My smoked mac and cheese is a creamy, cheesy pasta dish with 3 cheeses and crispy panko topping. Double this recipe; it makes the BEST holiday side dish, and it’ll serve a crowd!
Which is better? Mac and cheese from a box or made from scratch?
There are very few people who say no to a plate of creamy, cheesy homemade macaroni and cheese. For anyone between the ages of 2 and 102, it is the ultimate comfort food!
Aside from being delicious, is it relatively quick to make, even when it’s made from scratch like this recipe is.
So, why eat it with powdered cheese sauce when you can have it with homemade cheese sauce, made with THREE cheeses? It’s simple to make and it gives the pasta LOADS of extra flavor!
Smoked mac and cheese
I think you will absolutely love this dish. It may seem unconventional to cook it in a smoker, but you might be surprised at how many delicious meals you can make using a smoker!
The primary reason for choosing to make smoked macaroni and cheese is because there are already several other baked mac and cheese recipes on Kevin is Cooking.
Jalapeño Mac and Cheese Bake, Bacon Mac and Cheese Casserole, and Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese.
They are all delicious in their own right, full of flavor and extra cheesy. But honestly, this recipe is better than all of those. I mean, seriously… toss out the fake stuff in the blue box because 3 cheese mac and cheese is the cheesiest mac ever!
If you have ever eaten smoked cheese, you may already have a good idea of what makes this dish stand above the others. Smoked cheese is rich and hearty, with a depth of flavor that cannot be found in regular cheese.
This recipe is basic enough to be used as a simple side dish, but the flavor makes it worthy of special Thanksgiving side dish with roasted turkey. Or with your holiday ham for Christmas or Easter!
Although, with a few simple additions, it can also become an incredibly hearty and satisfying main dish.
Recipe video: 3 cheese mac and cheese
Cheese sauce is pretty easy to make, but if you’ve never made it, you may want some help. Scroll down and watch the quick video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
The key to creating an extra creamy, flavorful sauce is to use more than one type of cheese. In fact, this is a 3 cheese mac and cheese!
Here’s what you’ll need to make the cheese sauce:
- Flour– All purpose flour is what I use, or you can use a gluten free all-purpose blend if you need to
- Milk– Whole milk is the best choice, because the high fat content makes for a creamier sauce
- Hot sauce– Use any hot sauce of your choice; Tabasco is what I normally use
- Dijon mustard
- Salt and black pepper
- Cream cheese– Full fat cream cheese is loaded with calories, but this dish isn’t meant to be eaten every day. Enjoy the indulgence!
- Mozzarella cheese
- Cheddar cheese
Feel free to use other shredded cheeses in place of the Mozzarella and cheddar. Gouda is a delicious cheese that melts well, as are Provolone, Colby Jack, and Monterey Jack.
Choosing the Pasta
The type of pasta you use is completely up to you. I prefer to use elbow macaroni, but any small variety of pasta works great. Shell pasta or corkscrew (rotini) are great options.
You’ll need to cook the pasta before you combine it with the sauce before smoking. So, feel free to save some time and make the pasta ahead if you want to.
- Wood chips / pellets – When deciding what type of wood or pellet to use, you know that there are plenty of options. I think that cherry or apple flavor make for a delicious smoked mac n cheese. If you prefer another flavor, go for it!
- Crispy topping – The panko topping will not get crispy in the smoker. If you like it crispy, just place the casserole dish under an oven broiler for a couple of minutes.
Smoked Mac and Cheese Recipe Variations
Because the 3 cheese mac and cheese is vegetarian, it makes the perfect basic side dish. It’s especially delicious with a topping of homemade fire roasted tomatoes!
However, there are plenty of ways to adapt the recipe to make it a complete, hearty comfort food meal. Here are a few ideas for add-ins:
- Leftover holiday ham or roast turkey
- Smoked sausage
- Cooked chicken – This is the perfect use for a rotisserie chicken!
