Smoked Mac and Cheese that you can make in your favorite smoker or pellet grill. No matter if you have a Traeger or a Pit Boss, this recipe for mac and cheese in the smoker will be complete perfection. Three different cheeses come together in a homemade sauce, along with the best seasonings that enhances the natural smoke flavor. This recipe is one of our favorite Thanksgiving side dishes!
Why I Love This Smoked Mac and Cheese
If it isn’t already well known to the whole world, kids love mac and cheese. The cheaper, the orange-r, the better. As a mom of six kids, there is an abundance of mac and cheese in our home but very little of it would I willingly eat. In fact, mac and cheese rarely comes up on my list of favorite foods…unless we are talking about this smoked mac and cheese.
When there is a pan of this magical gooeyness sitting at my dinner table, smelling like pure heaven straight from the smoking Gods, I have a very hard time not eating bowls of it. And yes, my kids are just as obsessed with this smoked mac and cheese as I am. If you don’t already own a smoker, this recipe is reason to get one!
Smoked Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Pasta noodles – either macaroni or cavatappi
- Salted butter
- All-purpose flour
- Whole milk
- Half and half
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Swiss cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Sweet BBQ rub
- Garlic butter rub
- Garlic jalapeno rub
- Black pepper
How to Smoke Mac and Cheese
It is so much easier than you think to make smoked mac and cheese! Just a few simple steps to cheesy and smoky pasta heaven.
Time needed: 1 hour
Step by step directions on how to make smoked mac and cheese at home.
- Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees
You can use your favorite type of wood but I suggest one that provides a sweet smoke, like apple, cherry, or pecan
- Cook the pasta
Prepare it according to the package directions, but cook it for 1-2 minutes less since it will continue to cook in the smoker. Use either macaroni or cavatappi noodles.
- Prepare the cheese sauce
On the stove, create a roux, then add the milk, cream, seasonings, and three cheeses.
- Combine the pasta and the sauce
Place the mixture into a greased 9×13 deep casserole dish.
- Smoke for 45 minutes at 225 degrees
Use a sweet wood for smoking like apple, pecan, or cherry.
Smoked Mac and Cheese FAQs
For more smoke flavor and color, use a lower temperature in the smoker and leave it in for longer. 45 minutes at 225 degrees for a 9×13″ pan works well. For less flavor and color, 15 minutes at 325 degrees will be perfect.
First, you need to start with cheese that has enough flavor. Use sharp cheddar cheese and Swiss. Both have enough personality to make the cheese sauce taste like cheese! If you want even more flavor, try adding any of the following: cooked bacon, jalapeños, BBQ sauce, or BBQ rubs.
What type of wood pellets are best for smoked mac and cheese?
I suggest using a sweet wood or wood pellets for the best smoked mac and cheese. I prefer apple, pecan, or cherry inside my own pellet grill. Using a sweeter wood provides smokiness without turning the mac and cheese bitter like hickory pellets would. However, every smoker has their own preferred wood to use, so go for what you know and what is available in your area.
Can I use pre-grated cheese?
Here is why you will ALWAYS see my recipes call for freshly grated cheese. The pre-grated cheeses at the store are covered in wood pulp. Yes, even the grated parmesan cheese. They call it cellulose, but it is wood pulp. They use it to keep the cheese from sticking together in the bag. While it is completely safe to eat, it definitely has an affect on the flavor of the cheese, as well as its ability to melt properly. Grate your own cheese. Always.
What is a roux?
Simply put, a roux is an equal amount of fat and flour that are cooked together and used to thicken sauces. It is important to cook a roux for a minimum of 1 minute to remove the starchy flavor of uncooked flour. The longer you cook the roux, the darker it will become and the more flavorful it will become. I like to make smoked mac and cheese with a light brown roux.
BBQ rub Substitutions
If you have different BBQ rubs you want to use in this recipe, go for it. I love the three rubs that are in the recipe, but I know that is a very personal preference. What you are looking for in substitutions are the following qualities: sweetness, garlic, heat, smokiness, and salt.
If you use different rubs than the ones in this recipe, start by using half the amount of seasoning, taste it, and add more if you need more. Each rub product has such a difference in salt levels, I want to be sure you don’t have too much salt in the finished dish.
Smoked Mac and Cheese Recipe Variations
Being a home cook provides endless opportunities to experiment with recipes, personalizing them to your tastes and creativity. Any of the following variations would be great spin-offs of this smoked mac and cheese recipe.
- Add protein to the pasta when you are layering it in the pan. Whatever type you use should be fully cooked, chopped small, and well seasoned. Any of the following would be delicious: ground beef, pulled pork, chicken, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, smoked sausage.
- Add vegetables to the pasta before mixing it with the cheese sauce. The vegetables should be fresh, chopped into bite-sized pieces, and 75% cooked. They will finish cooking inside the smoker. Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peas, and green beans would all work wonderfully.
- Top with breadcrumbs for even more buttery goodness on top. Combine 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of melted butter then sprinkle it on top of the past before it goes into the smoker.
Mac and Cheese in a Smoker Video
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16 ounces dried pasta, usually macaroni or cavatappi
1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet BBQ rub
2 teaspoons garlic jalapeno rub
1 teaspoon garlic butter rub
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
1/2 pound Swiss cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees and use a sweet wood pellet like apple, pecan, or cherry.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions but reduce time by 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute over medium heat.
- Add the milk and half and half while constantly whisking. Let the mixture come to a gentle boil and let it thicken.
- Remove from the heat and add in half of the cheeses and all the seasonings. Whisk until the cheeses all melt into the sauce.
- Mix together the pasta and cheese sauce. Pour it into a greased 9×13 inch pan.
- Smoke for 45 minutes until the top is brown and the cheese is bubbly.
1/2 cup of cooked, chopped bacon to the cheese sauce
2 cups of panko breadcrumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons of butter, then sprinkled over the top of the dish right before doing into the smoker.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Smoked
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/12
- Calories: 523
- Sugar: 4 g
- Sodium: 579 mg
- Fat: 33 g
- Saturated Fat: 20 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 6 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 98 mg
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 22 g
- Cholesterol: 98 mg
Keywords: smoked mac and cheese, Thanksgiving side dish ideas