This delicious and creamy copycat Panera broccoli cheddar mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food recipe. A delicious twist on a classic favorite, this mac and cheese tastes just like Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese that you can now make at home.
One of my favorite dishes to order at Panera is their broccoli cheddar mac and cheese. It’s so rich and creamy, and I love the broccoli florets that are found throughout the dish. It’s a spectacular side. Of course, being a cook, I decided that I could enjoy my favorite dish any time if I simply made it myself. So I got to work on perfecting my own version of this tasty side, and I have to say, the results were excellent.
I make this dish for my family often. It goes wonderfully with chicken, pork, or beef, so it’s almost always the right choice for any meal. I also love to bring it to potlucks or parties. It’s always a hit, and I never have leftovers. Speaking of leftovers, this dish is great for dinner today and then lunch or dinner again tomorrow. Sometimes, I’ll even eat it as an afternoon snack!
Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
The combination of flavors in this side is what makes it just so wonderful. Perfectly cooked al dente pasta is coated in a rich, creamy cheese sauce that’s loaded with onions, carrots, and broccoli, creating a dish that is absolutely delicious and perfect with almost any main course. It’s full of wonderful textures and flavors, and everyone always loves it.
The Ultimate Comfort Food Recipe
This Panera broccoli cheddar mac and cheese takes our favorite comfort food to the next level. Even without the veggies, this mac and cheese would be spectacular with its rich, creamy cheese sauce. However, when you add the onions, carrots, and perfectly cooked broccoli, this becomes the ultimate comfort food. Every piping hot bite is loaded with the flavors of rich cheese sauce, onion, carrots, and broccoli that is cooked to just tender perfection. It fills you up in both body and soul, and that’s the real hallmark of a great recipe.
Tips and Variations
This is a relatively easy recipe to make, but I do have some tips to help you make it the best it can possibly be. I also have some great variations that will allow you to play with this recipe a bit to really make it your own.
- Be sure to cook the pasta to just al dente. You don’t want mushy pasta.
- Cook the pasta and then add the broccoli florets to the same pot when there is about 5 minutes left for the pasta. Both the pasta and the broccoli will come out perfectly.
- If you have the time, shred your own cheese instead of buying pre-shredded varieties. The flavor is much better.
- Chop your broccoli florets into small pieces for easier eating.
- Try adding crumbled bacon to your mac and cheese for more flavor.
- Be sure to cook your roux for a few minutes to get rid of that raw flour taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have questions about this copycat Panera broccoli cheddar mac and cheese, then I have answers. The following FAQ answers all the most common questions about this dish and mac and cheese in general.
What is the best cheese for macaroni and cheese?
Sharp cheddar is the cheese of choice for mac and cheese. It has a relatively low melting point, so it remains smooth throughout the cooking process. It also has that classic flavor we all love about mac and cheese.
What is the best pasta for macaroni and cheese?
By definition, the best pasta for macaroni and cheese is macaroni. However, the term macaroni means any short, cylindrical pasta. any of the following noodles are perfect for mac and cheese.
- Elbow noodles
- Corkscrew shapes
What is a roux?
A roux is a combination of flour and fat – usually, butter – that is used to thicken sauces. It’s used in things like stews and, of course, macaroni and cheese.
Why is a roux important for mac and cheese?
The roux makes the cheese sauce thick and sticky, so it coats the noodles. If you just added melted cheese, it would be a gooey, globby mess, and if you added melted cheese and milk on their own, you’d end up with a runny sauce that wouldn’t stick to the noodles.
What can I serve with Panera broccoli cheddar mac and cheese?
All kinds of delicious pairings are out there for mac and cheese. In general, it goes with pretty much everything, but some great classic combos include:
- Sloppy Joes
- Pigs in a blanket
What else can you add to mac and cheese?
Mac and cheese makes an excellent base for adding all kinds of tasty additions. Some favorites are:
- Green beans
- Shredded chicken
- Crumb topping
Can you freeze macaroni and cheese?
Absolutely! It freezes very well, in fact. Cut the chilled macaroni and cheese into individual portions, then wrap them tightly in a layer of plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Then, store them in an air-tight, freezer-safe container or heavy-duty freezer bags.
Storing and Reheating Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
You can store your mac and cheese in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for between 3 and 5 days. For longer storage, you can freeze it for up to a year. To reheat your mac and cheese, place it in a baking dish and add 1 tablespoon of milk per cup of mac and cheese, stirring to incorporate the milk as much as possible. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Ingredients for Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
It only takes a few simple ingredients to make this delicious dish. Most of them are pantry staples, so you won’t have to do much shopping at all. Anything you do need to buy can be easily found at your local grocery store.
- Pipe rigate pasta (or any macaroni noodle)
- Broccoli florets
- All purpose flour
- Whole milk
- Heavy cream
- Vegetable broth or chicken broth
- Garlic powder
- Slap Ya Mama® seasoning
- Ground mustard
- Black pepper
- White cheddar cheese
- Sharp cheddar cheese
How to Make Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
This is an incredibly easy dish to make. The cooking is minimal, and if you follow the directions, you should have no problem whatsoever with it.
Step 1: Prep
Cook the pasta in a large pot according to the package directions for al dente. In the last five minutes, add the broccoli to the pasta. Drain and return the past and broccoli to the pan and set aside.
Step 2: Cook the Vegetables
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet or frying pan. Then, add the onions and carrots and sauté until the onions are translucent and tender.
Step 3: Make the Roux
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and carrots. Stir and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
Step 4: Make the Sauce
Slowly pour the milk, heavy cream, and vegetable broth into the onion mixture. Stir and then add the turmeric, garlic powder, Slap Ya Mama seasoning, ground mustard, and black pepper, stirring until smooth. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened.
Step 5: Finish the Mac and Cheese
Once the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and add both cheeses. Stir until the cheese is combined with the sauce, then add the broccoli and pasta to the pan. Stir until combined and serve.
Try This Delicious Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese Today
As you can see, this tasty Panera broccoli cheddar mac and cheese is super easy to make, and it’s one hefty side dish. It’s perfect with so many main dishes that you’ll always find a reason to put it on the table. Give it a try, and I guarantee you’ll find yourself making it again and again.
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Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces pipe rigate pasta, or shells (we used organic pipe rigate)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup onions, diced
- 1 cup carrots, grated small
- 3 cups broccoli florets, cut into smaller pieces
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon Slap Ya Mama® seasoning
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1½ cups white cheddar cheese
- 1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese
- Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. In the last 5 minutes, add broccoli to pasta. Drain and return to pan. Set aside.
- In a large skillet or frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.
- Add onions and carrots and sauté until onions are translucent and tender.
- Make a roux by sprinkling flour over the onions and carrots. Stir and cook flour for 2-3 minutes,
- Slowly pour milk, heavy cream, vegetable broth, stir and then add garlic powder, Slap Ya Mama, ground mustard, turmeric and black pepper into pan, stirring constantly until smooth.
- Reduce to low and let sauce thicken, stirring frequently.
- Once sauce has thickened, remove from heat, add both types of cheese, stir until combined then add broccoli and pasta to pan. Stir until combined and serve hot.