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!
If you love making your favorite restaurant recipes at home as much as I do, then you should definitely try some of my other copycat recipes too. A few of my favorites include this New York Style Thin Crust Pizza, Chicken and Gnocchi Soup Olive Garden Copycat, and Outback Bread Copycat.
When 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.
Ingredients and Cost
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.
- Gather all of the ingredients, and shred the cheese.
- Cook the pasta as per the package instructions.
- Melt butter.
- Add flour and milk, and cook until thickened.
- Whisk in cheese until melted.
- Stir in pasta.
- Serve immediately!
***Make sure you watch the recipe video in the recipe card below!
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
More Copycat recipes:
- Honeybaked Ham
- Copycat Pizzeria Pizza Sauce
- Bang Bang Shrimp
- Copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana
- Movie Theater Popcorn
- Hawaiian Food Truck Garlic Shrimp
- BBQ Chicken Pizza
- Fried Apples
- Chick-Fil-A Frosted Lemonade
- Chicken Chow Mein
- Spinach Salad
- Healthier General Tso’s Chicken
- Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes
Panera Mac And Cheese
- 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.
This post first appeared on FFF in 2014. I recently updated the recipe photos and video.