This recipe for slow cooker mac and cheese is a blend of tender pasta with two types of cheese and plenty of seasonings, all cooked together to creamy and cheesy perfection. It’s the easiest crock pot macaroni and cheese ever!

This macaroni and cheese is total perfection, my kids absolutely adore it and ask for it every week. Pair it with dishes such as Cajun shrimp, pan seared chicken breast, burnt ends, roasted chicken and sauteed asparagus for a complete meal that’s sure to get rave reviews.

Slow cooker mac and cheese topped with parsley, with a serving spoon in it.

I’ve found that homemade mac and cheese can be a little tricky to get right. Sometimes I have issues with the sauce separating or being grainy from the flour, and I find that baked versions of mac and cheese can dry out easily. This slow cooker mac and cheese recipe is practically fool proof; it comes out ultra creamy every time thanks to a secret ingredient. This is one of my go-to side dish recipes for any occasion!

Slow Cooker Mac And Cheese Ingredients

Ingredients including pasta, milk, cheeses, butter and seasonings.

This recipe calls for corkscrew pasta (cavatappi), butter, evaporated milk, half and half, sharp cheddar cheese, salt, black pepper, onion powder and paprika. The sercret ingredient is American cheese, and not just any American cheese. You want to skip the plastic wrapped slices and buy a block of American cheese at the deli counter for best results. I also like to add a little parsley for flavor and color, but that’s an optional step.

How Do You Make Slow Cooker Mac And Cheese?

This crock pot mac and cheese is very simple to make. The first step is to boil your noodles. Slow cooker mac and cheese can sometimes come out with mushy, overcooked pasta if it cooks for too long. To avoid that, I use a heartier noodle like cavatappi, and I undercook it by 2 minutes before I put it into the slow cooker. The noodles are coated with butter, then mixed with cheese, evaporated milk, half and half, and seasonings. Cook everything together, then stir up the noodles in the cheese sauce. In about 2 hours you’ll have mac and cheese perfection! Add a little fresh parsley if you like, then serve and enjoy.

Step by step shots showing how to cook pasta and mix it with milk and cheese.

Tips For Perfect Crock Pot Mac And Cheese

  • The cook time for this mac and cheese varies a bit depending on your slow cooker. I find that some of the older slow cookers tend to run on the hot side and have less heat settings. If you’ve got an older crock pot, cook this mac and cheese for about 1 1/2 hours to avoid mushy noodles.
  • If you’ve got a more modern crock pot with multiple heat settings, cook on the lowest setting for 2 hours. Either way you’ll want to stir the mac a few times during the cooking process. If it looks soupy at the end of the cook time, just keep stirring and it will come together into a smooth sauce.
  • This recipe also works well as a stovetop mac and cheese. Cook the pasta for the full amount of time as directed on the box. Place it in a pot on the stove with the rest of the ingredients, then stir to combine. Cook for 5-7 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • I prefer to use corkscrew pasta because I find that the added texture holds up better in the crock pot. If you have elbow macaroni on hand, you can use that too. Just be aware it may need less time in the slow cooker.
  • If you can’t order a block of American cheese at the deli counter, feel free to use deli style sliced American, or even Velveeta.
  • Leftovers will stay fresh in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days. You can reheat your leftovers in the microwave or on the stove over low heat.
  • This recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Pair it with other holiday dishes such as homemade cranberry sauce, deep fried turkey, smoked prime rib and sausage stuffing.

Quick Tip

I recommend grating your own cheddar cheese for this recipe. The bagged pre-shredded cheese sold at the grocery store is often coated in anti caking agents and preservatives and does not melt as smoothly as freshly grated cheese.

Process shots showing crock pot mac and cheese being made.

Recipe FAQs

Can you freeze slow cooker mac and cheese?

You can freeze mac and cheese for up to 3 months. Make sure to avoid freezer burn by storing your mac and cheese in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag. Thaw the macaroni and cheese in the fridge before you reheat it.

What cheese is best in mac and cheese?

Cheddar is the most popular cheese for mac and cheese because it is flavorful and melts well. This recipe also uses American cheese because it melts even better than cheddar, and produces a very smooth and creamy sauce. Other great cheese options include mozzarella, fontina, gouda, gruyere or Monterey Jack.

Can you cook pasta in a crock pot?

While it is technically possible to cook pasta in a crock pot, I don’t recommend it. I find that it’s so easy to over cook the noodles, and they end up mushy. It is definitely worth the time to boil your pasta before you make slow cooker mac and cheese.

