This copycat Panera Mac and Cheese tastes just like the stuff you buy in the famous bakery but is easy to make at home and only requires one pan! 

Creamy copycat panera mac and cheese in a white bowl.
Want to save this recipe?
Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus you’ll get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

So, let’s just start this by saying that our Panera Bread has a drive-thru.

It’s bad for my wallet. I don’t like fast-food, but I like food to be fast. Especially with two kids and there is NO way I’m getting out of the car with both kids to grab food. Forget that, I’d rather go home.

So Panera’s drive-thru is both the answer to my prayers and a huge nightmare. But it’s mostly a good thing.

And their mac and cheese! Oh my, their mac and cheese. It is soooo good. Ultra creamy and so amazingly delicious. I usually order it for E but I always snag a bite or two before giving it to her. Don’t tell!

Shell shape mac and cheese in a white bowl against a blue background.

What makes this recipe great is not only the fact that it is creamy and amazing just like the stuff you get at Panera, but this mac and cheese is made in one pan and one pan only. It cooks in the milk for a super creamy and thick texture.

Close up of mac and cheese with pepper.

You’ll want to use a really good, high quality white cheddar for this macaroni and cheese. And in my opinion, the sharper the better. And keep stirring. The whole time. It’s important to keep the pasta from sticking together.

White cheddar mac and cheese in a white crock style bowl.

Save yourself some money and enjoy this copycat Panera mac and cheese at home!


Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese (one pan!)

4.43 from 296 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
This copycat Panera Mac and Cheese tastes just like the stuff you buy in the famous bakery but is easy to make at home and only requires one pan!
Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.


  • 2 cups uncooked medium shell pasta
  • 2 and 1/2 cups whole milk (MUST be WHOLE milk for this recipe to work)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup freshly grated extra sharp white cheddar (4 ounces) – do not use pre-grated


  • Rinse uncooked pasta under cold water.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk, pasta, salt, mustard and butter. Stir frequently and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low. Stir frequently (almost continually) for 15-20 minutes while pasta cooks and milk is absorbed. Remove from heat, stir in cheese and cover for 5 minutes. Enjoy immediately (not good reheated — gets grainy).


  • Using store-bought grated cheese instead of freshly grated cheese could cause this recipe to fail because of the additives (anti-clumping agents) in grated cheese.
  • Using milk that has a lower fat percentage than whole milk will also likely cause this recipe to fail and the milk to curdle.



Serving: 1g, Calories: 302kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 47mg, Sodium: 536mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 5g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did You Make This?Share a comment and rating below! I love hearing what you think!
Free email series

5 Time & Stress Saving Cooking Secrets

Free email series of my best tips!


4.43 from 296 votes (292 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

The maximum upload file size: 1 MB. You can upload: image. Drop files here


  1. Terri says:

    5 stars
    Love it! Thank you so much for developing this. It’s become my go to mac and cheese recipe

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I’m so glad to hear it! Thank you for leaving a review!

  2. Kori says:

    Hello!! Tried your Mac & cheese. Flavor was delish but the texture got a little grainy. I served it right away. What did I do wrong?? I used whole milk & Cracker Barrel extra sharp white cheddar cheese made w 2% milk. Think that’s the problem? Should it have been a full fat cheese?

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      That is most likely the problem! Was it pre-shredded as well?

  3. Holly says:

    I followed the recipe perfectly and the results were terrible, not edible.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this recipe! Did you use whole milk and keep the heat pretty low?

    2. Milly says:

      2 stars
      I followed recipe as instructed but it was not as yummy as cracker barrel and it had a rough texture not creamy like cracker barrel’s at all. I am not sure what happened. I’m going to keep looking for the perfect recipe because it’s one of my favorites from there.

      1. Rachel Gurk says:

        It could be you had your heat too high and the cheese/milk curdled.