Crab macaroni and cheese is a decadent and delicious main course you’ll crave all the time.
It’s casual and comforting making it perfect for any old weeknight. But, with the addition of crab meat, it’s fancy enough to serve for a special occasion.
The Best Crab Mac & Cheese
The rich cheesy sauce is made with two kinds of cheese and will satisfy all the cheese lovers. It’s made even better with the savory flavors of garlic, mustard and Old Bay (of course!).
Studded with sweet lump crab meat and topped with a buttery Ritz cracker crust, this ultimate comfort food is sure to be a hit with your family and friends.
Exact measurements and preparations are in the recipe card below.
- Elbow macaroni
- Unsalted butter
- All-purpose flour
- Old Bay Seasoning
- Garlic powder
- Ground mustard
- Black pepper
- Yellow onion
- Fresh lump crab meat
- Gruyère cheese – One of my favorite cheeses! I’ve actually been to Gruyeres, Switzerland and eaten this cheese as fresh as you can get it, melted over top of potatoes and onions! Mmm! Here’s more info about Gruyere cheese.
- Yellow cheddar cheese
- Ritz crackers
- Romano cheese
- Spring onions (green onions)
- Fresh Italian parsley
The pasta and the homemade cheese sauce can be made in the same pot to minimize mess!
Step 1: Preheat Oven and Prepare Casserole
First, preheat your oven to 350°F and spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. (You can use an equally large casserole dish of any shape.)
Step 2: Boil The Pasta
Then, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, per the package instructions.
Drain the pasta and leave in the strainer until later. Return the pasta pot to the stove.
Step 3: Create a Roux to Thicken the Sauce
Melt butter in the pot over medium heat.
Then, add the flour, Old Bay, minced garlic, ground mustard, black pepper, and diced onion to the melted butter. Stir constantly as the flour cooks and the onions soften; about 3 minutes.
Step 4: Make the Creamy Sauce
Slowly whisk in the milk. Stir constantly so it does not clump. Bring the milk to a bubble, then turn the heat down to low.
Gently simmer the sauce for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir it occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Step 5: Add the Cheeses
Now, turn off the burner. Add both cheeses to the sauce and stir until completely melted and you have a smooth cheese sauce.
Step 6: Add the Pasta and Crab
Add the cooked pasta and crab meat to the creamy cheese sauce and fold to combine and evenly distribute the crab.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Step 7: Make the Crumb Topping
Melt two tablespoons of butter. Add the crushed crackers, Romano, Old Bay, salt & pepper. Mix well.
Sprinkle the butter cracker crumbs all over the top of the mac & cheese.
Step 8: Bake and Garnish
Bake the crab macaroni and cheese for 25 to 30 minutes until it is bubbly and the topping turns a golden brown.
Garnish with chopped green onions and fresh parsley before serving!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Crab macaroni and cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To reheat crab macaroni and cheese, place it in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until heated through. You can also reheat it in the microwave in short bursts, stirring in between, until heated through.
How to Make Ritz Cracker Crumbs
To crush up Ritz crackers, place them in a zip-top bag and seal tightly. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers until they are in fine crumbs.
Or, break crackers into a food processor and pulse a few times to make small crumbs.
Substitutions & Variations
Here are some variations and substitutions that can be made with the crab macaroni and cheese recipe to please anyone at your table:
- Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, hot sauce or red pepper flakes to the cheese sauce for a bit of heat.
- Instead of Gruyère and cheddar cheese, you can use different types of cheese, such as Swiss, Gouda or Monterey Jack cheese. You can also add a bit of Romano or Parmesan cheese for extra flavor. For the best meltability, it’s always best to shred it from a block. Pre-shredded cheese contains anti-caking agents that can mess with that.
- Instead of Ritz crackers, use Panko bread crumbs in your topping.
- In addition to onions, you can also add other vegetables to the crab macaroni and cheese, such as broccoli, carrots, or red peppers. Sauté the vegetables in butter or oil before adding them to the cheese sauce.
- Lump crab meat can be pricey, though not as costly as jumbo lump crab meat. While the flavor of these varieties is amazing, you can enjoy this recipe with lesser expensive claw or special crab meat or even imitation crab.
- Instead of crab meat, you can also use other types of seafood, such as shrimp, lobster, or scallops. Be sure the seafood is thoroughly cooked before adding it to the cheese sauce.
- To make a gluten-free version of crab macaroni and cheese, use gluten-free pasta. You can also use a gluten-free bread crumb topping.
- Sprinkle the crab macaroni and cheese with chopped bacon or pancetta (to put it over the top!).
What to Serve With Crab Mac & Cheese
Crab macaroni and cheese is a rich and decadent main dish, so consider serving it with a lighter side dish. Here are a couple ideas:
- A simple green salad with a vinaigrette dressing is a perfect pairing for crab macaroni and cheese. The acidity of the dressing will help to cut through the richness of the dish.
- Green vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, or Brussels sprouts, are another healthy and delicious side dish for crab macaroni and cheese. Roast, steam, stir-fry or grill them.
Can You Freeze Crab Macaroni & Cheese?
With a little planning, you can easily freeze crab macaroni and cheese for a quick and delicious meal later on.
To freeze it before baking: assemble in the baking dish without the crumb topping. Cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Make and top with the crumb topping then bake it per the recipe instructions, adding a few minutes since you’ll be baking from cold.
To freeze after baking: let the crab macaroni and cheese cool completely. Then, divide it into individual portions and place each portion in a freezer-safe container. Cover tightly and freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Bake it at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, or until heated through. You can also reheat it in the microwave in short bursts, stirring in between, until heated through.
Crab Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese
- 16 oz Elbow Macaroni
- 7 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 6 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
- 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 clove Garlic, Minced
- ½ tsp Ground Mustard
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper
- 1 Small Onion, Diced
- 3 cups Milk
- 1 lb Lump Crab Meat , I like Handy Seafood brand
- 3 cups Gruyere Cheese, Shredded
- 3 cups Yellow Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
- 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 1 cup Ritz Crackers, Crushed, approx 20, Or use Panko Breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp Grated Romano Cheese
- ¼ tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- Salt, to taste
- Ground Black Pepper, to taste
- 3 Spring Onions, chopped , Optional
- 1 tbsp Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cook pasta in salted water per instructions until al dente. Drain & set aside.
- In the pasta pot, melt 7 T butter over medium heat. Add flour, Old Bay, garlic, ground mustard, black pepper, & diced onion to the melted butter. Stir constantly until the flour is absorbed & the onions are translucent – about 3 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in the milk. Whisk constantly to prevent clumping. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and immediately lower the heat to low. Gently simmer for 3 to 5 minutes; stirring to prevent sticking.
- Turn off heat. Add cheeses to the sauce. Stir until melted.
- Add cooked pasta and crab meat to the sauce and mix until fully coated and the crab meat is evenly distributed.
- Pour crab/pasta mixture into baking dish.
- Melt 2 T butter in a small saucepan. Add crushed crackers, Romano cheese, Old Bay and salt & pepper. Mix well.
- Place topping evenly across top of casserole.
- Bake in preheated oven until sauce is bubbly and the top is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
- Garnish with spring onions & chopped parsley immediately before serving.
Lastly, stick around and check out these other crab recipes: