Crawfish mac and cheese is one of the most succulent comfort foods to ever exist. What’s not to love?
Elbow macaroni and cheese by itself is beloved by families all over America. In fact, did you know that this classic dish goes all the way back to Thomas Jefferson? At least, some version of it shows up in Jefferson family recipes. I guess our Founding Fathers needed their comfort foods, too.
Now enhance that gooey, melty, stretchy cheesy goodness with the most flavorful protein on earth: crawfish – aka crawdads or crayfish. Voila! Crawfish mac and cheese. I just don’t think the taste of food gets any better.
Of course, you could also make it lobster or shrimp mac and cheese. Feel free to substitute your favorite into this recipe, but quite frankly, I do adore the crawfish.
Crawfish has been a mainstay in my life for as long as I remember. My family would eat crawfish for graduation parties, dinner on the grounds (for you who aren’t from the South, that’s a social on the grounds of the church), and family reunions in early June.
Crawfish tastes similar to shrimp, crab, and lobster (all crustaceans) but a little sweeter. It works well with the spices used to cook those other shellfish, such as cayenne, garlic, oregano, and paprika. Crawfish is also great with sausage.
The Best Way to Use Leftover Crawfish
To me, crawfish mac and cheese is a strong contender for the best way to use leftover crawfish. In this recipe the macaroni mixed with three flavorful cheeses pair perfectly with the crawfish left over from a crawfish boil.
Click here for my Best Crawfish Boil recipe.
Aged cheddar cheese adds the nuttiness to the dish, while the Gruyere tastes somewhat like Parmesan but has more of a Swiss texture, lending itself well to melting. Parmesan, to me, is the boldest of these cheeses. It takes this dish to a new level.
With sautéed onions, garlic, and anchovies in the creamy butter, you just can’t go wrong.
If you like, add an anchovy for more fish flavor (it’s very subtle) and a little white wine. Now you have all the flavor necessary to make those leftover crawfish tails shine.
How do I make Crawfish Mac and Cheese?
You’ll need 2 pots for this recipe: one for boiling the pasta and one for making the sauce. The one for the cheese sauce will need to be ovenproof.
Once you have cooked, peeled, deveined, and chopped the crawfish, the rest is easy.
Sauté onions, garlic, cayenne, and (optionally) anchovies in butter. Add wine and allow it to cook off. Add flour, cook for a few minutes, and then add the warm milk. Stir until the mixture has a smooth consistency.
Fold in the sharp cheddar cheese, cooked pasta, and crawfish meat, and voila! Top with extra cheese and bake in a 400°F oven for about 35 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
What do I serve with Mac and Cheese?
If you are making crawfish mac and cheese as a main meal, then serve an Italian salad with crusty croutons, a garlicky crusty bread, and red wine or my favorite, sweet tea.
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Crawfish Mac and Cheese Recipe: Perfect for Leftover Crawfish
- 1 ½ pounds crawfish tail meat cooked, peeled, deveined, and chopped
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 onions chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 anchovy fillet
- 1 cup white wine
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 ½ cups milk warmed
- 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
- 4 cups dried macaroni
- 1 cup aged cheddar cheese grated
- 1 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1 cup Greyere cheese grated
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large Dutch oven or ovenproof deep casserole pan, melt the butter. Then sauté the onions on medium heat for about 4 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, cayenne and anchovies and cook another 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and allow to reduce by half.
- Reduce the heat, stir flour into the onion mixture, and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add warm milk and mustard to the mixture and stir until smooth. Allow the sauce to thicken on low heat, about 2-5 minutes. I like to keep this mixture a little loose. When it begins to barely coat a spoon, take it off the heat. If it gets too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water. This sauce needs to be loose when it goes into the oven because will thicken more in the oven.
- In a separate Dutch oven or stock pot, boil pasta according to package instructions or until al dente. Drain the pasta, leaving some of the pasta water if needed.
- In a medium bowl, mix the cheeses together. Add 2 cups of the mixed cheese to the sauce and mix well. Add the macaroni and chopped crawfish meat. Mix well and correct any seasonings.
- Add remaining cup of cheese to the top of the crawfish mac and cheese. Cook until golden and bubbly, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with crusty bread and an Italian salad.