Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese

by aimee @ shugarysweets on March 21, 2014

Creamy white cheddar macaroni and cheese just like Panera. Give this copycat version a try. Oh and it’s quick and easy on the stove top too!!

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Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese: easy stove top recipe, so creamy and thick just like the real thing!

My kids are so predictable sometimes when it comes to ordering from restaurants. I like to order something different every time I go out, it’s fun to try new things.

But at Panera, we all seem to be creatures of habit. We all get the same soup, sandwich or salad..EVERY TIME. 

And of course, the macaroni and cheese. Obsessed.

It’s creamy. Wait…I should say it’s THICK and CREAMY. Capital letters help emphasize, right?

I thought it would be fun to try to recreate this recipe at home. I’m good at making the main dish for dinner, but it’s the side dishes that always get forgotten.

We usually end up having a fruit salad and a steamed veggie because I can’t seem to wrap my head around making side dishes.

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese: easy stove top recipe, so creamy and thick just like the real thing!

But with today’s recipe, it’s the side dish that takes the show! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this photo. A side of sloppy joes with our Mac and Cheese.

I used Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar for this recipe. But a good quality white cheddar would work if you can’t find the Cabot. One of the many perks of my job (besides working in my pajamas and eating all day) is trying products from some of my favorite brands. I’m fortunate to be on the Cabot Cheese Board. Which basically means I get to try new products, delicious cheese, and let you all know what’s good. If you haven’t tried Cabot cheese, check out their website and find a store near you that sells their cheese. It gets devoured in our house!!

Anyways, I made this Copycat Panera recipe on the stove top. So easy! It makes a bunch too. When we went to reheat it, I added about 1/2 cup milk and cooked it on low on the stove top. Worked perfectly. Two days worth of mac and cheese for us!! YUMMY!

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese: easy stove top recipe, so creamy and thick just like the real thing!

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Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: serves 8

Thick and Creamy macaroni and cheese, just like Panera!


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cup shredded white cheddar (I used Cabot seriously sharp cheddar)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1lb, pasta, cooked (cavatapppi, shells, or elbow)


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions while making the sauce. Drain and set aside until ready to use.
  2. In a large pot on medium high heat, add butter until melted. Whisk in the flour and cook for about one minute. Reduce heat to medium and add milk, heavy cream, salt, dry mustard and pepper. Continue whisking until it begins to bubble. Reduce to low and add white cheddar. Stir until melted. Add cooked pasta, stirring until combined. Remove from heat and allow to sit about 5 minutes to thicken. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. ENJOY.

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese: easy stove top recipe, so creamy and thick just like the real thing!

I’m a little obsessed with Macaroni and Cheese….


Gouda and Bacon Mac and Cheese….it’s so goood-a (cheesy right?, hehehehe)


Classic, best ever, Macaroni and Cheese


Beef Enchilada Mac and Cheese...a delicious, hearty meal!

A few favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipes from my favorite blogs: 


**I am part of the Cabot Cheese Board community. I received free product, but no other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own**

{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

Tanya Schroeder March 21, 2014 at 10:06 am

That’s a stunning bowl of mac and cheese! The only thing that would make it better is if it were mine!
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Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) March 21, 2014 at 10:20 am

That macaroni looks like perfection! So creamy and flavorful. I want a spoon of it right now!
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Candace @ cabot March 21, 2014 at 11:09 am

So easy. So cheesy. So darned good!


Nan March 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Super-yum! We make a copycat of the Panera tomato soup that I like even better than the original. Happy Friday!


Karly March 21, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I have never had Panera’s mac and cheese. I always go for their chicken salad if I’m fortunate enough to find a Panera anywhere near me. Nebraska is dumb. This mac and cheese is not. The end.
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aimee @ shugarysweets March 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Haha #freakingnebraska :)


Kim May 30, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Karly, snarky but very cute.


Krista January 22, 2015 at 10:02 am



Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness March 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Not going to lie, I haven’t had Panera’s Macaroni and Cheese…but this girl LOVES white cheddar anything….and everything I have had at Panera has rocked my socks. If this is 1/16 as incredible as it looks (which I am 110% sure it is!) I am one happy girl! Pinned


Audrey March 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Can you baked this in the oven? If yes how and how long.thank you.


