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. AMY

    Thank you for providing these awesome recipes!! Have made 2 recipes so far and will continue looking!! My picky 11 yr old even LOVES them!!
    Thank you again!!!

  2. Rob Jones

    I made this recipe. My daughter worked at Panera for a year and she brought it home often. So I know the taste well. It’s more tart than this recipe. Upon further research, I found another recipe that claimed to be pulled from the Panera website itself. It was just like yours, but the portions of the white American and sharp cheddar were reversed. This is what I will try next time.

  3. Suzanne

    The directions have make the white sauce and add milk then in next paragraph in separate pot melt cheese and pour in milk. It is in two places to add milk. Did you mean make white sauce then melt cheese after pour in milk in same pot. Its a little confusing that you pour milk in both paragraphs.

      • Jayme

        What about reheating this? It made more than I thought and was thinking of taking leftovers to Father’s Day but didn’t want to risk taste. Any pointers?

    • Stephanie

      Please go with the written recipe. Sometimes in the editing we miss when I call out specific amounts. I wished I did a better job at this. I am sorry for the confusion.

  4. Katie

    I have always added mustard to any cheese sauce that I make. It is the “secret ingredient ” !
    I am sure this is a delicious recipe, based on ingredients alone!

  5. Cat

    I can’t wait to try this! I’ve just discovered your site and everything looks amazing! I’ll be following you for a long time! I’m just about to order the cookbook!

  6. Elaine Williams

    Thank you Stephanie – I am new here but I can tell that a lot of research, work and prepping is required to post successful how-to videos and recipes. AND the best part is no annoying pop up ads! Great site!

    • Stephanie

      I am so sorry that the recipe created sadness for you. You could have added a bit more milk to the sauce if you thought it was too thick. Again, I am so sorry the recipe made you sad.

  7. Murdock Wilson

    The first 3 times I pulled this up, no recipe, no print. This time, via a different link, success. All depends on how you get here.

    • Stephanie

      If you know you are going to have leftovers, I would store the pasta and the sauce separately.

      I tend to think that pasta soaks up the sauce, and leftover pasta isn’t as good as it was the first time.

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