Mac n Cheese gets a major upgrade in this family-friendly dinner recipe, Shrimp Mac and Cheese! This recipe features succulent shrimp, perfectly cooked elbow macaroni noodles, the creamiest, dreamiest three cheese sauce you've ever laid tastebuds on, and finally, it's all finished off with a crunchy breadcrumb topping. So much flavor and a beautiful combination of textures as well!
Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese sounds like it would err on the side of gourmet, but rest assured -- this dish is easy to make! We've figured out a foolproof method for whipping up a cheese sauce that never gets grainy, is always creamy and smooth, and even maintains its delicious state when reheated.
We are big on the shrimp recipes in these parts! Especially when they are as easy as this one. You don't even have to pre-cook it and we will give you simple and clear instructions for peeling and deveining, so no worries there! For other fan-favorite shrimp recipes, try our Shrimp Quesadillas and Steamed Shrimp next!
HOW TO MAKE SHRIMP MAC AND CHEESE
The first thing you want to do is get to cooking your classic macaroni elbow noodles. Bring your pasta water to a roaring boil with kosher salt. Then you'll add your macaroni and cook according to package directions to Al Dente.
Make sure not to overcook your macaroni! If your macaroni is cooked past the point of al dente when goes into the oven, it will make for mushy Shrimp Mac and Cheese.
Transfer your cooked macaroni into a greased 9 x 13" casserole dish and set it aside while you make a cheese sauce.
This cheese sauce begins with a roux, but don't let scary cooking terminology scare you one bit. All you have to do is add butter to a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, and sprinkle in some all-purpose flour. Whisk those ingredients together for about one minute, and then you'll begin adding in the cream.
Add heavy whipping cream one splash at a time, whisking until smooth after each and every addition. This method for adding in the dairy will keep your sauce smooth and creamy; no lumps or bumps allowed in this Shrimp Mac and Cheese!
Once you have all of your heavy cream incorporated into the roux, you can begin adding in your half-and-half in a slow drizzle. Whisk all the while, until all of the half-and-half has been added.
Now allow the mixture to come to a simmer, and simmer for about five minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Time to add the cheese! For this Shrimp Mac and Cheese recipe, we will be using three different kinds of cheese. Cheddar, Havarti, and American cheese. The properties of American cheese are part of what makes this shrimp mac & cheese sauce so foolproof, helping to keep everything smooth, creamy, and homogenous.
As far as the cheddar goes, it is best if you use a mild cheddar over a sharp cheddar. Mild cheddar is softer and better suited for sauces. If you don't want to spend the extra bucks on Havarti, you can sub in extra cheddar in its place.
Remove your pan from the heat, add the shredded cheeses to the saucepan, and stir until smooth.
Lastly, add the hot sauce, salt, and dry mustard powder. Stir once more, and your cheese sauce is done!
If you'd like to add a little Cajun flair to your shrimp mac and cheese, you could also add 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the cheese sauce. Now let's get the Shrimp Mac and Cheese assembled!
Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni noodles in the baking dish, and add in the shrimp. For tips on peeling and deveining shrimp, check out our article, How To Peel Shrimp. For this dish, it is better if the shrimp tails are removed!
Sprinkle in the remaining shredded cheese, and stir until the shrimp and the noodles are evenly coated in the cheese sauce. Do not taste the sauce or any noodles at this point!
Set the casserole dish aside and make the Panko bread crumb topping! Add butter to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Heat in the microwave for about 20 seconds, or until melted.
Remove the plastic wrap, and add the Panko breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, and a pinch of salt. Mix the ingredients with a fork until combined and evenly sprinkle over the top of the pasta.
Pst! If you're a fellow shrimp lover, be sure to give our shrimp and grits a try next!
Transfer the casserole dish, uncovered, to a preheated 375° oven to bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shrimp is cooked through. Allow to cool slightly, serve and enjoy your Shrimp Mac and Cheese!
WHY SHRIMP SIZE MATTERS IN SHRIMP MAC AND CHEESE
It is very important to take note of the size of your shrimp since larger shrimp will need to cook longer before they reach a safe temperature. On the flip side, you also don't want to overcook smaller shrimp, if that's what you got!
It is definitely best to go by the "shrimp count" on the packaging more than whatever they are called (i.e. Jumbo Shrimp). The shrimp count indicates how many shrimp of this particular size it takes to make up one pound. So a 16/25 shrimp count means that there will be 16-25 shrimp in one pound.
For another stellar shrimp and pasta combo, give our Shrimp Chow Mein a try!
HOW TO KNOW WHEN SHRIMP IS DONE
Shrimp is done cooking when the center is completely opaque and no longer translucent at all.
It also helps to give it a little poke with your finger to check doneness. The shrimp should feel a little firm and bounce back slightly.
Speaking of shrimp, have you tried our BBQ shrimp yet? It's a must!
6 MORE SHRIMP RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
- Cajun Jambalaya Pasta
- Shrimp Spaghetti
- Shrimp Pesto Pasta
- Stuffed shrimp
- Blackened Shrimp
- Shrimp Sandwich
Shrimp Mac and Cheese is the perfect family-friendly meal and SO simple to make! It's warm, ultra creamy and full of flavor!
- 12 ounces elbow macaroni pasta
- 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, plus a pinch, separated
- 3 tablespoons + ⅓ cup unsalted butter, separated
- ⅓ cup melted, unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream warmed
- 3 cups half and half
- 1 ½ cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese, separated
- 1 ¼ cup freshly grated Havarti cheese, separated
- ¾ cup freshly grated American cheese
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce optional
- ¾ teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 2 pounds peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp (16-25 count)s, tails removed
- 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons fresh, minced parsley
Preheat the oven to 375°F and have ready a greased, 9x13" casserole dish.
In a large pot, bring pasta water to a boil and season heavily with salt. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain well and add to the casserole dish.
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle over the flour. Whisk for about 1 minute, taking care not to let the mixture brown.
Slowly, add the cream a splash at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Then, slowly whisk in the half-and-half. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened, stirring often.
Remove from the heat and ½ cup of Cheddar, ¾ cup Havarti, and all of the American cheese. Sir until smooth and completely melted. Add the hot sauce, salt, and mustard, and stir once more.
Add the cheese sauce and the raw shrimp to the casserole dish and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Stir until the shrimp and noodles are evenly coated in the cheese sauce and set aside. Do not taste test with raw shrimp in the dish.
Add the remaining ⅓ cup butter to a microwavable bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and heat for about 20 seconds or until melted.
Add the Panko, parsley, and a pinch of salt and mix with a fork until combined.
Sprinkle the topping evenly over the macaroni and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shrimp is fully cooked through. Allow to cool slightly, serve, and enjoy!