Can you smoke mac and cheese? Yes! Trust me, you NEED my smoked mac and cheese recipe with gouda and caramelized onions. With a stovetop smoker, you don’t even need to go outside to BBQ! Learn tricks to make the best cheese sauce for mac and cheese. You will not believe how ridiculously good this smoked macaroni and cheese is!
Smoked mac n cheese? Where can I sign up?!?
Call it a fun food, call it comfort food, I’m just calling this smoky mac and cheese recipe DELICIOUS.
Perhaps best of all, this is a stovetop-only recipe. You heard me right. You’ll learn here to make mac and cheese without an oven.
Hot out, and you don’t want to heat the house with the oven? You can still make this mac and cheese.
Rainy or snowy out, and you don’t want to fire up the Traeger, Pit Boss, Masterbuilt, or another pellet grill?
You can still make this smoked mac n cheese. Heck yes, you can.
This is actually a double-smoked mac n cheese. We’re using smoked cheeses, and then we’re popping the dish in a stovetop smoker.
This means you can play with the recipe a bit and still get lovely, smoky mac n cheese. If you can’t find smoked cheeses, smoke the mac and cheese with a wood like hickory that provides stronger smoke flavors.
And if you don’t have a stovetop smoker, you could always use smoked cheeses and pop the dish in the oven. You’ll still get smoky flavors from the smoked gouda and smoked cheddar in the recipe.
Whatever happens, I would not expect leftovers. This one tends to be a huge crowd-pleaser that disappears extremely fast!
- 📋 What are the calories, net carbs, and protein?
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- ♨️ Wood for Smoked Mac and Cheese
- 🔪 How to Make Smoked Mac and Cheese
- 🧀 Layers
- ⏲️ Smoking Time and Temperature
- 🌡️ How to Reheat
- 🥓 Add-Ins
- 🥗 Side Dishes
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🏻🍳 Other Stovetop Smoker Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
- Oven Directions
📋 What are the calories, net carbs, and protein?
One generous serving of smoked macaroni and cheese provides 1074 calories, 78.6 grams net carbs, and 44.6 grams protein. This really isn't diet food, y’all. Hahaha
Why make mac and cheese in a smoker? Here are some of my reasons:
- DELICIOUS: Think mac and cheese is pretty good? Pop that baby in a smoker and get ready for the flavor explosion.
- Caramelized onions: If you take no other lessons from this recipe, I hope you start adding caramelized onions to your mac n cheese. The caramelized onion layer really takes things over the top. Don’t skip it!
- DELICIOUS: The first time I made this recipe, I only used half the cheese listed here. Guess what? Doubling the cheese made it even more scrumptious. LOVE.
- Can easily be made gluten free: I used my favorite gluten-free whole grain elbow macaroni in this recipe. To make a gluten free smoked mac and cheese, swap the spelt flour in the cheese sauce for corn starch or gluten free flour. Celiacs rejoice, you can have this one too!
- SO GOOD: Enjoying some fun foods here and there is part of my overall healthy way of eating. I think this tasty dish is a worthy indulgence. Plus, it provides lots of calcium and some high-quality protein.
- Can easily be made vegetarian: Make vegetarian smoked mac and cheese by leaving off the pork rinds. They get sprinkled on at the end, so it’s easy to modify this dish for those who don’t eat meat.
- DELICIOSO: Did I say that one of the main reasons to make smoked mac and cheese is that it is delicious? I just want to drive that point home. Cause I promise, it’s really good.
What do you need to make smoked mac and cheese? Here are the ingredients I used:
- Whole grain elbow macaroni pasta (I used Jovial brand gluten-free brown rice elbows)
- Smoked gouda cheese
- Smoked cheddar cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
- Spelt flour (Whole wheat flour or another whole grain flour may be substituted)
- 2% milk
- Black pepper
- Sweet onion
- Olive oil
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Crushed pork rinds or pork panko (plain or flavored pork rinds may be used)
- Cooking oil spray
I went with a mixture of gouda and cheddar since those are the only two types of smoked cheese I can usually find around here. If you cold smoke your own cheese, you can use different cheeses for a variety of flavor options.
I can often only find one brand of smoked cheese at the grocery store. One time we used Grafton maple smoked cheddar, another time Seaside smoked cheddar. The resulting mac and cheese is fabulous either way. Cheese is good. Lol
Sweet onions are worth seeking out here because IMVHO they are best for caramelizing. We tested plain pork rinds and sweet chipotle pork rinds for the topping. The plain pork rinds were the flavor winner, believe it or not.
