Super cheesy and extra creamy with the perfect amount of smokey flavor and a crispy cheese top! This smoked mac and cheese is ridiculously good and made with a combination of cheeses to create the ultimate cheese sauce. It's easy to make and the perfect side dish for summer BBQs or holiday dinners. If you don't have a smoker, this mac and cheese is great baked in the oven!
If you're reading this, I sure hope you have a smoker because this is insane cheesy deliciousness! Picture the most creamy mac and cheese infused with a kiss of smokey flavor. I seriously can't get enough! Smoking mac and cheese takes it to another level of good, and you have to try it.
Whether you prefer a light smokey flavor or a strong smokey flavor, you can adjust the smoke time to your preference. And since you're cooking low and slow, the mac and cheese stays nice and creamy just the way we like it!
Smoking mac and cheese is such a fun twist. You're going to love it! To mix things up even more, try adding in shredded chicken, pulled pork, crumbled bacon, jalapeños, buffalo sauce, etc. The options are endless!
- Elbow pasta
- All-purpose flour
- Milk (whole or 2%)
- Half and half
- Monterey Jack cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Black pepper
- Ground nutmeg
How to make smoked mac and cheese
Smoked mac and cheese is simple to make, creamy, cheesy and full of flavor! Here is an overview on how to make it.
- Cook the pasta. Boil the pasta in salted water to infuse extra flavor, and only cook until the pasta until it's al dente. You want the pasta tender but still a little chewy. The pasta will cook more while it smokes.
- Make the cheese sauce. Start by making a roux with butter and flour, then add milk, half and half and spices. Simmer until thickened, then mix in cheese.
- Mix together. Mix the cooked pasta with the creamy cheese sauce, then sprinkle with more cheese before smoking. This way you get a nice golden cheese crust on top.
- Smoke the mac and cheese. Smoke at 225 degrees F for 1 hour, or up to 2 hours for a stronger smoke flavor.
- Serve. Enjoy the mac and cheese while it's still warm and the cheese is melty!
Scroll down to the recipe card for the full instructions.
How long to smoke mac and cheese
Smoke mac and cheese at 225 degrees F for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 hours for a stronger smoke flavor.
I use a Pit Boss pellet grill, but of course a Traeger grill or any other smoker will work great, as well!
Tips to make the best smoked mac and cheese
- Don't overcook the pasta. Cook the pasta until just al dente. It should be tender but still a little chewy. The pasta will continue to cook while smoking.
- Freshly grated cheese. I highly recommend buying blocks of cheese and shredded it yourself. Freshly shredded cheese melts and tastes better.
- Monitor the temperature of the smoker. Smoke the mac and cheese low and slow around 225 degrees F. It takes time to infuse the mac and cheese with smoke flavor, and cooking too high will dry out the mac and cheese.
- Mild wood. So you're not overpowering the mac and cheese with too much smokey flavor, I recommend using a mild hardwood such as cherry, apple or maple.
- Cast iron or disposable aluminum pan. Cast iron skillets work great for smoking mac and cheese, but if you don't have a cast iron skillet, I recommend using a disposable aluminum pan, so you don't discolor any of your nice cookware.
Variations & substituions
- Cheese. Cheddar cheese is always a must when it comes to mac and cheese, but feel free to swap the Monterey Jack for something like gouda, fontina, gruyere, pepper jack, mozzarella, Colby, Colby Jack, parmesan or a combination of cheeses.
- Add protein. If desired, mix in crumbled bacon, shredded chicken, pulled pork or beef, ground beef or pork to make it a full meal!
- Breadcrumbs. I like to finish the mac and cheese with more cheddar before smoking so you get a nice golden cheese crust on top, but can also top with buttery breadcrumbs, if desired. Simply mix ½ cup of breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the mac and cheese before smoking.
- Mix-ins. If you're looking to try something fun and new, try mixing in fresh or pickled jalapeños, steamed broccoli, chopped green chiles, buffalo sauce, etc.
Baked mac and cheese
If you don't have a smoker, you can most definitely bake the mac and cheese instead!
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Prepare the mac and cheese as directed in the recipe card.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is lightly golden brown.
Frequently asked questions
What temp to smoke mac and cheese?
Smoke mac and cheese at 225 degrees F. You want to keep the temperature low so the mac and cheese doesn't dry out before infusing with smokey flavor.
Do you smoke mac and cheese covered or uncovered?
Smoke mac and cheese uncovered so the smoke can infuse the pasta and cheese on top can get crispy.
Can you use liquid smoke in mac and cheese?
If you don't have a smoker, but still want the flavor of smoke, mix ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke into the cheese sauce.
If you're actually smoking the mac and cheese on the smoker, do not add liquid smoke.
What kind of cheese is best to smoke?
Firmer cheeses with stronger flavor are best for smoking, such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, gouda, and pepper jack.
What spice makes mac and cheese better?
I like to add just a hint of nutmeg to any homemade cheese sauce, especially homemade mac and cheese. It just adds a very subtle warm, nutty flavor to the sauce, and pairs so well with cheese.
What cheese is best in mac and cheese?
Mac and cheese is great made with a variety of cheeses! I like to use cheddar and Monterey Jack, but other great cheeses for mac and cheese are gouda, gruyere, parmesan, and fontina.
What wood is best for smoked mac and cheese?
Using mild wood is best for smoked mac and cheese, so you don't overpower the mac and cheese with too much smoking flavor. I recommend using cherry, apple or maple wood. I would avoid hickory, oak and mesquite, unless you're wanting an intense smoke flavor.
What can I use if I don't have a cast iron skillet?
If you don't have a cast iron skillet, I recommend using a disposable aluminum pan, so you don't discolor any of your nice cookware.
- Cook the pasta until al dente and make the sauce. Mix the pasta and sauce together.
- Cover and store in the fridge until you're ready to smoke the mac and cheese.
- Remove the mac and cheese from the fridge 30 before smoking to allow the mac and cheese to come to room temperature before smoking. Smoked as directed in the recipe.
Please keep in mind, as with most mac and cheese recipes, this mac and cheese loses some of its creaminess when made ahead of time. This recipe has been tested when made fresh, which yields the best results.
Smoking ahead of time
- Prepare and smoke the mac and cheese as directed in the recipe.
- Once cool, cover and store in the fridge.
- Remove the mac and cheese from the fridge 30 minutes before reheating to allow it come to room temperature. Reheat in the oven at 325 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.
Storage & reheating
- Refrigerator. Store covered in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Reheat in the oven at 325 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.
- Freezer. You can freeze the smoked mac and cheese in a large disposable aluminum pan or small disposable aluminum pans for individual portions. Freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, place the frozen mac and cheese in the oven at 325 degrees F and cook for about 45-60 minutes, or until heated through.
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Smoked Mac and Cheese
- ½ pound elbow pasta
- ½ tablespoon salt
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups milk (whole or 2%)
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, freshly grated
- 2 cups cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F using a mild hardwood, such as cherry, apple or maple.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and salt. Cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions for al dente.
- Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and let cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk and half and half while whisking until smooth. Simmer, while continuing to whisk often, until the sauce thickens.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the Monterey Jack, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg until combined and smooth.
- Add the cooked pasta to the cast iron skillet with the cheese sauce and mix to combine. Sprinkle the top with remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese.
- Place the skillet on the smoker and close the lid. While keeping the smoker at a steady 225 degrees F, smoke the mac and cheese for 1 hour or up to 2 hours for a stronger smoke flavor.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top.
- Note: transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish if your skillet isn't oven safe.