Get your spoons ready! This stove top mac and cheese is a copycat recipe of Panera’s mac and cheese and it will knock. your. socks. off. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

Panera's Stove Top Mac and Cheese(New Photos Added: June 2019)

Have you ever had Panera’s mac and cheese?  It’s insanely amazing!

Velvety, creamy, cheesy, and worthy of only a spoon since it’s the closest utensil to a shovel. And here is the recipe for you! I got it from Panera’s website many years ago and have tweaked it to be my own after making it many, many times.

Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe (Copycat)

Stove Top Mac and Cheese

I know I lamented back in the fall about this being the very best mac and cheese recipe out there but until today, I’ve still yet to post a quick stove top mac and cheese recipe. I’ve tried a couple different stove top recipes in the past year but none of them really had the “wow” factor I was looking for.

But the the Panera mac and cheese recipe? Oh this version is different.

Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe (Copycat)

The Secret Ingredient for Stove Top Mac and Cheese

What I’ve felt about other versions not tasting like they were cooked enough is not an issue with this version, even though the salt, Dijon mustard, and hot sauce (oh yes!) aren’t added until right before the pasta is stirred into the sauce. 

All of the unique flavors blend so beautifully and result in an unforgettable white cheese sauce that nestles itself into the shells and wraps itself around your spoon.

paneras stove top mac and cheese

Kyle and I both love the slight hint of dijon that peaks out of the cheese sauce mostly because it reminds us of the mac and cheese recipes our moms made for us as kids.

BUT! You can always decrease the dijon a little. Personally, I wouldn’t cut it completely though, because the sauce tastes like it’s missing “something” without it in there.

However, a bunch of reviewers (see comment section below the recipe) have said that they have omitted the dijon and still loved the recipe.

Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe (Copycat)

So! It’s up to you!

What Kind of Milk to Use for this Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe

My Panera mac and cheese recipe has made it to our menu twice in the past two weeks and I used skim milk both times with great success (and a lot less guilt) but use whatever milk or cream you have on hand.

Heavy cream and half-and-half will make for a much more indulgent mac and cheese.

Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe (Copycat)

Skim, whole, and 1%, 2% milk all work just great for this recipe too.

So the big question for you is: Is this on your menu yet??

Panera's Mac and Cheese Recipe (Copycat)


Looking for more mac n’ cheese? Try these tried & true recipes!

Martha’s mac and cheese
Martha's Mac and Cheese

bacon and fontina mac and cheese
Bacon & Fontina Mac and Cheese

chipotle mac and cheese
Chipotle Mac and Cheese

shrimp feta fresh herb mac and cheese
Shrimp, Feta, and Fresh Herb Mac and Cheese

fried pimento mac and cheese
Fried Pimiento Mac and Cheese


Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe {Copycat}

Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe {Copycat}

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Get your spoons ready! This stove top mac and cheese is a copycat recipe of Panera's mac and cheese and it will knock. your. socks. off.


  • 16 oz pipette pasta or other small pasta shapes
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half
  • 4 oz white or yellow American cheese, chopped or torn into pieces
  • 8 oz extra sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
  • 2 tsp - 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (adjust according to your tastes)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp hot sauce (like Frank's) or sriracha sauce


  1. In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. ⅓
  2. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and has started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 ½ minutes whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.
  3. Remove sauce pan from the heat and by the handful, stir in the cheeses allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the mustard, salt, and hot sauce. Return the sauce pan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the sauce pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through. Serve hot in bowls with spoons.


After having made this recipe a whole bunch of times since posting it, I have decreased the amount of flour and increased the time needed to cook the flour. Cooking the flour in the butter a little longer will reduce the "floury" taste and will help to thin out the sauce a little.

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