I think with the variety of cheeses, the smoking, the caramelized onions, etc. this dish needs little else. The plain pork rinds add texture and saltiness. We don’t really need them here for additional flavors.
If you use pork panko, you don’t have to crush the pork rinds with a food processor. They come ready to sprinkle on the finished dish.
There are a number of important pieces of kitchen equipment that you need to make this mac and cheese. Some are things pretty much everyone should have in their kitchen. These include a good knife, a pot for cooking pasta, a whisk, and a cast iron skillet (for caramelizing onions).
It’s important to get a pan that will fit in the smoker for this recipe! Be sure to check that your pan fits in the stovetop smoker before you begin cooking!
I highly recommend using a cheap aluminum baking pan for this one. It’s going to get trashed in the smoker, so though I limit my use of disposable items, it’s the way to go here.
The pan I use is an 8-inch by 8-inch square that measures about 1½-inches deep. This pan size also fits *perfectly* in my air fryer oven, so I can use it with multiple kitchen gadgets.
Another thing you’ll need to make smoked mac and cheese is an indoor smoker. If you don’t have the money or space to invest in an outdoor set-up, a stove-top smoker is the way to go. My Nordic Ware kettle smoker cost under $100.
♨️ Wood for Smoked Mac and Cheese
To use the smoker, you also need wood chips meant for smoking foods. The smoker I have comes with several types of wood chips for smoking. Some of these chips provide a deeper smoky flavor than others.
Since we’re already using smoked cheeses in this recipe, I recommend using a type of wood with milder flavors. I used apple chips but cherry chips and alder chips also provide subtle smoke flavors.
If you’re not using smoked cheese, you may want to use a wood type that provides a stronger smoke flavor. Hickory chips and mesquite chips are two of my favorites.
🔪 How to Make Smoked Mac and Cheese
Let’s learn how to make smoked mac and cheese! Before you begin, grate the gouda and cheddar.
Don’t use packaged grated cheese for this recipe! Store-bought grated cheeses often contain anti-clumping agents that will make your cheese sauce grainy.
Here are step-by-step photos of the process:
- Slice the sweet onion thinly. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat and add onions. Slowly caramelize the onions, stirring occasionally so they do not burn. (It takes 45 minutes- 1 hour.)
- Undercook the noodles by 3 minutes and drain. My noodles have a package cook time of 10 minutes, so I cooked them for 7. They will continue to absorb liquid in the smoker; it is important to undercook them to prevent mushy noodles.
Tip: Is smoked mac and cheese with uncooked noodles possible? Yes, but you’d need to add to much more liquid to the pan. It won’t fit the small pan size we need for indoor smoking!
- Make the cheese sauce. Start by making a thin roux (butter and flour paste) over medium heat by melting the butter into the flour. Don’t let it brown!
Whisk the milk into the roux a little at time so there are no lumps. Sprinkle in the black pepper.
Let the white sauce (also called a bechamel sauce) thicken over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring often. Don’t let it burn!
Remove the sauce from the heat (it will still be a little thin). Immediately stir in the grated smoked gouda and most of the grated smoked cheddar.
The cheese should fully melt into the sauce and be thick enough to coat a spoon. Check out the recipe video below of what the consistency of the finished sauce should look like.
Time to put the mac and cheese layers into the pan! Spray your disposable pan very well with cooking spray. This helps prevent your yummy mac and cheese from sticking to the pan after smoking.
- Put half of the macaroni in the prepared pan. Stir half of the cheese sauce into the macaroni in the pan. It will look very liquidy, but this is normal.
Layer all of the caramelized onions on top of the noodles. Putting the caramelized onions in a layer ensures you get some onion in EVERY bite! Yassss
Stir the remaining pasta and cheese sauce together. The cheese sauce should have had time by now to thicken and cool more, so it should not be so liquid. Layer these cheesy noodles on top of the onions, completely covering them.
My noodles and cheese sauce fit in the pan perfectly, completely filling every last inch of the pan. If for some reason you have too much, don’t overfill the pan! Just leave a little out.
- Sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese and the rest of the grated smoked cheddar on top of the pan. Getting hungry yet?
- Prep the smoker by filling it with 2-3 tablespoons of chips. Add the drip pan and smoking tray. We will be dry smoking the mac and cheese, so no additional liquid is needed.
- Put your pan of mac and cheese in the smoker, on top of the smoking tray. Put the lid on the smoker.
Ensure the thermometer is attached properly and the lid vent is closed. Turn your stovetop vent fan on. I also like to open a few windows when using the indoor smoker.
