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.
Table of Contents
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.
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
- Cook pasta- according to package directions while making the sauce. Drain and set aside until ready to use.
- 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.
- Add cheese- Continue whisking until it begins to bubble. Reduce to low and add white cheddar. Stir until melted.
- 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.
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.
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!
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!
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Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese
- 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)
- 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.
- Use a good quality cheese for best flavor. We choose Cabot white cheddar for best results.
- Shred your own cheese!
Copycat Panera White Cheddar Mac and Cheese recipe is perfect for an easy weeknight side dish!
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!
Just made this recipe and it’s delish! Love the creaminess
Just made this recipe and it’s delish! Love the creaminess.
Thank youuuuu! I tried it and it’s perfect! Just what I needed.
Thanks for sharing this recipe. Just what I needed! ❤️