Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese

Panera Mac 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 at home with this copycat recipe.

Homemade Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese in a black bowl.

Panera Bread Copycat Recipe

If you are lucky, like me, you live near a Panera Bread. If you don’t live near one or you have to drive far, you can recreate this recipe at home. I can help you make a bowl of their delicious macaroni and cheese.

Creamy Mac 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 or it’s dry.

Here the pasta is enrobed in a rich and creamy white cheddar cheese sauce. You might wonder what makes this so creamy.

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

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, the sharp American cheese is what makes this delicious.

Recipe Ingredients

Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Shell pasta
  • Butter
  • All-purpose flour
  • Milk
  • White American cheese
  • Shredded white sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Dijon mustard
Panera Mac and Cheese Ingredients

Ingredient Notes

If you can’t find pasta shells you can use any other type of pasta that you like. Macaroni tastes just like the shells.

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 it doesn’t matter if it is sliced or not.

You will use about a pound of American white cheddar and about 1 cup of sharp white Cheddar.

The cheese isn’t the real secret to the recipe – it is the Dijon mustard.

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.

How to Make Panera Mac and Cheese

  1. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the flour. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Slowly add milk, stirring until it is thickened.
  5. Add the white American cheese. Stir and cook until the cheese has melted.
  6. Add the white sharp cheese and Dijon mustard. Stir and cook until the cheese has melted.
  7. Drain the pasta and put it in a large bowl.
  8. Add the sauce to the pasta. Stir to combine the cheese and the pasta together.
Stirring Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese in a stainless steel prep bowl.

Serve this delicious homemade macaroni and cheese immediately.

I hope you give this recipe a try.

a bowl of homemade Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese

More Panera Bread Copycat Recipes

Favorite Pasta and Macaroni Recipes

Check out more of my easy side dish recipes and the best Panera Bread recipes here on CopyKat!

Homemade Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese in a bowl.

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese

Enjoy Panera Bread Macaroni and Cheese anytime with this copycat recipe.
4.46 from 11 votes
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Panera Mac and Cheese, Panera Recipes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 10
Calories: 408kcal


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


  • Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
  • Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
  • Add the flour. Stir and cook about 1 minute.
  • Slowly add in the cold milk, stirring constantly.
  • Continue to cook and stir the sauce until it is thickened.
  • If the white American cheese is not sliced, cut it into cubes.
  • Add the white American cheese into the sauce. Stir and cook until the cheese has melted.
  • Add the white sharp cheese and Dijon mustard. Stir and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce has a smooth consistency.
  • The cheese sauce should be ready the same time the pasta is done.
  • Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot or in a large bowl.
  • Add the sauce to the pasta. Stir to 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

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. Tracey

    5 stars
    Fantastic! Kiddo and I cleared our plates!

    The only change I made is that, as a New Orleans native, I had to kick it up a notch with our homemade Creole seasoning. Everything is better with a little cayenne 😉

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

4.46 from 11 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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