This copycat Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese Recipe is spot on close to the real deal. One of the things that make Cracker Barrel food so good is the down home simplicity that makes up their food. This recipe is super simple.
When it comes to picking Thanksgiving recipes, especially Thanksgiving sides, this is one of my go-to recipes for that.
It's quick, easy and everyone loves mac and cheese right?
Anyone that has eaten a Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese dinner will tell you, it's the best. I think the simplicity of it, the cheese they use, the no frills approach is what makes it best and it has the best creamy sauce.
❤️ Why you'll love it
- This copycat recipe uses pantry staple ingredients. Super no fuss. If you don't have in your pantry.... any grocery stores will have.
- It's fast. You can get this together in 10-15 minutes for a quick family dinner.
- There's no artificial flavors or ingredients in this homemade mac.
- It'll easily become one of your favorite comfort foods.
- Elbow macaroni
- Colby Cheese
- All Purpose Flour
- Unsalted Butter
- Whole Milk
- Sea Salt
- Cracked Black Pepper
- Parsley (only as optional garnish)
See recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities.
- Step 1: In a medium saucepan cook the elbow macaroni in salted water per the package instructions - to al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Step 2: While the noodles are cooking add the butter to a medium/large cast iron skillet. Melt butter then add the flour. Stir for a minute or two to cook the flour.
- Step 3: Slowly pour in the heated milk, a little at a time while continuously stirring.
- Step 4: Add 2 cups of the grated cheese and stir until totally melted. Add the seasoning blend and stir again.
- Step 5: Combine macaroni noodles and slowly fold into the sauce.
- Step 6: Sprinkle the remaining half cup of cheese over the top of the creamy mac and place under a hot broiler for a minute or two until nicely browned.
Hint: Do not rinse the cooked macaroni noodles - it's a great way to add some starch and great flavor and texture to the sauce.
🔄 Substitutions and Variations
- Wheat Flour - instead of all purpose you could thicken using a wheat flour.
- Ground Mustard - try a touch of ground mustard for added flavor.
- Canola Oil - If you can't use butter, you could start off the roux with a little canola oil.
- Skim Milk - Use skimmed milk if you don't have whole milk.
- Type of cheese - Cracker Barrel uses Colby cheese specifically. This can be your preference though. Try to avoid the pre-shredded cheese though as a corn starch like product is usually added to keep from clumping and it can affect your sauce. Using a more aged cheese, like sharp cheddar, will add a little bold sharpness.
- Low Sodium Chicken Broth - use this to cook the noodles, or in place of some of the milk.
- Garlic Powder - add some garlic powder for another flavor profile.
- Bread Crumbs - sprinkle some bread crumbs on top for a little added texture.
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Whenever I make a macaroni and cheese I always like to use my cast iron skillet, main reason is I can throw it in the oven too, or under the broiler. It's the best way to provide nice even heat.
I have a couple of affiliate links for the exact type of equipment with product information, I use in the recipe card below.
You could also bake this in a casserole dish, transferring the sauce once cooked to a casserole dish to finish off in the oven. It will be a Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese oven baked recipe.
🥗 Other Great Side Dishes
- Cheese Grits - delicious southern style cheesy grits are perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Cajun Cornbread - this cornbread recipe is so surprisingly easy, another skillet recipe.
- Cranberry Apple Rice Pilaf - A very festive and fun Thanksgiving side dish.
- Another satisfying dinner and Copycat Cracker Barrel Recipe - Cracker Barrel Chicken and Rice.
- Baked Oyster Dressing - This goes great as another possible Thanksgiving side dish.
- Cracker Barrel Fried Apples - another great side from this famous restaurant.
This Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese Recipe is easy to store, keep in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave for best results.
You can successfully freeze this mac and cheese, just store in a freezer safe container, make sure it's labeled then freeze for up to 6 months.
Expert Tip: If you have leftovers from this family meal and want to make something with it Air Fryer Mac and Cheese bites (recipe coming) are the perfect and fun choice.
Per their website, Cracker Barrel uses Colby Cheese in their homemade cheese sauce for their mac and cheese.
Traditionally, they use your typical macaroni product of elbow macaroni. However, if you don't have any and want to use something else that you already have in your pantry, don't stress on it too much. It won't affect the flavor.
For this particular recipe I have the nutritional information in the recipe card below.
No, it's not in any way massively different. I just think it's perfected.
If you’ve tried this Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese Recipe or any other great recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section below, how it turned out, we love hearing from our readers! If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- 2 Cups uncooked Elbow Macaroni noodles
- 4 Cups Water, salted
- ⅓ Cup Butter, unsalted
- ⅓ Cup All Purpose Flour
- 2 Cups Whole Milk, warmed
- 2-½ Cups Colby Cheese, grated and separated
- Pinch Nutmeg
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 Teaspoon chopped parsley, garnish
- Fill a medium pot with the salted water and bring to a boil. Add the elbow macaroni and cook per the package instructions until al dente.
- Drain the noodles and set aside.
- While the noodles are cooking, in a cast iron skillet (medium), add the butter and apply medium heat to melt the butter.
- Add the flour and stir frequently for a minute or two until the flour has blended with the butter well.
- Slowly pour in the heated milk, a little at a time, continuously stirring. In the beginning it will all stick together and be paste like but toward the end it will start to thin out and become more sauce like.
- Add 2 cups of the grated Colby cheese and stir until melted.
- Add the salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Stir into the sauce and taste to check for seasoning.
- Slowly fold the cooked elbow noodles into the cheese sauce and when mixed top with the remaining colby cheese.
- Place under a hot broiler for a minute or 3 until slightly golden brown.
- Remove and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Do not rush when adding the milk. If you pour in the milk too fast you may end up with a lumpy sauce.
When reheating, if you find the mac and cheese has dried out a little add a tablespoon of butter or milk to loosen it up while reheating.
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Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 390Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 16gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 74mgSodium 339mgCarbohydrates 23gFiber 1gSugar 5gProtein 15g