Make the best, creamy Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese with only minutes of prep! This recipe is made without evaporated milk and there is no need to boil the pasta- the uncooked noodles cook up in the slow cooker!
This creamy Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese is easy and comforting and made without any canned or processed ingredients. No canned soups, evaporated milk, or Velveeta are in this recipe and you won’t miss them either.
This Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese manages to achieve a creamy texture using ingredients you probably already have in your fridge and pantry!
While this recipe does start out on the stove top (see below for why this is necessary), it is incredibly easy to make. It is based on my sister in laws recipe, though I have changed things up over time.
The end result is a wonderful mac and cheese that requires only a little hands on time. There is seriously nothing better than walking away from a slow cooker only to come back to something warm and delicious.
Seriously is there anything better and more comforting than a bowl of mac and cheese?
The secret to a creamy slow cooker mac and cheese
While some slow cooker mac and cheese recipes turn into a runny, curdled mess, this recipe has never failed me.
It really comes down to the way you make your sauce. While it can seem tempting and easy to just dump everything into the slow cooker and walk away, this often doesn’t work out with a mac and cheese that is made from scratch. That’s why canned ingredients are often used in slow cooker recipes. But they aren’t necessary if you take the right steps.
The secret to getting a good cheese sauce that is made from scratch is to start out with a good roux. That means making the sauce on the stove top before adding it to the slow cooker.
I personally find that making the sauce on the stove top makes all the difference and produces a creamy, smooth sauce every time.
Ingredients in Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
- Butter: The base of a good roux.
- Flour: Together with the butter, make a roux to thicken the cheese sauce.
- Seasoning: salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, mustard powder.
- Cheese: shredded cheddar or your favourite melty cheese.
- Macaroni or pasta of choice: uncooked. Elbow macaroni is often used for mac and cheese but you can use similarly sized pastas instead. Try not to go with thinner and smaller pastas as they will become mushy as they cook.
Note: Ingredient quantities and full instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post.
How to make Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining butter and add the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, mustard powder and onion powder. Whisk to create a roux, cooking for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the milk and continue to whisk until it begins to sauce thickens and begins to bubble. Remove it from the heat and stir in grated cheese on cup at a time.
3. Transfer the sauce to the slow cooker and stir in the uncooked macaroni. Cover with the lid. Cook on low heat for 2 hours or until the pasta is cooked.
Tips for making the best macaroni and cheese
- Use freshly shredded cheese. The pre-shredded cheeses you can buy at the store are coated in a powder that prevents them from clumping. This will affect the texture of your cheese sauce and cause it to be gritty. For the best results, buy a good quality cheese and shred it yourself.
- Use a good melty cheese. I love cheddar cheese in my mac and cheese but I have often substituted other cheese varieties like gruyere, brie, gouda, monterey jack and havarti. Feel free to use your own favourite melty cheese or a combination of cheeses. Choose a good quality cheese as some cheaper cheeses are more prone to getting gritty as well.
- Turn off the heat before adding cheese. In order to prevent a gritty sauce, I recommend stirring the cheese into the sauce when it is off the heat.
- Adjust cook times if necessary. Slow cookers vary just as ovens do. 2 hours on low has worked for me and the pasta varieties I use- typically elbow macaroni, shells, and a pasta shape called Lumaca Rigata (which I have used in the pasta I photographed for this post). You may find that your slow cooker runs a little hotter or cooler so adjust the recipe as needed.
Can you make this ahead of time?
If you are looking to cut down on the prep time before setting the mac and cheese in your slow cooker, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time. Simply make the sauce and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
The next day, you can transfer the sauce to the slow cooker and stir in the uncooked macaroni. Then set it and let it do its thing.
I don’t recommend stirring in the pasta the night before as the sauce will start to break it down and it will affect its texture.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!
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Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
- 1/3 cup butter + 1 teaspoon (to grease slow cooker)
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
- 4 1/2 cups milk
- 3 cups cheddar cheese freshly shredded (or your favourite melty cheese)
- 2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked (or pasta of choice)
- Grease slow cooker with 1 teaspoon butter.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining butter and add the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, mustard powder and onion powder. Whisk to create a roux, cooking for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the milk and continue to whisk until it begins to sauce thickens and begins to bubble. Remove it from the heat and stir in grated cheese one cup at a time.
- Transfer the sauce to the slow cooker and stir in the uncooked macaroni. Cover with the lid. Cook on low heat for 2 hours or until the pasta is cooked.