Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese – creamiest stovetop Panera copycat recipe in 30 minutes from scratch – loaded with fresh broccoli and shredded carrots.
Who else made a New Years resolution to eat better — more fish and chicken . . . tons of veggies?
But again today the skies are gray, snow is flying and temps are below 30 degrees.
That means I’m unapologetically drowning my sorrows in a bowl of this super creamy Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese.
Tender pasta, the creamiest cheese sauce plus fresh broccoli and carrots. For the record, it’s helping.
This recipe is a next level copycat version of Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese but costs way less.
It’s made with only fresh ingredients, including freshly grated cheese for the silkiest sauce.
The vegetables add nutritional value, texture and a beautiful pop of color. Let’s go.
WHY I LOVE THIS RECIPE:
- It’s rich, creamy and satisfies every comfort food craving.
- This copycat Panera Mac and Cheese is an easy recipe from scratch – ready in just 30 minutes
- It’s easy to customize this recipe with different cheeses, vegetables and proteins.
- This creamy Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese is flat out delicious and better than any boxed stuff you’ll ever make.
tips for the best mac and cheese:
- Freshly grate the cheese from a block of cheese. Prepackaged cheeses have artificial preservatives that don’t allow them to melt as well.
- Gather all the ingredients before you start cooking.
- Don’t overcook the pasta or it’ll be mushy when you simmer it in the cheese sauce.
- Cut cream cheese into small cubes so it melts easier.
- Skip the skim milk – you won’t get the same creaminess.
what’s in Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese?
- medium pasta shells
- broccoli florets
- garlic clove
- all purpose flour
- whole milk
- chicken stock
- sharp (or extra sharp) cheddar cheese (or combo of white and yellow cheddar)
- cream cheese
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese:
Grate the cheese and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add pasta and cook 1 minute less than package directions (just shy of al dente). Drain well and set aside.
To the same pot over medium heat melt butter. Add broccoli and carrots. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook 3 minutes stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat to low, add minced garlic and cook 1 minute stirring often so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Sprinkle flour over the top, stir to coat then cook for 1 minute.
Gradually whisk in the milk simmering 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Add cream cheese stirring until it’s combined then pour in the chicken stock and give it all a good stir.
Turn heat as low as it’ll go then slowly add cheddar cheese stirring until it forms the sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to your own taste (I use about 1/2 teaspopon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper then add pasta and gently stir to combine.
Optional: add a little fresh cracked black pepper on top. Serve right away.
SUBS AND VARIATIONS:
- Elbow macaroni instead of shells.
- 2% milk can be used instead of whole milk.
- Add a dash of hot sauce for a light kick.
- Use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder instead of fresh garlic clove.
- I used a combination of white cheddar and extra sharp cheddar cheese. All white or yellow can be used instead too.
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVEr MAC AND CHEESE:
Store leftover Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Reheat in the microwave for a quick lunch on a busy day. If needed, add a light splash of milk to loosen the cheese sauce.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH broccoli cheddar mac and cheese:
This mac and cheese makes an easy, hearty main dish on busy weeknights all by itself.
It’s also a great side dish with any of the suggestions below.
- Chick Fil-A Chicken Nuggets
- Grilled Bone-In BBQ Chicken
- Crispy Breaded Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
- Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
- Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken
- Cheeseburger Sliders
Let’s cook together!
Tried this copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese recipe?
Leave a comment, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating and TAG ME on social media! @agoudalife or #agoudalife
Panera Copycat Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 8 ounces medium pasta shells
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup carrots shredded OR matchstick
- 3 cups fresh broccoli florets chopped
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 3 ounces cream cheese cut in cubes
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese freshly grated (can use combo white/yellow cheddar)
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Grate the cheese and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Add pasta and cook 1 minute less than package directions (just shy of al dente). Drain well and set aside.
- To the same pot over medium heat melt butter. Add broccoli and carrots. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook 3 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low, add minced garlic and cook 1 minute stirring often so the garlic doesn’t burn. Sprinkle flour over the top, stir to coat then cook for 1 minute.
- Gradually whisk in milk simmering 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
- Add cubed cream cheese stirring until it’s almost combined then pour in the chicken stock and give it all a good stir to combine.
- Turn heat as low as it’ll go then slowly add grated cheddar cheese stirring until it forms a silky sauce.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper to your preference (I use about 1/2 teaspopon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper then add pasta and gently stir until combined.
- Optional: add fresh cracked black pepper on top. Serve right away.