Smoked Mac and Cheese
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The BEST recipe for Smoked Mac and Cheese combines cheddar cheese and smoked gouda to create an incredibly creamy sauce. It’s topped with a deliciously crispy panko topping and has a wonderful smoky flavor from cooking on the smoker for an hour.
Allow me to introduce you to my new obsession, Smoked Mac and Cheese. The layers of texture are probably my favorite thing about this recipe. From the incredibly creamy, cheesy sauce, to the flavorful, crispy panko topping, you seriously can’t go wrong with this recipe!
I originally tested out this recipe to go with Smoked Pork Chops. Now I can’t be stopped! Every time I fire up the smoker, I have to toss this mac and cheese in with whatever else I’m smoking.
Even when I’m not using my Traeger to smoke meats, if I’m outside at the grill, I’ll fire up the smoker to make this mac and cheese, along with whatever is on the grill. It doesn’t take a lot of time to smoke the mac and cheese, just an hour is all you need for Smoked Mac and Cheese perfection!
This recipe makes a healthy portion of mac and cheese, so feel free to invite your friends and neighbors over to share in the deliciousness. It serves 8 incredibly generous portions, but could definitely serve 10-12 at a BBQ with smoked or grilled meats and a variety of sides.
Head outside right now, fill your smoker up with pellets and let’s make mac and cheese!
Table of contents
- Macaroni noodles – you’ll want to follow the instructions on the package and cook the macaroni noodles 1-2 minutes less than the suggested time. This will give you al dente pasta that will continue to cook in the cheese sauce.
- Unsalted butter
- All-purpose flour
- Mustard powder – you may see mustard powder labeled as ground mustard or dry mustard at the grocery store. They’re all the same & can be used interchangeably.
- Black pepper
- Hot sauce – for this recipe, I used Tabasco. Feel free to use this or your favorite brand of hot sauce.
- Half and half
- Cream cheese
- Cheddar cheese – I prefer extra sharp cheddar cheese, as it’s aged longer than mild or sharp cheddar, giving it an extra rich, tangy flavor. I always recommend shredding your own cheese for the best flavor. Most pre-shredded cheeses have additives and they don’t tend to melt as well.
- Smoked gouda – if you can’t find smoked gouda, traditional gouda, muenster or gruyere will also work. I just love the paring of a smoked cheese with a smoked mac and cheese recipe!
- Panko bread crumbs – I prefer panko in this recipe over traditional breadcrumbs as they give a heartier crunch on top of the mac and cheese that is so delicious!
- Steak seasoning – I use my homemade Montreal Steak Seasoning (linked to the left) in recipes as much as possible. I love the coarse ground spices and incredible flavor it adds to every recipe! I highly recommend adding it to the panko topping, but you can also use store-bought steak seasoning, if you prefer.
I’ve included step by step photos below to make this recipe super easy to follow at home. For the full detailed recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
To start this recipe, you’ll want to boil the macaroni noodles until they’re al dente. This should be 1-2 minutes less than the cooking time instructed on the package of noodles. Drain the noodles and set them aside while preparing the cheese sauce.
Add butter to a 12 inch cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour to the skillet and whisk into the melted butter to form a roux.
Once you have a smooth roux in the skillet, season it with ground mustard powder, salt, pepper and hot sauce.
Slowly pour in the half and half, and bring to a gentle boil.
Add cubes of cream cheese and stir until it’s melted and the sauce is smooth.
Turn the heat on the stove to medium-low and add shredded cheddar and smoked gouda cheese.
Stir the cheeses into the sauce until it’s smooth and creamy.
Turn the heat on the stove off and add the cooked macaroni noodles to the skillet.
Stir the macaroni noodles into the cheese sauce.
Add panko breadcrumbs, melted butter and steak seasoning to a small bowl.
Stir until all of the ingredients are combined.
Sprinkle the panko breadcrumb topping evenly over the mac and cheese in the skillet.
Place in a smoker preheated to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Smoke for one hour. Remove and serve immediately.
This smoked mac and cheese recipe is so delicious just the way it is, but if you’d like to add some meat to make it a meal or spice to kick it up a notch, feel free to try any of the following variations.
- Jalapeno – stir 1/4 cup, fresh or roasted, diced jalapenos into the cheese sauce with the macaroni noodles.
- Bacon – start by cooking 1/2 cup uncooked, diced bacon in a large skillet. Once the bacon is crispy, use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and place it on a paper towel lined plate. Use the bacon grease in the skillet to start the mac and cheese recipe, replacing the butter in the roux. Stir the cooked, diced bacon into the panko breadcrumb mixture and use it to top the mac and cheese.
- Sausage – crumbled, cooked loose sausage or sliced, smoked sausage can both be added to the mac and cheese. Simply mix 1/2 pound of cooked sausage into the cheese sauce with the macaroni noodles.
- Lobster – if you want to get fancy with your smoked mac and cheese, grill and dice a lobster tail and add the lobster meat to the mac and cheese before placing it on the smoker.
