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How to Make Creamy Panera Mac and Cheese Recipe at Home

Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of homemade mac and cheese? When the warm melted cheese hits your mouth—a smile breaks out and the comfort of childhood gives you a big hug. That feeling is exactly why you’ll love this Panera mac and cheese recipe! Made quickly in your Instant Pot, this recipe will have your mouth-watering and the whole family coming back for more!

White Mac and Cheese Heaven

The flavor of this white mac and cheese is so smooth! Perfect for busy week nights, this instant pot pasta recipe is ready in just twenty minutes. Instant pot to table, you can have this rich, decadent dish ready to go faster than the kids realize you forget to pull something out of the freezer.

Serve your Panera Bread mac and cheese recipe as a side, main dish for a weeknight meal, or as a go-to holiday side dish! It’ll taste like slaving away in the kitchen all day long, but you’ll know the truth. #dinnerhero

How to Make Panera Mac and Cheese

This recipe calls for both white American cheese and white cheddar cheese so you know it’s going to be cheesy and delicious.

These are some of the best cheeses for mac and cheese because they are so flavorful and will make it creamy and rich.

In addition to the two different kinds of white cheese, the recipe calls for mini pasta shells, which you can also substitute for any type of pasta you have on hand. 

This Panera bread mac and cheese recipe is so hearty and delicious you aren’t going to believe how easy it is to make. First, you will put your pasta, water, salt, and butter inside of your Instant pot.

Seal the pot and cook the pasta on high pressure for about 4 minutes. After the time is up, release the pressure valve, making sure that you use an oven mitt or towel to protect yourself from the steam, and pour some but not all of the water out of the pot. 

Stir in the cheese and melt it throughout the cooked pasta. Add your white American cheese slices, the shredded white cheddar cheese and milk, then stir.

If your cheese is not melting evenly, you can turn your instant pot on the warming mode to help it along. That’s it! Your Panera Bread mac and cheese is ready to enjoy!

Storing Leftovers

If you have some of this delicious instant pot pasta left, you can store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for three to four days. You may need to add a teaspoon or so of milk to the leftover pasta when you gently reheat it in the microwave.

Although this copycat version of Panera bread mac and cheese is pretty amazing, you could change it up and make it your own by choosing different cheeses or adding broccoli, chopped bacon or even a touch of truffle oil to add to your cooked pasta.

Panera mac and cheese recipe is so quick and easy to make you may never pick up one of those store-bought boxed Kraft mac and cheese dinners again! The whole family will agree that you’ve knocked it out of the park. Just be prepared that they might ask for it again and again. 

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese

Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 1 pound Pasta Shells
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 4 tablespoons Margarine
  • 8 ounces White cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 slices White American cheese
  • 1 cup Milk
  • Black pepper, optional


  1. Add to your Instant Pot pasta, butter, and salt. Add 4 cups of water, and then give a good stir making sure each noodle has been mixed with the water.
  2. Close the lid on the Instant Pot, and turn the valve to seal.
  3. Choose High Pressure for 4 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes for your IP to come to pressure. 
  4. Once the time is up, manually release by pulling the valve to you and opening it. Make sure to open using a towel or hot pad. 
  5. Remove some of the water from the pot. No need to make sure all is gone, just a bit. 
  6. Add in the shredded cheese, slices cheese, and milk to the noodles. Mix until fully incorporated. 
  7. Serve in bowls, and enjoy! 

Did you make this recipe?

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