Audrey March 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I Am not sure if you received my first email.if you did I apologize for the second one.just won’t to know if you could bake this in the oven and how to do it and how long.thank you.


aimee @ shugarysweets March 22, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Hi Audrey, This is a stovetop recipe. Check out my other mac and cheese recipes, two of them are oven baked!


Nancy P.@thebittersideofsweet March 21, 2014 at 5:54 pm

A job where you get to try cheese? So lucky! :) I tried Cabot a few weeks ago and loved it! This looks delicious and I know it would go over well with the family!
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Kayle (The Cooking Actress) March 21, 2014 at 7:46 pm

PERFECT!!! so happpyyyy that you recreated this recipe-it looks crazy amazing
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Tanya March 21, 2014 at 7:55 pm

MMM..that looks like a great bowl of mac n cheese.
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Elizabeth @ Confessions of a Baking Queen March 21, 2014 at 9:00 pm

I love the panera mac & cheese and I adore sharp cheddar, I can’t eat normal cheddar. Sharp all the way baby!!
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aimee @ shugarysweets March 24, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I’m right there with you!!
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Terry LaForce March 21, 2014 at 11:41 pm

One of our favorites at St. Louis Bread Company (Panera’s hometown!). Their serving size is never enough to satisfy. We’ll have this for dinner tomorrow night. Thank you for sharing.


Emily @ Life on Food March 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

I always get the same thing at Panera too. There have been one or two times where I got something else and although it wasn’t bad I missed the norm. The mac and cheese is not the norm. And though I would love to try it I want to miss out on my favorites. Making this at home is the perfect solution.
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Lyuba@willcookforsmiles March 22, 2014 at 9:36 am

This is seriously one delicious looking bowl of mac and cheese! White cheddar is my favorite!
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Maria G. March 22, 2014 at 4:12 pm

This dish looks so appetizing. I guess that the sauce is very piquant and there is a lot of it in the dish. I always admired the variety of macaroni in the shops. It is really amazing.
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Jess @ On Sugar Mountain March 22, 2014 at 6:18 pm

So I totally see why you’d call this a side dish….I want it at my side all day long! (crickets chirping) But It needs to be my main course. Seriously though: this mac and cheese looks freaking out of this world, Aimee. :D
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aimee @ shugarysweets March 24, 2014 at 5:43 pm

LOL. I giggled :)
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Julianne @ Beyond Frosting March 22, 2014 at 11:34 pm

I am obsessed with Cabot cheese. Their outlet store used to be down the street from my office when I lived in Vermont. We would go in there all the time and bring back cheese and crackers for an afternoon snack at the office! I am dying over this Mac and Cheese!
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aimee @ shugarysweets March 24, 2014 at 5:45 pm

An outlet store? Woah, that sounds deliciously dangerous!
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Chelsea @chelseasmessyapron March 23, 2014 at 8:54 am

Bought everything to try this tonight!! Saw it on the recipe girls facebook and was drooling over it! Gorgeous photos and thanks for the recipe :) Love that bowl!!
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aimee @ shugarysweets March 24, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Hope you enjoyed the recipe!!
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Jennie @themessybakerblog March 25, 2014 at 2:26 pm

PB does have good mac and cheese. Love this copycat version. So creamy!!!
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aimee @ shugarysweets March 26, 2014 at 8:29 am

Thanks Jennie!! Let me know if you give it a try :)


tiffany mustain March 26, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Would this freeze well?????


Laura March 26, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Bookmarked this awhile ago but finally made it tonight. Only took a couple minutes longer than the magic blue box and oh so yummy! Our grocery stopped carrying Cabot, so I used Cracker Barrel Aged Reserved (sold out of sharp). It’s a little less salty than the Cabot, so I added another 1/2 tsp of salt. The only one who didn’t try was the toddler who’s going through a phase and only ate broccoli and pudding for dinner. Ahhh, comfort food at its finest.


