BBQ Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese
This recipe was never meant to go on the blog. Typically, we post recipes that are healthy and fresh, or like… cocktails. We usually stay away from sharing guilty pleasure recipes cause it’s not super reflective of how we cook and we’re not entirely convinced our audience of mostly gay bois really wants a recipe for pulled pork mac & cheese. BUT, this…is too good? Too good not to share? Too good not to admit we made this twice in one week and ate all of it?
It started with a Memorial Day potluck at my CrossFit gym. Leading up to the day, a fellow member (hi David!) asked me what I was bringing, and I kind of just blurted out “barbecue pulled pork mac & cheese” without really thinking about it, but the light in his eyes when I said it told me I was definitely going to have to follow through. It sounded delicious and also like a TERRIBLE idea to eat in or around a CrossFit gym. But bending rules is fun, and I’m pretty much always down to inhale a casserole dish full of mac & cheese. Plus, as Beau reminded me, we could totally make it with chickpea pasta instead of regular pasta, which I guess makes it more healthy even though there’s still a lot of cheese? Yeah, that.
The bottom line is this is a simple, scrumptious, crowd-pleasing recipe. It was an absolute hit at the Memorial Day barbecue, and then Beau tried some and couldn’t stop eating it even though he’d been skeptical beforehand. It’s got a pretty short ingredients list, can be done by a total beginner, and the only special tool required is a slow cooker. It’s one of those dishes that you’ll bring to a summer potluck and someone will be like “hey man did you just like mix pulled pork into that mac and cheese?” and you’ll be like “yeah, you know what, I did.” And then you’ll be celebrated as a legend and/or culinary genius. Everyone will be jealous. Your friend’s kids will be like, “mom why did we bring this shitty fruit salad look what that person brought I literally hate you!!!!!”
That’s all. Recipe below, love bug!
BBQ Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese
takes: 9 total hours (active time about 1 hour) & about $40 || serves 6-8
4 pound pork shoulder with bone in (see notes on buying / weights)
1 (12 oz) ginger beer
1 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups (16 oz) good barbecue sauce (see notes)
24 oz elbow macaroni (use chickpea pasta for a gluten free & protein packed option!)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups whole milk (divided into 1 and 2 cups)
5 cups (1 pound) shredded mild cheddar cheese (plus extra for topping if desired)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
chives & extra bbq sauce for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Tools you’ll need
large pot for boiling pasta
saucepan for cheese sauce
9x13” casserole dish
Summarized Run Down of Recipe Flow
Slow cook the pork, then make the macaroni and the cheese sauce and combine, then fold in the pork, then bake.
Place the pork shoulder in your slow-cooker with ginger beer, onion, garlic, and a large dash of salt and pepper (we used about a teaspoon each). Set on low and cook for 6-8 hours, until the pork is tender and easily shredded. Drain off liquid (but keep onions and garlic) and use two forks to shred the pork. Add the barbecue sauce and mix to combine. Set on warm while you make the macaroni and the cheese sauce.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Prepare the elbow macaroni according to the instructions on package and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, start the cheese sauce by whisking the cornstarch into one cup of cold milk. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the two cups of milk just until it begins to steam (watch closely as it will burn!). Whisk in the cold milk, then begin to add cheese to the milk mixture one handful at a time, constantly whisking or stirring to help melt the cheese into the milk. Allow each handful to melt and combine before adding more cheese. When all the cheese has been added and melted, add mustard powder and salt and pepper to your liking.
Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and mix to evenly coat. Fold about 4 cups of the pulled pork into the macaroni (you can use more or less pork to your liking, we found 4 cups to be a pretty balanced amount). Pour into your casserole dish, sprinkle with extra shredded cheddar if desired, and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and garnish with chives and/or extra barbecue sauce and serve.
pork shoulder—this recipe calls for a 4 pound pork shoulder because that’s pretty much the average you’ll find in the supermarket. You really only need about half that meat for the mac & cheese, so if you can find something smaller, go with that and just use a bit less barbecue sauce—or stick with the large size and save some of the pulled pork for sandwiches later in the week. Additionally, we’re calling for bone-in pork shoulder as the bone adds flavor during slow cooking. You can obviously use a pork shoulder without the bone if that’s all you can find.
barbecue sauce—we’re not making our own because we have better stuff to do, but we recommend you splurge and use a really good barbecue sauce here (not Kraft). You don’t want something super sweet like many cheap barbecue sauces can be, as that sounds kinda gross when mixed with the mac & cheese. Our recommendation, if you can find it, is Lillie’s Q Craft Hot Smoky BBQ Sauce that we got from Whole Foods. So so good.