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Smoked Mac and Cheese (Charcoal/Pellet/Gas Grill)

Smoked Mac and Cheese (Charcoal/Pellet/Gas Grill)

Light up the grill to make a batch of creamy Smoked Mac and Cheese! The ultimate indulgence, this 3 cheese mac and cheese is loaded with three kinds of creamy cheese, butter and rich heavy cream. It’s a step up from our beloved Instant Pot Mac and Cheese.

Love smoker recipes? Check out our Smoked Queso recipe and Smoked Cream Cheese recipe.

Smoked Mac and Cheese Recipe

This is the best smoked mac and cheese recipe. It’s an amped up version of stovetop mac and cheese; throw in all your favorite Mac and Cheese ingredients and hit it with some smoke to enhance the flavor.

This ain’t Kraft Mac & Cheese, y’all. Fire up your smoker and let’s get cooking! 

Ingredients

This macaroni and cheese recipe is highly adaptable, so dress it up how you like. 

The spices we always throw in are: garlic powder, mustard powder and hot sauce, but all three are optional. The mustard powder and hot sauce give it a nice complex flavor, not a typical “mustard” or “hot” flavor.

  • Macaroni Noodles
  • Dairy – Cheese, Heavy Cream, Whole Milk and Butter
  • Pantry – Flour, Salt and Black Pepper, to Taste

cheese sauce for mac and cheese

Cheese Sauce for Mac and Cheese

This silky cheese sauce works because of the plethora of meltable cheeses, blend-able cream cheese and the low and slow cooking temperature. Cheese tends to get gritty, or separate, when the temperature is too high, so the low temp is key. 

It’s also best to use high-fat milk and heavy cream (or even half and half) the higher fat percentage makes it less likely the cheese sauce will curdle. 

Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese

You have a ton of Mac and cheese friendly cheese options to choose from. We usually use what we have in the refrigerator. We love using Havarti Jalapeno or Smoked Gouda. And nothing beats mac and cheese with cream cheese. Mix and match as you see fit! There is no “right” combination.

Something to keep in mind when shopping. Do not buy pre-shredded cheese as it’s coated in cellulose, which prevents it from melting. You must shred the cheese! Bust out your cheese grater and get to shredding.

  • American
  • Cheddar
  • Monterey Jack
  • Pepper Jack
  • Colby
  • Gouda, Smoked Gouda
  • Havarti
  • Fontina
  • Gruyere

Shredded cheese going in a dutch oven.

Add-in Ideas

As mentioned, this is a highly customizable recipe, so adjust to your personal preference. Here are some add-in ideas to get you thinking:

  • Lobster
  • Bacon
  • Broccoli
  • Onions
  • Hot Dogs
  • Ham
  • Spinach

Side Dish Ideas

Smoked macaroni and cheese can be served next to so many dishes, if you prefer it as a side dish vs. an entree. In fact, creamy smoked mac and cheese is commonly served as a Thanksgiving side dish or even Christmas side dish!

Smoked Macaroni and Cheese on a smoker.

Easy Mac & Cheese Recipe

This is a pretty hands off smoker recipe. Here are a few key details to keep in mind when making:

Cook the Pasta – Make sure to cook the pasta to al dente. The al dente time will be listed on the back of the pasta box. It will further soften on the grill, so don’t over cook during the initial cooking process.

Cheese Sauce For Mac and Cheese – We’ve tested two different ways to make the cheese sauce. We prefer making it directly on the grill, but that might not work for everyone as you do need to stir it more often. Here are your options:

  • Make the sauce on the stovetop while the noodles are cooking. You can make the sauce in the same cast iron skillet that will go on the grill. You’ll spend more time indoors vs. outside, but you won’t need to stir the Mac and cheese as often.
  • Pre-heat the dutch oven or skillet on the grill and then start adding the cheese sauce ingredients. As the cheese won’t be 100% melted when the noodles are added, you will have to stir every 15 minutes or so to incorporate. 

As you can see from the picture below, we prefer making it on the grill for more outdoor time!