Kelly March 27, 2014 at 8:40 am

That macaroni looks amazing Aimee! So creamy and flavorful – loved how you recreated it – it’s perfect! Wish I had a bowl right now :)


Erica March 27, 2014 at 10:36 am

I love the turquoise bowl itself! Where can you find those? By the way, awesome recipe!


geneva March 27, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Mac & Cheese, I could eat several times a week. I love the variations you can do with it. I found Cabot cheese out our local grocery store (Winn Dixie) , I am in Florida.
It wonderful dishes, the cheeses are so delish. Will try your version, soon. avocado mac and cheese will be the next one I try..

Thanks for your fabulous venues


Twin Mommy Erica April 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm

This is hands down THE BEST Mac and cheese recipe that I’ve ever had!!!!!! My two year old twins loved it too!! Thanks!


Laura Adams June 9, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Made this tonight with my rising college sophomore daughter. We have been looking at recipes that she and her roomie can make next year in their apartment at school. We really liked it. Daughter said maybe not seriously sharp white cheddar. Husband is seriously devouring it now. Will try again but with slightly less sharp. Great recipe!


Connie | URBAN BAKES June 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Oh. my. goodness! I just saw this on pinterest and I’m in aww. I’m so happy I have found a copycat recipe of Panera’s mac n cheese. Isn’t it amazing?! I’ve been dying to make this myself for a while now! Definitely saving this one! Thanks Aimee
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Kristi A. June 19, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Oh the yumminess! I made this tonight to go with some fried fish my husband was making. Total comfort food! I LOVE mac and cheese. This is very much like Panera Bread’s. I couldn’t find Cabot but I did find Cracker Barrel white cheddar and I just LOVE this! Thanks you for sharing a delicious recipe!


Ellen July 12, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I NEVER cook but this looked so good I had to try it. I was afraid I would mess it up but it turned out phenomenal (and may just give me a nudge to make some more dishes in the future). Thanks so much for sharing!


aimee @ shugarysweets July 13, 2014 at 8:38 am

You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed it :) It really is an easy AND delicious recipe!


Coryn July 20, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I made this last night. I used a combination of white cheddar and havarti, because it was what I had on hand. It was fantastic and so creamy!


aimee @ shugarysweets July 21, 2014 at 9:01 am

Oooh, love your choice in cheese! Glad you enjoyed the recipe :)


Sarah July 24, 2014 at 9:26 am

Where did you find those adorable bowls?


aimee @ shugarysweets July 24, 2014 at 11:04 am

Cost Plus WOrld Market!


sandra king July 24, 2014 at 11:14 am

Do you have to use heavy cream? Can you use reg. milk?


Julia July 30, 2014 at 7:32 pm

I made this and followed the directions exactly and it turned Out HORRIBLE.


aimee @ shugarysweets July 30, 2014 at 10:22 pm

Hmmm. I have made this numerous times and it turns out delish. Not sure what to tell you? Some people have different taste buds I guess!


Leah November 18, 2014 at 8:37 pm

I agree with Julia. Totally tasteless! I needed to TON more cheese before this tasted anything like mac n’ cheese.


Julie Blanner August 3, 2014 at 9:35 pm

This stuff is kinda addicting. Haha :) Lots of great macaroni recipes.
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Ruth August 8, 2014 at 5:48 pm

This Mac n Cheese is awesome! Great recipe!


Jennifer October 6, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Does it have to be white cheddar or could I use the orange cheddar I have in my fridge?


Bill October 24, 2014 at 6:46 pm

I just finished making this recipe.. I believe that the sauce is way to much for the amount of pasta… I am going to cook another lb of pasta and add it 1/4 lb at a time until I get a good mixture of cheese sauce and pasta


Bill October 24, 2014 at 7:02 pm

disregard my last post… sorry Aimee I just didn’t wait long enough for it to thicken.. it started getting to a good consistency after about 10 mins


aimee @ shugarysweets October 24, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Glad it worked out. Depending on how much liquid remains on your pasta, it may take a bit longer to thicken!! ENJOY :)


Laura November 6, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Love this recipe! I did find out that you can use 2- 12 oz cans of fat free evaporated milk in place of the cream and skim without affecting the taste or texture (didn’t have any cream). I also double the mustard powder and halve the pepper to suit my children’s tastes. So very yummy! Sigh…cold weather comfort food at its finest.


aimee @ shugarysweets November 7, 2014 at 9:01 am

Whoohoo thanks for the tips Laura!!


