This Copy-Cat Version of Panera's Mac and Cheese is made in one pot! That's right--no pre-boiling noodles necessary. This one-pot mac and cheese is cheesy, gooey, rich and comforting, and ready in less than 30 minutes.
If you love Panera Bread, you may also love my other Copycat Panera Bread Recipes like Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Copycat Panera Roasted Turkey Sandwich, Cranberry Walnut Bread, and Easy Puff Pastry Egg Souffles.
My daughter's all-time favorite meal is Panera Mac and Cheese.
In my quest to please my little girl and feed her wholesome meals and keep money in my wallet, I have developed a fail-proof homemade copy-cat version of Panera's Mac and Cheese.
She loves this meal just as much, if not MORE than Panera's version!
This creamy mac and cheese is EASIER than boxed Mac and Cheese--no draining pasta or orange powdered mixes. And tastes a heck of a lot better.
Incredibly creamy, incredibly cheesy, made in less than 30 minutes all with one pan, plus this recipe is made with significantly less butter and cheese than most recipes, while still being just as delicious.
I am telling you this mac and cheese dinner is a dream come true for cheese lovers, pasta lovers, and people who just want a quick bowl of comfort food.
- Noodles: Use whole wheat or regular elbow noodles. Unfortunately, I have not had success making this mac and cheese with gluten-free pasta, as gluten-free pasta tends to release a lot of starchy liquid that leaves a film in the sauce. If you have success making this mac and cheese gluten-free, please share which brand of pasta you used in the comments.
- Stock: You can use chicken stock or vegetable broth in this recipe. Water can be used in place of stock, but the dish will not be as flavorful.
- Seasonings: Onion powder, garlic powder, and work to add flavor to this one-pot dish. I also love adding freshly grated nutmeg, as it adds a hint of depth to the cream sauce--but do not use ground nutmeg. Skip it altogether if you aren't grating the nutmeg fresh.
- Butter: Just one tablespoon of butter is all that is needed for this mac and cheese. It will add just enough richness to the pasta as it cooks.
- Milk: Use any fat percentage you like. If you want this mac and cheese to taste just like Panera's Macaroni and cheese, use half and half in place of milk and follow the rest of the recipe as stated.
- Cheese: Because this mac and cheese uses less cheese than most recipes, you want to make sure you use cheese that is really flavorful. I recommend sharp white cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses for their assertive flavors and their melting ability. However, Colby, cheddar, or gruyere, fontina, and provolone all make great choices as well. I would avoid mozzarella, because of it's mild flavor. Also avoid cheeses made with goat's milk, as they do not melt well. One very important thing to remember when making homemade mac and cheese is to freshly grate your cheese. If you use pre-shredded bagged cheese, it is coated in anti-caking powder, therefore decreasing the cheese's ability to melt smoothly.
How to Make Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese
- Place uncooked elbow noodles, vegetable broth, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and butter.
- Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a medium simmer.
- Once the pasta has absorbed about half of the stock and is just al dente (still has a chew to it), stir in the milk and freshly grated nutmeg.
- Simmer over low heat, until the pasta has finished cooking, adding additional milk if needed.
- Remove the macaroni from the heat and add the cheese, a handful at a time, and stir into the pasta until melted.
- Taste and season if needed and serve immediately.
More Cozy Pasta Recipes
Whether for a quick dinner or quick lunch, this easy Mac and Cheese recipe is sure to be loved by the entire family!
One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese
- 16 ounces elbow pasta
- 3 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ teaspoon whole grated nutmeg optional
- 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese shredded
- ¾ cup Swiss cheese shredded
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- In a large stock pan, combine the pasta, broth, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and butter. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-low once simmering. Be sure to stir often.
- Simmer for about 7-8 minutes, stirring often, until the pasta has absorbed most of the broth.
- Once the broth has been absorbed, add in the milk and nutmeg and continue to cook, stirring often, over low heat until the pasta is tender and the majority of milk is absorbed.
- Turn off the heat and add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring until melted.
- Taste and adjust seasonings and serve the macaroni and cheese immediately for best results.