Creamy, cheesy, and smoky Traeger Mac and Cheese is the ultimate main course or side dish to any meal. I guarantee this Smoked Mac and Cheese will be the best macaroni & cheese of your life.
Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite dishes. There are several reasons. The first, it can be a side dish or the main course. Secondly, my picky eater child is happy with mac and cheese. When I can make a meal and there is something on the table that everyone enjoys, it is a win! I loved creating this smoked mac and cheese because it can cook in the smoker while you're smoking the main course as well and if you need to play around with time and temperature to get it all completed at the same time, that is not a problem. Let's talk about the ingredients that go into this easy smoked mac and cheese.
Cooked Elbow Macaroni - you can really use any shape of pasta but elbows are classic. Shells and rotini are other great choices. Whichever type of pasta you choose you will want to boil it for about 25%-33% of the cooking time on the package directions.
Butter - We only buy salted butter in our house so that is what we use in all of our recipes. If you are using unsalted butter you may need to increase the amount of added salt to taste.
Flour - Just a small amount of flour is needed to thicken the sauce.
Evaporated Milk - Evaporated milk makes the cheddar cheese sauce creamier than if you just use all whole milk.
Whole Milk - I like to use a combination of the two milks for the best texture in the sauce.
Yellow Mustard - You can't taste the mustard in the sauce but it enhances the natural flavors of the cheese and butter
Garlic Powder - We like using a bit of garlic powder in just about everything. You can omit it if you want.
Salt & Pepper - Always season to please your taste buds. The amount of salt and pepper we list is just a suggestion.
Cheese - We used a Mexican blend from Costco that comes in a big bag and is a combination of Monterey Jack, Medium Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla, and Asadero cheeses. You can use any cheese you like but I do recommend using a blend.
How to Make Smoked Mac and Cheese
Step One: Cook a pound of macaroni noodles according to the package in a large pot. We used elbow macaroni for our smoked mac and cheese. When cooking the noodles, be sure to finish leaving them on the firmer side. They will cook more sitting in the cheese sauce in the smoker.
Step Two: After I cooked the noodles and they were sitting in the colander, I used my empty noodle pot to start the cheese sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat being careful not to burn it. Once the butter is melted, whisk the flour into the melted butter. Cook the flour until it starts to thicken. Use the whisk to make sure there are no clumps of flour.
Step Three: Once the roux (a mixture of fat and flour) is done, add in the evaporated milk and whole milk, garlic powder, salt and pepper and stir until it gets thick and bubbly, continuing to cook over medium heat. This will only take about five minutes. Remove from heat.
Step Four: Add about two-thirds of your shredded cheese and mix until it starts to melt. If you are using cubes of cheese, they will take a little longer to melt.
Step Five: Add your drained cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and mix to get an even mixture of cheese sauce and noodles.
Transfer cheesy noodles to the baking tray. I like to use a disposable one to make cleanup easy but you can also use a cast iron skillet or other thick pan. Be sure to use one that can take direct heat on the smoker grate.
Step Six: Evenly distribute the remaining shredded cheese on top of the mac and cheese. Please tray in your preheated smoker and cook at 350°F for forty-five minutes. I put the mac and cheese on the top rack to get the best chance at some browning on top. I also turned the tray 180 degrees halfway through the smoke to ensure an even cook on top. The top back of my smoker gets the most browning because that is where the vent is and all the smoke exists there.
What can I add to mac and cheese?
What can't you add to make and cheese? My two favorites are bacon and lobster. These quickly turn mac and cheese into the main course. But feel free to put your favorite spin on this to make it the best smoked mac and cheese you ever had.
Bacon - To add bacon, cook a pound of bacon, crumble it up and add it to the mix when you add the macaroni.
Lobster - Lobster would be added the same way as the bacon. Add your cooked lobster meat to the cheese mixture as you add the macaroni.
Steamed Broccoli - Lightly steam or boil some broccoli florets just to al dente and mix them in when you mix in the cooked macaroni.
Roasted Asparagus - I love asparagus in creamy sauces and it really kicks this side dish up to a whole new level.
Tomatoes - Add some cherry tomatoes when you mix the pasta into the cheese sauce.
Cooked Shrimp - Undercook the shrimp by about a minute since it will continue to cook in the smoker.
Buffalo Chicken - Cooked cubed chicken tossed in buffalo sauce can be layered in the middle of this macaroni cheese recipe to make it a main course.
More Cheese - Can you ever have too much cheese? Mozzarella is a nice option or for a creamier sauce stir in some cream cheese.
Extra Smoky - For extra smoke flavor use a smoked cheese like smoked gouda cheese or smoked cheddar.
Breadcrumbs - Mix some panko bread crumbs or pork rind crumbs with melted butter and top the macaroni for just the last 10 minutes in the smoker.
What wood is best for smoked mac and cheese?
Mac and cheese are very versatile and forgiving. It can also hold up to any level of smoke that you want to throw at it. I recommend a stronger smoke so that it can still cut through the richness of the cheese. I used a blend of cheese that included a Monterey jack and cheddar.
I ended up going with Pecan pellets in my Traeger grill, but hickory, oak, or a blend of your favorite wood would work as well. If you aren't using a pellet grill, this is easy to complete on your charcoal or offset smoker. Just get enough wood chips or chunks to keep the grill hot to maintain a 350°F temperature.
What is smoked mac and cheese good with?
As a side, mac and cheese is very versatile and will go with almost any of your favorite dishes, while also providing an option for the picky eaters in your life. Try smoked mac and cheese with juicy Traeger brisket, or serve it next to your favorite meatloaf. Smoked meatballs are also happy to be on the same plate as your smoked mac n cheese. If you want to smoke your whole meal, smoked turkey can be cooked while you are making this mac and cheese.
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 4 oz butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cans evaporated milk
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 lb shredded cheese cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella, etc. a blend works best
- Cook the elbow macaroni as directed on the package but only for ⅔ of the cooking time listed. My box said 8 minutes so we cooked it for 5 ½ minutes.
- Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until it begins to turn golden. Add the milks and whisk well.
- Cook just until thickened, about 5-7 min on medium.
- Remove from the heat and add the seasoning. Add about ¾ of the shredded cheese. Stir in the par-cooked pasta. Transfer to an aluminum foil tray or casserole dish that is grill safe Top with rest of cheese. Cook at 350 for 45 minutes.