I like to make.
Thanks so much for the note and rating. Once you get to know your crock pot and pasta, it is easier.
You will love the BBQ sauce.
I just made this recipe, using triple portions and Barilla's Gluten-free elbows (plus 1 cup each of havarti, sharp cheddar, and jalapeño-sharp cheddar).
I followed the recipe up through the first hour, and then I let the pasta cook 20 minutes longer before mixing in the cheese (and tbh - I would probably cut it at 15 the next time, using this pasta).
P.S. That extra milk at the end is for the cheese -- it should go away once you've mixed everything up together (at which point it's more a cheese sauce than simply milk - and totally welcome to the party!)
To be clear, 20 minutes longer means 20 minutes AFTER the first hour - not 20 extra minutes on top of the total time listed in the original recipe.
best Mac n cheese ever!
Great recipe. I made this today and it took exactly 90 minutes. Thanks for the heads up on the need to monitor pasta. I've tried other crockpot mac and cheese and all were terrible. I used 2% cheese and it worked just fine.
Thanks for the note. Glad it worked well for you. When you precook the pasta then cook it again, the results are somewhat predictable.
Success! Made an 8 quart and a 6 quart batch for the annual smoked BBQ. Decided not to do a small test batch, as the dynamics of the huge crockpots would probably change things. It was a huge hit. I want to thank you for your recipie and the interactive feedback, and while some changes were made, the confidence to go for it came from you. Changes I made were minimal, but I would like to add one possible insight. On a different cooking site (sorry) one suggestion stuck with me: grate your own cheese. Whatever goes on the pre-grated to keep it from clumping in the package also keeps it from melting together perfectly. I use it all the time, but checked and there are added ingredients. To be honest, I'm not sure if it made any difference, but shredded 6 lbs of Tillmook cheese by hand. The Mac and cheese got as many positive raves as the briskest and ribs.
Great news that it worked so well. Your comment about the cheese has some truth in it. Pre-shredded is more "waxy" to keep it from clumping in the package. Overall in a dish like this I don't think there is much difference but I'm sure a little. So for a special occasion I would use a nice block cheese shredded but for daily use, I'm lazy and use the shredded.
Comparing comments, the uncooked pasta method seems to rely on more variables than the partly cooked in your experience with crock pot Mac and cheese. Your recipes and quality control, as well as some of the reader feedback, is truly helpful. We have a large event each year between Christmas and New Year, and with 5 smokers going, ovens monopolized, and stovetop space at a premium, I needed something that could transition to the crockpot besides beans! Keep your fingers crossed for me, folks. Thanks!
That's lots of comments to read but important. I try to read all or most comments of I'm using a recipe.
Might I suggest a small test cooking first. As you have noted, several variables are involved here.
You mentioned the precooked pasta mac and cheese recipes. I have one on this site and I still like it but I like the texture and taste of this one better when correctly done. I feel if you take precooked pasta and then cook it again for several more hours you will have bound to have some texture problems. Having said that, that is the texture lots of people are use to. Now I sound like a snob...
Good luck and watch closely for the al denta end point.
I tripled the recipe and ended up with very mushy pasta and lots of liquid left. I sort of saved it by cooking some pasta on the stove and adding it in with the cheese, but that sort of defeats the purpose. I think an edit to the instructions to check pasta at the 1 hour mark when you stir would have helped me, as I suspect it was done at that point. If I try it again I will do that and also cut back on the milk. I like the one-pot idea, but I also like to "set it and forget it", which you can't do with this. Great flavor though!
I put some edits in but there is so much variation with crockpots, I put some stronger warning in about overcooking and problems with double and triple recipes.
Thanks for the note
I followed this recipe exactly as written. My macaroni (Kroger brand, if I can say that) went flat and gummy after 45 minutes. I had to drain off at least 75% of the milk. I don't know why I still tried to add cheese and resuscitate this recipe, but it didn't work. By the time the cheese melted, the noodles broke apart as I stirred it and I was left with a pot of cheesy mush. Very disappointed.
Sorry it didn't work for you... I guess we know Kroger macaroni many not be a good choice here.
I tried this yesterday and it was the very best crock pot macaroni cheese I have ever tasted. The instructions are perfect. I didn't need as much milk as I put in to begin with, but following your advice, I drained it off before I added the cheese. Living in the UK, Cheddar is a staple hard cheese and melted into the remaining milk perfectly. I might try a mixture of cheeses next time, but it would be hard to improve on the perfection I achieved yesterday! The only thing I can think of that will improve it is doubling or trebling the quantities so there is more :-)
What I like about this recipe is not having to pre-cook the pasta. So many recipes instruct you to part cook the macaroni first - it just makes more washing up! This is a prince among crock pot recipes.
Thanks of the note Liz.
Question: I am doubling this and bringing it for Thanksgiving (after I do a trial run this weekend). If I leave it in the crock-pot on "warm" for several hours after cooking it as directed, would it possibly get "mushy" or should "warm" generally keep it from overcooking? Trying to figure out the best way to cook it at home, transport it for an hour and half, them keep it hot for a couple of hours while we have appetizers and drinks.
I think this would be mush if you try it. I would look for an oven based recipe and transport cold and cook there.
I've just made it, I tripled the mixture in a big crockpot. I watched it, stirred it, kept checking, and your times were PERFECT! After 1.50 it was still a bit wet, 10 minutes later pasta was al dente and hardly any liquid. Put mature cheddar and parmesan in, 7 minutes later - done! It's absoloutely beautiful and the whole family loves it. Nice work a great recipe!
I tried this recipe today (a double recipe). I let the peanut gallery (my husband) weigh in on whether he thought the noodles were "al dente." At that point (total cook time of 1 hour, 40 minutes) there was just a little bit of liquid remaining and I wanted to add the cheese. Instead, I let him convince me they were "gummy/undercooked" and NOT yet al dente, and I should've ignored him. 5 more minutes in the crock pot before adding the cheese, and a few minutes waiting for the cheese to melt turned the noodles pretty soft (I will not say mushy, that would be unfair).
It still had a good flavor, and we still enjoyed it. I read the article and recipe, along with a handful of comments before beginning, so I realized it wasn't a "crock and forget about it" recipe. I would say the second time around I'll watch the last few minutes very carefully. By the time we scooped it into our bowls, waited for it to cool a bit and dug in, it had soaked up the liquid even more and was approaching dry.
Overall, I'm giving it 5 stars. I can tell it will be fantastic next time when I know what I'm looking for. Much better than the other crock pot mac n cheese recipes I have tried. Well done Dr. Dan!
Thanks for the write up.
As you have noted, some are having trouble with this but many are not. This is why I have left the comments open. Over cook and you have mush... just like if you over cooked pasta on the stovetop. When I was testing with precooked pasta (like lots of recipes), it was always too soft.
I like that you pointed out that for you, it was drying. Many others get way too much liquid left. But here you have the variables of different crockpots and different pastas. So it is not a simple thing to do. But there does need to be some liquid to combine with the cheese.
Thanks again for the notes and hopeful it will help somebody.