Anyone interested in a big ole’ bowl of comfort? I’m talking about the delicious smoky flavor of this Traeger Smoked Mac & Cheese w/ Hatch Chilis! We’ve nicknamed this dish, Hatch Mac for short. It’s like your classic super rich and creamy mac & cheese but with a little kick of spice and smoke. Translation: it’s one hundred times better. It may seem super extra to make mac & cheese on the Traeger, but trust me, it’s worth it for the incredible flavor it adds. The roasted hatch chilis have a naturally smoky flavor that’s brought out in this dish. Fresh hatch chilis pop up for a short time at the end of summer. While using fresh is always best, if you’ve missed the window in your area, grab a can of roasted hatch chilis and make this mac ASAP! Traeger smoked and baked, this homemade Hatch Mac is going to impress the family and feed a crowd.
The grocery list.
- Hatch chilis – Hatch chilis are easiest to find in the store at the end of the summer. If you’ve missed the window and can’t get fresh hatch chilis, canned roasted hatch chilis will work just as well for this recipe.
- Olive oil – For roasting your fresh hatch chilis.
- Half & half – Half & half will make your mac sauce super creamy.
- Salted butter – The best mac & cheese is salty and buttery, so what’s a better ingredient to add than salted butter?
- Cream cheese – Cream cheese will give you thick and cheesy mac & cheese, just trust me.
- Hot sauce – Frank’s Hot Sauce is a great straight up spicy hot sauce.
- Dijon mustard – You really can’t taste the mustard in your mac, it just adds a slight tang to the dish.
- Black pepper – This ingredient supports the dish’s smoky flavor.
- Cavatappi – It’s a long debated issue by professional chefs, home cooks and avid eaters alike of which noodle is best for mac & cheese. I’m not going to argue with anyone, but if I had to pick one I’d choose cavatappi. Use your favorite pasta!
- Cheddar cheese – A nice sharp cheddar cheese is perfect for mac & cheese.
- Mozzarella cheese – Make sure you use shredded mozzarella cheese for this recipe.
- Pork panko – Pork panko is bread crumbs made from pork rinds. Not only do they add a delicious flavor and texture to this recipe, they’re a great gluten-free option. Use regular unseasoned panko as a replacement.
Does this recipe need to be made in the smoker? No, but the smoky flavor that makes this dish so delicious and unique comes from smoking it rather than baking it in the oven or in the grill.
Roast the chilis.
If you can’t get your hands on fresh hatch chilis, buy a can of roasted hatch chilis instead. If you’re using the canned chilis, you can skip this part of the recipe prep because this is all about getting the chilis ready to add to the mac & cheese.
This recipe uses both the Traeger grill and smoker. You’re going to start by roasting the fresh hatch chilis on the grill.
Preheat the Traeger grill to 450°F. Rub the outsides of the fresh hatch chilis with olive oil and roast them for 15-20 minutes until their skin is blistered. Roasting the peppers is what gives them their amazing smoky flavor.
Remove from the grill. Place the hot roasted chilis in a glass bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap to steam while you prepare the remaining dish ingredients. This will allow the chilis to get soft and tender.
Make the mac.
Turn the Traeger temperature to 180°F and select high smoke for that extra smoky flavor! In a large cast iron skillet mix the half and half, 4 tablespoons of butter, cream cheese, hot sauce, dijon and black pepper. Place the cast iron pan in the smoker and smoke your sauce for 30 minutes.
While the sauce smokes, cook the cavatappi or pasta of choice according to the package instructions. Reserve about ¼ cup of pasta water. You’ll add this starchy water to your sauce and it’ll make it silky smooth! Drain the pasta (aside from your reserved pasta water) and return the pasta to the pot. Do not rinse the pasta. The starches of the pasta will help your sauce adhere to the noodles. If you rinse the cooked pasta it won’t absorb the flavors of the sauce as well. Add the cheddar and mozzarella cheese to the hot pasta and toss.
Now, prepare the chilis. Remove the chilis from the bowl where they were steaming. Remove the skin of the hatch chilis. Slice the chilis and remove the seeds. Dice the roasted hatch chilis. Add them to the cheesy pasta and toss.
Move your focus to the cast iron pan in the smoker. Whisk the sauce within the cast iron pan. Add the cheesy pasta with the chilis directly to the cast iron pan. Toss to combine. Sprinkle the top of the mac and cheese with the pork panko. Close the lid of the Traeger and increase the temperature to 350°F. Bake your Traeger Smoked Mac & Cheese w/ Hatch Chilis for 45 minutes.
Remove the cast iron pan from the Traeger and allow your mac to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
What’s the point of a smoker and how does it work? When you cook something in a smoker, it takes longer than just cooking it on the grill because smoking is done at a low temperature. This will allow more time for the food to absorb the smoky flavor. While in a grill the food is directly over the fire, smoked food is cooked using indirect heat and smoke from the fuel source, which generally takes a long time.
You definitely don’t need a smoker for day-to-day cooking, but if you’re looking for a fun hobby or want to elevate the flavor of your meats (or mac & cheese) I recommend investing in one! Once you make your own smoked meats, you’ll never go back to cooking meat any other way. I’m pretty obsessed with my Traeger and do just about everything on it. I smoke meats low and slow like my Traeger Grills Smoked Brisket, grill burgers every Friday night like these Feta Turkey Burgers and bake treats like my Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread.
Looking for more Traeger recipes?
Here are a few to try:
Lastly, if you make this Traeger Smoked Mac & Cheese w/ Hatch Chilis recipe, be sure to leave a comment! Above all, I love to hear from ya’ll and do my best to respond to every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to snap a pic and tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of your dayyyummm good recreations is my favorite!
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- Preheat the Traeger grill to 450°F. Rub the hatch chilis with olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes until blistered. Remove from the grill, place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam while you prepare the remaining dish ingredients.
- Turn the smoker temp to 180°F and select high smoke. In a large cast iron skillet mix the half and half, 4 tablespoons of butter, cream cheese, hot sauce, dijon and black pepper. Smoke for 30 minutes.
- While the sauce smokes, cook the pasta to package instructions. Reserve about ¼ cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta and return it to the pot (do not rinse). Add the cheddar and mozzarella cheese to the hot pasta and toss.
- Remove the skin of the hatch chilis, seed and dice the roasted hatch chilis. Add them to the cheesy pasta and toss. Whisk the cast iron sauce and add the pasta directly to the cast iron. Toss to combine. Sprinkle the top of the mac and cheese with the pork panko. Close the lid of the Traeger and increase the temp to 350°F. Bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove the cast iron from the Traeger and rest for 10 minutes before serving.