- Vegetables – Cook some healthy green veggies like broccoli or peas, or make it Tex Mex style with the addition of corn and black bean or roasted tomato salsa. Just stir them in before smoking or add them as toppings afterward.
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3 Cheese Smoked Mac and Cheese + Video
- 1 lb elbow macaroni or other small pasta shape
- 8 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or Gouda or Monterey Jack
- 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs (See Note 1)
- 1/4 cup parsley chopped, loosely packed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- In a large stock pot boil pasta in heavily salted water per package directions. Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking in a 13×9” casserole dish or 12″ cast iron pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Preheat smoker to 225°F using cherry or apple wood chips or pellets.
- To a 2-quart saucepan, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk (not all at once). Whisk in the mustard, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for 4 minutes, or until sauce thickens.
- Remove pot from heat and add cream cheese, then stir to melt. Add the shredded cheeses and stir to melt and incorporate. Cheese sauce should be smooth.
- Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta and stir to mix in completely. Top with breadcrumb mixture and put it in the smoker for 1 hour uncovered.
- OPTION: If you want the breadcrumbs a golden brown, after smoking, place under broiler for 1 minute, watch carefully! Serve warm.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
HI, My daughter loves mac and cheese but doesn’t like toppings on it. Can I still put this in the smoker without the panko on top? Thanks!
Thank you! I made it the other day and did the topping, I burnt it in my broiler lol not terribly so I scrapped it off . I only broiled it 2 min! Anyway after scrapping it off it was delicious. Will definitely make again without a topping!
This recipe is the best! I’ve made it straight from the recipe and also tweaked a bit, swapping out half the cream cheese for 4 oz of goat cheese, and using some garlic cheddar (from deli dept) for the sauce. It’s always a big hit.
Sounds delish to me Jane!
Absolutely DELICIOUS!! This is my second time making it. I added in mild green chiles and subbed the Monterey for pepperjack.
Awesome, thanks so much Amber. Appreciate you coming back to let me know!
Do you add the whole 8 T of butter when you make the white sauce? It says divided. But not sure why. Thanks
So if there was any confusion Jan, it all goes in the sauce!
Yep! I added it all in sauce. It turned out amazing. Great recipe! Thank u 😊
I cook a large dinner every month and tried this last month. There wasn’t even a bread crumb topping left. This is now a must have at our monthly dinners.
Now thats a comment I love to read! Thanks for coming back to let me know Keith!
This recipe is seriously delicious. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve made it in the last 3 months. My daughter is on a high carb diet (lucky/unlucky) and she asks for this at least every other weekend.
So glad you enjoyed this one Sharon. Thanks for coming back to let me know!
Can you make this in advance?
Sure! I hope it turns out delicious for you!
I saw this recipe and had to try it. I hung an extra 4 lb chicken in the barrel last night, next to yesterday’s pecan-smoked dinner. Shredded that up in this recipe…oh boy. I finally found a recipe that gets the ratio right on pasta to cheese sauce. I did it in a cast iron 12 at 225’F in the oven covered in foil before the broil. We loved it. Only variant I might do is Gouda for Mozz. Will definitely smoke it as you did in the future. It should be noted this recipe was a great way to… Read more »
I am glad you tried it! That sounds like a great dinner!
Can’t wait to try this! Hubby just put it on the smoker with a meatloaf that he wrapped in bacon. Jalapeno cheddar poppers too!
Wowza, wish I was there!
Ham, really good ham, would be an excellent add-in to this recipe. This looks amazing!
Can’t wait to try this smoked mac and cheese!! It looks incredibly delicious!!
You are sure to love it!
mmm..this smoked mac and cheese looks dangerously good!! I am so excited to try it!
You will love it!
Never thought of smoking mac n cheese before, but after reading how yummy this is and looking at those mouthwatering pictures, I’ll definitely try this!
You have to try it!