Crispy bacon atop this amazing Smoked Mac and Cheese is like icing on a cake. Everything about this dish is decadent, elegant, and company-worthy.
🍽️ Why This Works
That smokey flavor we love. A light, delicate smokey flavor is accentuated by smoked cheese and bacon for next-level mac-n-cheese.
An easy side. Cook the pasta, mix up the cheese sauce and throw it all in the smoker for an hour. There are no long, complicated steps or excessive time spent at the stovetop.
Perfect to accompany smoked meat. This gourmet smoked mac and cheese recipe works well on its own but also smokes in the time it takes for your brisket to rest. Serve it with the Smoked Spatchcock Turkey for a great side holiday meal.
📝 Ingredient Notes
Pasta – We chose cavatappi, but you could go with the more traditional elbows or use a different pasta altogether and the dish will still work.
Roux – Butter, flour, salt and pepper form the roux. The shallots should be cooked in the butter before adding the roux ingredients. You will also need some heavy cream and half & half.
Cheese – Getting excellent cheese is essential. We used smoked gouda, smoked gruyere, parmesan, and cheddar. It is a good idea to use a variety of cheeses to add depth and interest to the flavor. Gouda is a caramel, nutty flavored cheese. Gruyere and Parmesan are rich, nutty, and salty cheeses. Cheddar has an intense flavor and both the flavor and texture vary as it ages.
Toppings – Bacon bits and Panko bread crumbs add a little crunch and flavor to the top. They are also gorgeous!
Pro Tip: You can make your own bacon bits quickly by cutting strips of bacon with scissors and tossing them into a hot skillet on medium heat. Stir until they are cooked, and then strain them in your pasta strainer to collect the grease. Perfect bacon bits!
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Smoker | We use a Big Green Egg. We also recommend the Traeger brand depending on what you are looking for in a smoker. You can even use your gas grill by turning off the center burners and adding a small metal smoking box. There really is no need for a large, dedicated smoker as they are $20 and change – but don’t tell your spouse that! We all really want one!
Wood Chips | If this is your first time making smoked Macaroni and Cheese, I recommend sticking to a mild fruitwood like apple or cherry. If you know you’ll like a more intense smokey flavor, try hickory or mesquite. Check out my Wood Pairing Cheat Sheet if you want to learn more about different woods.
Cast Iron Skillet | The Lodge brand is particularly nice and durable. Look for one that doesn’t have a handle so you know that it will fit inside your smoker. We use the 12″ Lodge Cast Iron Skillet on the smoker and grill all the time! Clean up is a snap and the food is pipping hot!
Disposable Aluminum Pans | To save time on cleanup, consider using a disposable aluminum pan instead of the cast iron skillet. We try to pick these up at the dollar store for a buck.
Large Sauce Pan | The one we used was six quarts.
Whisk | This makes sure the roux mixes without lumps.
Step One: Cook and drain your pasta and add it to a cast iron skillet. Grate all the cheese. Preheat your smoker to 225ºF.
Step Two: Melt your butter in a large sauce pan.
Step Three: Add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add the flour, salt and pepper. Stir it and let the flour cook just a little bit.
Step Four: Add the heavy cream and half & half and stir with a whisk until thickened and well-combined. You want the mixture to have a smooth and even consistency. Then add the shredded cheeses and stir until all the cheese is thoroughly melted.
Step Five: Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and stir. Top with bacon bits and Panko breadcrumbs.
Step Six: Add the wood chunks, chips or pellets to the smoker.
Step Seven: Place it in your smoker for one hour. Keep it uncovered to let the smoke add flavor.
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
Go easy on the smoke – a little goes a long ways! Just a slight trickle of smoke will add enough. If you create too much smoke, it can be overpowering and unpleasant.
By the same token, don’t use a strong wood smoke such as hickory unless you know you’ll like it. I think the light, fruity wood varieties provide much better results.
This pasta will be smoking for an hour so make sure you don’t overcook it initially. Follow the box instructions to cook your pasta al dente.
Grate your own cheese. The difference in flavor and texture is notable. Pre-shredded cheese has an anti-caking powder added that can make your cheese sauce feel powdery and prevent it from melting properly.
🧑🍳 Storage and Reheating
If you smoke it in a disposable aluminum container, you can just cover this with foil and keep it in the refrigerator for several days. If you use an airtight container it will last a little longer.
Either reheat the whole lot of it or reheat individual servings. Get it nice and hot in the oven or microwave with a little butter and fresh cheese added.
