Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

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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

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Copycat Panera Macaroni and Cheese

4.70 from 789 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)
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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!

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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 February 21, 2022

Comments & Reviews

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 5 stars
    Holy cow, this is AHHHHMAAAAAZING. Per my kids, this tastes exactly like Panera’s version (and Panera is too expensive to go all the time so they’re thrilled to have this hack). Make it as is – don’t change a thing (except I only had skim milk and it was fine). Any pasta will pair perfectly. I need to make a double batch next time for our four teenagers who devoured this in about 5 minutes. Wow.

  5. 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!!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

    1. 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!

  8. 5 stars
    I’ve never had Paneras version, but I hear it’s very good. This is easy and delicious. Definitely will make again. Great way to use up that free cheese I get from work.

  9. 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!

  10. 4 stars
    Turned out amazing the second time. I used Vernont sharp white and use a little american white. With a teaspoon of Frank’s red. Turned out almost exactly like the Panera mac

4.70 from 789 votes (765 ratings without comment)

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