⏲️ Smoking Time and Temperature
How long to smoke mac and cheese? I recommend smoking mac and cheese for 15 minutes at 190-210 degrees Fahrenheit. Low and slow is the way to go!
Put the covered smoker on a large stovetop burner and turn the heat to medium-low. Allow the temperature to come to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. (Warning: this always takes longer than I expect, so give it time!)
Once the temperature comes to 190F, set a timer to smoke the mac n cheese for 15 minutes. Make sure that the smoker stays in the 190-210F range for the entire smoking period.
You may need to open the vent on the smoker lid or adjust the stovetop’s heat. Keep an eye on things to keep it at the right temperature!
- After the smoke time is up, turn off the stovetop and remove the pan of mac and cheese. Sprinkle with the pork panko or crushed pork rinds. Prepare to amaze your friends and family with the best smoked mac and cheese around!
🌡️ How to Reheat
Wait, there were leftovers?!? That seems unlikely. Haha
In the strange event that you do have leftover mac and cheese, you can store it in the fridge for 3-4 days. My favorite way to reheat baked mac and cheese is to remove it from the metal pan and microwave on high for 1½-2 minutes. You can also reheat it on the stovetop, but it tends to burn unless you dilute it with milk.
There are a lot of ways to customize your basic mac and cheese! Feel free to make tweaks to this recipe to please your taste buds.
For example, try swapping out some of the cheddar or gouda for one of these:
- Swiss cheese (Gruyere)
You can make an even creamier mac and cheese with these:
- Heavy cream
- Whole milk
- Egg yolk
- Cream cheese for mac and cheese is a popular add-in
- Sour cream
- Cottage cheese (try blending it)
Here are a few more items to stir into mac and cheese for flavor:
- Green chili peppers (hot or mild)
- Pulled pork
- Or try a smoked chicken mac and cheese
If you’re not feeling the pork rinds as a topper, here are a few other delicious mac and cheese toppings:
- Crumbled bacon
- Whole grain panko bread crumbs
- Smoked paprika
Feel free to mix and match the suggestions above!
🥗 Side Dishes
What goes with smoked mac and cheese? Umm, everything. Hahaha
In all seriousness, when I make this, my family devours the pan like a pack of starving hyenas after a kill. Side dishes... pfft, no.
If I were going to serve sides, I’d add non-starchy veggies to mac and cheese as a main dish. Here are some options for side dishes that go with smoked mac and cheese:
A better approach may be to make this smoked mac and cheese a side dish (and have a smaller portion). In that case, I’d pair it with one of these protein-packed BBQ recipes (plus a veg):
- Air Fryer Turkey Burgers
- Cheese-Stuffed Air Fryer Burgers
- Air Fryer BBQ Chicken
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). The nutrition information for this recipe is for a “real” portion, rather than what it “should” be for most sedentary adults. You know me, I keep it real. (And TBH, sometimes my husband eats twice this in a sitting, so I know even this may be an underestimate.)
Even though this recipe is whole grain, the gobs of cheese means this is a high-energy food. The amount of fat and non-fiber carbs here packs a lot of calories into a relatively small volume. That, combined with the relatively low protein to energy ratio, means you may find this dish pretty easy to overeat!
If your goal is weight loss, that might not be the best thing. On the other hand, this creamy smoked mac and cheese is a really delish option for weight gain. I think even picky eaters will have a hard time resisting this one.
If you wanted to increase the protein, you could swap a legume pasta for the whole grain pasta. There are chickpea pastas and lentil pastas out there that taste very similar to wheat pastas. Legume pasta tends to have higher protein and fewer non-fiber carbs than its classic counterparts.
To make low carb smoked mac and cheese, you could experiment with this low carb elbow macaroni pasta. With 100 calories and 7 grams of net carbs per serving, this is a lower calorie pasta. However, (assuming that most of us eat more than one serving of pasta) it’s not a keto-friendly option.
Wondering what cheese goes in mac and cheese? This is purely personal opinion, but my favorite cheese for mac and cheese is sharp cheddar. Using smoked cheddar, jalapeno cheddar, or other varieties gives me many flavor options from one type of cheese.
This smoked mac and cheese is covered for smoking. You must cover the Nordic Ware indoor smoker with its lid for proper use. This applies to all smoker recipes, not just this one.
To fix cheese sauce that’s become grainy, try removing from the heat and whisking in a little lemon juice. Better still, prevent graininess by grating block cheese (do not use prepackaged grated cheese) and use a mix of cheeses (not just cheddar).
