How To Make Copycat Panera Mac And Cheese From Scratch

By: Prasanna| Published: 10:16:00 PM
This copycat Panera mac and cheese recipe tastes just like the real thing, but it’s dinner-worthy. Plus, it’s super easy to make.

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This creamy, cheesy recipe of Copycat Panera mac and cheese is what you need to try now. It's effortless and cooks perfectly on the stovetop.

If you love copycat recipes then you need to check out the recipes I have shared previously.

a close up of a bowl with panera copycat mac and cheese

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese

We love having mac and cheese for dinner but this recipe of mac and cheese with sharp white cheddar is so good and just like from Panera.

Detailed Ingredients:

  • Pasta:  Use what you like. I think Panera uses Pipette pasta but uses elbow or cavatappi too. I have used elbow pasta.
  • Butter
  • Flour + Milk: For roux
  • Heavy Cream
  • Salt + Black Pepper Powder
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Hot Sauce
  • White Sharp Cheddar / White American Cheese: White sharp cheddar is the best cheese for this recipe, but you can use any cheese of your choice.
ingredients to make panera copycat mac and cheese
spices used in making copycat recipe panera mac and cheese

How to Make Panera Mac and Cheese

Following are the steps by step instructions to make the delicious Panera copycat mac and cheese.

Step 1Cook Pasta
In a stockpot, cook the pasta as per package instructions. Drain well and toss pasta with oil to avoid pasta sticking together.

Step 2:  Make Sauce.
In a large saucepan, melt unsalted butter on medium heat. When butter is melted, add in flour and cook for a minute.

Reduce the heat, and milk, cream, salt, pepper powder, dijon mustard, and hot sauce and whisk.

Continue whisking until the sauce begins to bubble. 
step 1 to make mac and cheese sauce
step 2 to make mac and cheese sauce
step 3 to make mac and cheese sauce
Step 3:  Add Cheese.
Remove the pot from heat, add cheddar cheese, and stir again until the cheese is melted.

Step 4:  Stir In Pasta.
Add cooked pasta and stir until combined. 
step 4 to make mac and cheese sauce
If you like the pasta to be saucy then slowly add more milk and season with additional salt and pepper.
creamy panera mac and cheese in pan

a pan with mac and cheese

Recipe Variations

Pasta Options:

Panera Bread uses pipette pasta but you can use elbow, cavatappi, or even shell pasta.

Other Cheese Options:

The best cheese that works for this recipe is sharp white cheddar.  You can also mix an equal quantity of white sharp cheddar and white American cheese.

Also, feel free to use Mozzarella, Gruyere, Gouda, or Monterey Jack.
mac and cheese in a pan with pepper powder
a close up of a bowl with panera copycat mac and cheese

Recipe FAQs

What cheese is in the Panera mac and cheese?
White Cheddar works best! You have used a cheese block instead of shredded store-bought cheese. Store-bought shredded cheese does not melt well.

How to store leftovers?
You can store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 

What’s the best way to reheat copycat Panera mac and cheese leftovers?
Reheating mac and cheese won't work very well as the diary in this dish will separate while reheating.

You can add little milk while reheating. After a small interval of reheating, mix well and continue reheating.

What can you add to copycat Panera mac and cheese?
To make this dish more interesting for you, add Mushrooms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, BBQ Chicken, or Grilled Shrimp.

Can I add Hot Sauce and Mustard To Mac & Cheese?
You can add either Mustard powder or Dijon Mustard to the dish, it enhances the cheese flavor.

Also adding a splash of hot sauce adds more flavor to the mac & cheese. It does not make the mac & cheese spicy.
a closer look at pan with copycat panera mac and cheese
a white bowl with panera bread mac and cheese

Tips and Tricks For Copycat Panera Bread Mac & Cheese:

  • Do not cook the pasta thoroughly as it will also soak up the sauce when added to the pot. Keep pasta slightly undercooked before adding it to the sauce.
  • Reheating is a bit difficult here, as there is dairy in the sauce, heating mac & cheese will make the dairy separate in the sauce.
  • Adding spices to the dish is optional like hot sauce, and dijon mustard to enhance flavors.

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Copycat panera mac and cheese

Hi, I'm Prasanna!

I will be the first one to admit that I am an accidental food blogger. I love trying out new recipes and giving them a twist of my own. Hope you enjoy trying out the recipes ... do leave me your valuable feedback 😊

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