If you are a fan of mac and cheese, you’re going to love this smoked bacon mac and cheese recipe! This mac is loaded with cheddar and gouda cheese mixture, filled with crispy bacon, then smoked in a cast iron pan.
While mac and cheese is usually cooked in an oven, I find that the smoked version takes it to the next level! It has all the flavors you’d expect in classic mac and cheese, but better with the addition of bacon and the sweet, smoky flavor from the apple wood.
This ridiculously good smoked mac won’t take a lot of your time either. Only a couple of minutes to prep and then the cast iron skillet goes in the smoker for up to 30 minutes. What you get is six servings of smoky mac that can be paired with your favorite meals like these cheesy beef enchiladas or grilled cajun wings!
What makes a good mac and cheese?
Mac and cheese is really a simple dish if you think about it. When you break it down, it’s basically cooked pasta noodles with creamy melted cheese. In my opinion, what separates a good mac from a great one are the types of cheeses that make the creamy cheese sauce, the texture or creaminess of the dish, its seasonings, and the cooking process. This creamy smoked mac recipe has the best of it all.
How to make smoked mac and cheese
Begin by dicing up a pound of bacon. Then fry it in a large skillet on medium heat until it’s pretty crispy, drain excess oil, and set aside. Cooking time should take about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon.
Next in a large pot, add about 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add in your pasta. You can use any pasta, but the most common ones for this recipe are macaroni, rigatoni, and my favorite – cavatappi.
Cavatappi noodles are macaroni formed in a helical tube shape. I like the way they look and their texture for mac and cheese. Plus, their shape allows them to hold more of the flavorful cheese sauce, making this homemade mac extra creamy.
Cook your noodles al dente according to the package directions. Once you have cooked your noodles, strain the water and set aside.
Making the cheese sauce
In a 10-inch cast iron pan on low heat, combine unsalted butter, evaporated milk, salt, black pepper, and egg. Whisk that all together to combine.
Next, stir in freshly shredded gouda and sharp cheddar cheese. If you’re a cheese lover, you can add other kinds of cheese like Gruyere and Monterey Jack. Others like to mix in smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and mustard powder for an extra kick, so feel free to play around with spices.
Mix that together until the cheese and butter have melted completely. Do not leave the cheese sauce unattended or it may burn.
Now add the pasta and bacon into your cheese sauce and give that a good mix. Make sure everything is incorporated well. Finally, add a little more cheese on top.
Smoking the mac and cheese
Now get your smoker up to 350°F and add a chunk of apple wood. Place the cast iron pan on your smoker for 20-30 minutes to cook. Even though you are smoking at a high temperature, you should still get a hint of sweet applewood smoke which will be really nice. You don’t want to overpower with smoke as we are looking for it to complement the dish.
I used my Big Green Egg but any smoker will do. If you don’t have time or a smoker is not an option, just place the dish into your oven for the same time and temperature.
Once the mac and cheese finishes on the smoker, it will firm up a bit and the edges will crisp up too. I use some reserved bacon and green onions to garnish just before serving.
This dish is seriously life changing. Who doesn’t love creamy macaroni loaded with smoky bacon and cheese sauce? It’s the perfect side dish because it’s super delicious and really easy to make. I think sometimes we overcomplicate things and this is one where just a few ingredients prepared right makes a big difference. Give this one a try and let me know if you’re going to make this the next time you’re in need of a better comfort food!
More side dishes to try!
Jalapeño popper dip is cheesy and delicious.
Smoked bbq meatballs are better than the ones you grew up eating in a crockpot.
Smoked queso dip is the cheesiest appetizer for the big game.
Deviled eggs with bacon goes with any bbq or get together.Print
- 8 ozs cavatappi pasta
- 1 lb of bacon
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup shredded gouda cheese
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Green onion (for garnish)
- Dice bacon and fry until crispy. Drain excess oil and set aside.
- In a large pot bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and cook cavatappi according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- In a large cast iron pan on low heat combine unsalted butter, evaporated milk, egg, salt, and pepper. Stir until the butter is melted and everything is incorporated.
- Into the same pan add shredded gouda and cheddar cheese with 3/4 of the crispy bacon, and the pasta.
- Stir until combined and cheese is melted through. Sprinkle a little more cheese on top.
- Place the cast iron pan into a smoker set at 350°F and smoke for up to 30 minutes with applewood or your favorite smoking wood. You can also use your oven if you don’t have a smoker.
- Garnish with the rest of the bacon and green onions. Enjoy!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Side
- Method: Smoking
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Mac and cheese, bacon mac and cheese, smoked mac and cheese