This crab mac and cheese recipe is a lively, decadent twist on a classic dish

Cookbook author Kelli Ferrell shares her Louisiana/Maryland recipe that includes real crab and a hint of spice

By Hanh Nguyen

Senior Editor

Published December 5, 2019 6:05PM (EST)

Kelli Ferrell's cookbook "Kooking with Kelli" and her recipe for Crab Mac-n-Cheese (Cory Reese)
Kelli Ferrell's cookbook "Kooking with Kelli" and her recipe for Crab Mac-n-Cheese (Cory Reese)

Now that Salon has determined that macaroni and cheese is indeed a holiday dish, it’s time to take it to the next level. The holidays are not done yet, and the ease with which mac and cheese can be transformed from yummy to outright decadent is within anyone’s reach.

There are many ways to make mac and cheese extra, and they’re all delicious – from adding bacon to caramelized onions to jalapeños. Enter cookbook author, TV personality, and restaurateur, Kelli Ferrell, who brings her Southern cooking skills to bear. She’s appeared on various Food Network shows including “Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge” and “Guy’s Grocery Games,” co-owns the Louisiana/Maryland-style diner Nana’s Chicken-N-Waffles with her husband, and boasts a cookbook “Kooking with Kelli,” which is filled with Southern meals, ranging from honey fried chicken to shrimp and grits.

Ferrell’s take on macaroni and cheese is a more accessible version of the much vaunted lobster mac and cheese. Lobster is delicious, but not really the most economical of shellfishes unless you’re in a fishing community or have a fishmonger friend. It’s why most people only indulge in the crustacean when dining out. But at home, one can still feel fancy without sacrificing that seafood-y goodness with Ferrell’s crab macaroni and cheese.

That’s right. Even though Ferrell has a penchant for using the letter “K,” this is crab with a “C” (although the surimi “krab” would work for those who have a shellfish allergy). Crab is the perfect addition to mac and cheese to treat yo’self™ without breaking the bank. It’s also a healthy protein to balance out the carb-heaviness of the dish. And of course, Ferrell adds a bit of Cajun flair with spice to keep your taste buds awake.

Check out the recipe below for Ferrell calls an “exciting spin on a traditional dish enjoyed by everyone.” And if you’re in Los Angeles, you can see Ferrell in action on Saturday, Dec. 7 for a cooking demonstration and book signing at the Santa Monica Williams-Sonoma from 4-7 p.m.

Crab Mac ’N’ Cheese

Prep time: 50 - 60 mins
Cook time: 55 - 60 mins
Serves: 6 – 8

2 lbs. fresh jumbo lump crab meat
2 large eggs
2 cups evaporated milk
3 cups elbow macaroni
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp Old bay seasoning
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning (optional)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups mild Cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups Colby & Monterey jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup Velveeta cheese
1 cup whole milk


• Heat a large skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl add butter, crab, Old bay seasoning, and a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to combine and coat the crab. Set aside.

• Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

• Bring a large pot of Kosher salted water to a boil over high heat. Add macaroni and cook until done (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 crab and set aside.

• In a large bowl, add evaporated milk and whisk to combine. Add paprika, cayenne, kosher salt and ground black 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, 1/2 cup of Colby & Monterey, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan, 1 cup of velvet cheese, and add the remaining cheese to the milk mixture and stir to combine.

• Pour cheese mixture into macaroni, then add sautéed crab meat, and lightly stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with reserved cheeses. Sprinkle paprika, kosher salt, ground black pepper and Cajun seasoning (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 sit for about 20-25 minutes to set before serving.

By Hanh Nguyen

Hanh Nguyen is the Senior Editor of Culture, which covers TV, movies, books, music, podcasts, art, and more. Her work has also appeared in IndieWire, and The Hollywood Reporter. She co-hosts the "Good Pop Culture Club" podcast, which examines the good pop that gets us through our days, from an Asian American perspective. Follow her at Hanhonymous.

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