Two sticks of butter melting in a dutch oven.

Finish the Dish – Once the cheese sauce is made and the noodles are cooked, you’ll toss to coat, close the lid and smoke away for 60-120 minutes!

Variations

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Smoked gouda macaroni and cheese is a classic. To make, replace equal parts cheddar cheese for gouda cheese. For a true gouda flavor, use between 3-4 cups.

4 Cheese Mac and Cheese

For extra cheesy goodness, throw in an extra block of your favorite cheese. Don’t limit yourself. Havarti, Pepper Jack, Mozzarella, Gruyere or even a baby bit of Parmesan are great additions.

Mac and Cheese With Shells

Swap out the macaroni with shells, if you have them on hand or prefer the shape over elbow. It’s what we use when making Macaroni and Cheese in the Instant Pot. 

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Panko Crust

Interested in making a panko crust? We have two panko crust recipes to choose from. 

Cajun Panko Crust

Combine 1 cup of panko bread crumbs with 1/4 cup salted butter (melted) and 1 tbsp cajun or creole seasoning. Sprinkle over the top of the mac and cheese before cooking.

BBQ Panko Crust

Combine 1 cup of panko bread crumbs with 1/4 cup salted butter (melted) and 1 tbsp bbq rub. Sprinkle over the top of the mac and cheese before cooking.

Smoked Macaroni and Cheese

You can use a smoker, gas grill or charcoal grill to make this smoked mac and cheese recipe. Consult the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full instructions. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Gas Grill – To make on a gas grill, keep the heat at 175°F. Create smoke by using a smoker box filled with wood chips/chunks. Or you can omit the smoke all-together if you’re not into a delicious smoky flavor. 
  • Charcoal – To make on a charcoal grill, pre-heat the coals and dump them off to one side to create two cooking zones. Open the vents, as needed, to maintain the temperate at 175°F. Create smoke by placing wood chunks directly on the pre-heated coals, right before cooking.
  • Pellet/Electric Smoker (Traeger mac and cheese) – To make pellet grill mac and cheese, pre-heat your smoker to 175°F. Follow the manufacture’s instructions to get an even smoke.

Aluminum disposable pan filled with cooked pasta.

Supplies

  • Energy Source – This dish will be on the heat for hours so make sure you stock up on your selected energy source: charcoal, pellets, propane, gas, etc.
  • Smoking Wood (Only Needed If Smoking) –  Chunkschips or pellets.
  • Smoker Box – You’ll need one to impart the delicious smoky flavor if using a gas grill. We’ve used this one from Amazon in the past. This isn’t necessary if you prefer to make grilled queso dip vs smoked queso dip.
  • Cast Iron Dutch Oven or Skillet – Use a cast iron dutch oven (or even a 12″ cast iron skillet), instead of a foil pan, to make this easy mac and cheese recipe if you prefer. You only need one or the other.
  • Disposable Aluminum Foil Pan –  Use a disposable aluminum pan, if you don’t have a cast iron dutch oven or skillet. As you can see from the picture below we make it a disposable aluminum foil pan when camping, for easy clean up.

Wood Recommendations

Wondering what wood to use? Think fruit wood like Cherry wood or apple wood. Noodles take on a ton of flavor so going the heavy wood route, can easily overwhelm the cheesy flavor.

Large wooden and silicon spoon scooping cheese and noodles from a dutch oven.

Expert Tips

  • Make sure your smoker doesn’t go over 200° F. The mac and cheese will be dry and the cheese sauce will more than likely curdle.  
  • No additional salt was included in this recipe as the cheese has a generous level of salt included. If you like to roll with extra salt, add it in at the end, to taste.
  • This smoked mac and cheese recipe is on the thicker side. If you like it thinner, just add more milk. Start with 1/2 cup and work your way up until your desired consistency is reached. 
  • For a lighter smoky flavor, only smoke for 1 hour vs. the full two hours.
  • As with all macaroni and cheese dishes, it does thickens up very quickly. It’s best to serve immediately after removing from the grill.
  • Can you freeze macaroni and cheese? Due to the use of dairy, we do not recommend freezing. Some peeps do freeze it, but it’s not our cup of tea (think “not so great texture”). We won’t lead you astray for something we wouldn’t personally enjoy.
  • If you have leftover smoked cream cheese, this is a great recipe to throw it in. Even the spices in the smoked cream cheese would be great.

