Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

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

For more traditional mac and cheese try my favorite Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe or my Gouda Bacon Mac and Cheese.

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


Copycat Panera Recipe

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. 

Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Orange Scones, and a big bowl of Mac and Cheese. Don’t forget the kitchen sink cookies!

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 applesauce and a roasted broccoli because I can’t seem to wrap my head around making side dishes.

  • Made on stove top in minutes!
  • Creamy and cheesy!
  • Kid and adult approved.

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed to make panera mac and cheese.

With just a handful of ingredients, you can make this stove top mac and cheese at home.

  • Pasta- use what you love. Cavatappi is a great choice, but shells or elbows work great too.
  • Cheese- good quality cheese is a must. And shredding it yourself is key to the creamiest mac and cheese. Bag of shredded cheese won’t give you the same results, you’ll find it more grainy. Use white cheddar to mimic Panera.
  • Ground Mustard- or dry mustard. This does not give your mac and cheese a mustard flavor, but instead ENHANCES the cheese flavor. Don’t skip it!
  • Milk & Cream- for the thickest mac and cheese, use heavy whipping cream and whole milk.
  • Salt and Pepper- season as directed, adding more after serving if necessary.

Step by Step Instructions

Step by step photos showing how to make panera mac and cheese.
  1. Cook pasta- according to package directions while making the sauce. Drain and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Make the roux- 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.
  3. Add cheese- Continue whisking until it begins to bubble. Reduce to low and add white cheddar. Stir until melted.
  4. Add pasta- 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.
Panera mac and cheese made at home in a large pot.

Recipe FAQs

What kind of cheese is best for mac and cheese?

I prefer a white cheddar, like Cabot’s. Don’t use the packaged shredded cheese, as it usually has thickeners on it. Buy a block and shred it yourself for the creamiest results.

What can I use instead of dry mustard?

1/2-1 tsp of dijon mustard would work well with today’s mac and cheese recipe. It doesn’t make the recipe taste like mustard, but instead enhances the cheese flavor!

Can I add hot sauce to mac and cheese?

Absolutely! Start with about 1/4 teaspoon. This will give the pasta great flavor without making it spicy. Add more if you want spice!

Tips and Tricks

  • 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!
Panera mac and cheese served in a green bowl.

Serving Suggestions

Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese

4.70 from 778 votes
By: Aimee
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!!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients 

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 pound pasta cooked (cavatapppi, shells, or elbow)

Instructions 

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

Notes

  • Use a good quality cheese for best flavor. We choose Cabot white cheddar for best results.
  • Shred your own cheese!

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 519kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 39g, Saturated Fat: 24g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 115mg, Sodium: 379mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Mention @shugarysweets or tag #shugarysweets!

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



Avatar photo

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**

Learn How To Become a Better Home Baker
Sign up for the Shugary Sweets FREE Email Course Today—soon you’ll say, "I made it from scratch!"

Categories:


Posted on February 21, 2022

Comments & Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I make this all the time, it’s so delicious. As with all recipes I eventually made it my own, but I did absolutely love it with the original recipe too. That said, I’ve made a variation on basically all of it lol! So my way is 1/2 cup whole milk, 2 1/2 cups whipping cream, the entire block of cabbot’s, 1 1/2 tsp salt (I’ve done it with kosher, sea salt, and regular. Always the same!) 1/2 tsp of white pepper (I just do not like the black pepper in this recipe), and 2 tsp dry ground mustard. The extra mustard makes it a bit sharper and the extra whipping cream makes the sauce thicker, which I love. I know some want it less thick, I imagine you could go the opposite way and just add more whole milk and less whipping cream. Thanks for this awesome recipe!

  2. Who cooks a roux for 1 minute??? I’m not being “that guy” but unless you enjoy the taste of raw flour, you need to cook your roux much longer.

    1. 5 stars
      Nope. For this small amount of flour, a minute is more than enough. Try the recipe before you run your mouth. It came out perfectly.

  3. It was wonderful! Never had Panera’s. I made an error and read 2 pounds of cheese instead of 2 cups. No problem! I added 1 more teaspoon of salt,pepper, mustard and 1 more cup of half and half . I then cooked up another half pound of cavatappi blended it all and enjoyed! Thank you for the recipe! I used the Cabot cheese and it was smooth and not the least bit gritty.

  4. 5 stars
    Simple and easy! I 1.5x the sauce (2x the seasonings), and added two chopped heads of broccoli to the last three minutes of the boiling noodles. I added some cubed leftover ham also. It was a great one pan meal! My husband doesn’t even like Mac and cheese, but he said he liked this one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating