★★★★★

Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

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!!

Bowl with homemade macaroni and cheese. Copycat recipe from panera.

Click HERE to save recipe to Pinterest!

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. And peanut butter fudge is the perfect ending to any meal, right?

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.

How to make Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese:

STEP 1: Cook pasta according to package directions while making the sauce. Drain and set aside until ready to use.

PRO TIP: Use your favorite noodle. Cavatappi is a great choice, or shells or elbows work great too!

STEP 2: In a large saucepan 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.

STEP 3: 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.

TIPS for Panera Mac and Cheese:

  • Use a good white cheddar. Don’t use the packaged shredded cheese, as it usually has cornstarch or some other thickeners already on it. Buy a block of cheddar and shred it yourself. Trust me, it’s going to melt so much creamier!
  • While your noodles are cooking, you can whip up the roux (flour and butter mixture). Then add remaining ingredients. By the time your noodles are done, your sauce should be ready. Easy!
  • When ready to reheat your leftovers, you may need to add about 1/2 cup milk. Warm it up on low on the stovetop. This recipe is about two meals for us as a side dish, for our family of 4.
  • Use the video tutorial below to follow along!

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

What to serve with Mac and Cheese:

If you love Panera, here are a few of my favorite copycat recipes

Dinner in under 30 minutes! Loaded with vegetables and cheese, you’ll love this easy, creamy Instant Pot Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe! It’s the BEST!

This Strawberry Pecan Salad is loaded with fresh berries and candied Pecan Halves. It’s also topped with a sweet, homemade lemon poppy seed dressing.

Orange Scones are my favorite bakery treat from Panera!

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If you love this Cheddar Mac and Cheese, you may also love:

Copycat Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese recipe and video:

Yield: serves 8

Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

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!!

Ingredients

  • 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 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1lb, pasta, cooked (cavatapppi, shells, or elbow)

Instructions

  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.
  3. 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.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 519Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 379mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 14g
*Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.
Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese: easy stove top recipe, so creamy and thick just like the real thing! #macandcheese #panera #copycat

*This Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese recipe was originally published on Shugary Sweets on March 21, 2014. 

Copycat Panera White Cheddar Mac and Cheese recipe is perfect for an easy weeknight side dish!

Aimee

About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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Posted on September 14, 2019

Comments & Reviews

  1. This recipe is fabulous!  According to my granddaughter it is  better than Panera. We were going every week to Panera for lunch so she can have their Mac n Cheese.  Yesterday we were school clothes shopping and I asked if she wanted Panera for lunch. She actually said no!  She asked me to make it at home again.  Made a full batch recipe today but made the cheese sauce 1/2 more.  She likes it saucy and it is such a large recipe I figured it would hold up better & stay saucy for it to last us a couple days.  I used Cabot Farmhouse Reserve, a bold & creamy cheddar, it tastes wonderful!  Thanks so much for this recipe!

  2. I finally had the chance to make this and everything was on point except the amount of pepper-1 TSP is way too much. I’d suggest 1/2 or even 1/4 TSP and maybe white pepper instead for aesthetics. My daughter did enjoy it (and my husband and I), the pepper was the only downfall!

  3. I tried this recipe twice and wanted to provide feedback for any non-cooks (like me) trying to make this. 
    The recipe itself is pretty easy compared to others I’ve looked at. The roux is time sensitive so have all your ingredients out and measured if you can.  I would recommend boiling your pasta first so you don’t have to stress about draining it while you’re mixing your other ingredients.
    Now as far as taste, I personally do not recommend the Cabot seriously cheddar. I thought it was way too sharp and Nothing like Panera. Luckily, I tasted the roux before mixing in the pasta so I added about a cup of yellow cheddar and maybe half a cup of mozzarella. The taste was much better and the whole fam liked it.
    The second time I decided to try it with a different cheese.. someone mentioned Cracker Barrel’s so I tried that. YES!!! Perfect! Very close to Panera!!! I tried adding About half a cup of yellow cheddar again. It was still good but not necessary. I also sprinkled some breadcrumbs on top for a little crunch

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