★★★★★

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!!

For more traditiona 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.

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

Overhead shot of mac and cheese with black pepper.

Step by Step Instructions

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.

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!
Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese in a green soup bowl.

What to serve with Mac and Cheese:

PS. If you try this recipe, please leave a STAR rating in the recipe card below. I love your feedback! Connect with me on social media by following me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.

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.

Notes

  • Use a good quality cheese for best flavor.
  • Shred your own cheese!

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

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

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

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 25, 2020

Comments & Reviews

  1. 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

    1. Hi there 🙂
      You mentioned you used “cracker barrel” cheese, can you specify which cheese you used? I an assuming white cheddar?Thank you so much .

      1. Yes, it was the white cheddar, but I can’t remember which one exactly. I want to say the Vermont white cheddar. (I’ve been trying different cheese combinations.)

  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. 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!

  4. This is amazing!!! I used extra old white cheese and added pieces of chicken and smoky bbq sauce. My husband loves it and is super excited that I can make this at home. I am happy that he loves it as much as Panera’s mac and cheese and that we are saving tons of money. Thanks so much!!!!

  5. I do love this Mac and Cheese. I usually throw whatever cheese I have in the fridge in my white sauce but it also lacked something now I know what. 
    My husband and Granddaughter are the Mac and Cheese connoisseurs. At the age of 6 she told the family that after trying all the Mac and cheese in her home town restaurants that Panera Breads was the Best and would only eat there’s. 
    Now, when she comes to visit me because the closest Panera Bread is over an hour away, I can make comfort food for her and Grandpa. 
    Thank you for sharing. 

    1. Haha, not in my house 🙂 Leftovers definitely aren’t as tasty, you’ll want to add a little milk when you heat it back up.

  6. This looks so good! I bet the kind /brand of cheese you use makes a big difference. Wouldn’t have guessed the mustard either!

  7. Gotta agree with all those who said it was bland. I did use Cabot sharp cheddar, and followed the recipe exactly. It was easy, and super creamy, but very blah. After we started eating it we stopped and put a little crumbled up pre-cooked bacon in it to jazz it up. If I made this again I would double the salt, pepper and mustard, and probably add some white pepper. Also, it was a bit too rich, I’d use 1/2 & 1/2 instead of heavy cream.

  8. Wow..

    Looks so yummy .. After seeing this i feel like making Panera Macaroni and Cheese is so easy at home .. Detailed info given

    keep posting … You Rocks

  9. It was very thick and creamy, but my husband and I were both disappointed in the flavor. And I used Cabot Very Sharp Cheddar Cheese! I think i’ll add rotisserie chicken and bacon to the leftovers for dinner last this week.

  10. My thirteen year old granddaughter loves Panera mac & cheese, so I made this for her birthday. The grandkids, 15, 14, 13 and 12 didn’t think it tastes like Panera, but they did love it, asked to take home the leftovers and requested I send the recipe to their moms.

    I followed all directions except cut the dry mustard back as I didn’t think the birthday girl would like that much. Generous 1/4 teaspoon was perfect.

  11. I just made this. I couldn’t find cabot’s so I used helava good sharp cheddar. It came out grainy & the flavor is meh like there’s not enough cheese. 

  12. This is absolutely, hands down the best Mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted!!!!  This will definitely be a staple in our house!!!  Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!!  It’s sinply fantastic!!

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