Smoking is pretty much the best hack to make boxed mac and cheese taste fantastic. Try undercooking the noodles a little and adding additional grated cheese and butter to the cheese sauce before popping in the smoker. You may have to add more liquid to the cheese sauce too.
A lot of folks use Velveeta cheese to make creamy mac and cheese with great success. You can absolutely use some Velveeta in place of the grated cheese in a smoker recipe. (That said, Velveeta is a “pasteurized prepared cheese product” and not “real” cheese.)
Yes, you can pop Stouffer’s mac and cheese in a smoker. However, the pan may not fit in your stovetop smoker, and IMVHO homemade is so much better.
👩🏻🍳 Other Stovetop Smoker Recipes
Looking for other recipes for stovetop smokers? I've got ya! Here are some other recipes for smoked foods you’ll enjoy:
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All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Smoked Mac and Cheese with Gouda and Caramelized Onions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion
- 12 ounces whole grain elbow macaroni, dry (340 grams; I used Jovial Foods brand)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons whole grain spelt flour
- 2½ cups milk, 2%
- black pepper, to taste
- 6 ounces smoked Gouda cheese (170 grams or about 1½ cups; block cheese only, not packaged grated cheese)
- 10 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, divided (284 grams or about 2½ cups; block cheese only, not packaged grated cheese)
- cooking oil spray
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ ounce pork panko (14 grams; can substitute with your favorite crushed pork rinds)
- Important! I highly recommend reading the accompanying post before you begin. It includes some important information on the ingredients and equipment needed that you are not going to want to miss.
- Grate the Gouda and cheddar. Set aside.
- Thinly slice the sweet onion. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat and add onions. Slowly caramelize the onions, stirring occasionally so they do not burn. It will take 45-60 minutes for them to fully caramelize.
- Cook your macaroni according to the box directions, subtracting 3 minutes from the cooking time. (For example, my noodles have a package cook time of 10 minutes, so I cooked them for 7.) It is important to undercook them because they will continue to absorb moisture in the smoker. Drain them and set aside.
- Now it's time to work on the cheese sauce. Melt the butter into the flour in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk frequently and don’t let it brown!
- Whisk the milk into the saucepan a little at time so there are no lumps. Sprinkle in the black pepper.
- Let this milk mixture thicken over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, whisking often. Don’t let it burn! (It will burn if you don't tend to it. Trust me. lol)
- Remove the saucepan from the heat (the mixture will still be a little thin). Immediately stir in the Gouda and 8 ounces (227 grams) of the cheddar. (Set the remaining 2 ounces/57 grams of cheddar aside.)
- The cheese should fully melt into the sauce and be thick enough to coat a spoon. Check out the recipe video below to see the right consistency and how it forms cheese strings.
- Spray your 8-inch by 8-inch (20x20 cm) disposable pan well with cooking spray. Make sure you have the right size pan. Otherwise, it may not fit in the smoker!
- Put half of the macaroni in the prepared pan. Stir half of the cheese sauce into the macaroni in the pan. It will look very liquid, and this is OK.
- Layer all of the caramelized onions evenly on top of the noodles in the pan.
- Stir the remaining pasta and cheese sauce together. The cheese sauce should have had time by now to thicken and cool more, so it should not be so liquid. Layer these cheesy noodles on top of the onions, completely covering them. I was able to fit everything in the pan. Leave a little of the noodle mixture out if needed.
- Sprinkle the grated Parm cheese and the 2 ounces (57 ounces) of grated smoked cheddar on top of the pan.
- Prep the smoker by filling it with 2-3 tablespoons of chips. I recommend using a wood chip with subtle flavors, such as apple chips. Add the drip pan and smoking tray. We will be dry smoking the mac and cheese, so no additional liquid is needed.
- Put your pan of mac and cheese in the smoker, on top of the smoking tray. Put the lid on the smoker.
- Ensure the smoker's thermometer is attached properly and the lid vent is closed. Turn your stovetop vent fan on. I also like to throw open a few windows when using the indoor smoker.
- Put the covered smoker on a large stovetop burner and turn the heat to medium-low. Allow the temperature to come to 190°F (88°C). (Give it time!)
- Once the temperature comes to 190°F (88°C), set a timer to smoke the mac and cheese for 15 minutes. Make sure that the smoker stays in the 190°F-210°F (88°C-99°C) range for the entire smoking period.
- Open the vent on the smoker lid or adjust the stovetop’s heat if needed to keep the smoker in the 190°F-210°F (88°C-99°C) temperature range.
- After the smoking time is up, turn off the stovetop and remove the pan of mac and cheese. Sprinkle the pork panko or crushed pork rinds on top. Enjoy!
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