 

Smoked mac and cheese in a dutch oven.
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Smoked Mac and Cheese

Light up the grill to make a batch of creamy Smoked Mac and Cheese! The ultimate indulgence, this 3 cheese mac and cheese is loaded with three kinds of creamy cheese, butter and rich heavy cream. It's a step up from our beloved Instant Pot Mac and Cheese.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Grill Recipes, Macaroni and Cheese Recipes, Smoked Cheese Recipes, Smoker Recipes
Servings: 12 cups
Calories: 501kcal
Author: Darcey Olson
Cost: $20

Ingredients

  • 16 oz Macaroni Noodles (*Note 1)
  • 1 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 8 tbsp Unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • cup Heavy Cream
  • cup Whole Milk
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese (*Note 2)
  • 4 cups Shredded Cheese (Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Havarti, Gouda) (*Note 3)
  • ½ tsp Optional: Hot Sauce
  • 1 tsp Optional: Mustard Powder

Instructions

Prep The Smoker (Gas):

  • Turn half the burners (on the same side of the grill) to low while the other burners are off. Play around with the burner settings to get it as close to 175°F as possible. Use a smoker box to add chips/chunks of wood for smoking.

Prep The Smoker (Charcoal):

  • Pre-heat the coals until just ashed over. Dump them on the far side (either left or right) of your grill. Play around with the vent opening to get it as close to 175°F as possible. Create smoke by placing wood chunks directly on the pre-heated coals, right before cooking. 

Prep The Smoker (Pellet or Electric):

  • Load the smoker with the pellet of your choice and pre-heat to 175°F.

Make The Cheese Sauce (On The Grill):

  • Bring a large pot of water and 1 tbsp of kosher salt to a boil. Cook the macaroni according to the "al dente" directions on the back of the box.
  • Place the dutch oven on the grill and let come to temp. Add the butter and let melt. Whisk in the flour until smooth and slightly thickened.
  • Whisk in the garlic powder and mustard powder.
  • Whisk in the milk, heavy cream and hot sauce (if using).
  • Whisk in the cream cheese, until fully melted.
  • Whisk in the shredded cheese and let melt for about 5 minutes.
  • Gently fold in the cooked noodles, close the lid and let smoke. Stir every 15 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and combined. Once fully melted, stir every 30 minutes. Smoke for a minimum of 1 hour and a max of 2 hours.

Make The Cheese Sauce (On The Stovetop):

  • Heat a 12" cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the butter and let melt. Whisk in the flour until smooth and slightly thickened.
  • Whisk in the garlic powder and mustard powder.
  • Whisk in the milk, heavy cream and hot sauce (if using) and bring to a gentle boil, while whisking. Reduce the heat.
  • Whisk in the cream cheese, until fully melted.
  • Whisk in the shredded cheese and stir until melted. Turn off the heat and add in the cooked macaroni noodles. Stir until the noodles are fully coated in cheese sauce.
  • Transfer the skillet to the smoker, close the lid, and smoke for a minimum of 1 hour and a max of 2 hours.
  • Serve immediately for best texture.

Notes

Note 1 - You can also use pasta shells.
Note 2 - This recipe has not been tested with low fat cream cheese. We do not recommend it as low fat cheese tends to curdle more when cooking.
Note 3 - Any combination of the below cheeses will work:
  • American
  • Cheddar
  • Monterey Jack
  • Pepper Jack
  • Colby
  • Gouda, Smoked Gouda
  • Havarti
  • Fontina
  • Gruyere

Nutrition

Calories: 501kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 101mg | Sodium: 903mg | Potassium: 223mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1162IU | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 278mg | Iron: 1mg
Recipe Rating




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