Everything you love about a classic mac and cheese recipe, smoked on your charcoal or pellet grill for a delicious elevated flavor. Try this cheesy smoked macaroni side dish next time you fire up the grill to share with family and friends.
Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of mac n cheese? This classic dish can be made so many ways, but my favorite is when it’s smoked.
I already have a lower carb recipe here at Bon Appeteach for a smoked cauliflower mac recipe, but I wanted to make a more classic version using cooked pasta to share with my fellow BBQ lovers looking for a more traditional version.
Why should you even consider making smoked mac and cheese? The smoke adds a depth of flavor that takes the classic side to a whole new level.
Plus, it’s perfect for feeding a crowd!
Feel free to read through the article below to get additional details on ingredient substitutions, how to make a quick and easy cheese sauce, setting up your smoker and more!
Let’s dive in!
- Cheese Grater
- Large Pot
- Measuring Spoons
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula
- Cast Iron Skillet
Use the guided culinary notes below to learn everything you need to know to make this recipe! Don’t forget to rate the recipe below and leave a comment to share your experience.
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What noodles work best for smoked mac and cheese?
The best noodles for making mac and cheese are typically a shorter noodle that may also have shapes or ridges to help trap and catch the cheese sauce.
Here are some noodles that fit this description:
- Elbow Macaroni
- Shell Pasta
- Cavatappi (corkscrew)
Can I use a low carb or gluten free pasta for this recipe?
Yes, in fact the pasta pictured is a keto friendly pasta brand called KaiZen pasta. You can also use a whole wheat, chick pea, or gluten free pasta.
Not all pastas are created the same however, so I would encourage you to pay attention to the box directions and under cook your pasta slightly less than al dente (especially because it will continue cooking in the sauce when it’s smoked on the grill).
What cheese works best for making smoked mac and cheese?
For this recipe I stuck with three main cheeses to build my sauce:
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Pepper Jack Cheese
- Cream Cheese (acts as the thickener for the sauce)
While you can absolutely sub out the cheddar or pepper jack for something like a smoked gouda, it’s important to use block cheese over pre shredded cheese.
Why? Pre-shredded cheese have a coating on it that prevents it from sticking and tends to not melt as well in a cheese sauce.
Additionally, there is no flour or roux (flour and melted butter combined) used in this recipe to make the sauce.
I prefer this because it actually makes it easier to make with fewer steps, but also keeps it potentially gluten free for those that prefer to use a pasta alternative (notes more on this below).
Smoked Macaroni and Cheese Ingredients:
Here is everything you will need for this recipe:
- 1 lb. Pasta of choice
- 4 cups Shredded Cheese
- Cream Cheese
- Half & Half
- Traditional Panko or Pork Panko Bread Crumbs (for gluten free/ keto)
- Optional: Green chiles, poblano peppers, jalapenos, and smoked garlic.
- Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Smoky Paprika
Cooking and Smoking Instructions:
- Set your pellet smoker or charcoal grill for indirect heat at 350 F. This is a slightly higher temperature than traditional low and slow smoking, but still gives the mac and cheese a delicious smoke flavor.
- Prep all your ingredients by shredding your cheese, pre-cook any add in’s (the peppers), boil your pasta a few minutes under al dente and strain.
- In a large pot, add your softened cream cheese and about 1/4 cup of the half and half. This helps break the cream cheese down fully.
- Use a wooden spoon or a whisk to remove lumps and then slowly add in the remaining liquid over medium heat and heat through for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly (to prevent burning).
- Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and slowly add in small handfuls of the cheese. Whisk extensively to work the cheese fully into the sauce.
- Repeat step 5 until all your cheese has melted fully and is on cohesive, thick cheese sauce. Add in the spices and set the cheese sauce aside. Reserve a few tablespoons of cheese for the top if desired
- Pour the cheese sauce into the pasta and fold it all together.
- Add the mac and cheese to a 9 inch cast iron skillet, add the remaining cheese over the top and sprinkle with panko.
- Place on your smoker and cook for 30 minutes or until the top has browned and the cheese sauce is nice and bubbly.
- Remove from the smoker and let it set up for 5-10 minutes before serving.
There are a lot of ways to change the flavor profile of your mac and cheese. Here are some great ideas:
- Add a protein (chicken, lobster, steak, sausage)
- Garnish with hot Cheetos, crushed pretzels or potato chips
- Use pimento cheese or mix in some BBQ sauce
- Make it healthier by adding in some roasted veggies
- Serve and top it with this smoked pork shank or some smoked pork shoulder (pulled pork)!
Smoked Mac and Cheese
- 1 Cast Iron Skillet
- 16 oz. Pasta (elbow, shell, cavatappi, rotini) Sub with any gf/keto pasta)
- 8 oz. Block of Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 8 oz. Block of Pepper Jack Cheese
- 8 oz. Cream Cheese Softened
- 2 1/2 cups Half and Half
- 1 tbsp. Paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/4 cup Panko Bread Crumbs Sub pork panko (for gf/keto)
- 1 Poblano small dice
- 4 oz. Canned, Green Chiles (diced)
- 1 tsp Olive Oil
- Preheat your grill or smoker to 350 F and set it for indirect heat.
- Begin by pre shredding all the cheese from each cheese block. You should have 4 cups of shredded cheese total.
- If using any peppers, dice and sauté them and set them aside.
- Boil your pasta and remove it from the pasta water 1-2 minutes prior to being finished. It will finish cooking on the smoker. Strain well.
- In a large pot, add your softened cream cheese over medium heat. Whisk in about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the half and half.
- Whisk vigorously to help remove the lumps of the cream cheese until it is smooth . Add the remaining half and half and continue to whisk.
- After 5-6 minutes, the half and half should all be very hot (but not simmering or boiling). Reduce the temperature to low heat.
- Slowly whisk in small handfuls of cheese and let it full melt before you add more. This should take several minutes and ensures the cheese doesn't separate from the liquid. Be patient here!
- Combine the cooked pasta and the cheese sauce. Fold it together until all the noodles are evenly coated. If using the peppers and chiles, add those in as well.
- Pour the noodles into a 9 inch cast iron pan. Lightly coat the top in panko bread crumbs (or pork panko for gf/keto).
- Place the smoked mac and cheese onto indirect heat on you charcoal grill or pellet smoker and let it cook at 350 F. uncovered for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
- Remove the smoked mac and cheese from the smoker carefully and let it rest 10 minutes before serving. This helps the cheese to settle a bit and makes it easier to serve.