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Slow cooker mac and cheese on a plate with sliced steak and vegetables.

Flavor Variations

This recipe is very easy to customize to suit your taste preferences.

  • Protein: Make your macaroni and cheese a meal by stirring in diced ham, cooked sausage or shredded chicken during the last 30 minutes of the cook time.
  • Vegetables: Feel free to add cooked veggies of your choice during the last 10 minutes of the cook time. Some great options include broccoli, spinach or peas.
  • Toppings: Finish your mac and cheese with a sprinkle of cooked bacon, or some crushed buttery crackers.
  • Flavorings: Add some extra spices to your dish such as garlic powder, Cajun seasoning or even a little cayenne pepper for heat. You can also swap out the half anf half for heavy cream for an extra rich mac.

Once you try this mac and cheese, you’ll find yourself making it on a regular basis for dinners, parties and potlucks. My kids prefer this mac and cheese over any other variety!

More Slow Cooker Recipes

Slow Cooker Mac And Cheese Video

Love This Recipe?

Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments section further down the page.

4.97 from 56 votes

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

AuthorSara Welch
Slow cooker mac and cheese topped with parsley, with a serving spoon in it.
This recipe for slow cooker mac and cheese is a blend of tender pasta with two types of cheese and plenty of seasonings, all cooked together to creamy and cheesy perfection. It's the easiest crock pot macaroni and cheese ever!
Time
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 5 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Serves 8

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb cavatappi pasta or other corkscrew shaped pasta
  • 1/4 cup butter cut into cubes
  • 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 lb block of orange American cheese cut into cubes (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley optional garnish

Instructions 

  • Cook the pasta in boiling water for 2 minutes less than package directions call for.
  • Coat a 4 or 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place the noodles in the slow cooker and add the butter. Stir until the noodles are coated with butter.
  • Add the evaporated milk, half and half, cheddar cheese, american cheese, salt, pepper, onion powder and paprika.
  • Stir until combined.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Stir every 30 minutes.
  • At the end of the cook time, stir until a smooth sauce coats the noodles. Serve, topped with parsley if desired.

Notes

  1. Cavatappi is sometimes called corkscrew pasta or cellentani. If you can’t find cavatappi you can use farfalle or gemelli.
  2. The cook time for this mac and cheese varies a bit depending on your slow cooker. I find that some of the older slow cookers tend to run on the hot side and have less heat settings. If you’ve got an older crock pot, cook this mac and cheese for about 1 1/2 hours to avoid mushy noodles.
  3. If you’ve got a more modern crock pot with multiple heat settings, cook on the lowest setting for 2 hours. Either way you’ll want to stir the mac a few times during the cooking process. If it looks soupy at the end of the cook time, just keep stirring and it will come together into a smooth sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 571kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 88mg | Sodium: 912mg | Potassium: 419mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 960IU | Vitamin C: 0.8mg | Calcium: 654mg | Iron: 1.2mg

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Comments

    1. You can buy it at the deli section of your local grocery store. Blocks of American cheese typically come in two types, orange or white which is why I specified.

  1. 4 stars
    I followed the recipe to a T and I loved the flavors and also the texture of the noodles was perfect. My only complaint is that the sauce wasn’t creamy. It was thick and stodgy. If I wanted to make it more creamy, would I add more half and half? Or more evaporated milk? Or…? Thank you for a wonderful recipe!

    1. Yes that would be fine, just make sure to toss your pasta in a little oil or run cold water over it so the noodles don’t stick together.

  2. Sounds delicious! If I want to add in broccoli (perhaps a 16oz package of frozen broccoli, thawed) – would I cook beforehand or could I add into the slow cooker and it would cook ok with the rest?

  3. I am making this for a potluck at work. Would it be ok to boil the noodles the night before or morning off then add it all to the crockpot to cook while at work?

    1. That should be fine, you may want to run some cold water over the noodles or add a bit of oil so that they don’t clump together before you get them in the crockpot!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this last year and it was a huge hit! Question- I’m making it tonight for a Halloween party but need to make it a head of time due to crazy schedules. Will it do ok on warm once it’s cooked for the 1-1/2 to 2hrs?

  5. Making this today for a children’s Halloween party. Do I cool ( rinse) the noodles after cooking before putting in crock pot?

  6. 5 stars
    A simple recipe that everyone loves perfect for a weekly meal, no doubt that the slow cooker is a great gadget

  7. 5 stars
    Made this for dinner tonight. My whole family loved it and requested the leftovers in their lunches tomorrow. That NEVER happens!