Shrimp Mac and Cheese is rich and scrumptiously creamy, loaded with juicy, Cajun shrimp and buttery panko breadcrumb topping. It’s super easy to make but it tastes like you’re dining at the finest restaurant! You can have this Cajun shrimp mac and cheese on the table in under an hour!
How do you make America’s favorite comfort food, mac and cheese, even better?! Add flavorful, juicy seafood, of course!
Shrimp Mac and Cheese
This baked mac and cheese casserole is one of the most comforting, decadent, crave-able foods on the planet, with a subtle heat from Cajun seasoning, and a not-so-subtle ooey, gooey, cheesiness.
Instead of using just a roux to create the sauce, I also use evaporated milk whisked with some cornstarch. This stabilizes the silkiness of the cheese so that doesn’t separate or curdle when baked!
Not a mac and cheese fan? Try my Red Lobster shrimp scampi copycat. Or if seafood isn’t your thing, I have plenty of other easy mac and cheese recipes!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Medium Shrimp – Either fresh or frozen works. Try to find the medium size, which typically comes packaged with about 20 shrimps per pound.
If you aren’t a fan of seafood, you can swap the shrimp in this mac and cheese recipe with chopped, uncooked chicken.
- Cellentani Pasta – I prefer using this noodle over regular elbow macaroni because it has ridges that hold the cheesy sauce better.
That said, any short pasta shape works great — bowtie, rotini, or even cavatelli pasta.
- Seasonings – This shrimp macaroni and cheese is loaded with flavor!
You’ll need Cajun seasoning for the shrimp and in the cheese sauce, plus onion and garlic powder, dried parsley, and salt.
If you like it hot, you can toss some cayenne pepper in there as well. And for a bit more smokiness, try smoked paprika!
- Cheese – Sharp cheddar and Gruyere are my top choices for this shrimp mac and cheese recipe.
Both have incredible flavor and will melt down really well into the sauce.
- Breadcrumb Topping – A simple mixture of panko breadcrumbs and melted butter adds a crunchy texture to shrimp mac n cheese.
You can incorporate extra parsley here for more flavor if you’d like!
If you don’t have panko on hand, crushed Ritz crackers would be just as tasty.
Tips for Making the Best Shrimp Macaroni and Cheese
- Buy peeled and deveined shrimp.
I suggest using medium uncooked shrimp, and be sure to get them already peeled and deveined. Unless you live in an area where fresh seafood is available year-round, you may need to buy frozen shrimp.
Buying prepared shrimp makes your job much easier because all you have to do is defrost it.
- Don’t overcook the pasta.
You want it to be al dente, meaning there’s still a bit of a bite. The noodles will continue to soften in the oven.
If you cook them to your liking right away, they will end up being too mushy when your Cajun shrimp mac and cheese is done!
- Feel free to mix up the cheeses!
I love Gruyere in shrimp macaroni and cheese. It melts beautifully and has a sweet yet sharp, caramelly, nutty, buttery flavor.
Monterey Jack cheese would also be delicious. You need 4 cups of cheese total, so mix and match your favorites to reach that amount.
Storing and Reheating Shrimp Mac n Cheese
Allow the dish to cool, then transfer leftovers to an airtight container. Keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. I don’t recommend freezing.
To reheat, return Cajun shrimp mac and cheese to the oven and bake at 350°F until warmed through and bubbly. Avoid the microwave or your shrimp will turn rubbery.
You can also heat individual portions on the stove over medium-low heat. Add splashes of milk as needed to loosen up the sauce.
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta
- Dutch Oven or Large Oven-Safe Skillet
- Mixing Bowls – I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, and this set has them all.
- Cheese Grater – Fresh cheese makes this recipe even better! Skip the bagged shreds and buy a block to grate yourself.
Cajun Shrimp Mac and Cheese FAQ
They do in this recipe for shrimp mac and cheese! Each succulent shrimp adds a pop of juiciness to tender cheesy noodles, plus an extra kick of spicy Cajun flavor.
Sure! I understand that not everyone has oven-safe skillets, so it’s easy to make some adjustments.
Prepare the recipe on the stovetop as directed, then scrape every last bit into a greased casserole dish — minimum 9″x13″, but a large lasagna pan would be even better.
Then, sprinkle the parmesan and breadcrumb topping over your shrimp mac n cheese and bake as directed!
I consider this shrimp mac and cheese to be a meal enough on its own, but there are several easy sides that would go well with the flavors.
You can never go wrong with a fresh green salad or some crusty bread. And we could all use some extra veggies on our plates!
Try grilled asparagus or air fryer Brussels sprouts with bacon — the smoky flavor of either will complement the Cajun spices.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Favorite Seafood Recipes
Shrimp Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound medium uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound cellentani pasta, or elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 cups freshly grated Gruyere cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoon melted butter
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cook pasta to al dente in salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Add shrimp to a medium bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large (3.5 qt) oven proof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add shrimp in an even layer and cook 2-3 minutes, flip over and continue to cook 2-3 minutes or until until cooked through. Remove shrimp to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, cut into thirds. Set aside.
- To the now empty skillet (don’t wipe out) melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat then whisk in flour. Cook, while stirring for 2 minutes. Turn heat to low then gradually whisk in milk. Whisk cornstarch into evaporated milk and gradually add to skillet followed by all remaining spices/seasonings.
- Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until thickened (but not overly thick). Turn heat to low then whisk in sharp cheese until melted followed by Gruyere until melted. Add shrimp and pasta and stir until evenly coated.
- Spread pasta into an even layer then top with Parmesan. Whisk panko with melted butter and evenly sprinkle on top. Bake 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Turn oven to broil to toast panko for 2-3 minutes, watching closely so it doesn’t burn.
- Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published October 2019, updated and republished November 2023
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