★★★★★

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:

Give Christmas dinner a decadent finish with this Eggnog Cheesecake Cake. A creamy center and plenty of spice make this the ideal dessert for a cozy holiday celebration!

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

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ 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. 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!

  2. 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!

    1. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. 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..

    1. 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.

  6. 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 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

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