How to Make the Famous Panera Mac and Cheese

At Panera Bread, their Mac and Cheese is a customer favorite and one of their most popular dishes. The creamy and cheesy taste makes it a quick and easy comfort food to go-to for a busy weeknight or a lazy weekend. The good news is that even though it is a Panera signature dish, you can make it right in your own kitchen! In this article, we will guide you through the process of making your own delicious Panera Mac and Cheese. Follow the 12 easy steps and some useful tips to create your own hearty dish!

Steps: How to Make Panera Mac and Cheese

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

The first step to making your very own Panera Mac and Cheese is to gather the necessary ingredients. You will need elbow macaroni, whole milk, heavy cream, unsalted butter, all-purpose flour, white cheddar cheese, kosher salt, dry mustard, and hot sauce. Before you begin, make sure you have all the ingredients ready to avoid any delays or interruptions while cooking.

Step 2: Boil the Macaroni

In a large pot, bring the desired amount of water and half a tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the elbow macaroni and cook it according to the package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta through a sieve or colander and set it aside.

Step 3: Make the Cheese Sauce

In the same pot, melt unsalted butter over medium heat. Once melted, add all-purpose flour and whisk it until smooth. After that, you can slowly add whole milk while continuously whisking. Be sure to continue stirring the mixture until it thickens.

Step 4: Add the Cream and Spices

Now it is time to add the heavy cream along with the kosher salt, dry mustard, and hot sauce. Continue whisking for another minute until everything is well combined.

Step 5: Add the Cheese and Cook

Once the sauce is ready, you can slowly add the shredded white cheddar cheese while continuously whisking for 3-5 minutes or until all the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Step 6: Combine the Cheese Sauce and Macaroni

Add the cooked elbow macaroni into the cheese sauce. Stir the macaroni and sauce mixture until all the macaroni is coated evenly with the sauce.

Step 7: Serve Hot

Your Panera Mac and Cheese is now ready to be served hot! You can garnish it with some chopped parsley or bacon bits to add some extra flavor.

Step 8: Refrigerate or Freeze

If you have any leftover mac and cheese, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Step 9: Reheat

To reheat Panera Mac and Cheese, add a tablespoon of milk and microwave for 60-90 seconds or until heated through. Alternatively, you can reheat it on the stovetop over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Step 10: Experiment with Toppings

There are endless topping options that can make your mac and cheese dish even more delicious. You can try adding breadcrumbs, bacon, jalapenos, or even lobster to your mac and cheese!

Step 11: Try Different Cheese Varieties

While white cheddar cheese is the signature ingredient for Panera Mac and Cheese, you can also experiment with different cheese varieties such as Gouda, Fontina, or even Brie!

Step 12: Enjoy Your Delicious Panera Mac and Cheese!

There you have it – your very own Panera Mac and Cheese! Sit back, relax, and enjoy your hard work and delicious dish!


Now that you know the 12 steps to make Panera Mac and Cheese, it’s essential to understand the reasoning and logic behind them.

The first step of gathering ingredients is crucial for a smooth cooking experience. Having all the ingredients ready saves time and minimizes the chances of interruptions that can result in an unsatisfactory finished product.

Boiling the macaroni in salted water until al dente ensures the perfect texture and evenly cooked pasta without being too soft or mushy.

The cheese sauce’s thickening process in Step 3 results in a smooth texture and prevents the sauce from being too watery.

Adding the cream along with spices such as kosher salt, dry mustard, and hot sauce in Step 4, adds an extra flavor and further enhances the creaminess of the dish.

The cheese’s gradual addition in Step 5 ensures a consistent texture and taste throughout the dish and lets the cheese melt correctly.

Combining the cheese sauce and macaroni in Step 6 should be done thoroughly to ensure all the macaroni is evenly coated with the sauce.

Serving the dish hot in Step 7 will ensure the cheese sauce is in its best form.

Refrigerating or freezing leftover Panera Mac and Cheese in Step 8 ensures you can enjoy the delicious dish even on busy days.

Reheating the mac and cheese in Step 9 requires careful attention to avoid overcooking or uneven heating.

Experimenting with toppings in Step 10 is a way to elevate and customize the dish to suit your tastes and preferences creatively.

Trying different cheese varieties in Step 11 will allow you to enjoy different flavor profiles and discover new tastes for this classic dish.

Finally, Step 12 is the most crucial one of all – enjoying the dish and savoring the flavors!

Tips and Tricks

1. Use freshly grated cheese for the best results.

When making Panera Mac and Cheese, avoid pre-shredded cheese and opt for freshly grated cheese for optimal texture and flavor.

2. Use kosher salt instead of table salt.

Kosher salt has a more substantial grain size and, therefore, distributes more evenly throughout the dish, providing a better flavor profile than table salt.

3. Choose the right pasta shape.

Elbow macaroni is the classic pasta for mac and cheese, but you can try other pasta shapes such as shells or fusilli to add some variety.

4. Use heavy cream for extra creaminess.

Heavy cream adds richness and ensures the cheese sauce is creamy and not too runny.

5. Keep whisking!

Whisking is crucial throughout the cooking process to prevent lumps and ensure a smooth texture.

6. Adjust hot sauce flavors to taste.

Hot sauce adds an excellent flavor to the dish, but the amount can vary depending on your preference. Adjust the hot sauce level to your liking for the best experience.

7. Let the cheese melt gradually.

Adding the cheese slowly is essential, eventually leading to a smooth texture and ensuring consistency.

8. Add breadcrumbs for extra texture.

Breadcrumbs added to the top of the dish can add an extra crispy texture and a touch of brown color.

