Crawfish Mac and Cheese is a great way to enjoy crawfish. Sweet Daddy D’s Spicy Crawfish Mac and Cheese combines crawfish tails, a creamy, cheesy sauce, a shot of chili peppers and pasta. It’s covered in more cheese and baked to golden perfection. This is a favorite of crawfish lovers but also a perfect way to introduce people to the wonderfully unique flavors of the mudbug!
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Cajunize your Mac and Cheese
Who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese? Homemade versions rule; I bet your grandmother or your own mom makes your favorite version to which all others are compared. Macaroni and cheese can get pretty fancy with all sorts of things added, not to mention the countless options with different exotic cheeses. Why not Crawfish and some South Louisiana seasonings? Crawfish go really well with a cheesy sauce made with sharp cheddar and Jack cheeses. Add a little (or a lot) of chili pepper and you are talking South Lousiana! Sweet Daddy D’s Spicy Crawfish Mac and Cheese is a great opportunity to Cajunize this classic and make any Cajun or Creole cook proud.
Here’s What You Need
Crawfish Tails. Make sure to use Louisiana Crawfish Tails. There is no comparison to imported tails. Both leftover tails from a boil or frozen Louisiana tails are perfect.
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Here’s What You Do
First…you have a beer. Preparation is the key to no-angst cooking. Prepare yourself with a beer or wine, or whatever you choose. Start by reading the recipe all the way through so you understand what you need and what you will do with each ingredient and tool. This is an important part of the mise en place process that almost assures positive results
Mise en Place
Gather all the ingredients, prepare them and lay them out so all you have to do is assemble the recipe. Start by cooking the pasta according to the package directions and set it aside. Next, sprinkle the crawfish tails with Creole seasoning and set them aside. Grate the cheeses, measure the other ingredients and place them all in prep bowls so they are easily reached. Finally, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a casserole dish by spreading soft butter all over the inside.
Prepare the Cheese Sauce
What happens in this step? A rich and creamy cheese sauce is the key to making this a memorable dish. Besides binding everything together, the cheese brings a bit of bite and is the vehicle for distributing the seasonings and the level of spice you want. The cream sauce also helps distribute the crawfish tails throughout the casserole. We start with a cold Dutch oven then gradually increase the heat as the cream thickens and the cheese melts.
Add the heavy cream, melted butter and eggs to a Dutch oven off the heat and whisk everything together until all are combined thoroughly. If you add the eggs to hot or simmering cream, the eggs will likely scramble.
Once the cream, eggs and butter are combined, place the Dutch oven over medium heat. Slowly warm the cream mixture, stirring constantly until a slight simmer develops.
Add the Pepper Jack Cheese and about two cups of the Cheddar Cheese. Reserve the remaining cheddar cheese for the top. Slowly stir until all ingredients combine into a creamy, cheesy sauce.
To the cheese sauce, add the Creole seasoning, kosher salt, white peppers, dry mustard, chopped pimentos and chopped jalapenos (if using). Stir to thoroughly combine.
Add the Crawfish Tails and Pasta
What happens in this step? Now we are ready to add the crawfish tails and make this into macaroni and cheese. Make sure that all the ingredients end up completely mixed and the crawfish tails are distributed throughout the casserole.
Add the crawfish tails to the cheese sauce and stir until evenly distributed throughout. Simmer the cheese sauce on low heat for a minute or two. The crawfish tails will be already cooked, so they only need to be heated through.
Add about half of the cooked pasta and combine thoroughly. Mix in more pasta, a little at a time, until all of the pasta is heavily coated with cheese sauce.
Here’s a tip: Be careful not to add too much pasta or there won’t be enough cheese sauce to coat it all. That will make for a dry casserole and that creamy cheese sauce will not shine as it should. Start with about half of the pasta, mix it thoroughly, then add the remaining pasta a little at a time, mixing completely before you add more. When it has the creamy consistency you want, stop. That’s all there is to it.
Build the Casserole and Bake
What happens in this step? Now we move the mixture from the Dutch oven to the prepared casserole dish and finish it with more cheese and a hint of breadcrumbs so that it can be baked to golden perfection.
Turn the macaroni and cheese mixture into the prepared baking casserole dish, spread it evenly with a spatula. Top the casserole with the remaining Cheddar Cheese making sure to cover it completely in cheese. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs (if using) evenly on top. Place small pats of butter on top of that.
Place the casserole, uncovered, in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the cheese topping is starting to brown (See the Hints and Tips section below). When browned to your satisfaction, remove the casserole from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
Remove the casserole from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
Here’s a tip: The crawfish tails will already be cooked before you add them to the cheese sauce, so they will not require much more. If you are using frozen tails, these are usually parboiled and not heavily seasoned. They won’t need much more cooking, but a little longer than 20 minutes won’t hurt them. However, if you are using crawfish tails leftover from a boil, these will be more cooked and also carry the seasonings from your boil. The seasonings from a crawfish boil will add a fabulous dimension to the flavor and is one of my favorite uses for leftover tails. If the cheese topping is browned after 20 minutes, it’s ok to remove the casserole from the oven.
