This Cajun Shrimp and Crab Mac and Cheese is super creamy, cheesy and decadent. This delicious spin to the classic dish will surely be your new favourite!
I made this mac and cheese for Christmas dinner last year, and it was a HIT! The fact that my entire family enjoyed it was such a big deal, because black folks don’t play when it comes to mac and cheese. Let’s be real.
Since it’s gotten so many positive reviews, this has now become my go-to macaroni recipe!
Regular baked mac and cheese is already great (if it’s done right), but the addition of fresh crab and spicy Cajun shrimp makes it so much more special.
You get a bite of shrimp, crab and macaroni covered with a blend of gooey, stringy cheeses and a burst of blended flavours in every bite!
Alright, so before I break down the layers of perfection in this dish, I wanna talk about the measurements of spices. Now in my family, when we cook, we don’t measure a damn thing. We usually just eyeball it and add as much or little as we want and hope it tastes great (which it always does!). Obviously, since I was planning on sharing the recipe on here, I measured everything – to MY liking.
You’ll see in the recipe below, for the spices I added the minimum amount you can add, and the maximum which is the amount I used. My family’s a huge fan of spicy, so I added quite a bit of Cayenne and Paprika. This may not be the same for you or your family, which means you should add less or more if you like.
So now that I’ve gotten that seasoning lesson out of the way, let’s talk about the mac and cheese itself.
P.S: unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take step by step photos because daylight savings is a pain in my–anyways back to the recipe.
You can use any pasta you like, whether it’s penne, Farfalle (the bow shaped one), or Cavatappi (elbow macaroni with a twist ?). I just went with regular elbow macaroni, because……well it’s MAC and cheese, not Farfalle and cheese. Although, as I mentioned, use whatever your pasta loving heart desires.
While the macaroni was boiling, I made the Cajun shrimp. I used a whole 2 pounds of shrimp for this recipe, because I wanted – no I NEEDED to have shrimp all throughout the entire pasta. I don’t know about you, but I HATE having shrimp dishes where there’s only like…..3 pieces of shrimp and the rest is just plain old pasta.
I added 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning to the shrimp, but you can add more or less depending on your taste.
Once the macaroni is cooked, add the shrimp, crab and basil. For the crab, I used 1 (454g) package of crab legs and chopped it up into chunks, which ended up making 2 and 1/2 cups. Just like the shrimp, I also want the crab all throughout this mac and cheese.
For the milk mixture, I used a blend of whole milk and evaporated milk. For the evaporated milk, you can use anywhere from 2 to 2/3 cups of milk depending on how creamy you want the mac and cheese. I used 2 and 2/3 cups of milk because I wanted the mac and cheese to be super creamy!
To the milk mixture, I added paprika and cayenne to spice it up. My best advice is to add the least amount of seasoning, taste a bit of the milk, then add more if you want more spice. Do this BEFORE you add the eggs.
Ok we’ve talked about the mac, now let’s talk about the cheese. I used 4 different types of cheeses: sharp cheddar cheese, mild cheddar, colby & monterey jack blend, and Parmesan.
A lot of people like to make a cheese sauce, then add it to the macaroni. We don’t do that over here. I added the cheese (aside from the parmesan) to the milk, then added everything to the macaroni. I find this method easier and better than making a cheese sauce.
We bake the macaroni in a 9×13-inch baking dish. The macaroni piles pretty high and it may seem like it won’t fit, but trust me, it does.
I’ve never heard of topping mac and cheese with breadcrumbs. I guess it’s a thing, but not in my family, so I sprinkled more cheese on top, along with more basil, paprika, salt and pepper. Completely optional, but it adds more flavour.
Place it on a baking sheet to catch any spills, then bake it for 45-55 minutes. The top will get golden quickly, but it’ll need to cook for a while longer so the milk can evaporate. Once it’s done baking, let it sit for at least 20-30 minutes. If you don’t, it’ll be a soupy mess and you’ll think you failed. When everything is nice and set, you can dig in and enjoy!
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Let’s get cooking!
- 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (if frozen, thawed)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 Tbsp cajun seasoning
- Pinch of Salt
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
- 2 and ½ cups crab meat, diced
- ¼ cup fresh or dried basil + more for topping
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 - 2 and ⅔ cups evaporated milk
- ½ - 1 tsp Paprika, or to taste (see notes)
- ¼ - ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper, or to taste (see notes)
- ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 cups mild cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 cups colby & monterey jack cheese, grated
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- Read the notes before beginning the recipe.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl, add shrimp, olive oil, cajun seasoning, and a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to combine and coat the shrimp.
- Once skillet is hot, add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly until shrimp is pink, 4-6 minutes. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350F (177C). Lightly butter a 9x13-inch baking dish and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni and cook until al dente (look at package directions to see how long it takes). Do not overcook.
- Drain well and transfer cooked pasta to a large bowl. Mix in Cajun shrimp, crab chunks and basil. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add milk and evaporated milk and whisk to combine. Add paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Taste the milk and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Once you're satisfied with the taste, add the eggs and beat until mixture is combined.
- Set aside 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, ½ cup of colby & monterey, and ½ cup of Parmesan. Add the remaining cheese to the milk mixture and stir to combine.
- Pour cheese mixture into macaroni and stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with reserved cheeses. Sprinkle more basil, paprika, salt and pepper on top (optional).
- Bake for 45-55 minutes or until top is golden. Cover the top with foil around the 35-40 minute mark, making sure it doesn't touch the cheese. Remove from oven and let it sit for about 25-30 minutes to set before serving.
-I used pre-packaged crab legs for the recipe and cut them into chunks. Feel free to use fresh crab or lobster if you prefer.
-For the evaporated milk, you can use anywhere from 2 to 2 and ⅔ cups, depending on how creamy you want the mac and cheese. I used 2 and ⅔ cups of milk because I wanted the mac and cheese to be super creamy!
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Love, Dedra ❤Yum