Panera’s Mac & Cheese Recipe

Alright folks, this is **THE** recipe for Panera’s Mac & Cheese. I got it from their website a while back when they posted it for a short time! You MUST try this Panera’s Mac & Cheese Recipe.


As I’ve mentioned to you all recently, I am pregnant and due in September. While I was going through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy there were only two foods that I could stomach: bagels and Panera’s Mac & Cheese. I would have their mac & cheese weekly. Okay, okay, if I’m going to be honest maybe it was more than once a week… For me this is the pinnacle of mac & cheese dishes; its rich, smooth, creamy and chock-full of calcium from all that yummy cheese and milk. Not only is this recipe amazingly delicious, its also quick and easy to make; on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Cook’s Note for Panera’s Mac & Cheese Recipe:

*If you’re serving this as a main dish it serves 4-6. If you’re making this as a side dish it serves 8-10.

*Some people find the Dijon mustard in the recipe to be a bit overwhelming, so feel free to cut back on it or omit it all together.

*I find that in order to get optimal results you *must* use extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar and sliced white American cheese from the deli, not the fake stuff you find in the box.

Panera's Mac & Cheese Copycat Recipe

Panera Mac & Cheese

Serves 4-6
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Meal type Main Dish, Side Dishes
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Hot
Occasion Barbecue, Casual Party
Website Slightly adapted from Panera's Website
This is *THE* recipe for Panera's rich and creamy Mac & Cheese. Not only is it delicious, it comes together in a snap!


  • 1 16-ounce Package package of rigati pasta ((or other small pasta shells))
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (2% or whole)
  • 6 Slices white American cheese (chopped)
  • 8oz extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar (shredded)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce


Step 1
Prepare pasta according to package directions.
Step 2
Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.
Step 3
Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.
Step 4
Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
Step 5
Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated). Serve immediately.

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About Jillian

Hi, I'm Jillian. I'm a teacher turned stay-at-home mom. I miss the creativity teaching provided so I'm always trying to find time to exercise my artistic abilities. Mostly that means cooking and baking. My blog is dedicated to providing restaurant-quality recipes for the home cook.


  1. Hello I was just wondering what do you use for hot sauce?

  2. How many calories are in this??

  3. This tates IDENTICALto the Panera Bread mac & cheese. Identical!

  4. Nancy Jo Mannix says:

    Delicious…VERY close to Panera’s.

  5. all I have to say is thanks for sharing the recipe one of my vendors brought in lunch from Panera accompanied with the mac and cheese and it is so delicious. I don’t remember what the vendor was presenting but i do remember the mac and cheese

  6. The recipe turned out very oily for us. Any ideas why and did this happen for others? There was oil coated at the bottom of the pan. We threw it out :-(

    • Hi Shawna, I’m so sorry this recipe didn’t turn out from you. I’ve made this recipe numerous times and haven’t had the oily problem. Granted I wasn’t there with you when you made the recipe, but it sounds like the cheese might be the problem. Sometimes lower quality cheeses are made with more oil than milk. Use the best-quality white cheddar you can afford and try getting the white American cheese from your deli counter.
      Hope this helps!

  7. MrsALM1987 says:

    I ended up ‘mixing’ up my cheese. I know I put in 8 oz and 6 slices of cheese but I wasn’t keeping track of placement so due to user error- mine did NOT taste identical to panera’s BUT it was still pretty tasty! One thing I was curious about was the Dijon mustard- it was quite over-powering & I’m not a mustard fan. When the recipe is made right do other people find the mustard at a 1/2 T is too much? I know I can alter it next time but I’m wondering if it had to do with the cheese mix-up or not?

  8. Is it crucial to use extra sharp white Vermont cheddar? I used extra sharp white cheddar, since I couldn’t find the Vermont one, and the mac&cheese had a strange after taste.

    • Hi Amanda. From reading your comment I would say yes it is crucial to use Vermont extra sharp white cheddar. I’ve never used anything else and I’ve never had a strange after taste. Hope this helps!

  9. Do you use stick butter or tub butter? salted or unsalted?

  10. Hello can you please tell me the exact type of dijon mustard you use. We have tried it twice now, and the mustard is overpowering the dish both times. The second time we only /14 tbsp. Please help! We love the Panera Bread Mac & Cheese. Thank you for taking the time to write this recipe out!

  11. Sofia Graham says:

    Is it crucial to have mustard and hot sauce in your recipe?

  12. As I was eating the Mac & cheese at Paneras I thought there was a sweet taste like maybe cream cheese or half & half was used. So good I made your recipe today & it was very good too but lacked that tinge of sweetness. Any ideas?

  13. madddogg105 says:

    Can you use skim milk in this recipe?

  14. You wouldn’t by any chance know what brand of white Vermont cheddar cheese Panera uses Would you??

  15. This sounds delicious and easy to make, thank you for sharing.

  16. I love Panera’s Mac & Cheese and so does my granddaughters. This is one recipe I will definitely keep handy and the ingredients readily available!

  17. christina p says:

    Sounds yummy. We will be fixing this soon.

