Panera Bread Mac and Cheese Recipe

Panera Bread’s Mac and Cheese doesn’t even compare to the boxed version. Whereas boxed mac and cheese barely comes with enough cheese to coat the pasta, Panera Bread’s recipe is dripping with melted creamy cheeses. Because this is one of my kids’ very favorite side dishes, I prefer to make this dish at home, rather than running out to Panera Bread every week. I love the convenience of being able to prepare their favorite dish without sacrificing any of the full creamy flavors this Mac and Cheese offers.

The secret to this recipe is in the Dijon mustard. You don’t need a lot, but it helps to bring out the richness of the cheeses and helps blend the flavors of the sauce nicely. The creaminess comes from the American cheese, which melts well and gives the dish that smooth thickness we love.

The recipe below yields enough mac and cheese to make 10 servings as a side dish or 4 or 5 servings as a lunch. I like to serve it with a delicious homemade sandwich, but you can add it to any of your favorite meals.

Be sure to check out our tips below this recipe, and enjoy!

Panera Bread Mac and Cheese

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Servings: 10
Calories: 408kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shell pasta
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • 3/4 lb white American cheese
  • 1/4 lb shredded white sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 dash salt

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the flour to create a thick paste. Then slowly add the cold milk and Dijon mustard, and whisk the ingredients until they're combined. 
  • Next, add the white American cheese into the white sauce. If the white American cheese is not sliced, cut it into cubes first so that it melts easier.
  • Once the American cheese has fully melted, stir in the white sharp cheese and a dash of salt. The cheese sauce should be ready at the same time the pasta is finished cooking.
  • Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce, and serve hot.

Notes

  • If you don't have shell pasta, you can use macaroni, angel hair, or penne pasta.
  • Continually whisk the cheese sauce as you prepare it so that it doesn't burn at the bottom of the pot.
  • To keep the pasta from sticking together while you're cooking it, you can add two tablespoons of olive oil to the water and stir it well. 

If you’re looking for a sandwich to pair your mac and cheese with, find some inspiration from these popular Panera Bread sandwiches. Yum!

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