- Pulled pork – has there ever been a better combination than that of smoked pulled pork and smoked mac and cheese? I think not! If you already have the smoker fired up to make pulled pork, once you remove the pulled pork to let it rest, turn the temperature down to 225°F on the smoker and add the mac and cheese. After one hour, pull the pork and remove the mac and cheese from the smoker. Top the mac and cheese with 1 pound of smoked pulled pork and serve immediately. If you have leftover pulled pork on hand, you can also stir it into the mac and cheese, before adding the panko topping and smoking the mac and cheese.
- Buffalo sauce – I would be remiss if I posted a mac and cheese recipe and didn’t mention my beloved buffalo sauce! Since 2012, this Buffalo Chicken Cheesy Pasta recipe has been in the top 3 recipes on the blog. If you’d like to add a tangy twist to this Smoked Mac and Cheese recipe, omit the hot sauce, and instead stir in 1/4 cup buffalo sauce.
Frequently asked questions
- Can you make this recipe in the oven? Yes, if you don’t have a smoker, you can bake the mac and cheese in the oven at 350°F for 30 minutes. If you want to toast the breadcrumb topping at the end, place it under the broiler on high for 2-3 minutes.
- Can you make this recipe on the grill? Yes, instead of the smoker, feel free to place the mac and cheese on the grill over medium heat for 20-30 minutes. You’ll still get some of that smoky flavor and you can pair it with a variety of grilled meats!
- What if I don’t have a cast iron skillet? You can prepare the mac and cheese in any skillet or pot on the stove. Transfer it to an aluminum foil pan and top it with the breadcrumb topping. An aluminum pan is safe to use in the oven, on the grill or in the smoker.
- How can I make the sauce thinner? The sauce for this mac and cheese recipe is super thick and creamy. If you’d like to thin out the sauce, you can add 1/2 cup milk to the cheese sauce, along with the half and half.
- What wood is best for smoked mac and cheese? I recommend using a mild wood for this recipe, so that it doesn’t overpower the flavor of the mac and cheese. Apple, cherry, maple or pecan wood can all be used with this recipe.
- Can I smoke the mac and cheese longer than an hour? I would not recommend smoking the mac and cheese any longer than an hour. It will dry out the cheese sauce and the noodles will get overcooked. If you’re planning to smoke this alongside a larger cut of meat, like brisket or pork shoulder, I recommend waiting until the meat is almost ready to come off the smoker before adding the mac and cheese, or you risk overcooking it while waiting for the meat to come up to temperature.
- Can I smoke the mac and cheese less than an hour? Yes. The mac and cheese is fully cooked when you place it on the smoker. Cooking it on the smoker helps impart the smoke flavor, crisp up the panko topping and melt the cheesy sauce. This can all happen in just 30 minutes on the smoker. The longer you leave it on the smoker, the more smoky flavor will impart on the mac and cheese.
What to serve it with
If you want to make a smoked meal of goodness, try serving the mac and cheese as a side dish with these other smoker recipes.
- Smoked Pork Chops
- Smoked Brisket
- Harissa Smoked Prime Rib
- Smoked Turkey Breast
- Smoked Pulled Pork
- Smoked Tri Tip
If you want to grill something delicious while the mac and cheese is on the smoker, try pairing it with one of these delicious grilled meat recipes.
Tools you’ll need
- Cast iron skillet – for this recipe, you’ll need a 12 inch cast iron skillet, or another skillet that can go from the stove to the smoker.
- Smoker – this is the Traeger Pro Series Pellet Grill I have at home and used for this recipe.
- Wood or Pellets – I recommend Traeger Apple Pellets for this recipe. You can also use other mild flavored pellets or wood chips, such as cherry, maple or pecan.
Smoked Mac and Cheeese
Mac and Cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on the stove.
- Add the macaroni noodles and cook 1-2 minutes less than the package directions, until al dente.
- Drain the noodles and set aside.
- Preheat a smoker to 225°F.
- Place a 12 inch cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat.
- Add 1/4 cup unsalted butter.
- Once melted, add the flour and whisk with the butter to form a roux, then stir in the mustard powder, salt, pepper and hot sauce.
- Slowly pour in the half and half and bring to a gentle boil.
- Add the cream cheese and stir consistently until it’s melted and the sauce is smooth.
- Turn the heat on the stove to medium-low and stir in the shredded cheddar and smoked gouda cheese.
- Stir consistently until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
- Turn the heat off on the stove and stir in the cooked macaroni noodles.
- In a small bowl, melt the ¼ butter for the topping, then stir in the panko bread crumbs and steak seasoning.
- Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the mac and cheese in the skillet.
- Place the skillet of mac and cheese in the smoker for 1 hour.
- If you don’t have a smoker, this recipe can be baked in the oven at 350°F for 30 minutes. If you want to toast the breadcrumb topping at the end, place it under the broiler on high for 2-3 minutes.
- You can also cook it on a grill over medium heat for 20-30 minutes.
- If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, prepare the mac and cheese in any skillet or pot on the stove, then transfer it to an aluminum foil pan and top it with the breadcrumb topping. An aluminum pan is safe to use in the oven, on the grill or in the smoker.
- To make a thinner cheese sauce, add 1/2 cup milk to the cheese sauce, along with the half and half.
- I recommend using apple, cherry, maple or pecan wood to smoke the mac and cheese.
- Do not smoke the mac and cheese for longer than an hour or it will dry out the cheese sauce and the noodles will get overcooked.
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