When it comes to smoking pasta, there are a few key things you need to do to ensure that you get layers of smokey flavor without drying out your pasta. Chef Cayt is our certified Pitmaster with years of developing recipes for the smoker and teaching classes from beginners all the way to advanced. She has taken our reader-favorite oven-baked mac and cheese and turned it into the perfect smoked mac. Whether this is your first season on your pellet grill, or you already have years under your belt and a full collection of smokers, this recipe is delectably delicious for all skill levels.

Why Our Recipe

  • Developed and written by an actual Pitmaster.
  • Key methods and techniques are built into the recipe instructions to ensure your pasta never dries out and soaks up the smoke.

Close up view of smoked mac and cheese on a wooden spoon.

Ingredient Notes

  • Pasta: elbow noodles are the classic choice for mac and cheese but you can also use penne or large shells in this recipe.
  • Ground Mustard: enhances the sharp flavors in cheese.
  • Garlic Powder: doesn’t produce a strong garlic flavor, but adds a deeper complexity to the sauce.
  • Milk and Heavy Cream: full-fat dairy is a must for smoked mac and cheese. Smoke will cling to the fat to better infuse the flavor. The fat also shields the pasta from drying out.
  • Hot Sauce: this is a Chef’s secret for any mac and cheese. It doesn’t make the recipe spicy but rather enhances the flavor of the cheese. We recommend Frank’s Hot Sauce, but you can also experiment with other hot sauces. Some are more concentrated, like Tabasco, where you’d only need 1/2 teaspoon to achieve the same effect so alter the amount you add based on what hot sauce you are using.
  • Cheese: Sharp cheddar is our favorite because the robust flavor profile compliments the smoke. You can also experiment with other types of cheese that melt well such as Gruyere, fontina, or even a blend of multiple cheeses.

Which Pellets to Use

The type of pellets you use when smoking is always a matter of personal preference as that specific “flavor” aroma does get infused into the food. Our favorite pellet to use for mac and cheese is hickory. Hickory has a bold, earthy, deep flavor which comes through more in the pasta. Other good options are pecan for a lighter, nutty flavor profile and cherry for a sweeter fruity flavor profile. We recommend against mesquite for this recipe.

Overhead view of smoked mac and cheese on a dinner plate with chicken thighs.

Tips From the Chef

  • Always ensure your noodles are cooked to al dente. Overcooking can lead to mushy mac and cheese.
  • Smoking is about slow and low heat. Be patient and allow the flavors to meld.
  • Don’t shy away from the hot sauce – it counterbalances the richness of the dish.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding a splash of milk to loosen the sauce if necessary.

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