This Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe tastes so much like the real thing! We save ourselves so much money making this Panera copycat recipe at home.
This recipe makes six servings as a main dish. It will make 10-12 servings if served as a side dish. Making six servings costs $6.59. That works out to be about $1.09 per serving.
Our kids go wild when we go out to eat, but our wallets do not, so we do not go out to eat very often. But when we do go to Panera, we all get the same thing: the mac and cheese. We were getting it often enough that it was time to have our own recipe to make at home.
Our kids literally lick their plates clean when we serve this meal. This recipe is a quick and easy stovetop dish that can be made during those busy weeknights as the main dish.
Ingredients & Cost:
- 1 pound Lumaconi pasta – $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
To find out more about how we price our recipes, check out Budget Recipes Explained.
- First, assemble all of you ingredients, because this recipe moves fast!
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
- Next, melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour.
- Then slowly whisk in the milk until it thickens.
- Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses and salt until smooth.
- Finally, stir in the pasta and cook for one minute before serving.
RECIPE VARIATIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Add one cup of broccoli to make Broccoli Mac and Cheese.
- You can also add ham to the dish for a delicious variation.
Serve: As with most recipes with dairy products in them, you shouldn’t leave this mac and cheese out for longer than 2 hours.
Store: Place the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. It will stay fresh for up to four days. You may need to add 3-4 Tablespoons of milk when reheating on the stovetop over medium heat for about 3-6 minutes or until heated through.
Freeze: This is not a recipe that freezes well. The sauce becomes grainy after defrosting, so it is best to enjoy this meal fresh.
- measuring cups
- liquid measuring cup
- measuring spoons
- mixing spoon
- cheese grater
Definitely! Hot Sauce adds to the flavor of the cheese without making the dish overly spicy. Add in 1/4 teaspoon at a time until desired taste is achieved.
The basic ingredients are pasta, flour, butter, milk, salt, and cheese. The cheese makes all the difference in the recipe. While you can substitute the cheeses for other types of cheese, beware that it will alter the overall taste of the recipe. And be sure to use real cheese that you shred yourself, not the pre-shredded cheese.
GET KIDS INVOLVED
Ages 2-3: Have your little one help pour in the cheeses. They can then also help pour in the noodles to mix in with the cheese sauce.
Ages 4-5: Guiding your child’s hands, show them how to whisk together the flour with the butter and then the milk.
Ages 6-8: Teach your child how to grate the cheese. They can also pre-measure all of the ingredients for you.
Ages 9-11: Supervise them while they prepare the entire recipe. Remember to have them read it twice before beginning the recipe.
Ages 12+: Let them prepare the entire recipe, unsupervised, while you do the happy dance in the corner!
Save money by making this copycat recipe at home. A large order of mac and cheese at Panera costs just over $9.00. You can make six servings for less than that!
MORE COPYCAT RECIPES
- Copycat Instant Pot Honey Baked Ham
- General Tso Chicken
- Instant Pot Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli Soup
- Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat
- Olive Garden Gnocchi Soup
- Copycat Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo
- Nacho Fries-Better than Taco Bell
- Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme
- Copycat Panda Express Chow Mein
- Texas Roadhouse Rolls
Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe
- measuring cups
- Liquid measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- mixing spoon
- cheese grater
- 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 white American cheese from the deli counter about 6 slices sliced into strips
- 8 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar shredded
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Cook pasta following the package directions.
- Melt butter over low heat in a large saucepan. While whisking constantly, whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute.
- Slowly whisk in the milk; cook over medium heat. Whisk until the mixture thickens and bubbles before removing from heat.
- Stir in the cheeses and salt until the cheese melts and the sauce becomes smooth.
- Add in the pasta and stir thoroughly. Cook over medium heat for one minute.
- Serve immediately.