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Smoked Mac and Cheese

This is the best Homemade Smoked Macaroni and Cheese recipe you will find. It’s made with a creamy béchamel sauce interior and topped with a crunchy, browned cheese topping. This dish can be made with any smoker or pellet Traeger grill.

a wooden spoonful of smoked mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet

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Looking for a ridiculously good way to switch up your mac and cheese! This recipe is perfect. Macaroni is my specialty, and this is a classic meal that can’t be beaten.

pasta, milk, heavy whipping cream, butter, spices, and flour in separate bowls

What Type of Pasta to Use

Elbow macaroni is typically used. I like to use cellentani. It has a corkscrew shape and a ridged surface which works great in a dish like this. Either will work just fine.

cooked pasta in a coriander

What Type of Cheese to Use

I like to use a combination of sharp cheddar, gouda (rich, nutty, and caramelly taste), and gruyere (rich, creamy, salty, and a slightly nutty flavor). You can even grab the smoky version of any of those for more smoked flavor.

Here are more examples of cheese you can use:

  • White Cheddar
  • Fontina (super soft cheese)
  • Parmesan
  • Romano
  • Muenster

Always purchase your cheese in block form and shred or grate it yourself. You can also use a food processor. Pre-shredded cheese has preservatives and potato starch to keep it from going bad quickly. These additives don’t melt nicely and the dish won’t be as creamy. Grate your own cheese. It makes a huge difference.

For cheddar cheese, you have options, mild, medium, sharp, extra sharp, etc. Aging is the only difference between mild and sharp cheddars. The longer cheese is aged naturally, the sharper and more pronounced the cheddar flavor becomes. Mild Cheddar cheese is generally aged for 2 to 3 months, whereas an extra sharp might be aged for as long as a year.

Mild cheddar has a creamy, subtle taste.
Medium cheddar has a little more flavor in comparison to mild, but it lacks the distinct bite found in sharp cheddar.
Sharp cheddar has a distinct and prominent flavor.
Extra sharp cheddar has a very pronounced and sharp taste. (I typically don’t cook with it and use it for wine pairings and Charcuterie Cheese Boards.)

Taking all of this into account, sharp is typically my go-to for mac and cheese.

cheddar cheese, gouda cheese, and Gruyère cheese in separate bowls

How to Make the Cheese Sauce

One of the most important parts of this dish is the cheese sauce. A great cheese sauce starts with a roux. A roux is a combination of butter and flour. It’s used to thicken the sauce and to help bind the dish.

From there you will add milk and heavy whipping cream, along with cheese. You will also need to season it with smoked paprika, onion powder, salt, and pepper. This is important because the cheese sauce is a source of flavor for the dish.

collage of 4 photos with cream sauce made on the stove
collage of 4 photos with cream sauce made on the stove

What Type of Wood/Pellets to Use

Recipes and dishes with cheese usually work best with mild pellets like apple, cherry, or pecan. I use apple.

How to Make Smoked Mac and Cheese

Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot in accordance with the instructions on the package.
  2. Heat a saucepan and add butter and allow it to melt.
  3. Once melted, add flour and whisk.
  4. Add milk and heavy whipping cream and stir.
  5. Sprinkle in shredded cheese and stir until the cheese is melted.
  6. Add onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to taste.
  7. Return the pasta to the large pot. Drizzle the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir until fully combined.
  8. Layer the pasta and cheese into a cast iron.
  9. Smoke.
uncooked smoked mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet
uncooked smoked mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet

Smoker Temperature

You will want to smoke the mac at 225 degrees.

How Long to Cook it/How to Tell When it’s Done

Your cook time is going to vary based on how you want your mac and cheese to taste. The dish will take 50-60 minutes to cook on the smoker. In my experience, after an hour, it only has a slight smoky flavor. If you want a strong smoky flavor you will need to cook it for around 2 hours.

Because this dish is made with a flour and butter roux, along with a bechamel cheese sauce, you shouldn’t have any issue with the mac and cheese drying out. Just be sure to keep the temperature around 225 degrees at it smokes.

smoked mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet on a Traeger smoker

What Type of Pan to Use

A 12 inch cast iron is my favorite to use. A 10 1/2 inch cast iron is too small for this recipe. You can reduce the ingredients by a half or 1/3 if you plan to make it in a smaller pan. You will need to make the dish in a pan safe for grills.

Any baking pan that is oven safe is safe for a Traeger or smoker. Anything from a muffin tin to a fun-shaped Bundt pan is cleared for use. Metal pans will heat up faster, but glass and ceramic pans will hold a more consistent temperature. Keep in mind these may get smoke-stained, which is another reason to use cast iron.

smoked mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet

Substitutions and Additional Add-In Ideas

  • Breadcrumbs (use enough to cover the top of the mac and cheese)
  • Bacon
  • Pulled Pork
  • Chicken
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Caramelized Onions

Can You Make it Ahead

If you’re making this for a crowd, I wouldn’t make it ahead the night before. This is a dish that’s best served fresh while the cheese is still soft and gooey. After making it, I leave it in the oven on warm and covered in foil. You can make it ahead because the dish does reheat. It’s just served best when fresh.

I also wouldn’t prep it in advance to cook later. This will ruin the texture of the cheese. When cheese hits the air it starts to stiffen and won’t melt as nicely.

smoked mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet

How to Store It

You can store leftovers in the fridge, tightly covered for 3-4 days.

