Below is our perfect recipe for the best Cajun mac and cheese. We’ll divulge our secret of how to make the creamiest and cheesiest homemade mac and cheese that is deliciously flavored Cajun. If you’re not into spice, you can tone it down and if you love heat, you can easily crank it up.
Creamy Cajun Macaroni and Cheese
Below we’ll let you in on our secret of how to create the creamiest mac and cheese. It’s one that you’re going to want to save and repeat.
How Is This Macaroni and Cheese “Loaded”?
Our recipe is loaded with delicious seasonings that make it perfect. And the addition of 4 kinds of cheese make it wonderfully cheesy. It’s loaded with cheese and flavor from the seasonings, and you can add to that with your choice of protein if desired.
Add a Protein
Andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp, or crab are all wonderful pairings that can be added right into your Cajun mac and cheese. If using chicken, we recommend cooking it before adding it to the mac and cheese mix.
What Ingredients You’ll Need
To make this recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients: elbow macaroni, fresh or dried basil, evaporated milk, whole milk, paprika, Cayenne Pepper, salt, pepper, eggs, sharp cheddar cheese, Colby & Monterey Jack cheese, parmesan cheese, and Cajun seasoning.
How To Make The Creamiest Mac and Cheese
To make the creamiest mac and cheese, we use a blend of whole milk and evaporated milk which makes it so delicious. Some people opt to use a processed cheese to make their mac and cheese creamy, or they might even use cheese sauce. Not us, we go for the real deal and it makes all the difference.
How To Make The Cheesiest Mac and Cheese
To make the cheesiest mac and cheese, we use 4 kinds of cheese including, sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, Colby and Monterey jack blend, and parmesan. And a lot of it.
Recipe Notes & Cooking Tips
Stir the noodles while they are boiling, to keep them from sticking together. Drain pasta as soon as it is done, to keep it from becoming one big blob. If you’re not immediately ready to add it to the cheese mixture, toss it with a bit of olive oil to keep from sticking,
Use less Cajun for less spice if you’ll be serving this dish to kids or folks that are not hip on heat.
Bake your mac and cheese in cast iron pan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Following are questions that are asked frequently about Cajun mac and cheese.
What Kind of Pasta Should I Use?
We typically use elbow macaroni noodles for mac and cheese because we’re traditionalists. But you can use whatever shape of noodles you prefer or have on hand.
Can You Freeze Cajun Mac and Cheese?
Yes, you can freeze it before it’s baked or after it’s been baked. Just use an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap and foil to help keep it fresh. Freeze it for up to 3 months. If frozen before being baked, remove your pan from the freezer and place in a cool oven before turning the oven on.
Can This Cheesy Cajun Mac And Cheese Be Made In Advance?
Yes, you can make this dish in advance. For best results, you can mix it completely the night before, up to the point of baking it. And cover it with plastic wrap or foil and place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it. The dish can also be reheated after baking.
Can I Use Rotisserie Chicken For The Chicken Mac and Cheese?
Yes, if you want to include chicken pieces in your mac and cheese, using a rotisserie chicken is a great way to do this and save time. Just include chicken pieces in your milk and cheese mixture.
Can I Add Vegetables In This Mac and Cheese?
Sure, you can add a bag of frozen vegetables or any chopped fresh vegetables to the cheese and milk mixture. If you’re using hard vegetables such as carrots, we recommend sautéing them first.
Can I Freeze Chicken Mac and Cheese?
Yes, baked or unbaked chicken mac and cheese can be frozen. We do however recommend baking the chicken before it’s added to the dish. Just be sure to cover the dish with a layer of plastic wrap and foil before adding it to the freezer.
Is Cajun Shrimp Spicy?
Cajun shrimp can be spicy. That’s up to how it’s prepared. One of the benefits of preparing it yourself is that you can seasoning it exactly how you like it.
Is Cajun Shrimp Keto Friendly?
It is not keto friendly as the recipe is written, but it can be adapted to adhere to a keto diet.
What Goes Well With Shrimp Mac and Cheese?
As with any hearty mac and cheese, you don’t need much to go with it. But if you’re wanting a complementary side dish, a simple salad, roasted vegetables, or green beans are a perfect fit.
Top With Breadcrumbs or Cheese?
We’ve always preferred to top our mac and cheese with cheese, just because that’s what we like. But topping mac and cheese with breadcrumbs is a real thing, so if that’s what you prefer, go for it.
Timing The Pasta and Cheese Sauce
Sometimes it can be tricky to time up the pasta and milk and cheese mixture to be ready at the same time. We like to start the pasta water first and while it is coming to a boil, we focus our energy on preparing the milk and cheese mixture.
Adding The Cheddar
We like to grate our cheddar cheese and add it straight to the milk mixture. It can be gently whisked into the mixture using a whisk. Using freshly grated cheese gives it the best flavor.
Cajun Seasonings Blend
To make a homemade Cajun seasoning blend mix the following seasonings together: 1 ½ tsp paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp chili powder.
Let’s Make It
Now that we’ve gone through the details and how to successfully make this dish, let’s get started!
How To Prepare
You’ll want to prepare by gathering all your ingredients and greasing the baking dish you intend to use.
How To Make Cajun Mac and Cheese From Scratch
To make Cajun mac and cheese from scratch is the best way to make it as far as we’re concerned. Following are the instructions to get it done. We estimate that the preparation work takes about 15 minutes, plus 30 minutes of bake time.