Hints and Tips
This is a perfect use for leftover crawfish boil tails. The flavor from the boiling spices adds a great dimension to the flavor profile and mixes well with the peppers in the cheese. Remember that those tails will be thoroughly cooked beforehand, so they won’t require much time in the oven.
Can't take the heat? No worries, you won't have to leave the kitchen. Just leave out the chopped jalapenos and substitute some Monterey Jack cheese for the pepper jack. Of course, if you are a chili head, use the jalapenos with the seeds and maybe add some cayenne pepper.
Sure, that's a convenient and quick way to add the cheese. Unless I am really crunched for time, I usually grate the cheese for my recipes because I think the pre-grated cheese has a tendency to be a little dryer than freshly grated cheese. But if you go with pre-grated cheese, it will still be delicious.
Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheese are uncommonly good together, in my opinion. For a nice cheese sauce with a kick, the chopped jalapenos are a great booster and match perfectly with the flavor profile. Feel free to experiment with other types of cheeses. Try some gruyere cheese, white cheddar or smoked gouda. These are just a few ideas, the options are almost endless. Try your favorite cheese, but make sure it's a melty cheese.
I love a creamy cheesy sauce, and this recipe always gives me that. But, if you like it ultra cheesy, just increase the amount of cheese, or conversely, use less cheese if that is your preference. If using less cheese, consider increasing the amount of cream in the sauce to keep everything smooth.
No, use your favorite. I recommend a hearty, thicker pasta noodle so that the sauce has a place to land. Use bowtie, rotini, long macaroni, or even fettucini.
Leftover macaroni and cheese can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days; reheat in single-serving sizes in the microwave. If the sauce separates while reheating, just give it a good stir to combine everything together again. If you want to reheat all the leftovers at once, cover the casserole dish in aluminum foil and place in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 20 to 30 minutes until the center is warmed to about 165 degrees.
Yes, this can be made in advance and frozen prior to or after baking. Make sure to give the casserole enough time to completely cool before preparing it for the freezer. The key to maintaining the quality of the dish while stored in the refrigerator or freezer is to store it in an airtight container. When ready to eat, defrost the casserole in the refrigerator overnight, then (if unbaked) place the casserole uncovered in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese topping is golden brown. To reheat a previously baked casserole, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator, then bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, covered in aluminum foil for 20 to 30 minutes, until the internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This time may vary depending on how cold the casserole is when placed in the oven.
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Yeah You Right!
Spicy Crawfish Mac and Cheese
Here's What You Need
- 1 pound Louisiana crawfish tails
- 14 ounces elbow macaroni
- 2 cups Heavy Cream
- 2 tablespoons butter melted
- 2 Eggs
- 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese divided
- 2 cups pepper jack cheese
- ¼ cup pimentos chopped
- 2 tablespoons jalapeno peppers chopped with seeds removed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning plus some for the crawfish
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter for the top
Here's What You Do
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions and set aside.
- Sprinkle the crawfish tails with Creole seasoning and set them aside.
- Prepare the jalapeno pepper by slicing in half lengthwise and removing the seeds and membrane. Finely chop.
- Grate the cheeses, measure the other ingredients and set them aside. Prepare a casserole dish by spreading softened butter on the inside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the cheese sauce
- Start with a cold Dutch oven. Add the heavy cream, melted butter and eggs to the Dutch oven off the heat. Whisk together until all are combined thoroughly.
- When the cream, eggs and butter are completely combined, move the Dutch oven over medium heat and slowly warm the cream mixture, stirring or whisking constantly until a slight simmer develops.
- Add the Pepper Jack Cheese and 2 cups of the Cheddar Cheese (reserve the remaining cheese for the top) and stir to combinethe cheese into the cream sauce.
- Continue to stir as the cheese melts.
- Add the Creole seasoning, kosher salt, white peppers, dry mustard, chopped pimentos and chopped jalapenos (if using). Mix together thoroughly.
Add the crawfish tails and pasta
- Add the crawfish tails and stir until evenly distributed throughout the cheese sauce.
- Simmer the cheese sauce on low heat for a minute or two.
- Add about half of the cooked pasta and combine thoroughly. Mix in more pasta, a little at a time, until all of the pasta is heavily coated with cheese sauce. Be careful not to add too much pasta or there won’t be enough cheese sauce to coat it all.
Build the casserole and bake
- Turn the macaroni and cheese mixture into a baking casserole dish that has been prepared by coating the insides with softened butter.
- Spread the remaining Cheddar Cheese evenly on top and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs (if using) evenly on top, then place small pats of butter on top of that.
- Place the casserole, uncovered, in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the cheese topping is starting to brown.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes, then serve.