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.
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!
- Buffalo Chicken Sliders
- Meatball Subs
- Instant Pot Hamburgers
- French Dip Sandwiches
- Mississippi Pot Roast
Copycat Panera White Cheddar Mac and Cheese recipe is perfect for an easy weeknight side dish!
Just made this recipe and it’s delish! Love the creaminess
Thank youuuuu! I tried it and it’s perfect! Just what I needed.
Made this for Thanksgiving. Used the Cabot white sharp cheddar cheese shredded in my food processor and it was so creamy and flavorful. I made it 2 hours before dinner and kept it in a crockpot on low until dinner. It did not dry out and was a huge hit! It is Super easy and a quick recipe. I have been asked to bring it again to Christmas.
This recipe has become a staple in our house! It’s so good and amazing as leftovers too I always have to make a double batch so everyone can eat and have leftovers! Thank you so much for this!!
I’m so happy to hear it!
Tried this exactly as written and it was amazing. My husband said that if there was a way to box this recipe and post for resale, you would never be able to keep up with inventory, you would always be sold out. I guess that means it was good! Thank you.
Awww happy to hear this!
Can you freeze this recipe, it’s just the hubby and I?
Very bland as is. I had to add sooo much more pepper as well as garlic powder (we don’t like 🌶️ ).
It is so thick. I mean really thick. Anything I can do to loosen it a bit?
We love this recipe and have made it multiple times!
Any suggestions for how to transport it to a get together so that it doesn’t dry out? Crockpot? Or any other suggestions? We’d love to bring it to family but won’t be eating right away. Thanks!
I loved the Mac n cheese, never had Panera’s! This recipe was flavorful & creamy👍
I saw the other comments & just wondered if they cooked the butter & flour According to directions!
This was so yummy! I think the dry mustard was a little overpowering and made it taste different than Panera’s recipe, but we all still loved it! Might tweak in the future with less mustard but will definitely make again!
Add a teaspoon of Frank’s red hot. Makes a huge difference
This Mac and cheese is delightful, not sure what the grumpy comments are about! I used aged extra sharp cheddar mixed with normal white cheddar and there was no gritty texture and the flavor came through perfectly!
Omg! I thought it was perfect. I have to be gluten free so I used cassava flour with a teaspoon of corn starch. I used tillamook sharp white….perfect recipe. Thanks!!
Obviously I used a gf noodle. Absolutely love the Banza brand of chickpea noodle for any fellow GF’s out there. Thanks for a great super quick recipe!
I love Banza too! And Tillamook is perfect for flavor!
I agree. I wonder if they aren’t salting their pasta water or if they’re leaving out the dry mustard, salt and pepper. I’ve used Cabot (seriously sharp, I think) and Cracker Barrel Vermont sharp and it has been great with both. I shred it myself. Shredded cheese in the bags can make it gritty. I have had no problems with this.
Thank you, Patty, for your gluten free alternatives! One of my daughters was recently diagnosed with Celiac‘s disease and I’m still trying to figure out all the different substitution options! Very helpful❤️
I made exactly as recipe written. Mine was bland also but I think I used bland cheap cheese! Never again! But when all was said and done I loved the recipe and will make again with Cabot cheese.
I added kielbasa just to give it a little more taste.
Thanks so much this is a keeper!
Definitely use good cheese since that will be the prominent flavor. Kielbasa sounds amazing in it!
it is very bland, i even added paprika, extra salt and pepper. still bland. if you make this I recommend adding more of a sharp cheddar with a stronger cheese flavor, and mixing in some other seasonings
This recipe is quick, easy and delicious. My son loves Panera’s Mac n cheese ever since he had it in Canada. This is a fav of his now..
I tried this recipe with Tillamook white cheddar cheese and thought it tasted slightly gritty. But my husband and I liked it well enough to make it again, but this time I used Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp White (Kroger carries it).The sauce was very smooth-not gritty at all. I liked this recipe because it was quick and easy and the sauce was very creamy.
This was yummy, thanks!
Easy and delish. To me, it is reminiscent of my grandmothers “cream macaroni” she would make for me and my siblings and cousins. I’m pretty sure there was no cheese, but was still creamy and yummy and was distinctively, deliciously peppered. So, for childhood memories sake, to this recipe I added a tsp of ground white pepper to the sauce after making. Tasted and yes, I was at granny’s kitchen table on the farm. 🙂 I poured the prepared mac and cheese it in a baking dish and topped it with a decent layer of panko, which I then sprayed with cooking spray (such an easy way to add crunchy crispiness to casseroles ) then a little sprinkle of shredded white cheddar. Now, in my oven it sits, waiting for me to turn the broiler on for a couple minutes to get it crispy and gooey right before I take it over to a potluck tonight. 🙂 Thank you for sharing! It was fairly quick , not too many ingredients and, decent amount to share with a crowd. Just what I needed for end of the week last minute potluck 🙂
I add a 1/4 (about 2-3 oz of Cream cheese and about 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika to the cheese mixture. It comes out creamy with a hint of smoke taste to it. I also add about 1/4 tsp. of Cyanne pepper because everyone here in my family loves the hot taste in everything. But this does sound like the one I use to make.
I added several carrots, honey, cinnamon and brown sugar and eliminated the cavatappi and white cheddar.
Ha… sorry, reviews that just submit an entirely different recipe are ridiculous. Thanks for this recipe. It was very good and does taste a lot like Panera’s.
I was like, wait what?? Haha, glad you enjoyed the recipe!
Haha, good one Trumpy!!!!
So hilarious! And so true – that one review below was SO over the top.
I adored this! Prepped everything and took it with me to potluck dinner then cooked it quickly on their stove and assembled it. I wasn’t sure how to make it ahead with out it drying out. Has anyone tired that yet?
Delicious! and quick. Def shred your own cheese.
Thanks for sharing this. Because I personally like a really creamy sauce, I doubled the sauce recipe. I also used smoky bacon chipotle salt instead of the kosher. I added one shallot, five cloves of garlic, half a fresh squeezed lemon, and a third cup of Riesling. I also added a teaspoon of nutmeg (half a teaspoon if not doubling sauce). And a package of baby spinach. Great call on the seriously sharp white cheddar. This is great!