Smoked Tri Tip Mac and Cheese Cooked On The Grill

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Smoked Tri Tip Mac and Cheese is cooked on the grill with perfectly smoked and tender tri tip, mixed with an ultra creamy cheese sauce.

It is sure to up your mac and cheese game… by about a million percent.

Tri tip Mac and Cheese in a cast iron pan.

Mac & Cheese Recipe Inspiration

If a winery could be my spirit animal it might be  Barton Family Winery and Grey Wolf Cellars  in the Paso Robles Wine Region. In addition to a wide range of tasty wines, they offer a casual and friendly environment, plus they’re family AND dog friendly (something that is important to me as we frequently travel with our children and I want them growing up understanding wine is not just an alcoholic beverage, but a culture).

But the bigger connection I found with this winery is their Barton’s Kitchen Widow, a sort of built-in, casual, food cart style restaurant, offering some killer smoked meals you can pair with their wines.

Paso Mac & CheeseSteak at Barton's Kitchen Window

It’s very similar to the philosophy behind Ember and Vine, our own wood-fired wine country catering company, which is why I connected so quickly with this place.

Good wine + BBQ inspired food and wine pairings + family friendly + great people = my idea of a great overall hospitality experience.

And that’s what you get when you visit Barton Family Winery and Grey Wolf Cellars and their Kitchen Window as I experienced on a press trip last year.

I also found my dream mac and cheese. You see, Chef Jeffry (the chef behind the Kitchen Window) is also a mac and cheese master, and has won awards left and right for his creative concoctions. This one was called Paso Mac & CheeseSteak, which included a roasted garlic-provolone cheese sauce, smoked tri-tip, sautéed peppers & onions, tossed with mini shell pasta.

I knew the moment I took my first bite that we had to re-create it.

Our version…

Smoked Tri Tip Mac & Cheese on the Grill

I couldn’t remember the exact cheese blend Jeffry used (and you know I fo-sho asked him!), but I do remember him saying he makes the cheese sauce so creamy and extra liquidy, so liquidy that you question yourself before going in to bake. So don’t question it! That’s how it gets so indulgently creamy after it’s baked. Some of that liquid will evaporate, and some will soak into the pasta.

Our version is pretty simplified from his. We used just two cheeses (I’m pretty sure I remember him saying he used four or five?). And we stuck to red bell peppers instead of going for that full cheesesteak onion-pepper-provolone inspiration. And you know we had to add a smoked Tri Tip for an extra layer of unbelievable flavor!

You guys. It. Is. Insane!

What Pasta to Use for Steak Mac and Cheese

Speaking of pasta, this is obviously not macaroni, as the name “mac & cheese” would suggest. Instead we use the shell pasta to better get pools of that rich cheese sauce in the shell pockets, so that each bite bursts with that heavenly cheese blend. (Inspired by Jeffry, Genius!)

You will cook the shells to an al dente and set them aside until you are ready to mix everything together and cook on the grill.

A closeup of Smoked Tri Tip Mac and Cheese in a cast iron pan

How to Smoke Tri Tip on a Kettle Grill

We used a kettle grill for this to show that you don’t need a fancy smoker to get great smoked tri tip.  Simply prepare your grill for indirect cooking, and add some wood chunks into your coals. Simple. You can read more about smoked tri tip in our guide.

A chart showing direct vs indirect heat cooking on a Weber kettle grill
  • Prep your tri tip simply by rubbing it in a salt/pepper/garlic powder blend.
  • Smoke it at 250 for about an hour (or until the meat has an internal temperature of 125 F). We are cooking it more to medium because we are adding into the mac and cheese. A rare steak would be a little too tender. 
  • When it’s done, let it cool enough to handle, then cut about 1 ½ heaping cups full of the smoked brisket into small bites. This will get mixed into your cheese sauce.
A Tri Tip smoking on a grill

Cheese Sauce for Smoked Tri Tip Mac & Cheese on the Grill

  1. Start by softening the vegetables in a cast iron pan until soft, then remove them and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, make a standard béchamel sauce (combining butter, flour, and then milk).
  3. Add crème fraîche, which adds extra richness.
  4. Add the seasonings and cheeses. We like sharp cheddar for flavor and color and Gruyère for more incredible flavor, and because it melts so ridiculously well.
  5. Add back the reserved chopped vegetables and 1 1/2 cups of the chopped Tri Tip, and the noodles. Mix together. Making creamy Mac and Cheese
  6. Transfer to baking dish (or if using cast iron, leave it in there). Top with breading mixture. 
  7. Increase grill temperature to 350 degrees, prepped for indirect cooking.
  8. Place the skillet directly on the grill, over indirect cooking, and cook 20 minutes. (Alternatively you can cook this in the oven set to 350 degrees as well). Remove and serve. 

