When it comes to classic comfort food, few dishes can compete with the timeless appeal of macaroni and cheese. The creamy, cheesy goodness of this beloved dish is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. But what if I told you there’s a way to make it even more convenient without sacrificing flavor? Enter the slow cooker mac and cheese – a dish that combines the best of both worlds.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the magic of slow cooker mac and cheese, with an easy-to-follow recipe, important cooking notes, some delightful variations to try, and even keto and low-carb options for those looking to indulge without the guilt.
Before we dive into the instructions, let’s make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. For this slow cooker mac and cheese recipe, you’ll need:
For the Mac and Cheese:
16 ounces (1 pound) elbow macaroni
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups whole milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
For the Topping (Optional):
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Now, let’s get to the fun part: cooking this delectable slow cooker mac and cheese.
Step 1: Prepare the Slow Cooker
Begin by greasing the inside of your slow cooker with butter or non-stick cooking spray. This will prevent the mac and cheese from sticking to the sides and make cleanup easier.
Step 2: Combine Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked macaroni, shredded cheddar cheese, whole milk, evaporated milk, melted butter, salt, black pepper, and paprika. Stir everything together until well combined.
Step 3: Transfer to the Slow Cooker
Pour the macaroni and cheese mixture into the greased slow cooker. Spread it out evenly.
Step 4: Prepare the Topping (Optional)
If you want to add a crunchy breadcrumb topping, mix the panko breadcrumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the mac and cheese in the slow cooker.
Step 5: Cook
Cover your slow cooker and set it to cook on the low heat setting. Let it cook for about 2 to 2.5 hours. You’ll know it’s done when the edges are slightly crispy, and the cheese is bubbling and melted.
Step 6: Serve
Once your slow cooker mac and cheese is ready, scoop out a generous portion onto each plate. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, like parsley or chives, for an extra touch of flavor and color.
Cooking times may vary slightly depending on your slow cooker. Keep an eye on your mac and cheese as it nears the end of the cooking time. You’re looking for that perfect balance of creaminess and a slight crust on the edges.
Don’t overcook. Overcooking can lead to dry mac and cheese. Remember that the mixture will continue to thicken a bit as it cools.
If you prefer a more uniform and gooey mac and cheese, stir it occasionally during cooking. However, this may result in less crispy edges.
One of the beauties of mac and cheese is its versatility. Here are some delicious variations to try:
Bacon Lover’s Delight: Add crispy bacon bits for a savory, smoky twist.
Veggie-Loaded: Mix in some sautéed vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, or bell peppers for added texture and nutrients.
Spice It Up: Sprinkle in some cayenne pepper or diced jalapeños for a bit of heat.
Herb Infusion: Experiment with different herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or sage to infuse unique flavors into your dish.
Keto and Low-Carb Versions
If you’re following a low-carb or keto diet, you can still savor the flavors of mac and cheese:
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese: Replace the macaroni with steamed cauliflower florets. The creamy cheese sauce pairs wonderfully with the mild flavor of cauliflower.
Zucchini Noodles: Substitute zucchini noodles (zoodles) for traditional pasta. Zoodles add a refreshing crunch and soak up the cheesy goodness.
There you have it – a creamy, comforting slow cooker mac and cheese recipe that’s sure to become a household favorite. Whether you’re making it for a family dinner, a potluck, or a cozy night in, this dish offers unbeatable convenience and taste.
Remember to personalize your mac and cheese with toppings and variations that suit your preferences. And if you’re watching your carb intake, don’t forget about the keto and low-carb options that make this classic dish accessible to everyone.
So, embrace the slow cooker magic and treat yourself to a bowl of irresistible mac and cheese. Enjoy the cheesy goodness and savor every bite of this classic comfort food, elevated to new heights of flavor and convenience.