Cheesy and delicious this simple smoked mac and cheese is full of comfort food goodness that everyone will rave about. A perfect combination of cheeses and topped with crumbled bacon you’ll never want to make mac and cheese another way again.
We really like mac and cheese in our house. My kids constantly request it as a side for everything from venison burgers to fried chicken . And while I oblige even if the smoker isn’t going, it’s my favorite when I’m already making smoked chicken legs or smoked pork butt. It’s the perfect side dish because the temp is the same, I can make room on the top rack or let my meat rest while the macaroni smokes and it pairs so beautifully with both of those dishes.
Classic comfort food, I’ve tried a lot of mac and cheese recipes, changing up the cheeses, the toppings, and ingredients and this is by far the most delicious creamy mac and cheese I’ve ever made. Everyone loves it, the bacon adds just enough flavor to it and the smoke isn’t overpowering at all… it just adds a little depth.
This creamy smoked mac and cheese is next level with three types of cheeses and topped with crumbled bacon. It’s the perfect smoker recipe and will please your taste buds paired with just about any meal.
How to Make the Best Smoked Mac and Cheese
First, I suggest you grate the cheese by hand. While pre-shredded cheese gives you a lot in the way of convenience, it also has a lot of fillers and preservatives that take away from the actual cheese flavor. It’s worth the extra step to hand grate your own from a block for the perfect homemade mac.
Once you’ve made your roux and béchamel, make sure you melt that freshly grated cheese in batches. Reduce the heat to low and add little bits at a time, otherwise the sauce will be grainy and no one wants that.
Use macaroni-shaped noodles with ridges and or curves to best absorb the cheesy sauce and give you the best flavor.
Use a mild wood. Our personal favorite is apple wood. Pecan or cherry would also be great with this. The apple seems to pair well with the bacon flavor.
Ingredients for Smoked Mac and Cheese
Elbow macaroni – again, this is going to absorb that cheesy flavor the best, so while you can use other pastas, this is going to be the best. The elbow type with ridges is going to be the best of the best.
Bacon – and its grease. This adds an amazing flavor to the sauce and gives you that delicious salty, bacon crunch on top of your creamy mac and cheese.
Butter – high quality butter is essential to make the smooth béchamel and add flavor.
Flour – again, for the white sauce to make the roux. Make sure you’re toasting it so it doesn’t have any weird flavors.
Heavy Cream – this makes things delicious and creamy, something you won’t get with whole milk or half and half.
Sharp Cheddar Cheese – a strong, delicious flavor this cheese does take slightly longer to melt than mild cheddar, but it’s well worth the wait.
Gruyére Cheese – salty, nutty, and fruity this cheese is perfect when added to smoked mac and cheese.
Gouda Cheese – fruity and mild, this helps even out the cheesy flavor without it being too overpowering.
Salt & Black Pepper – no mac and cheese is complete without it!
How to Smoke Mac & Cheese
This mac n cheese recipe is really simple and has the perfect combination of cheeses to pair well with the smoke flavor. To make it really simple, make the cheese sauce in a large cast iron skillet so you can combine it with the macaroni and put it straight in the smoker.
Boil the macaroni noodles. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the noodles just to al dente as the pasta will finish cooking in the smoker.
Preheat the smoker. Preheat the smoker or pellet grill to 225°F while you make the cheese sauce.
Make the béchamel. In a large cast iron skillet, fry bacon until it’s crisp over medium heat and set it aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the skillet and discard (or save for another use) the rest.
Make a roux. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan with the reserved bacon grease over low heat. Then, sprinkle in 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour toasting the flour.
Finish the cheese sauce. Slowly pour in the heavy cream, whisking each addition until it thickens slightly. Then, season with salt and pepper and add sharp cheddar, gouda, and Gruyére cheese slowly, stirring each addition until it is melted through. Reserve a little bit of each cheese to top the mac & cheese when it’s ready to put in the smoker.
Combine noodles and sauce. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture in the large skillet and stir everything up well to combine.
Top and smoke. Crumble up the bacon that was set to the side on top the mac along with the remaining cheese and place it in the preheated Traeger grill. Smoke for forty five minutes to one hour, up to two if you want a really heavy smoke flavor.
Serve. Serve this dish hot for the best flavor.
How Long to Smoke Mac and Cheese
I usually recommend smoking for 45 minutes, tasting for flavor, adding an additional 15 minutes if necessary and serving. However, you can smoke it for up to two hours without it drying out.
Keep in mind, though that since this is pasta it gets a smoky flavor pretty quickly. Forty-five minutes seems to be the sweet spot for us without it being too smoky.
This is a fantastic side dish, but it makes enough and is filling enough that you could definitely make it its own meal if you want. You could top it with seasoned bread crumbs instead of or in addition to the bacon as well to bulk it up.
This recipe is great served alongside:
- The Best Burgers
- Smoked Pork Ribs
- Venison Meatloaf
- Hot Dogs
- Garlic Herb Grilled Rabbit
- Marinated Venison Steak
Make Ahead Instructions
This recipe can be made ahead of time and warmed when ready to serve.
To make ahead, simply cook the dish completely and store in a refrigerator, tightly covered until ready to serve.
To reheat, bring it to room temperature first and warm in a 300°F preheated oven until warm and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Storage & Freezer Instructions
Store any leftovers in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. You may need to add a little milk when reheating so it doesn’t dry out.
This recipe also freezes very well. You can store it tightly covered in a disposable aluminum pan if you want as it can go straight from freezer to oven to be warmed.
Another way to store it is in air-tight freezer-safe containers or freezer bags in individual portions.
To reheat from frozen, preheat the oven to 350°F and heat for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly.
If you try this smoked mac and cheese recipe I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Also, feel free to leave me a five star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review on the recipe card below and tag me on instagram @therusticelk.
Cheesy, creamy, and delicious this smoked mac and cheese is the perfect side for all your summer bbqs or just to make and enjoy!
- 1 Lb Elbow Macaroni
- 4 Slices Bacon (2 Tbsp grease reserved)
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 4 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
- 4 Cups Heavy Cream
- 1 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese (shredded)
- 1 1/2 Cup Gouda Cheese (shredded)
- 1 1/2 Cup Gruyére Cheese (shredded)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Preheat smoker to 225°F.
- Boil macaroni to al dente according to package instructions.
- Fry bacon in a cast iron skillet until crisp, remove from skillet and set aside.
- Reserve two tablespoons of bacon grease, discarding the rest and add two tablespoons of butter to the skillet and melt it over low heat.
- Sprinkle in flour, making a roux and toast it over low heat.
- Slowly add in whole cream, whisking the entire time, allowing the mixture to thicken slightly between each addition.
- Salt and pepper the béchamel to taste and slowly begin adding the cheeses to the mixture, stirring each addition until melted. Reserve two tablespoons of each type of cheese for topping.
- Combine the macaroni noodles with the cheese sauce, stirring to coat. Top the mixture with crumbled bacon and reserved cheese.
- Place the macaroni and cheese in the preheated smoker. Smoke forty-five minutes and check the flavor. Smoke an additional 15 minutes if desired.
You can top this with seasoned breadcrumbs if desired.
Refrigerate for up to five days, tightly covered. Bring to room temperature before reheating in a 300°F oven for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Freeze for up to six months in a freezer safe, tightly covered container. Reheat from frozen in 350°F for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 842Total Fat: 71gSaturated Fat: 43gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 224mgSodium: 698mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 28g