Make BLTs one day and save the extra bacon. Is that even a thing? Anyway, purposely set aside bacon to use for this smoked Mac and Cheese recipe the next day! The leftover cooked bacon will crumble easily. You’ll definitely want the bacon on the crispy side. If you’re in doubt, learn how to tell when bacon is done.
Grate your cheeses ahead of time to save some prep time on the day you want to serve this dish.
Leftover cooked plain pasta can be frozen and then used for another recipe. Thaw it in the microwave briefly. It doesn’t have to be fully thawed. You just have to be able to break it apart. You could also cook the pasta the day before.
Make up several full containers of this dish to freeze and reheat for busy weeknights. Use a disposable aluminum container and cover it with foil, then wrap it in Saran Wrap or place it in a two gallon plastic zip bag. It can be unwrapped and go straight into the preheated oven to reheat from frozen. It will take about 45 minutes to heat through and is ready when it gets bubbly hot.
Additions and Substitutions
If you want to go meatless, try a small amount of grated truffle instead of bacon.
Panko breadcrumbs can be subbed out with crushed cheese crackers, saltines, cornflakes, potato chips, corn chips, butter crackers, or Doritos.
Gruyere can be substituted with Swiss cheese or any Swiss cheese variety such as Emmental, Jarlsberg, or Raclette.
Gouda can be substituted with munster cheese, Monterey jack, havarti, edam, cashew, Colby, or almond cheeses.
Other pastas that will work well for this dish include elbows, penne, rigatoni, bow tie (farfalle), pinwheels, or shells.
Diced and cooked red or green bell peppers can be stirred into the pasta for a little flavor.
Cooked and diced jalapeños or habaneros can be stirred into the pasta for a little heat. Add a half teaspoon of ancho chili powder with the breadcrumb topping for a little more seasoning.
Add a green leafy salad and crusty bread to make this a meal in and of itself. Another option is to serve the smoked mac and cheese as a side for grilled or smoked meat such as brisket. The Mac and cheese can cook while the meat rests.
❓ Recipe FAQ
We recommend 225ºF. At higher temperatures the pasta will overcook and the dish will dry out.
I would choose a lightly flavored wood and keep the smoke at a light drizzle. Try applewood, pecan, cherry, or sugar maple.
We love this blend of gouda, gruyere, cheddar and parmesan. We’ve also mentioned some substitutions you can use. Using the best cheeses results in the best smoked Mac and cheese recipe! This is not a good area to cut corners.
Tried this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page. You can also stay in touch with me through social media by following me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!
Smoked Mac and Cheese
- Lodge Cast Iron
- 2 Quart Pan
- ½ cup Butter unsalted
- Pasta cavatappi
- 1 Shallot minced
- ½ cup Flour
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper coarse
- 1 ½ cup Heavy Cream
- 2 ½ cup Half and Half
- 2 cup Gouda
- 1 cup Gruyere
- 1 cup Parmesan
- 2 cup Cheddar Cheese
- ¼ cup Butter melted
- 1 cup Panko
- ¼ cup Bacon Bits
- Cook the pasta using the instructions on the container. It should be al dente. Be careful not to overcook the pasta. Add the cooked pasta to a large cast iron skillet or a disposable aluminum pan. Set aside.
- Preheat the smoker to 225°F.
- While the smoker is heating up, go inside and melt the butter in a large sauce pan on the stove top over medium heat.
- After the butter has melted and is bubbling slightly, add the chopped shallots. Stir and sauté until they are translucent.
- Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
- Add the heavy cream and half and half. Use a whisk to stir thoroughly and the consistency is is smooth and even.
- Add the shredded cheese and continue to stir until it is melted and well-combined.
- Pour the mixture over the cooked pasta and stir lightly. Top with bacon bits and Panko.
- Add the wood to the smoker and place the cast iron skillet or disposable aluminum pan on the smoker.
- Let it smoke for one hour uncovered. Remove and serve immediately.
Ginny Collins is a passionate foodie and recipe creator of Savor and Savvy and Kitchenlaughter. Indoors she focuses on easy, quick recipes for busy families and kitchen basics. Outdoors, she focuses on backyard grilling and smoking to bring family and friends together. She is a lifelong learner who is always taking cooking classes on her travels overseas and stateside. Her work has been featured on MSN, Parade, Fox News, Yahoo, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and many local news outlets. She lives in Florida where you will find her outside on the water in her kayak, riding her bike on trails, and planning her next overseas adventure.