White Cheddar Mac and Cheese, an easy homemade Panera copycat macaroni and cheese recipe similar to the popular restaurant’s version. Ready in 30 minutes and only 6 ingredients. Add your favorite toppings to this creamy dish like meat, veggies, and seasonings.
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This simple Panera Copycat White Cheddar Mac and Cheese recipe is quick and easy! It’s ready in about 30 minutes and only 6 ingredients. This mac and cheese is rich and creamy and easy to adapt to your personal preference with your favorite toppings. Or make your own mac and cheese bread bowl just like at the popular restaurant.
As I’ve mentioned before, we go to Panera often. It’s quick and easy and our whole family loves it. However, for those days when we can’t quite get there, I do like to make my own copycat versions at home like these Panera Copycat Pumpkin Muffins and Cranberry Orange Muffins. Today though, I thought I’d try something savory.
Is this White Cheddar Mac and Cheese exactly like Panera’s? I’d say it’s very close but of course, everyone will have their own opinion.
To start, I looked at the ingredients listed on Panera’s website. The ingredient list doesn’t seem to be there at the moment. From what I remember the ingredient list was: pasta, Vermont white cheddar, milk, cream, oil, butter, concentrated skim milk, salt, skim milk, cornstarch, and flour.
I tried to keep the ingredients as close as possible but to make things easier I combined all the milks and creams and just used half & half. If you’d rather use a combination of milk and cream, you could certainly do that.
I’ve seen various other from scratch copycat versions of this mac and cheese that add mustard and hot sauce. Neither was listed in the ingredients. However, they’re both definitely great in macaroni and cheese and you could certainly add them. For more variations check out this 50+ ways how to make mac and cheese better that has all sorts of topping ideas.
There also was only Vermont white cheddar cheese listed in the ingredients so I did not add other cheeses although a little American, Gouda, or even Swiss would be delicious.
(Full printable recipe card is at bottom of post.)
White Cheddar Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Pipettes (small pipe-shaped pasta) – Or other pipe-shaped pasta or small pasta like little shells.
- Half & half
- White cheddar cheese – Buy a block of cheese and shred it yourself for the best results.
And of course, you are welcome to add any of your favorite toppings!
How to Make White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- COOK PASTA. Cook pasta according to box directions for al dente.
- HEAT HALF & HALF. Meanwhile, heat half & half in microwave-safe bowl in microwave until hot but not boiling, stirring as needed. (Or heat in small saucepan.)
- MAKE SAUCE. In a large pot or large deep skillet over low heat, melt butter and add flour. Cook for about 2 minutes while whisking. Slowly add warm half & half to pan while whisking constantly and smoothing out any lumps. Cook another minute or two until thick and smooth.
- ADD CHEESE. Turn off heat from sauce and mix in shredded cheese and salt until smooth.
- COMBINE. Stir in drained cooked pasta. Stir for a minute or two to let the pasta soak in some of the sauce. Serve immediately.
Lots of possible things you can do to elevate this mac and cheese recipe such as adding a wide range of toppings. Add your favorite precooked meats, veggies, herbs and spices, as well as sauces and condiments.
Serving Suggestions (Topping Suggestions)
- BBQ Chicken: precooked shredded or chopped chicken (or pulled pork), bacon, onions (like these Pickled Onions), and BBQ sauce
- Mexican: precooked ground beef or chicken, taco seasoning, chopped tomatoes, and avocado.
- Cajun Shrimp: precooked shrimp, peppers, onions, and cajun seasoning.
- Buffalo: precooked shredded or chopped chicken, homemade buffalo sauce or store-bought, celery, carrots, and blue cheese crumbles.
Quick Tips for Best Results
- Although you could use any shape pasta you want, a smaller pasta shape will cook quicker if you’re short on time.
- I strongly recommend buying a block of white cheddar cheese and shredding it yourself. Preshredded cheese generally does not melt as well.
- There’s a lot of sauce in this mac and cheese. If you like less sauce and more pasta, double the amount of pasta. But either way, be sure to stir the pasta in the cheese sauce for a good minute or two so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce.
- For a baked version, you could make the mac and cheese as directed then put in a baking dish, top with more shredded cheese, and bake at like 350 degrees F for maybe 30 minutes.
White Cheddar Mac and Cheese FAQ
How should I store this mac and cheese?
Store any leftovers covered in the fridge. It’s generally not as rich and creamy when reheated
Can I freeze mac and cheese?
You could BUT it will definitely not be as good and I wouldn’t recommend it.
How long will mac and cheese last?
The macaroni and cheese will last a few days in the refrigerator.
Instead of white cheddar, you could use your favorite good melting cheese.
Can I use low-fat ingredients?
Low-fat cheeses generally do not melt as well, but you could try it if there’s a low-fat cheese you like and know melts well.
What else can I add to this recipe?
Add your favorite precooked meats, veggies, herbs and spices, and sauces and condiments.
What should I serve this mac and cheese with?
What goes with mac and cheese? For a full meal, you could serve this with a light salad or green vegetable (like these Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Italian Green Beans).
Can I make this vegan/vegetarian/low carb/gluten-free?
Here are some suggestions, but I can’t guarantee results. Be sure as always to check particular brands and ingredients if you’re following a specific diet or have diet restrictions or allergies.
Vegan – This would be a tough one to make vegan.
Vegetarian – It’s vegetarian.
Low-Carb – You can try a lower-carb pasta or zoodles (zucchini noodles). There’s not a lot of flour in this recipe, but you could try another thickener instead of the butter/flour.
Gluten-Free – Use a gluten-free pasta or zoodles (zucchini noodles).
Other Pasta Recipes You May Enjoy
- Instant Pot Chicken Alfredo (Snappy Gourmet) – Easy dinner recipe made in a pressure cooker in no time.
- Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta Casserole (Snappy Gourmet) – Delicious baked pasta with chicken and ham.
- Pizza Pasta (Cooking Channel) – Spaghetti baked in a pan and cut into slices. Fun!
- Classic Lasagna (Delish) – Perfect for dinner parties, this is a traditional classic.
Hope you enjoy this homemade Panera Copycat White Cheddar Mac and Cheese recipe. Tell me in the comments what kind of toppings you put on it!
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You might also like this Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese!
White Cheddar Mac and Cheese (Panera Copycat)
- Cook pasta according to box directions for al dente.
- Meanwhile, heat half & half in microwave-safe bowl in microwave until hot but not boiling, stirring as needed. (Or heat in small saucepan.)
- In a large pot or large deep skillet over low heat, melt butter and add flour. Cook for about 2 minutes while whisking. Slowly add warm half & half to pan while whisking constantly and smoothing out any lumps. Cook another minute or two until thick and smooth.
- Turn off heat from sauce and mix in shredded cheese and salt until smooth.
- Stir in drained cooked pasta. Stir for a minute or two to let the pasta soak in some of the sauce. Serve immediately.