Mac and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. Crockpots are the ultimate cooking convenience (to me anyway)…why the heck not combine the two? Because when you do...you get this Crockpot Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole! Super easy deliciousness that'll please everyone...
But I wanted to take it a step further. I wanted a one pot mac and cheese meal. One-pot meals are all the rage right now. And (again) why the heck not? They're easier, faster and there's so much LESS clean up. But there's just something about mac and cheese in the slow cooker. It's creamier, gooier and takes comfort food to a whole new level.
I must say...this turned out pretty darn well too!
Crockpot Cheeseburger Macaroni
You don’t babysit this recipe. You just pre-cook the meat and toss everything in. AND, You can even do that a month ahead of time and freeze it if you want.
Notes About Crock Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni
The pasta really is better if you precook it for just a couple minutes. It's something about the starch I guess.
BUT there are some brands that work better than others. So if you spend a little more on the pasta, it still works out with no pre-cooking.
Gluten-free pastas are an option many of us have to use these days. Sadly, me included as of last year. And the gluten-free pastas are great for gluten intolerant folks. But they DON'T work for this recipe.
Gluten-free pastas are made (somehow) with beans or other legumes. And not much else besides water. They won't hold up in this recipe.
Okay, this is a bit odd. But originally when I tested this recipe I had the seasonings set as they are now in the printable.
Then I got told the flavors were too strong. So I notched down the seasonings.
THEN the comments started rolling in that it was bland, didn't taste like a cheeseburger. Blah, blah...and no disrespect to the folks that stated those opinions. I agreed.
SO, I recently re-updated the recipe with the stronger amounts of seasonings. Therefore, if you read the comments down below about it being bland, you might NOT want to up the spice content...I already did that in the printable.
Just fyi on all that. Enjoy the recipe, comments and suggestions are always welcome!
Crockpot Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole
- 1 pound macaroni uncooked BUT it IS better if you cooked it a couple of minutes
- 3 cups milk
- ½ stick butter melted
- 1 package cream cheese softened and cut into small chunks
- 3 cups shredded cheddar
- 1 pound precooked ground beef
- 1 cups shredded mozzarella optional
- 3 ribs celery diced optional
- 1 bell pepper diced optional
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar optional, but adds a nice punch
- 3 tsp smoked paprika less if you prefer a milder flavor
- 3 tsp garlic powder less if you prefer a milder flavor
- salt & pepper to taste
- Mix milk, butter, and vinegar. Add paprika, garlic powder, and salt & pepper. Stir well. set aside.
- Butter the crockpot insert well. Add pasta, ground beef, diced cream cheese, ½ of each shredded cheese, celery & bell pepper. Toss to combine.
- Pour the milk sauce over the top. Top with remaining shredded cheeses. Cover & cook on low for 4 to 6 hrs. High 2 ½-3.
- Brown the ground beef using the saute function. Drain excess grease.
- Add remaining ingredients except for the shredded cheeses.
- Lock the lid and close the pressure valve. Set to manual, high for half the cook time of your noodles. Natural release 5 minutes then quick release.
- Open the instant pot and add half the shredded cheeses. Mix well. Top with remaining cheese and close lid. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.
- Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Brown your ground beef over medium-high heat.
- Drain pasta. Add remaining ingredients, holding out half the shredded cheeses. Mix well.
- Cover and allow to rest 20 minutes. Note: If your pasta was cooled completely, you may need a bit of heat to melt the cream cheese. Use VERY low heat and stir constantly.
- Top with remaining cheese and allow to set about 5 minutes for the cheeses to melt.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Follow steps 1 and 2 of stovetop directions. Combine ingredients and pour into a well-greased 9x13 baking dish.
- Top with remaining cheeses and bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions BUT for only half the time indicated. Drain and set aside.
- In a large freezer bag, combine the cooked meat, pasta, vegetables, cream cheese, and 1/2 the cheeses.
- Use a sandwich bag for the last of the cheese.
- In a quart-sized bag, combine the liquid ingredients and the spices. Place the sandwich bag and the quart-sized bag inside the larger bag with the pasta-meat-vegetable mixture.
- Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding with cooking directions shown above.
Here are a couple of seasoning options. Just delete the paprika and go a little lighter on the garlic powder...
• 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons ranch seasoning mix
• 1 tablespoon taco seasoning or keep the paprika and go with a little less taco seasoning
• 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning
Want to make it a complete meal?
• Add 1 to 2 cups of defrosted, frozen peas and carrots in step #3, cover, and allow it to cook another 30 minutes or so.
• If you're going for the taco seasoning then frozen or canned corn would work great! Add a can of black beans too! These could get tossed in during step #1 without issue.
• If you'd rather do Italian then broccoli, cauliflower or Italian green beans would work great!