3 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
¼ cup fresh or dried basil + more for topping
2 2/3 cups evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp paprika
¼ – ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups Colby & Monterey Jack cheese, grated
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Cajun seasoning, for topping
For The Pasta:
1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Do not overcook. Follow the package instructions for estimated cook time.
3. Drain pasta well and move pasta to a large bowl. Mix with basil and any protein such as sausage, chicken, shrimp or crab, set aside.
For The Cheese Mixture:
4. Add evaporated milk and whole milk into a large bowl. Add paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper, whisk to combine. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Once satisfied with the flavor, add the eggs and beat well until the mixture is combined.
5. Set aside 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, ½ cup Monterey, and ½ cup parmesan. Add remaining cheese to the milk mixture and stir well.
Assembly of the Mac and Cheese:
6. Pour cheese and milk mixture into macaroni and mix well. Transfer to a greased baking pan. Top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with more basil, salt, pepper and paprika, as well as optional Cajun seasoning.
7. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the top is golden. Cover with foil at about the 35-40 minute mark to keep the top from becoming too crisp. Remove from the oven and let stand for 20 minutes to allow it to set before serving.
Kitchen Tips & Last Notes:
We highly recommend tasting the milk mixture and altering the spices to your liking. The recipe and amount of spices has be created to my family’s liking and you might prefer more punch to your dish.
For the evaporated milk, you can use anywhere from 2 to 2 2/3 cups. I used 2 2/3 cups because our family likes it really creamy.
We estimate that this recipe makes 8 servings. Therefore, we have calculated the nutrition facts based on 1/8 of the whole. This is intended to be an estimate and the nutritional values will vary depending on the ingredients used as well as the brand of each item.
Calories: 592, Total Fat 35.1g, cholesterol 156mg, sodium 825mg, carbohydrate 35g, dietary fiber 1.2g, sugars 11.4g, protein 34.5g, vitamin d 23mcg, calcium 906mg, iron 2mg.
Following are some different ideas of ways you might like to alter this recipe.
Cajun Chicken Mac and Cheese
Add some protein to your Cajun mac and cheese by adding chicken. You can use rotisserie chicken, baked chicken breast pieces or whatever cut of chicken you like. Use already cooked chicken and add it to the mix. Or place already cooked chicken pieces on top of your mac and cheese dish.
How To Serve Cajun Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
If you’re wondering how to serve Cajun chicken macaroni and cheese, another popular method is to cook them separately. The chicken can be baked or pan fried and then placed on top of your mac and cheese dish. Serve while hot.
Why You’ll Love This Chicken Mac and Cheese
You’re going to love this mac and cheese because it uses deliciously seasoned chicken, your favorite crunchy topping such as breadcrumbs or French Fried Onions. It’s an easy to make mac and cheese.
Cajun Shrimp and Crab Mac and Cheese
If you like shrimp and crab, you’ll likely appreciate it with your Cajun mac and cheese. Add a bit of Cajun seasoning to it and mix it in with your mac and cheese to bake.
What is Cajun Shrimp?
Cajun shrimp is shrimp that is coated in a blend of Cajun inspired seasonings. Some stores sell it already prepared this way, while on other occasions you can add your own seasonings at home.
Leftover Shrimp Tails? Here’s An Idea!
If you happen to buy the kind of shrimp that has tails, obviously you’ll want to remove them before adding them to your mac and cheese. But, why not save them and boil them up to make soup stock.
Adding The Spices, Peppers and Greek Yogurt
Some folks like to add bell peppers, jalapeños, or other kinds of peppers to help give the dish an additional kick and burst of color. Greek Yogurt can be served on the side or added to the dish as a cooling agent for the heat.
How To Make Cajun Shrimp And Crab Mac and Cheese
To make Cajun shrimp and crab mac and cheese, just add your crab meat and shrimp to the mixture before adding it to the oven. You can also reserve some to be placed on top for added visual appeal.
Fresh Crab Vs Imitation Crab
For this recipe it doesn’t matter whether you use fresh crab or imitation crab. The flavor will be very similar. The difference between the two is that imitation crab is not actually crab at all. It is made with a fish paste or other fishy ingredients that are made to taste like the real thing. Sometimes imitation crab is preferred because it doesn’t require removal from the shell and it is more economically priced.
Andouille Mac & Cheese
To make andouille mac and cheese, you can simply slice up some andouille sausage and add it to the mixture. It adds protein and is in keeping with the Cajun flavorings.
White Cheddar Cajun Chicken and Andouille Sausage Macaroni and Cheese
Use white cheddar cheese and add chicken and andouille sausage to macaroni and cheese to make a flavorful alteration of our Cajun mac and cheese.
One-Pot Cajun Chicken and Sausage Mac and Cheese
Use just one pot by boiling your macaroni in an oven save pan and adding the chicken and sausage ingredients to it to bake. We like to use our cast iron pan for any one pot meals that require to be baked.
Low Fat Cajun Mac and Cheese
To make a lower fat version, simply substitute out the whole milk and evaporated milk for a lower fat version. And you can use a low fat or fat free cheese replacement as well. Cheese and milk are the two ingredients that consist of the fat in this recipe.
Cajun Mac and Cheese Pie
When baking your Cajun mac and cheese, you can turn it into a pie by placing the noodles and cheese mixture into a prepared bottom pie crust and baking it that way.
Making A Simple Roux For The Cheese Sauce
Maybe you don’t prefer to use straight up cheese, milk and eggs like we do for this recipe. If that’s the case, maybe you like to make a simple roux for the cheese sauce.