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Southern-Style Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

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Southern-style Crock Pot Mac and Cheese is so easy to make. Anytime I can use a slow cooker to cook a meal or side dish I do it. Using the slow cooker or Crock-Pot just makes life easy. I love recipes where I can just throw the ingredients together, set a time, and forget about it. This slow cooker Pot Mac And Cheese is no different.

Many times mac n cheese only shows up around the holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. But in the South, in our area, this dish shows up at many Sunday meals, church dinners, or get-togethers. This mac and cheese is so creamy and delicious that it is always a big hit. This has to be one of my favorite side dishes and It is the perfect comfort food.

close up picture of mac and cheese cooked in a slow cooker.

It is so popular here that If you go to a restaurant in the South, you will learn that Mac and Cheese is considered a vegetable on most menus (although we both know it really isn’t). Us Southerners will find a way to make you think a dish is healthy when it really isn’t (haha). Either way, this recipe will soon become a family favorite, and to top it off, it is such an easy recipe to make.

The Origins of Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese has a long history in the South. But it didn’t necessarily originate there. Some say that it was originally from Northern Europe. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the exact origins are not known but the earliest know recipe was found in 1769 in Northern Europe.

Sweet Tea and Thyme mentions that Thomas Jefferson was said to have taken his chef, who was a black man named James Hemings, to join him in France.

It is here where Chef Hemings learned about how the Europeans were cooking dishes with macaroni and cheese. This gave him the idea of making an oven-baked macaroni pie. The dish became a huge hit with everyone, including Jefferson. They brought the recipe back to America where as president, Jefferson had it served at an 1802 state dinner.

It should be noted that this was during the time of slavery. Chef Hemings’s recipe for Baked Mac and Cheese was spread throughout the southern parts of the US. As with most Southern or Soul food, it has its roots in African culture. Many of the foods we enjoy today, came from this horrific time of slavery.

The Slow Cooker Was A Game Changer

The Crock-Pot was invented in 1971. This invention changed the way we cooked forever. The slow cooker is still one of the most loved small appliances of all time. Not only did the Crock-Pot make cooking supper and side dishes easy, but it also was convenient.

top view picture of slow cooker mac and cheese on a plate.
Mac and Cheese cooked in a Crock Pot

What used to be a chore of prepping and cooking over a hot oven to have a Baked Mac and Cheese, now can be whipped up in the crockpot. You don’t have to worry about oven space on Thanksgiving or when you are having a big gathering. Best of all you can set it and forget it! Now you can have creamy crockpot mac and cheese anytime.

Set your crockpot before work or church, when you get back home have a delicious crock pot macaroni and cheese.

Why Use A Crock-Pot?

Oven Baked is normally how you will see Southern-style mac and cheese. With this great recipe, we can take the same ingredients, and cook them in the slow cooker. What makes this process so unique is with the slow cooker you don’t have to watch the food.

What I mean by this is, you set the crockpot to the temperature setting and then adjust the cook time. Once the time is up, your food is ready, and the slow cooker switches over to warm.

If you have an older slow cooker, you will have to set the temperature and come back after the designated time like you would when using the oven.

The Digital Slow Cooker

The more modern slow cooker has a feature that will turn on a warm setting automatically after the designated time is up.

This feature is invaluable. This is so awesome because you can dump the ingredients in before you head out to work, you can set the slow cooker to the temp and time, then once it has finished cooking the mac and cheese (or other food you are cooking) it will kick over to warm so the food will not burn. When you get home from work, your meal is done.

Picture from Amazon of a modern digital Crock-Pot.
Digital Crock-Pot (Picture from Amazon)

If you do not have one of the more modern slow cookers, check out this one that has the time setting and automatically switches to warm. Another great feature of this Crockpot is the locking lid. This makes it easy to travel with so you do not spill any liquids. I highly suggest grabbing one if you do not already have one.

Delay Timers on Slow Cookers

Some slow cookers even have a delay setting where you can dump all the ingredients in, set the delay for an hour or two, then it will not cut on until it hits the delay. This is great because the cooking time doesn’t start until after the delay is up. These are the reasons I love using Crock-Pot to make Mac and Cheese. In my opinion, slow cooker macaroni is the best!

What To Serve Crock Pot Mac and Cheese With?

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese makes an awesome side dish. Here is a list of some of my favorite foods to serve it with:

southern style crock pot mac and cheese Pinterest photo.

Ingredients For Southern-Style Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

Macaroni

The majority of mac and cheese recipes call for elbow macaroni. Normally I use that as well but I want to offer up a tip here.

Barilla elbow macaroni.

An alternative pasta that I like to use is Corkscrew Macaroni. This may also be called Cavatappi by some brands.

