This is THE recipe for Panera Mac and Cheese. I got it from their website a while back when they posted it for a short time! You MUST try this easy stovetop recipe.

It costs just $1.09 per serving to make this recipe at home. The recipe makes 6 servings for a total of about $6.55. That’s less than it costs to buy one bowl at Panera!

An overhead picture of the finished Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese recipe.

Why you will love Panera Bread Mac and CheeseWhen I was pregnant with my son, there were only two foods that I could stomach: bagels and Panera’s Mac & Cheese. I would have their mac & cheese weekly. 

I’d get their half and half with an order of mac and cheese and an order of Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup. 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; it’s rich, smooth, creamy, and chock-full of calcium from all that yummy cheese and milk.

Not only is this recipe amazingly delicious, but it’s also quick and easy to make and on the table in 30 minutes or less. This mac and cheese recipe is thick and smooth and so easy to make on the stovetop.

Panera Copycat Mac and Cheese ingredients

Per Serving Cost: $1.09

Recipe Cost: $6.55

  • 1 pound Lumaconi pasta (I found it at Target) – $1.38
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter – $0.40
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour – $0.05
  • 2 ½ cups milk – $0.40
  • 4 ounces white American cheese – $1.52
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar – $2.76
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt –$0.02
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce – $0.01

NOTE: The recipe prices are calculated by using grocery store websites. The actual cost of the recipe will vary depending on what ingredients you already have. 

All of the ingredients needed to make this Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese recipe.

Cook’s tools for Panera Mac n Cheese

  • cheese grater 
  • pasta pot
  • medium saucepan
  • whisk

Panera Mac n Cheese variations

  • You can use any type of pasta that you’d like. To make this recipe just like Panera’s, you need to use Lumaconi pasta. In its place, you can use medium shells, elbow macaroni, and Cavatappi.
  • 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.
  • I find that to get optimal results; you *must* use extra-sharp white cheddar and sliced white American cheese from the deli, not the fake stuff you find in the box.
  • Add 1 cup of chopped and steamed broccoli florets for broccoli mac and cheese.

How to make Panera Mac and Cheese

  1. Gather all of the ingredients, and shred the cheese.
  2. Cook the pasta as per the package instructions.
  3. Melt butter.
  4. Add flour and milk, and cook until thickened.
  5. Whisk in cheese until melted.
  6. Stir in pasta.
  7. Serve immediately!

***Make sure you watch the recipe video in the recipe card below!

A picture collage of how to make this Panera Mac and Cheese recipe.

How to serve this Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe

Here are some tips for serving this mac and cheese:

  • As a main course: This mac and cheese is hearty and filling enough to be served as a main course. You could serve it with a side salad or some roasted vegetables.
  • As a side dish: This recipe would also make a great side dish for a holiday meal or barbecue. You could serve it with grilled chicken, fish, or pot roast.
  • In a grilled cheese sandwich: This mac and cheese would be delicious in a grilled cheese sandwich. Spread some of the mac and cheese on two slices of bread and grill until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • In a baked potato: Top a baked potato with some of the mac and cheese and then bake for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

How to store Panera Bread Mac and Cheese

SERVE: This is best served immediately after it’s made. With that said, you can keep it out for about an hour before it will need to be refrigerated.

STORE: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

FREEZE: Because of all of the dairy products in this recipe, I do not recommend freezing it. The cheese sauce will be grainy once it’s defrosted.

REHEAT: Place the Panera Mac and Cheese in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add 3-4 tablespoons of milk and heat and stir the mixture until heated through about 3-6 minutes.

Panera Mac and Cheese in a blue bowl.

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese FAQs

What type of cheese is best for Mac and Cheese?

As with all mac and cheese recipes, it’s best to use cheese that is NOT pre-shredded because of the extra additives that prevents the cheese from clumping.
For this recipe it’s best to use extra-sharp white cheddar and white American cheese from the deli.

Is hot sauce needed in this recipe?

I think so, it’s strictly used to enhance the flavor of the dish. It’s such a tiny amount that it will not make the dish spicy.

Cheese being grated on top of the finished Panera Mac and Cheese recipe.

More Copycat recipes:

A close up picture of the Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese.
4.18 from 103 votes

Panera Copycat Mac and Cheese

Recipe Cost $ $6.55
Serving Cost $ $1.09
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
6 people
Copycat Panera’s Mac and Cheese Recipe: this is their recipe for their famous rich and creamy Mac and Cheese. So good, you’ll love it.


  • Cheese grater
  • pasta pot
  • medium saucepan
  • whisk


  • 1 pound Lumaconi pasta or medium shells
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups milk anything but skim milk
  • 4 ounces (about 6 slices) sliced white American cheese from the deli counter, cut into thin strips
  • 8 ozs extra-sharp white cheddar shredded
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard optional
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce optional


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



  • 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 altogether.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 455kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 1060mg | Potassium: 232mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 859IU | Calcium: 612mg | Iron: 2mg

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This post first appeared on FFF in 2014. I recently updated the recipe photos and video.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Extremely close to the Panera recipe that myself and my family are hooked on! Just had a little trouble re-heating it (I cooked it for Christmas) – but I just read the reviews and now I’ll know what to do the next time I make it…..and there WILL be a next time!

    Thank you much!

  2. This recipe is perfect in every way. It’s also good when you transfer to the oven for 20 minutes with more cheese sprinkled on top!

  3. Such a great recipe! Thanks for sharing! A must have for this Summer’s BBQs!

  4. This mac and cheese was delicious and it totally reminded me of Panera’s – but I liked yours better! 🙂

  5. My son absolutely loves Mac n Cheese. I feel it just takes a lot of time. Will try your recipe soon since it looks less time consuming. 🙂

  6. I have never tried the mac and cheese you’ve copied, but as a standalone recipe this is delish!

  7. This is comfort food on a plate! I love the cheesy pasta combo and this looks like it would tick a lot of boxes. Can’t wait to give it a go and also love your other copy cat recipes, thanks!

  8. Now this is total comfort food. A little bit of mustard in mac and cheese is SO good.

  9. Lindsay Williams says:

    Has anyone ever tried to do it in a crockpot? I’m going to a cookout, and need to travel about 45 minutes .

  10. sharlene forkey says:

    my granddaughters and great granddaughter always stop at Panera when we are out shopping we all love the mac and cheese and the broccoli and cheese soup dont stop making it its the best

  11. Shelley Cortez says:

    So delicious, taste the same as Panera. Loved it!