Read our full guide on the proper steak temperatures to cook to your preferred temperature.


I know it may seem like a lot of work to go through for Mac and Cheese, but it’s so worth it!

And if you should find yourself in Paso Robles, go check out the folks that inspired this recipe and try their version.

It’s incredible. And to top it off you’ll get this view!

A closeup of a spoonful of Tri Tip Mac and Cheese

Other Mac and Cheese Recipe Inspirations

About Vindulge

Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.

cookbook cover

Now on 2nd edition

Fire + Wine Cookbook

“This book is a one-stop guide for anyone truly interested in elevating their BBQ experience into a culinary work of art.”
5 out of 5 Stars
San Francisco Book Review

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Smoked Tri Tip Macaroni and Cheese, Cooked on the Grill
5 from 2 votes

Smoked Tri Tip Mac and Cheese Recipe

Smoked Tri Tip Mac and Cheese is made with perfectly smoked and tender tri tip, mixed with an ultra creamy cheese sauce and cooked on the grill.
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 6 Servings


For the Tri Tip

  • 1 ½ pound Tri Tip
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salt, pepper, garlic powder,, (equal parts of each, mixed together. Combine and use to coat the meat)

For the Mac and Cheese

  • 12 ounces macaroni or shell noodles , (approximately 4 cups, but will vary based on the size and thickness of your noodles. In this picture we specifically used a thick shell.)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk,, (we use 2%)
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 ½ cups gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1 ½ heaping cups smoked (cooked) tri tip, cut into small bite-size pieces


  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt


To smoke the Tri Tip:

  • Prep smoker to 250 degrees (F). Trim any excess fat or silver skin. Coat with olive oil and generously coat with dry rub (dry rub is equal parts salt/pepper/garlic powder.
  • Place on grill grates, over indirect heat, until 125 degrees F internal temperature. Roughly 1 hour. Remove and let sit 20 minutes, until cool enough to handle. 
  • Cut into small bite size pieces and reserve 1 1/2 cups for the mac and cheese. Feel free to much on the rest 😉 

For the Mac and Cheese

  • Prepare noodles according to package instructions, draining them when they are still slightly firm (al dente). Set aside. 
  • In a large saucepan or oven proof skillet (like a large 9" cast iron skillet like you see in the photos) set to medium heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil (just enough to coat the pan), and add the chopped red bell pepper. Cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Remove the bell pepper from the pan and set aside. 
  • Add butter and flour and whisk together for 1-2 minutes. Add milk, whisk together a and let thicken (about 4 minutes), stirring consistently.
  • Add the crème fraîche, mix. Next add the nutmeg, Dijon mustard, salt, and the cheese and mix to combine. Once the cheeses have melted add in the cooked bell pepper, and 1 1/2 cups of the smoked tri tip, and the noodles, and mix together. Transfer to baking dish (or if using cast iron, leave it in there). Top with breading mixture. 
  • Increase grill temperature to 350 degrees prepped for indirect cooking.
  • Place the skillet directly on the grill, over indirect cooking, and cook 20 minutes.  (Alternatively you can cook this in the oven set to 350 degrees as well). Remove and serve. 



Note: We intended this recipe to be cooked on a smoker or grill. The instructions and video show a kettle grill, set to indirect cooking, with wood chunks mixed with charcoal. 
You can cook the Mac and Cheese directly on your smoker or grill, or you can do this part in the oven. Since we use the grill to smoke the tri tip, it’s easier to keep using it for the Mac and Cheese. But if you want to skip this part and cook it in the oven that’s fine. The dish won’t take on much more smokiness during this part of the cooking process. 


Calories: 807kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 48g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 168mg | Sodium: 1402mg | Potassium: 769mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1715IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 813mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American, BBQ, Barbecue, Comfort Food
Servings: 6 Servings
Calories: 807
Keyword: grilled mac and cheese recipe, mac and cheese on the grill, smoked mac and cheese, steak mac and cheese
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it turned out great! I’ll be making it again for sure. I loved the smoky flavor it had.

  2. Do you know how many servings this recipe is? We are trying to type this out to enter into our weightwatchers account. And you are using a 12 lb tri tip?
    Thank you, cant wait to try it!

    1. This is roughly 6 servings, depending on how hungry everyone is. And I updated the recipe to make it more clear about the size of the tri tip. Most tri tips come between 1-2 lbs. You want something in that general size. You won’t use the entire tri tip for the recipe, but that’s the size you’ll find them.

  3. That’s some fancy mac & cheese and a huge tri tip! Impressive! Gruyere is SO good, and amazing in mac & cheese. What a beautiful dish, Mary!

  4. This looks incredible I have to admit when I have leftover bbq putting it with Mac and Cheese is my favorite way to have it!