Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese

Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese: A Creamy Culinary Masterpiece

Get ready to embark on a journey of comfort and indulgence with our Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese recipe. This classic dish, elevated to new heights by the magic of slow cooking, promises a creamy and flavorful experience that will leave you craving more. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the art of crafting the perfect macaroni and cheese, exploring the ingredients, providing step-by-step instructions, sharing essential cook notes, presenting tantalizing variations, and offering keto and low-carb adaptations. Prepare to savor the rich, velvety goodness of this beloved comfort food, made effortlessly in your slow cooker.

Ingredients

For the Macaroni & Cheese:

  • 16 oz elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Add-ins:

  • Cooked and crumbled bacon
  • Sautéed onions
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped fresh herbs (parsley or chives)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Macaroni:
    • Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Shred the Cheese:
    • Shred the sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheeses using a grater. Combine them in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Create the Cheese Sauce:
    • In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to create a roux, cooking for 1-2 minutes until lightly browned.
  4. Build the Sauce Base:
    • Gradually whisk in the whole milk and half-and-half, ensuring a smooth mixture. Add Dijon mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens.
  5. Incorporate the Cheese:
    • Reduce the heat to low, then add the shredded cheese gradually, stirring until fully melted and the sauce is smooth.
  6. Combine Pasta and Sauce in the Slow Cooker:
    • Place the cooked macaroni in the slow cooker and pour the cheese sauce over it. Gently stir to ensure the pasta is well coated.
  7. Slow Cook to Perfection:
    • Cover the slow cooker and set it to low heat. Allow the macaroni and cheese to cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  8. Serve and Garnish:
    • Once the macaroni is tender and the cheese sauce is creamy, it’s ready to be served. Optionally, garnish with your favorite toppings like bacon, sautéed onions, diced tomatoes, or fresh herbs.

Cook Notes

Perfect Pasta:

  • Cooking the macaroni al dente is crucial as it will continue to cook in the slow cooker.

Cheese Sauce Consistency:

  • Adjust the thickness of the cheese sauce by adding more milk if it becomes too thick.

Stirring Strategy:

  • Stir the macaroni and cheese occasionally while it’s cooking to ensure even distribution of the cheese sauce.

Customizing Toppings:

  • Personalize your macaroni and cheese by adding toppings like cooked and crumbled bacon, sautéed onions, diced tomatoes, or fresh herbs.

Variations

1. Truffle Mac & Cheese:

  • Enhance the decadence by adding a drizzle of truffle oil and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

2. Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese:

  • Incorporate cooked and shredded buffalo chicken into the macaroni for a spicy kick. Top with blue cheese crumbles.

3. Broccoli & Cheddar Delight:

  • Add steamed broccoli florets to the macaroni and cheese for a comforting and nutritious twist.

4. Jalapeño Popper Mac & Cheese:

  • Mix in diced jalapeños and top with a layer of cream cheese for a spicy and creamy variation.

Keto and Low-Carb Versions

Keto Macaroni & Cheese:

Noodle Substitute:

  • Replace traditional macaroni with keto-friendly alternatives like shirataki noodles or cauliflower macaroni.

Flour Substitute:

  • Use almond flour or coconut flour in place of all-purpose flour for the roux.

Milk and Half-and-Half Substitute:

  • Substitute whole milk and half-and-half with unsweetened almond milk and heavy cream to reduce carbs.

Low-Carb Toppings:

  • Choose low-carb toppings like crispy bacon, sautéed onions, or fresh herbs.

Low-Carb Macaroni & Cheese:

Noodle Substitute:

  • Use spiralized zucchini or spaghetti squash as a low-carb replacement for macaroni.

Flour Substitute:

  • Opt for almond flour or coconut flour in the roux to maintain a low-carb profile.

Milk and Half-and-Half Substitute:

  • Replace whole milk and half-and-half with a combination of unsweetened almond milk and heavy cream.

Low-Carb Toppings:

  • Garnish with low-carb options such as sautéed mushrooms, diced tomatoes, or fresh herbs.

As we bring this journey into the world of Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese to a close, envision the delight of serving this creamy masterpiece to your family and friends. The slow cooker transforms this classic comfort dish into a hassle-free culinary experience that tantalizes the taste buds.

Whether you opt for the classic recipe, experiment with tantalizing variations, or embrace the keto and low-carb adaptations, one thing remains constant – the irresistible allure of creamy macaroni and cheese. Share this dish at gatherings, potlucks, or as a comforting weeknight meal.

So, set your slow cooker to work, embrace the cheesy goodness, and let the aroma of comfort fill your kitchen. Here’s to the joy of slow cooking, the pleasure of savoring, and the timeless appeal of Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese that transcends generations and culinary trends!

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