How to Reheat it

The best way to reheat it is in the air fryer on 350 degrees for 4-5 minutes or until warm. You can also use the oven at the same temperature. Heat until warm. You can use the microwave, but it doesn’t result in the best texture in my opinion.

smoked mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet

Freezer Tips

I enjoy freezing my leftovers and I reheat them in the air fryer (after defrosting in the fridge overnight first). When you reheat frozen dishes with dairy, there’s almost always some separation. If this bothers you, you may not enjoy freezing this recipe.

Pair With These Recipes

Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Southern Baked Beans
Southern Coleslaw
Southern Potato Salad
Easy Spaghetti Salad

More Mac and Cheese and Pasta Recipes

Southern Soul Food Baked Mac and Cheese
Lobster Mac and Cheese
Bacon Gouda Mac and Cheese
Slow Cooker Chili Mac and Cheese

Seafood Stuffed Pasta Shells
Southern Chicken Spaghetti
Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta
Cheesy Taco Pasta

More Traeger and Smoker Recipes

Traeger Smoked Salmon
Traeger Smoked Chicken Breast
Smoked Salsa
Traeger Smoked Bacon
Traeger Smoked Turkey
Traeger Smoked Ribs (3-2-1 Method)
Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
Smoked Lobster Tail
Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken
Traeger Smoked Brisket

smoked mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet on a Traeger smoker
Print Pin
5 from 1 vote

Smoked Mac and Cheese

This is the best Homemade Smoked Macaroni and Cheese recipe you will find. It's made with a creamy béchamel sauce interior and topped with a crunchy, browned cheese topping. This dish can be made with any smoker or pellet Traeger grill.
Save this recipe here.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine American, Southern
Keyword best smoked mac and cheese, smoked gouda mac and cheese, smoked mac and cheese, smoked mac and cheese Traeger
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 10 servings
Calories 455kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or cellentani pasta See notes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2-3 cups milk I often use 2 cups. Use your judgement. Start with 2 and add more if needed.
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika Adjust to taste. I like to use 1 teaspoon for smoky flavor.
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded gouda cheese
  • 1 cup shredded gruyère cheese
  • cooking oil

Instructions

  • Preheat smoker to 225 degrees.

Pasta

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot in accordance with the instructions on the package.
  • Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water.

Cheese Sauce

  • Heat a saucepan or skillet on medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt.
  • Once melted, add the flour and whisk.
  • This will create a roux. Continue to whisk until the four is fully combined.
  • Add the milk and heavy whipping cream and stir.
  • Add half of all of the shredded cheeses and stir until the cheese is melted.
  • Add the onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to taste. Taste repeatedly. This step is important because this sauce is what the mac and cheese will taste like. Adjust and add additional spices if necessary.
  • Return the pasta to the large pot. Drizzle the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir until fully combined.

Mac and Cheese

  • Spray a 12 inch cast iron with cooking oil. You can also use a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  • Begin to layer in the pasta. Start with the pasta, then add a layer using some of the remaining shredded cheese.
  • Add another layer of pasta, and then another layer of cheese.
  • Smoke for 1-2 hours until the cheese on top has melted.
    The dish will take 50-60 minutes to cook on the smoker. In my experience, after an hour, it only has a slight smoky flavor. If you want a strong smoky flavor you will need to cook it for around 2 hours.
  • I like for my mac and chese to have a crunchy top and creamy interior so once the dish is finished smoking, I place it in the oven on Broil for 3 minutes until browned on top.

Video

Notes

  • You can bake the dish on 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
  • Recipes and dishes with cheese usually work best with mild pellets like apple, cherry, or pecan. I use apple.
  • Elbow macaroni is typically used. I like to use cellentani. It has a corkscrew shape and a ridged surface which works great in a dish like this. Either will work just fine.
  • Any milk will work in the recipe. Keep in mind the taste of the milk you select will be present in the final cooked dish.
  • Always purchase your cheese in block form and shred or grate it yourself. You can also use a food processor. Pre-shredded cheese has preservatives and potato starch to keep it from going bad quickly. These additives don’t melt nicely and the dish won’t be as creamy. Grate your own cheese. It makes a huge difference.
  • Feel free to add more cheese as you deem necessary. To make this a really creamy and cheesy dish, you can add 1-2 cups of additional cheese.
  • A 12 inch cast iron is my favorite to use. A 10 1/2 inch cast iron is too small for this recipe. You can reduce the ingredients by a half or 1/3 if you plan to make it in a smaller pan. You will need to make the dish in a pan safe for grills.
  • Any baking pan that is oven safe is safe for a Traeger or smoker. Anything from a muffin tin to a fun-shaped Bundt pan is cleared for use. Metal pans will heat up faster, but glass and ceramic pans will hold a more consistent temperature. Keep in mind these may get smoke-stained, which is another reason to use cast iron.
  • Because this dish is made with a flour and butter roux, along with a bechamel cheese sauce, you shouldn’t have any issue with the mac and cheese drying out. Just be sure to keep the temperature around 225 degrees at it smokes.
  • I  wouldn’t prep this in advance to cook later. This will ruin the texture of the cheese. When cheese hits the air it starts to stiffen and won’t melt as nicely.
     
 
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Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 455kcal
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Nutrition DataMacros are provided as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. This information is calculated using MyFitnessPal.com. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
Recipe Rating




Anik Lee

Thursday 10th of March 2022

This Mac n Cheese can’t be topped!!! It’s so good in the oven, but when you put it in the smoker….it’s nothing like it!!

staysnatched

Thursday 10th of March 2022

I’m glad you enjoyed it!