How to Make Crockpot Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese in a Serving Bowl
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Slow cookers are among the most useful kitchen tools out there. They're perfect for big batches of soups and stews; just set 'em and forget 'em. But did you know you can also use your crock pot to make low-calorie macaroni and cheese?

Steps for Making Healthy Crockpot Mac and Cheese

Here is a slow-cooker mac and cheese that won’t weigh you down.

1. Pick the Right Pasta

The go-to pasta for mac and cheese is high-fiber elbow macaroni. You get that classic shape with the added bonus of filling fiber. Look for brands with 3 grams of fiber or more per serving. Even better if it's made with nutritious whole grains.

5 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) is a good amount for a 5-serving slow-cooker meal. Don't worry if that doesn't seem like enough pasta—we will supersize this dish with other ingredients!

2. Boil the Macaroni (But Only Halfway)

The trick to tasty slow-cooker mac 'and cheese is to partly precook the pasta. You want it very al dente before it goes into the slow cooker. About 4 minutes in a pot of boiling water will do the trick. Drain it thoroughly, so you don't water down the cheese sauce.

3. Select Your Supersizer

One of the top tricks for making guilt-free mac and cheese is to supersize the portion with veggies. But not just any veggies—you want ones that blend into the dish and don't have any distracting flavors.

Cubed butternut squash has a slightly sweet taste and nutrient-rich velvety texture that works really well in mac and cheese. But my favorite vegetable to use in mac and cheese is definitely cauliflower. The taste is mild and the texture is similar to the pasta. Four cups of small cauliflower florets is the perfect amount to balance out that macaroni.

Cauliflower is also a great supersizer for mashed potatoes, and it makes the perfect rice swap! 

4. Craft Your Cheese Sauce

Now that we have the mac part taken care of, let’s move on to cheese! A great option is The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese. It's low in calories and the perfect base for a creamy cheese sauce. Five wedges will do the trick. Reduced-fat cheddar (3 slices) and grated Parmesan (just a tablespoon or so) are also good additions.

Next, add a little milk, about 1/2 cup. Go for fat-free skim milk to keep the calories low. Then add a couple of tablespoons of light sour cream for creaminess, and some seasonings for flavor. We like to keep it simple with salt, pepper, and a little bit of chopped garlic.

If you can't get enough cheese, try healthy snacks that cheese lovers will flip for.

5. Slow Cook It

Add the al dente pasta, veggie supersizers, and cheese sauce to your slow cooker, then give it a gentle stir. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours, until veggies are tender and pasta is fully cooked.

Now you have a complete recipe for Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, made with both cauliflower and butternut squash! 

More Recipe Ideas

Spice it up. If you like a little kick, add some thinly sliced jalapeño peppers (seeds removed) to your mac and cheese.

Make it veggie-rific. In addition to that cauliflower and/or butternut squash, roast up some broccoli or Brussels sprouts to add to your mac and cheese. It’ll be super supersized, and the roasted veggies will add more flavor! 

Make mac and cheeseburger. Add raw lean ground turkey or raw extra-lean ground beef to the slow cooker before you cook it up. It’s like a cross between mac and cheese and a juicy burger!

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McRae MP. Health benefits of dietary whole grains: an umbrella review of meta-analysesJ Chiropr Med. 2017;16(1):10-18. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2016.08.008

  2. Armesto J, Rocchetti G, Senizza B, et al. Nutritional characterization of Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata D.): Effect of variety (Ariel vs. Pluto) and farming type (Conventional vs. Organic)Food Res Int. 2020;132:109052.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. Cheese, Cheddar, reduced fat. October 30, 2020.

  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. Cheese, Parmesan, dry grated. October 30, 2020.

  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. Sour cream, light. October 30, 2020.

By Lisa Lillien
Lisa Lillien is a New York Times bestselling author and the creator of Hungry Girl, where she shares healthy recipes and realistic tips and tricks.