The reason I love corkscrew macaroni is it has ridges. The ridges really help to hold the cheese sauce onto the noodles. To me, it makes a superior creamy mac! You will need 8 oz of macaroni noodles

Cheese

My recipe calls for 3 cups of extra sharp cheddar cheese. Make sure to buy block cheese and then shred it yourself. If you buy shredded cheddar cheese, it is coated with an anti-caking agent to keep the cheese from sticking in the bag.

This could lead to a gritty texture. Freshly grated cheese works best.

Pro Tip: If you do not like sharp cheddar, you could use mild cheddar. Also, you could use Velveeta cheese but I would prefer to use American cheese over Velveeta cheese. Cream cheese is an option that many people will add in combination with any of the other cheeses to make this mac and cheese extra creamy, or use a tablespoon or two of sour cream for a tangy and extra creamy texture. Parmesan cheese also is great in mac and cheese. You can use this recipe as a starting point and play around with other ingredients as you go.

Evaporated Milk

You will need 1 can of evaporated milk.

Whole Milk or Regular Milk

You will need 1 1/2 cups of whole milk

Salt

I prefer to use sea salt or kosher salt in all of my recipes. If you use iodized salt (table salt) it can give an off taste. You will need 1 teaspoon of salt.

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

You will need 1 teaspoon of black pepper

Sugar

You will need 1 teaspoon of sugar

Butter

You will need a 1/4 cup of butter

Other Ingredients: Some people will add in a little dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, or a little bit of cayenne pepper. I am giving you the basic recipe, you can experiment with these other ingredients if you wish.

Step by Step how to Make Southern-Style Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

Step 1: Start by getting a large pot and filling it with cold water. Put the uncooked pasta in the pot and cook or boil noodles until the pasta until it is al dente, or almost done. The pasta should have a bite to it.

Step 2: After you have cooked the noodles and drained them, pour the cooked macaroni into a well-greased crock pot. I typically use butter to grease the crockpot but you could also use a nonstick cooking spray if you wish.

Using butter to grease the inside of the Crock-Pot
Adding in the cooked macaroni

Step 3: Stir in melted butter, black pepper, salt, and sugar. Make sure those ingredients are mixed well together.

Adding in ground black pepper
Adding in salt
Adding in sugar
Mix the ingredients together before adding the remaining ingredients.

Step 4: Stir in evaporated milk and whole milk.

Step 5: Add two cups of cheese and mix it well. Add the remaining cheese on top.

Adding in cheese
Cheese topping

Step 6: Cook on low for 3 1/2 hours.

Closeup of slow cooker mac and cheese.
This is what it should look like once it is finished in the slow cooker

Yield: 6

Southern-Style Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

southern-style crock pot mac and cheese on a white plate.

Anytime I can use a slow cooker to cook a meal or side dish I do it. Using the slow cooker or Crock-Pot just makes life easy. I love recipes where I can just throw the ingredients together, set a time, and forget about it. This Southern-Style Crock Pot Mac And Cheese is no different.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 ozs ridged elbow macaroni or corkscrew macaroni
  • 3 cups of extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 Can of evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup of melted butter

Instructions

    1. Start by getting a large pot and filling it with cold water. Put the uncooked pasta in the pot and cook or boil noodles until the pasta until it is al dente, or almost done. The pasta should have a bite to it.

    2. After you have cooked the noodles and drained them, pour the cooked macaroni into a well-greased crock pot. I typically use butter to grease the crockpot but you could also use a nonstick cooking spray if you wish.

    3. Stir in melted butter. Next stir in black pepper, salt, and sugar. Make sure those ingredients are mixed well together.

    4. Stir in evaporated milk and whole milk.

    5. Add two cups of cheese and mix it well. Add the remaining cheese on top.

    6. Cook on low for 3 1/2 hours.

Notes

If you do not like sharp cheddar, you could use mild cheddar. Also, you could use Velveeta cheese but I would prefer to use American Cheese over Velveeta Cheese. You could combine cream cheese with any of these cheeses to make this mac and cheese extra creamy, or use a tablespoon or two of sour cream for a tangy and extra creamy texture. Parmesan cheese also is great in mac and cheese. You can use this recipe as a starting point and play around with other ingredients as you go.

Optional Ingredients: Some people will add in a little dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, or a little bit of cayenne pepper. I am giving you the basic recipe, you can experiment with these other ingredients if you wish.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

FAQ’s

How many servings does this make?

This recipe will make roughly 6 servings.

I Don’t Like yellow cheese, what can I do?

If you don’t like Yellow cheese, you can use white cheddar cheese or white extra sharp cheese. You could also use Monterey Jack or if you want to kick it up a little, use Pepper Jack Cheese.

What can I do with leftovers?

You can store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Can I Use Condensed Milk Instead of Evaporated Milk?

These two are not interchangeable. Condensed Milk is sweetened and will not result in the best mac and cheese recipe.

I hope you enjoyed this Southern-Style Crock Pot Mac and Cheese recipe. If you liked it, please leave us a comment below to tell us about it. And remember, Let’s Get Food Junked!

-Ronnie

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