Crab Mac and Cheese is creamy and cheesy comfort food with an Old Bay seasoned cheese sauce. This casserole dish is meant for special occasions and will take your ordinary macaroni and cheese recipe to a whole new level!
This fancy mac and cheese dish is great for holidays, birthdays, any time you have a special occasion to celebrate. It can be served as a side dish or main course and goes great with a glass of unoaked chardonnay!
Why add crab meat to your macaroni and cheese
My response to that would be "why not?" Unless you just don't like seafood to begin with. The creamy cheese sauce flavored with old bay is a perfect complement to the crabmeat. The combination of the toothsome pasta, crab meat, and sauce is pretty darned tasty.
I mentioned earlier that I had never considered eating seafood in pasta dishes like this. However, after we tried the Seafood Lasagna, I knew that Crab Mac and Cheese was going to be in our future!
How do you eat this if you're following a low carb diet?
Regular readers of this blog know that we basically follow low carb, keto, and sometimes paleo guidelines. However, I also feed my family who is not keto. So, I make many recipes that will be something they enjoy, but I can also make to fit our diet lifestyle.
Many times, in recipes like this, I will steam bite-sized pieces of cauliflower and stir it into the mixture. Shirataki penne works great in this recipe also.
I make the sauce keto-friendly. Then I just reserve a cup of sauce from the main recipe and mix it with the pasta substitute of choice. Enough for two servings. There are instructions below on how to make the sauce low carb keto.
What you need to make this Crab Mac and Cheese
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Crab Meat: I buy crab legs at the grocer. I never use imitation crabmeat. It contains ingredients that are not keto-friendly and no actual crab.
Imitation crab meat is made of fish, potato starch, corn starch, sugar, and sorbitol. Personally, nothing beats the real thing. But, if it doesn't bother you it's fine to use as long are your not keto.
Old Bay Seasoning: Old Bay is a perfect seasoning for seafood. The slight spice in the Old Bay compliments the sweetness of the crab in this mac and cheese deliciously.
Cheese: I used a pre-shredded Queso cheese. Hubby likes his mac and cheese recipe creamy and smooth. Normally when I make regular homemade mac and cheese I will use cheddar. That would work here also.
Tips for making this recipe
- Cook the pasta until it's still slightly firm. Cooking it completely can turn it mushy when it's baked. It will finish cooking in the sauce when the dish is put in the oven.
- If you can shred your own cheese then I highly recommend it. Fewer carbs (if that matters to you) and more cost-efficient.
- Be sure to cook the flour and butter mixture for at least 2 minutes while whisking. This will be sure the flour itself is cooked and gives it a more rich flavor.
- Pour the milk slowly into the flour mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumpy sauce.
- Cook the pasta first, set it aside to cool. Use the same pot you cooked the pasta in to make the cheese sauce. Less mess to clean up afterward.
Make this recipe the low carb Keto and/or Paleo way
- Steam 4 cups of bite-sized cauliflower until crisp-tender. Allow it to chill completely. Stir the cauliflower in place of the pasta in step 8. Or substitute Shiratki as indicated below.
- Substitute 1 (14.11) ounce package Shirataki Penne for the pasta. Prepare the Shirataki according to package, then stir into the sauce in place of the Cavatapi in step 8.
- Substitute 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder for the flour. Skip step 5 and add all but ½ cup of milk to the onion and garlic mixture. Bring to a boil then whisk the arrowroot powder, old bay seasoning, salt, and pepper, into the reserved milk. Whisk into hot milk mixture and proceed with step 7.
- Substitute ½ cup of crushed pork rinds and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning for the butter crackers. Sprinkle over top of the casserole before baking.
Is Arrowroot Powder Keto Friendly?
This can be a debate. However, yes, you can use arrowroot powder on low carb, keto, and Paleo diets. It is an approved thickener for Paleo. This article "Is Ärrowroot Keto Friendly" does a great job of explaining why it is ok to use on keto.
Arrowroot is a tuber vegetable that is dried and ground into a fine powder. You don't need much of it to thicken your sauce. If you go overboard, the sauce may even have a slimy texture. Something you definitely do not want in your food.
While Arrowroot is high in carbs, you only use 1 tablespoon to make this recipe. That is 8 grams of carbs total. The recipe makes 8 servings. So, that is only 1 carb per serving for the Arrowroot.
Ways to jazz up your Crab Mac and Cheese Recipe
Since this is a special occasion recipe to start, why not make your Crab Mac and Cheese even more special? Below are a few suggestions to add even more pizzazz to your macaroni and cheese!
- Stir ½ cup cooked crisp bacon into the mac and cheese mixture. Or, top it with the bacon.
- Top the macaroni and cheese with extra crab meat. Sprinkle ½ cup lump crab over the casserole and then sprinkle with crackers.
- Use different cheeses in place of the shredded queso cheese. Gouda, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and Swiss Cheese are great ones to try.
- Try mixing cheese up. use half queso and the other half use a Brie, Havarti, or Munster cheese.
- Use 2 tablespoons of diced shallots in place of the onion and omit the garlic.
- Omit the Old Bay Seasoning and add ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg.
- Use seasoned bread crumbs, panko, or crushed saltine crackers in place of the buttery crackers.
What to serve with this recipe
Crab Mac and Cheese makes a delicious main course on it's own. However, it is also great as a side dish.
This Rhubarb Lemonade (sugar-free) makes a great pitcher beverage with this mac and cheese dish.
This Fireman's Field Day Chicken Barbecue makes a perfect protein to pair up with Crab Mac and Cheese.
*If you made this Crab Mac and Cheese Recipe, please give it a star rating*
Crab Mac and Cheese
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- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook the Cavatapi Pasta in a large pot until not quite al dente. Do this by cooking about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Place the same pot the pasta was cooked in on a burner over medium heat. Melt the butter and cook until melted and bubbly.
- Stir the onion and garlic into the butter and cook for 2 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
- Whisk in the flour, old bay seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Gradually add the milk to the flour mixture, whisking constantly, to prevent lumps. Cook for 3 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken.
- Add the shredded queso cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
- Stir in the cooked macaroni. Add the crab meat to the pasta mixture and stir to combine.
- Transfer the pasta mixture to a large casserole dish. Top with buttery crackers.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until mac and cheese is bubbly around the edges and hot in the center.
- Cool for 10 minutes before serving.