Melissa November 22, 2014 at 10:44 am

Hi! quick question. The recipe calls for 1lb of cooked pasta, how much dry pasta do you use?


aimee @ shugarysweets November 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Sorry if it’s not clear. 1lb pasta, cooked. So I use a one pound box of pasta and cook it!
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Kelly Kleister December 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm

This is an awesome recipe! I substituted 2% Evaporated milk for the heavy cream and for the cheese we did a raw milk Vermont maple cheddar and a smoked gouda with bacon. SO AMAZING. I think I just upped my mac and cheese game. ;)


mike harris December 28, 2014 at 1:38 pm

This stuffwas truly God awful . I too followed the recipe exactly and it tastes like paste.


aimee @ shugarysweets December 29, 2014 at 8:11 am

Your palate is either used to Kraft, or there must have been an error in making this delicious pasta! I guess that’s why God gave us different palates and taste buds! Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it.


Colleen December 30, 2014 at 4:30 pm

This looks too good! Can’t wait to try :)
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Kristin Rosenberg January 12, 2015 at 8:45 pm

So I have to ask…how in the world did you get on a Cabot Cheese Board and where can I sign up? Haha. I am a huge fan of cheese and anything with cheese in it.I would LOVE to be on this board so much. Please email with details if you would be so kind at – thanks!!!!


Rima February 22, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Made this for my kid today. She loved it. Thank you for sharing.


aimee @ shugarysweets February 23, 2015 at 6:33 am

Thank you for stopping by and letting me know :) Have a great week!


Cindy March 9, 2015 at 1:26 pm

This mac & cheese is awesome!! Made it a few days ago and it tastes every bit as good as the pictures look! Don’t hesitate to make this…’s great! Thank you for sharing the recipe!!


aimee @ shugarysweets March 9, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Thank you so much Cindy!! So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe. We make this often instead of the boxed stuff!


Jennifer March 10, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Made this tonight! It was a great hit in my house, kids loved it!
Thanks for sharing! It’s for sure a keeper


Kristy March 14, 2015 at 5:58 pm

I am a macaroni and cheese lover and have been my whole life. I started out being obsessed with Velveeta shells and cheese, but as I’ve gotten older, I am trying to get away from the processed cheeses and focus on real cheese macaronis! I tried this recipe tonight and it’s pretty darn delicious. I don’t think it tastes like Panera, even though I used the Cabot Seriously Sharp White Cheddar and all ingredients listed above. I think I didn’t use enough cheese and maybe a tad too much cream. Overall, still fantastic and highly recommended! Next time I’ll add extra cheese!


Katelyn March 24, 2015 at 12:49 pm

I just tried Panera mac and cheese for the first time last night. It was the best! I think I will make this for dinner one night and mix it with grilled chicken and broccoli!! Thanks for posting!


aimee @ shugarysweets March 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Love the additions!!


Jenny March 28, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Made this today and it is absolutely the creamiest mac and cheese ever! I made 1 batch with the Cabot sharp cheddar and another with mild cheddar and both were fantastic! Next time I’m thinking smoked gouda…thanks for sharing this recipe!


aimee @ shugarysweets March 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Smoked gouda is wonderful with this recipe!! I’ve also used 1/2 gouda and 1/2 gruyere. So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe :)


Jeanne March 28, 2015 at 8:08 pm

I have made this and it is so good,, and if you don’t want to eat it right away you can bake it , which I did on 350 and waited for it to bubble to know it was done which wasn’t very long and it was very creamy still .. Just love this recipe. :)


aimee @ shugarysweets March 29, 2015 at 12:45 pm

So great to know that you baked it! Thanks for the tip!


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