Seafood Mac and Cheese Recipe
Seafood mac and cheese is a restaurant quality recipe filled with seafood, aged cheddar, mozzarella, cream, and delicious pasta!
Seafood Mac and Cheese Recipe
Step aside, Kraft — this is grown-up macaroni and cheese! Gooey, creamy, and extra indulgent, Seafood Mac and Cheese is a favorite for every potluck, holiday, and celebration.
I often customize this seafood mac and cheese recipe with whatever I have on hand. My family loves a combination of shrimp and scallops, but other shellfish pairs just as well with the cheesy sauce.
Who says you have to stop at crab or lobster mac and cheese? Enjoy even more creamy seafood dishes like pan seared scallops in white wine sauce or this healthy Tuscan shrimp alfredo. Better yet — both are gluten-free and ready in 20 minutes or less!
Why you will love this recipe
- A simple way to elevate the classic comfort food.
- Easy to make but impressive enough for guests.
- Choose your favorite seafood or use what you have on hand.
- Ready in under an hour.
How to make perfect Seafood Mac and Cheese
Multitask for best results. Get the pasta water boiling while you cook the shrimp and scallops and start the sauce. Aim to add the noodles to the water around the same time that the milk and cream are added to the roux.
Once you’ve melted in the last of the cheese, it will be time to drain the pasta. Then, combine and get it in the oven! The macaroni won’t have time to stick together, and you’ll avoid a skin on top of the cheese sauce if you have things working in tandem.
Whisk constantly. From the second you add the flour until the final handful of cheese, keep that sauce moving to ensure smooth and creamy results!
- Save the mozzarella for last. It’s too gooey for the cheese sauce, but it creates the perfect gratin topping once baked! Sprinkle it evenly over your seafood mac and cheese recipe, all the way to the corners.
Pro Tips and Variations
- Reduce pasta cooking time. Your noodles will continue to soften in the oven, so even al dente is too far to start. Take the time listed on the box and reduce it by ¼. For example, if it lists 8 minutes, you’ll only boil for 6 minutes. Then, drain and rinse with cold water.
- Don’t rush the process. Spend time whisking the roux until golden, then fully incorporating the spices and creamy liquids. Once your cream sauce base is ready, stir the cheese in a handful at a time until completely melted before adding more. It will thicken into a luscious sauce right before your eyes!
- Add a crispy topping. Combine plain or panko breadcrumbs with melted butter and sprinkle them over the top of seafood mac and cheese before baking. Crushed Ritz crackers are another great option, especially for lobster or crab mac and cheese!
Key Ingredients and Substitutions for this Seafood Mac and Cheese Recipe
Shellfish: While shrimp and scallops are often accessible and affordable, this recipe can be made with lobster or crab instead. Cook it fresh or use up leftovers from another meal!
Pasta: Stick with classic macaroni noodles or swap in medium shells, rotini, or cellentani instead!
Cheese: The key to any good mac and cheese recipe is combining a really good melting cheese with an aged cheese for flavor. We love a combo of mozzarella and white cheddar for seafood mac and cheese, but Gruyere, Fontina, and Swiss can be mixed and matched as well.
Milk and Cream: You’ll get the best texture with full-fat versions! Bring both to room temperature before starting the sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions about Seafood Mac and Cheese
Can I use frozen shrimp?
Sure! You’ll need to thaw it first, either overnight in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water. This is a great way to ensure you always have some on hand for this seafood mac and cheese recipe!
How do I store leftovers?
Once cooled, transfer shrimp mac and cheese to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Avoid freezing, as the texture of both the seafood and cheese will be unpleasant.
Reheat individual portions in the microwave covered by a damp towel. Or, return seafood mac and cheese to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cover with foil and add a splash of milk for moisture as needed.
What goes with seafood mac and cheese?
Cut through the richness of this dish with a simple vegetable side! air fryer asparagus or roasted green beans are always a winner, while you may prefer a simple green salad.
Or, double down on buttery flavor with a side of garlic bread. Our jalapeno loaf is a perfect alternative if you want a pop of heat without overwhelming your palate.
Seafood Mac and Cheese
- 3 cup elbow macaroni pasta
- 3 tbsp butter
- 8 oz scallops
- 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 2 cup shredded white cheddar
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Then, cook macaroni following the package directions but reducing the cooking time by ¼. So if it says 8 minutes, cook them for only 6 minutes. Drain and place pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set it aside.
- Heat one tbsp of butter in a skillet. As it melts, incorporate shrimp and scallops. Cook them for 3-4 minutes or until they turn pale pink and evenly cooked. Remove them from the skillet.
- Next, use the same skillet to prepare the cheesy sauce. Add 2 tbsp of butter and let it melt. Then, add flour and mix to combine. Continue by adding the milk and heavy cream, stirring continuously. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
- Add shredded cheddar and mix. Once it’s well combined, remove from heat. Taste saltiness and adjust if necessary.
- Add cooked seafood to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine.
- Place cooked pasta into an 8” x 13” baking tray and cover with the cheese sauce. Toss to coat. Finally, top with shredded mozzarella cheese and bake it for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the top is gratinated.
- Serve Warm
- Once the seafood mac and cheese has cooled down to room temperature, store it in an airtight container. Ensure that the dish is divided into smaller portions for easier reheating later.
- Label the container with the date of preparation. Seafood dishes are best consumed within 3 days of preparation to maintain freshness.
- If the mac and cheese seems dry after reheating, consider adding a splash of milk or cream before reheating. This helps to restore some creaminess to the sauce.