  18. It is pretty good but there is way too much Dijon mustard. But that is just my opinion, different people like different tastes, but i don’t think it tasted too much like Panera’s because of the mustard.

  19. My husband liked it a lot, I think because it was different than the usual Mac & Cheese we eat. I thought it was just ok, a bit gritty, nowhere near as creamy as Panera, and did not have the same “I can’t get enough of this!” flavor. I know it’s from their website, I’ve seen this recipe posted many places, but I think Panera was hiding something when they shared this ;) Thanks for sharing and the tips, I’m sure I’ll be making it again for my husband for sure. I might use less sharp cheddar next time though because it was a bit too sharp for me.

  20. This didn’t taste at all like Paneras mac-n-cheese :( My girls wouldn’t even eat it! I don’t know what I did wrong… I did use yellow american cheese and not white. I used Vermont White Sharp Cheddar (Cracker Barrel brand). I just did one small squirt of the mustard, because I am not a fan of Dijon mustard. I also did just a few shakes of hot sauce, as 1/4 t. seemed like a lot, esp. for my girls. It has a funny aftertaste to it also.

    • I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. I’ve made this recipe at least 7 times now and it’s always turned out. I’m not sure what happened with yours. :(

  21. Kelly OM says:

    This looks amazing. I love macaroni and cheese, but the recipe I have calls for Velveeta, which is not on my current “organic” diet. Thanks for an alternative. Also love the hot sauce addition.

  22. Emily Roth says:

    That looks yummy!

  23. gummy bear says:

    i think the secret is to replace the milk with cream and it’s ok to use sharp vermont not extra sharp right??

    • gummy bear says:

      also are you supposed to use the kraft processed white american cheese slices

    • I haven’t tried this recipe with the cream, so I can’t say. Also, I do recommend the extra sharp Vermont cheddar. I hope this helps!

      • My daughter loves Panera’s, so I thought I would give this a try. But the finished product didn’t have much taste. I think it may have still tasted like flour. Should I taste the flour/butter mixture before adding in everything else to make sure that it cooked enough and that it doesn’t taste like flour? I used Tobasco sauce, French’s Dijon mustard, 2% milk, New Zealand grass fed sharp cheddar, and deli white American cheese. I also used salted butter, so I omitted the teaspoon of salt.

        • I’m sorry this didn’t work for you. Try cooking the butter/flour mixture until it reaches a toasted almond color. You can even reduce the amount of flour if you’d like. The recipe that’s posted is Panera’s recipe that they put up on their website. Maybe try extra sharp white cheddar?

  24. I followed the recipe to the tee, and all I can say is that it tasted far to much of flour. Maybe our Panera’s differ, but this didn’t taste anything like it to me. As a lover of mac n cheese I made up a large batch so I could eat little bits through the week. Neither hubby or I could eat this. I’d say a 1/4 to an 1/8 cup of flour would suffice and get rid of that flour taste that I have never tasted in Panera’s mac n cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downing you or your recipe… some seem quite happy with it. And I thank you for posting this so I could try it. I, too, think there is most likely a heavy cream to this recipe. I’d say probably half heavy cream and half milk. I also see flecks of black pepper in Panera’s mac n cheese. I’d say the hot sauce is fine, but also some black pepper. I’ll have to go back to Panera’s tomorrow and grab another order and come home and work to recreate it completely. So far, this wasn’t close to me. But with far less flour it might be tasty enough?

    • I’m not sure exactly what happened, I can only guess. With that said, it sounds like maybe the butter/flour mixture wasn’t cooked? Try cooking it until it reaches a toasted almond color, and even reduce the amount of flour if you’d like. The recipe that’s posted is Panera’s recipe that they put up on their website. Best of luck! :)

  25. Patti l says:

    Its close but my daughter who is the worlds biggest fan of Paneras mac n cheese says its not quit smooth or cheesy enough. Next time less flour n more cheese. Bt it is yummy!

  26. OK folks I think i’ve discovered the missing ingredient for the Panera Mac and Cheese; I used 11/2 cup of Evaporated milk (12 oz) and 1 cup reg milk to equal the 21/2 cups. I also used Morton salt instead of Kosher salt and used just a SQUiRTof the Dijon mustard. Try this and see what you think!

  27. I was wondering if I could make it and put it in a crockpot to keep it warm for a picnic we’re going to, or do you think that it would get gummy? Mimi

  28. I haven’t tried this yet and I’m excited to see what I think considering Panera mac and cheese is my favorite thing ever. That being said..there’s no way this came off their website at one time and if it was a lie! They get their mac and cheese in bags and it’s full of preservatives and all kinds of stuff. The ingredients are now on the website under the nutritional information. I’m just putting that out there. They do use vermont white cheddar though. I know that.

  29. If you let the milk sit out to get to room temperature before adding it to the recipe, it will create a sweeter product.

  30. Do you think it would be okay to freeze this? Thanks!

    • Hi Adrienne,
      Unfortunately, this recipe will not freeze well because of the nature of the cheese sauce. It will turn grainy once frozen and then thawed/re-heated.


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