Copycat Panera Mac & Cheese

panera mac and cheese
Andrew Bui

Newsflash: You don’t need to leave your house to enjoy your favorite fast-food mac & cheese anymore. That super-creamy, cheesy mac that everyone loves at Panera can easily be replicated in your own kitchen. With this recipe you can make it for a crowd and at a fraction of the price of takeout from the restaurant. The key: a combination of white cheddar for that deep cheesiness and white American cheese to impart a silky texture. This isn't the time to skimp on calories—make sure to use whole milk and full-fat cheese here. Reduced-fat dairy won’t give you the same result.

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Yields: 8
Prep Time: 0 hours 10 mins
Total Time: 0 hours 30 mins

Kosher salt

1 lb.

shells or elbows

4 tbsp.

unsalted butter 

1/4 c.

all-purpose flour

2 c.

whole milk

1 c.

heavy cream or half-and-half

1 1/2 tsp.

dry mustard or Dijon mustard

3/4 lb.

sharp white cheddar, shredded (4 c.)

1/4 lb.

white American cheese (about 5 slices)

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Add butter to pot and melt over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to form a thick, smooth paste without lumps. Cook until fragrant but not browned, 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add milk, cream, mustard, and 1 teaspoon salt. Continue to whisk until sauce begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. 
  3. ​​Add cheeses and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until all cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta and stir until fully coated.

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Andrew Bui

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