This Panera Bread's broccoli mac and cheese recipe copycat is an easy dinner featuring a creamy cheese sauce, tender shells, and fresh broccoli. It's sure to please the entire family. Best of all, this version cooks up in one pot!
Related Post: Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese
Panera Bread is one of our favorite restaurants. So, naturally we wanted to figure out how to make one of their signature dishes at home for a quick lunch or dinner.
You can now impress your family and friends with your own version of the Panera Bread broccoli Mac and cheese recipe copycat, one of the most craveable meals on their menu.
Seriously, who can resist the creamy, gooey, cheesy goodness, mixed in with tender broccoli florets and perfectly cooked pasta shells? The flavors are so rich and decadent that your taste buds will thank you for days.
And the best part? You don't have to be a gourmet chef to make this dish. With just a few simple ingredients from your local grocery store and a little bit of know-how, you can recreate this famous recipe with ease.
But beware, once you make this dish, you may never want to go back to the original restaurant version. You'll be the hit of every potluck and dinner party, with people begging you for the recipe.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your apron and get cooking. Your taste buds (and your friends) will thank you.
Why you'll love it
- One pot meal made on the stove top
- Tastes like the real thing
- Great recipe for all ages
- Works as a main dish or side dish
Butter - salted or unsalted; olive oil, canola oil, or another mild flavored oil can also be used
Chicken broth or stock or vegetable broth - homemade, canned or from the carton
Ground mustard powder
Cayenne pepper - this is optional, but adds a needed kick. You can add a shake or two of a hot sauce like Tabasco instead.
Salt and pepper
Medium pasta shells - elbows or another short shaped pasta can be used. For gluten free, choose a gluten free pasta like Banza.
Broccoli florets - I like to cut these pretty small, and use just the florets for best results.
Carrots - I like to use pre-shredded kind that comes already packaged. Then I give them rough chop before adding in.
Half and half - this is literally half milk and half cream, so it gives the recipe a nice balance. You can opt for whole milk, if desired. I think heavy cream is too rich.
Cream cheese - adds a lot of creamy texture. Velveeta is also a nice substitute but it does have a sharper flavor than cream cheese. Yellow or white American cheese also melts smooth and creamy and is quite mild in taste.
Cheddar cheese - I like sharp cheddar cheese best, but any variety will work too. White cheddar cheese is also a great option.
Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add butter, chicken broth, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard powder, cayenne pepper (if using), and salt and pepper to the pan. Stir to combine and allow butter to melt.
Add pasta shells, broccoli florets, and carrots. Stir together and bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Cover with lid and reduce heat to medium. Cook until shells are tender, adding more chicken broth as needed so pasta doesn't dry out.
Reduce heat to low and stir in the half and half, cream cheese and cheddar cheese until a cheddar cheese sauce forms and ingredients are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pasta size and shape will effect how long pasta cooks. Small to medium sized works best. We prefer tender pasta, but you may prefer to cook your pasta al dente. Use the package directions as a guide and test pasta at the halfway point.
Cream cheese will melt best if it's been softened at room temperature.
For vegetarian option, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
If using a gluten free pasta, be sure to adjust cooking time and broth if needed.
Panera Bread got its start as the St. Louis Bread Co. in 1987. Panera operates as both Panera Bread and St. Louis Bread Co. throughout the United States, Canada, and DC. Other brands that are part of the Panera platform are Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels.
How to store and reheat
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Reheat covered in the microwave at 50% power until heated through, stirring at the halfway point.
Reheat on the stovetop in a non-stick pan over low heat.
Freeze for up to three months for longer storage.
Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating. Or bake from frozen (if frozen in a casserole dish) covered with aluminum foil in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until hot throughout. If mac & cheese is drying out, add a splash of milk or broth to keep it moist.
More Copycat recipes
- Panera 10 Vegetable Soup Recipe
- Popeyes Mashed Potatoes Recipe
- McDonald's Pancake Recipe
- Bahama Mama Smoothie Recipe
- Cheesecake Factory Kale Salad
- Big Mac Sauce Recipe
- Abuelo's Salsa Recipe Tomatillo Tropical
Panera Bread Broccoli Mac and Cheese Recipe Copycat
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth divided, low sodium
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 8 ounces medium pasta shells
- 2 cups broccoli florets up to 3 cups worth
- ½ cup shredded carrots roughly chopped if desired
- ¾ cup half and half or whole milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese or your preference
- Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add butter, 2 cups chicken broth (save the other one cup to add in while cooking; see step 3), garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard powder, cayenne pepper (if using), and salt and pepper to the pan. Stir to combine and allow butter to melt.
- Add pasta shells, broccoli florets, and carrots. Stir together and bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Cover with lid and reduce heat to medium.
- Cook until shells are tender, adding more chicken broth as needed so pasta doesn't dry out.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in the half and half, cream cheese and cheddar cheese. Stir to melt cheese and sauce evenly coats ingredients.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pasta size and shape will effect how long pasta cooks. Small to medium sized works best.
- We prefer tender pasta, but you may prefer to cook your pasta al dente. Use the package directions as a guide and test pasta at the halfway point.
- Cream cheese will melt best if it's been softened at room temperature.
- For vegetarian option, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
- If using a gluten free pasta, be sure to adjust cooking time and amount of broth if needed.