Crab Mac and Cheese

The little blue box has nothing on this homemade version. Add some meaty crab for a creamy, dreamy Crab Mac and Cheese casserole that is as delicious as it is elegant.

crab mac and cheese in a white baking dish with a woodedn spoon

Crab Mac and Cheese is a creamy, dreamy casserole that can be served as a beautiful side dish or even as an entree. With crab meat, a homemade cheese sauce and finished off with toasted breadcrumbs, this rich and flavorful dish is best served with something light and fresh, like a garden salad, or some roasted asparagus.

Add some variety and make it seafood mac and cheese with some chopped up shrimp, tuna, or salmon.

Table of Contents
  1. How to Make Crab Mac and Cheese
  2. Best Kind of Crab to Use
  3. Frequently Asked Questions
  4. More Crab Recipes You’ll Love
  5. Crab Mac and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients

  • Macaroni – cooked to al dente and drained. If you don’t have macaroni, another small pasta like rotini or penne will work.
  • Canned crab meat – found in the canned meat aisle near the tuna. I am sometimes able to find jarred crab meat at Costco which tends to taste better but is more expensive than the grocery store variety.
  • Cheese sauce – butter, whole milk, heavy cream, salt, pepper, dry mustard, Old Bay Seasoning, and Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.
  • Topping – Panko breadcrumbs and butter.

How to Make Crab Mac and Cheese

Prep. Preheat the oven and prep a large casserole dish. Toast breadcrumbs in a skillet with melted butter and set aside.

breadcrumbs and seasonings toasted in a skillet

Make the cheese sauce. In a small saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour. Add milk and cream and simmer until thick. Stir in spices and cheese until melted.

cheese sauce in a pan with a whisk

Assembly. In the baking dish, combine cooked pasta, cheese sauce, and crab. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture and bake until golden and bubbly. Garnish with fresh minced parsley before serving.

mac and cheese casserole with crab and breadcrumbs

Best Kind of Crab to Use

There are three options for crab meat that I would recommend. It comes down to budget and taste.

The most budget-friendly option is imitation crab. It’s not the most flavorful, but it’s perfectly fine to use in your mac and cheese.

Fresh lump crab meat is the most expensive option but offers the genuine crab flavor with beautiful red and white color. This is sometimes sold at the butcher counter, or canned in jars – I have been able to find these for a relatively good price at Costco.

Claw meat, which you can find in canned varieties is somewhere in the middle – it’s budget-friendly but the color isn’t as vibrant as you might like. As a compromise, you could buy a small amount of the lump crab meat and just place it on top of the casserole for a beautiful presentation.

Expert Tips

  • For the panko breadcrumb topping, it’s absolutely worth the extra few minutes to toast them in a skillet.
  • Nothing beats fresh crab meat, but I went ahead and used canned crab for the recipe, since it’s more economical and widely available. If you can get fresh, get fresh.
  • If using canned meat, make sure to drain it really well.
  • To store leftovers, transfer cooled casserole to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
  • Reheat in the microwave, adding a splash of milk or cream if it seems dry. Or, reheat in a small casserole dish in the oven for a crispy topping.
mac and cheese in a white bowl, casserole dish

Frequently Asked Questions

What goes well with crab mac and cheese?

This seafood mac and cheese is incredibly rich and flavorful, so when choosing complimenting side dishes, you want to keep it light and fresh. A green salad and steamed or roasted veggies are the best options.

What’s the best cheese to use for macaroni and cheese?

I love sharp cheddar cheese, but parmesan, gruyere, monterey jack and sharp white cheddar cheese all taste great in this mac and cheese. Besides the crab, the cheese is basically the star so you want to buy high quality cheese and grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheese is coated with an anti-caking agent that keeps the shreds from sticking together but also keeps it from melting nicely.

mac and cheese with crab in a bowl with forks

More Crab Recipes You’ll Love

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Crab Mac and Cheese

Crab Mac and Cheese is a creamy, dreamy casserole with crab meat, a homemade cheese sauce and finished off with toasted breadcrumbs.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 677kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni cooked and drained
  • 6 tablespoons butter divided
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese fresh or canned
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 ounces canned crab meat 6-8 ounce package or fresh

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a 9×13 baking pan with a light coating of nonstick spray. Set aside.
  • In a small frying pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat. Add the panko or breadcrumbs and stir for about 3 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the 3 tablespoons of flour and whisk constantly for 3 minutes.
  • Slowly add the milk and cream, ½ cup at a time whisking constantly until smooth and bubbly. Simmer for a few minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Add the spices and cheese, stirring until melted and smooth.
  • In the prepared baking dish, combine the pasta and cheese sauce and stir until evenly coated. Gently fold in the crab mixture and top with the prepared breadcrumbs.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until the dish is hot, bubbly and golden brown.

Notes

  • To store leftovers, transfer cooled casserole to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
  • Reheat in the microwave, adding a splash of milk or cream if it seems dry. Or, reheat in a small casserole dish in the oven for a crispy topping.

Nutrition

Calories: 677kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 31gFat: 38gSaturated Fat: 23gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 986mgPotassium: 357mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1205IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 605mgIron: 2mg
Keyword crab mac and cheese

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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