9. Experiment with different cheese types.

Switching up your cheese type can provide a new and exciting flavor profile as you enjoy Panera Mac and Cheese.

10. Have Fun!

The most important tip of all is to have fun while cooking and enjoy your delicious Panera Mac and Cheese when it’s ready!

In conclusion, Panera Mac and Cheese is a tasty and comforting dish that is quick and easy to prepare. With the 12 easy steps and invaluable tips and tricks provided, you can now create your very own signature dish at home. So, put on your apron, grab some ingredients, and let’s get cooking!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Making Panera Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is a popular comfort food for many, and Panera Bread is known for their delicious version. If you want to replicate it at home, there are some advantages and disadvantages to consider:


  1. You can customize it to your liking by adding more or less cheese, using different types of cheese, or adding in meats or vegetables.
  2. Making it at home can be more cost-effective than buying it at Panera Bread.
  3. You can make a larger batch to have leftovers for the week.
  4. You can control the quality and freshness of the ingredients used.
  5. Making it at home can be a fun activity to do with family or friends.
  6. You can add nutritional value by using whole wheat pasta or adding in vegetables like broccoli.
  7. You can adjust the seasoning to your taste.
  8. You can feel accomplished by successfully making a restaurant-quality dish at home.
  9. You can satisfy your cravings anytime you want, without having to leave the house.
  10. You can experiment with different variations to find your own perfect recipe.


  1. Making it from scratch can be time-consuming and requires several steps.
  2. You need to have the correct tools, such as a large pot for boiling pasta and a whisk for making the cheese sauce.
  3. You may have to invest in specific ingredients that you don’t typically keep in your pantry.
  4. It may be difficult to achieve the exact taste and texture of Panera Bread’s mac and cheese.
  5. The dish may not turn out as expected if you don’t follow the recipe precisely.
  6. Cooking a large batch means having to store leftovers in the fridge or freezer, which can take up space.
  7. Cleaning up after making the dish can be a hassle.
  8. It may not be as convenient as ordering it from Panera Bread if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand.
  9. If you’re not an experienced cook, it may be challenging to make a complex dish like mac and cheese.
  10. It can be easy to overindulge if you have a large batch of homemade mac and cheese on hand.

Overall, there are both advantages and disadvantages to making Panera Mac and Cheese at home. It ultimately depends on your own personal preferences and cooking skills. With patience and determination, you can succeed in making a delicious batch that rivals or even surpasses Panera Bread’s version.


1. What are the ingredients needed to make Panera mac and cheese?

The ingredients needed to make Panera mac and cheese are elbow macaroni, milk, all-purpose flour, salt, white cheddar cheese, yellow cheddar cheese, and Dijon mustard.

2. Can I use any type of pasta?

It is recommended to use elbow macaroni for the best results. However, other small pasta shapes such as shells or penne can also be used.

3. Can I use any type of cheese?

The recipe calls for white cheddar cheese and yellow cheddar cheese. However, you can experiment with other types of cheese such as Gouda or Swiss.

4. Can I use a different type of mustard?

You can use a different type of mustard, but Dijon mustard is recommended for the best flavor.

5. What type of milk should I use?

It is recommended to use whole milk for the creamiest mac and cheese. However, 2% or skim milk can also be used.

6. Can I make the recipe without flour?

The flour is used to thicken the sauce. Therefore, it is recommended to use flour. However, cornstarch can also be used as a substitute for flour.

7. Can I use lactose-free milk and cheese?

Yes, you can use lactose-free milk and cheese if you are lactose intolerant.

8. Is the recipe vegetarian?

Yes, the recipe is vegetarian since it does not contain any meat products.

9. Can I add bacon to the recipe?

You can add bacon to the recipe if you prefer. Simply cook the bacon separately and crumble it over the top of the mac and cheese before serving.

10. What can I serve with Panera mac and cheese?

Panera mac and cheese pairs well with a variety of dishes such as roasted vegetables, grilled chicken, or a salad.

11. Can I make the recipe ahead of time?

Yes, you can make the recipe ahead of time and reheat it when ready to serve.

12. How should I store leftover mac and cheese?

Leftover mac and cheese should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

13. Can I freeze the mac and cheese?

Yes, you can freeze the mac and cheese. Transfer the cooled mac and cheese to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

There’s something about a hot bowl of mac and cheese that hits the spot every time. It’s one of those comforting dishes that can always put a smile on your face. And if you’ve ever been to Panera Bread, you know they’ve got some seriously tasty mac and cheese. But did you know you can make their famous dish from the comfort of your own home? In this article, we’ll go through the steps of how to make Panera mac and cheese.

How to Make Panera Mac and Cheese


– 1 pound shell pasta

– 1/4 cup unsalted butter

– 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

– 2 cups milk

– 16 ounces Vermont white cheddar, shredded

– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

– Paprika for garnish


1. Cook the shell pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large pot or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat.

3. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Gradually whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until smooth.

5. Add the shredded cheese, mustard, salt, and hot sauce (if using). Stir until the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth.

6. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until well combined.

7. Heat on low until the pasta is warm and the cheese sauce has thickened slightly.

8. Serve hot, garnished with paprika if desired.

Conclusion and Closing

Now you know how to make Panera mac and cheese! This recipe is perfect for a cozy night in or as a crowd-pleasing dish at your next gathering. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and add your own flair – maybe some diced bacon or breadcrumbs for some added texture. Whatever you do, we’re sure it’ll be delicious. So go ahead and give it a try – your taste buds will thank you!

Thanks for reading, and until next time, happy cooking!