Copycat Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese

Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese has to be one of my favorite side dishes at the Panera Bread Bakery. It is rich, creamy, and irresistible. You can make some yourself with this recipe.

Homemade Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese in a black bowl.

If you are lucky, like me, you live near a Panera Bread. If you don’t live near one, you have to drive far, or you can recreate this recipe at home. I can help you make a bowl of their delicious macaroni and cheese. What makes this recipe unique is that is it so creamy. A lot of macaroni and cheese seems to barely have enough cheese. Here the pasta is enrobed in white cheddar cheese. You might wonder what makes this so creamy.

This Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese recipe is made by using a combination of white American cheese, and sharp white Cheddar cheese. This combination works well. As there is no cheese like American cheese that melts into a rich creamy sauce, but the sharp American cheese is what makes this delicious.

You can buy white American cheese in the deli section of your local grocery store. Walk up to the deli counter and ask them for about a pound of the cheese. You can let them slice it any way you like. You are going to melt the cheese so sliced or not it doesn’t matter. I like to use about a pound of the American white cheddar and about 1 cup of sharp white Cheddar. That isn’t the real secret to the recipe; it is the Dijon mustard.

Stirring Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese in a stainless steel prep bowl.

Mustard has a way of enhancing the flavor of the sharp cheese. Mustard gives it a little extra punch. I like to use a good two teaspoons for this recipe. I also thin the cheese sauce a bit with whole milk. So all of the ingredients are common and easy to find.

I cook up a whole box of pasta shells. If you can’t find pasta shells you can use any other type of pasta that you like. Macaroni tastes just like the shells. I hope you give this recipe a try. If you like Panera Bread recipes, be sure to check out these copycat favorite recipes.

More Panera Bread Copycat Recipes

Panera Black Bean Soup
Panera Bread Broccoli Cheese Soup
Honey Walnut Cream Cheese Spread
Panera Bread Baked Potato Soup
Panera Bread Bistro French Onion Soup

Homemade Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese in a bowl.

Copycat Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese

Enjoy Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese anytime with this copycat recipe.
4.6 from 5 votes
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Panera Recipes
Servings: 10
Calories: 408kcal


  • 1 pound shell pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 pound white American cheese
  • 1/4 pound shredded white sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


  • Prepare pasta according to the package directions. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking. 
  • Make a basic white sauce by melting the 3 tablespoons of butter, add the flour, and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute. Then slowly add in the cold milk, and stir the sauce until it is thickened. 
  • Add the white American cheese into the white sauce. If the white American cheese is not sliced, cut it into cubes. In a medium-sized pot add the American cheese and as it begins to melt, slowly stir in the milk.
  • Once the American cheese has fully melted, begin to stir in the white sharp cheese. Stir in the Dijon mustard. The cheese sauce should be ready the same time the pasta is done. Combine the cheese and the pasta together. Serve immediately.


Calories: 408kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 59mg | Sodium: 703mg | Potassium: 221mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 620IU | Calcium: 503mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @CopyKatRecipes or tag #CopyKatRecipes!

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Shar from california

    I’d like to try for thanksgiving this week. I have the white American cheese in individual plastic film, how many slices is 3/4 lb. if I don’t have enough cheese slices, can I do 1/2 lb of American cheese and 1/2 lb of Vermont white cheddar. I bought an 8 oz block today

    • Stephanie

      Do you have a scale? You can weigh the cheese? Most cheese slices weigh 0.7 ounces. Assuming your cheese slices are average, it would take about 17 slices. You could do the different types of cheeses if you like, but the color won’t be white like it is in the restaurant.

  2. Rose

    I tried this as posted. I’m happy with the creaminess and the taste, mostly. I will still keep using it, for it’s a great dish. However, It’s a bit bland in comparison to Panera’s. Unsure of what else it needs. I added cumin, that’s not it. In different bowl, I tried paprika, not it. There is a smoky, saltier flavor in the real deal.
    Any trials done that match it better?

  3. Liz

    I’m making this for Thanksgiving and I wanted to prepare ahead of time. How long can it stay refrigerated and what’s the best method for reheating?

    • Stephanie

      I would reheat this on the stovetop by adding more milk to this. The white American cheese in this will make it a bit gummy. If the stove being used is an issue, you could try reheating this in a slow cooker (it will take a lot longer), again add some milk.

  4. Anne Bettencourt

    For two people, I’m going to divide the recipe in half to avoid over-eating and left overs … do you see an issue with that?

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