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Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese

Panera Mac and Cheese Copycat Recipe – Thick and creamy homemade stovetop macaroni and cheese that tastes just like what you get at Panera!  So quick and easy your family is going to want this for dinner tonight!

What do you think of when you think of comfort food?  For me, it is some of those classic dishes like the Best Meatloaf or homemade macaroni and cheese.  When I was a kid there were a couple staple comfort food dishes in our house and they seemed to stem around pasta.  Old Fashioned Goulash was top of the list. 

Today things haven’t changed too much, but Crock Pot Chili is always on the menu when you have a snow day for help warm us up. . Plus you have to have corn bread, right? These Corn Muffins are a staple with chili in our house. So I have branched out a little with my comforts. 

copycat panera mac and cheese in a bowl


If you have ever been to Panera, you know they are pretty popular for their macaroni and cheese. It is a staple on the kids menu, but the adults go crazy for it as well.  So I had to find a way to make a copycat Panera mac and cheese.  

It is done on the stove top, and is super quick and easy to do.  The results are super creamy, comforting and perfect for when you just want to hide away and stay warm. Or if you are just busy and want a quick and easy dinner you know the whole family will eat!

copycat panera mac and cheese in a bowl

What’s In Panera Mac and Cheese

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post for the FULL PRINTABLE recipe card.

  • Pasta – you can use whatever short cut pasta that you have
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Heavy Cream
  • Cheese – I think white cheddar and American cheese is best
  • Seasonings – salt, pepper, and dry mustard

Recipe Tips & Tricks

  • Use your favorite shape of pasta. You want something short like shells, cavatappi, rotini or the classic elbows
  • Use two pans. To get this done in about 20 minutes cook your pasta in one pan, and in the other make the sauce. They will be ready about the same time and then you just have to mix them together.
  • Make it your own! My husband likes all things spicy, so he adds a little hot sauce to his. Chipotle Tabasco is his favorite.
  • Shred the cheese yourself. You won’t want to use the pre-shredded cheese because it has a coating on it and will not melt nearly as smooth as the block you shred on your own.
  • torage. If you have leftovers store in the fridge. When you reheat you may need to stir in a little milk or cream to get it nice and creamy again. The pasta will absorb some of the creaminess as it sits in the fridge.
copycat panera mac and cheese in a bowl

How to Make Panera Mac and Cheese 

It all comes together on the stove top, so you can make it in minutes with no oven required! 

  1. Start by boiling your water for the pasta. You can use traditional elbow noodles or small shells or whatever short cut pasta you like.
  2. In a saucepan you start by melting the butter and mixing in the flour.  This is the start of a roux. You want to mix in the flour enough that it starts to turn golden and there are no white spots left. 
  3. Whisk in the milk and cream until it is smooth and no longer lumpy.
  4. Next it is time for the cheese!  We are using American and White Cheddar here.  You can find American cheese at the deli where they will weigh it for you, don’t buy the fake stuff that is wrapped in plastic. 
  5. After the cheese is all melted and smooth season your sauce with salt, pepper and dried mustard.  
  6. Now mix in your cooked pasta until everything is nice and cheesy.  That is it, super easy and oh so delicious!

Other Copycat Recipes You Will Love

Yield: 6

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese - homemade macaroni and cheese that tastes just like what you can buy at Panera.  Made on the stove top in just minutes!

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese - homemade macaroni and cheese that tastes just like what you can buy at Panera. Made on the stove top in just minutes!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 1 pound small cut pasta, (I used shells)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup American cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions
  2. Meanwhile in a saucepan melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in milk and heavy cream.
  3. Slowly add cheese, stirring until smooth and completely melted. Season with dry mustard, salt and pepper.
  4. Add cooked pasta and mix until well combined.
  5. Serve immediately

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Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 574Total Fat 39gSaturated Fat 23gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 116mgSodium 1510mgCarbohydrates 37gFiber 2gSugar 8gProtein 20g

Nutrition Disclaimer: All information presented on this site is intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information shared on should only be used as a general guideline.

Did you make this recipe?

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I saw the original recipe for this over at my friend Aimee’s site (Shugary Sweets).  I changed it up just a tiny bit to come up with my version.

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Erin S
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Cultural Homestay in Uttarakhand

Monday 19th of December 2022

Super excited to try this Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese recipe , seems amazing and unique . Thanks for sharing this one with us.

Char Dham Yatra Package

Wednesday 30th of November 2022

I love this Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese recipe, seems amazing and unique . Thanks for sharing this one with us.

Sandy Bernacki

Saturday 15th of October 2022

Would it make a difference if you used 2% milk instead of Skim milk?

Erin S

Monday 17th of October 2022

Nope, that works great!


Thursday 1st of September 2022

What is American Cheese

Erin S

Monday 5th of September 2022

It is a processed cheese that is usually made from cheddar, Colby, or similar cheeses. It is mild with a creamy and salty flavor, and melts very quickly and smoothly. You can find it in the deli section at most grocery stores in the US>

Sandra McCollum

Thursday 5th of November 2020

This quickly became a favorite at my house!!

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