Rich and creamy Seafood Mac and Cheese is loaded with shrimp and crab and bathed in a smooth 3 cheese sauce with a little Creole kick! Topped with a crisp panko crust, you’re going to love serving this amped up macaroni and cheese as an indulgent holiday side dish or as comfort one dish meal any time!
It’s hard to resist a big pan of golden, melted, cheesy macaroni and cheese! And all that cheese and pasta… well, they’re perfect partners in crime for a little spicy cajun shrimp and tender, fresh crab.
Baked to a bubbly perfection, Seafood Mac and Cheese is a decadent must-have side dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners! But it’s also a wonderful surprise at potlucks and can even stand on its own as a complete meal.
More Macaroni and Cheese Recipes:
What to Eat With Seafood Mac and Cheese
I’ll walk through an overview of ingredients & steps in this section along with helpful tips!
Look for specifics at the end of the post in the recipe card.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- spiral pasta (like cavatappi, fusilli or just elbow macaroni)
- lump crab meat
- large shrimp (peeled [shell-off] , tail off, deveined)
- sharp cheddar cheese
- Gruyere cheese
- cream cheese
- green onions
- minced garlic
- all purpose Creole seasoning
- whole milk
- panko breadcrumbs
How to Make Creamy Seafood Macaroni and Cheese
Make Pasta. Boil pasta in a large pot of well-salted water just until al dente. Drain, rinse and return to pot.
Sautee the Seafood. In a large skillet sautee onions and garlic in butter. Add crab, shrimp and Creole seasoning and sautee just until shrimp are pink. Add to the pasta in the pot, toss and set aside.
Make the Sauce. In the same skillet, melt butter. Whisk in flour, whisking for a minute or two until smooth. Stir in milk and creole seasoning, whisking until smooth. Whisk in grated cheddar, Gruyere and cream cheeses.
Combine. Pour sauce over seafood and pasta and toss until coated. Add another cup of milk to make sure your sauce is good and creamy and toss again.
Assemble. Spoon ½ of the pasta in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Top with grated cheese. Layer on the rest of the pasta. Top with more cheese. Cover evenly with panko topping. Drizzle with melted butter.
Bake. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until topping is golden brown and the edges are bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
How to Avoid Dry Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Baked macaroni and cheese is always a little stiffer than a stove top recipe. But that doesn’t mean you want it to be dry! Here are a few pro tips to keep your mac and cheese rich and creamy.
- Make it more saucy (but not soupy) than you think it should be. The macaroni will absorb some of the sauce and its starch will continue to thicken the sauce as the mac and cheese bakes.
- Good macaroni and cheese starts with al dente pasta. Al dente literally means “to the tooth.” Al dente macaroni is firm when bitten, not soft or limp. Overcooked noodles make a mushy mac and cheese, but undercooked will soak up all the sauce and make it dry every time.
- I love cooking with real cream, but it’s not the best choice for a baked mac and cheese. Heavy cream doesn’t have enough water to keep everything saucy while baking. Whole milk or evaporated milk is the best. Half and half can be used, but sparingly.
- Keep your roux loose. When whisking the flour and butter together, don’t let the mixture cook down and thicken. Whisk it just long enough for the flour to dissolve and get smooth, about 1 minute or less.
What is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese
Block cheese that you grate yourself is always best when making a cheese sauce. Packaged grated cheese is usually coated with a potato starch to keep it from clumping together in the bag. As a result, it doesn’t melt as smoothly and is not as creamy as cheese you grate yourself!
Additionally, sharp cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, Mozzarella and Swiss Cheeses melt easily and are perfect for mac and cheese. Hard cheeses like Parmesan cheese or Ramano can be used for flavor, but only in small amounts. Fontina and cream cheese are ideal for adding that extra bit of creaminess to your sauce.
What Kind of Shrimp & Crab Should I Use
Lump or jumbo lump crabmeat works best. Lump crab is usually less expensive and what I normally use for my seafood mac and cheese. I don’t recommend using imitation crab meat. (You could even use lobster!)
If you don’t have a fresh seafood market near you, frozen shrimp works just fine for this recipe. Make sure to purchase large shrimp that have been peeled, deveined and tails removed.
Make Ahead & Freeze
Because of the dairy in this dish, it doesn’t freeze well. The dairy will separate when frozen, thawed and reheated.
Moreover, seafood macaroni and cheese is best when made and eaten the same day. But if you need to get a head start on this dish, you can!
Make the pasta and sautee the seafood. Toss together, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator when you are ready to cook the dish. Finish by making the sauce, assembling the mac and cheese and baking per recipe instructions.
More Side Dish Casseroles To Love
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping
- Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole (no soup)
- Easy Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole (no soup)
- Creamy Green Bean Casserole (no soup)
- Southern Cornbread Pudding
- Southern Chicken & Dressing
More Pasta Recipes To Make
- Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Easy White Ravioli Casserole (shortcut lasagna)
- Ultimate Baked Spaghetti Casserole
- Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
- Easy Creamy Fettucini Alfredo
If You Love Mac & Cheese & Have Made This Recipe, Give It All The Stars & Leave A Fun Comment! Or Tag Me @SouthernDiscourse On Social Media To Be Featured. I Love Hearing From You!
Creamy Seafood Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta (any spiral or elbow pasta)
- 1 stick butter, divided into 2 Tbsp, 4 Tbsp, 2 Tbsp
- 3-4 green onions, sliced
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 pound large peeled, tail off, deveined shrimp, chopped into bite sized pieces
- ½ cup lump crab
- 2 teaspoons all purpose Creole seasonings, divided into 1 teaspoon & 1 tsp
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 4 cups milk, divided into 3 cups & 1 cup
- 2 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar, divided in half
- 2 ½ cups grated guyere, divided in half
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
- ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Spray the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with non stick cooking spray.
- In a large pot of well-salted, boiling water, cook pasta to al dente according package directions. Drain & rinse pasta. Return pasta to pot and set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, sautee onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add crab, shrimp and 1 teaspoon of Creole seasoning and cook just until shrimp is pink. Remove from heat. Add seafood mixture to pasta and toss.
- Return skillet to stove top. Over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in flour, whisking & cooking for one minute until smooth. Whisk in 3 cups of milk a little at a time, making sure roux is smooth before adding more. Whisk in last teaspoon of Creole seasoning.
- Add half of the cheddar cheese. Whisk until melted. Add half of the Gruyere, whisking until melted. Remove from heat, add cream cheese, whisking until mostly melted. Taste sauce. Adjust seasonings as needed with salt, black pepper or cayenne as this will be the flavor of your mac and cheese.
- Pour sauce over pasta and seafood, using a rubber spatula to get all of the sauce from the skillet. Toss to completely coat pasta and seafood. Add last cup of milk and toss again.
- Spoon ½ of the pasta mixture in bottom of the 9×13 dish. Top with ½ of remaining cheddar and Gruyere. Layer rest of pasta on top of cheeses. Top with rest of cheeses. Cover evenly with panko bread crumbs. Melt last 2 tablespoons of butter. Drizzle over the top of the macaroni and cheese casserole.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the panko topping is golden brown and edges are bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley for color, if you like.