Copycat Cheesecake Factory Mac and Cheese

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Cheesecake Factory Mac and Cheese has everything you’re looking for: bold cheesy flavor, ooey gooey sauce, and a crispy panko breadcrumb topping. Plus, you’ll have dinner on the table in just 40 minutes! There’s no reason not to enjoy your restaurant favorites at home, especially when they’re this easy to make.

Titled Image: Cheesecake Factory Macaroni and Cheese


Cheesecake Factory Mac and Cheese

I’m always on the hunt for another unique mac and cheese recipe — some of my favorites include my jalapeno popper bacon macaroni or this dreamy French onion version.

But I’ve also got a soft spot for all things Cheesecake Factory, so you know I had to come up with a copycat recipe to share!

So what makes this Cheesecake Factory mac and cheese recipe so special?

First, it’s the blend of 3 cheeses that elevates the usual cheddar into something restaurant-worthy.

Then, a simple combination of melted butter and panko breadcrumbs on top adds a little crispy texture to each bite. Trust me, it makes all the difference!

cheesecake factory mac and cheese ingredients

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Elbow Macaroni – A classic choice for this mac and cheese Cheesecake Factory copycat! However, shell noodles would be just as tasty.
  • Butter & Flour – These form the roux, which is what thickens our cheese sauce! Stick with unsalted butter and your favorite all-purpose flour.
  • Chicken Stock – Adds so much flavor while keeping the cheese sauce from getting too thick.

    For a vegetarian version of this Cheesecake Factory mac and cheese recipe, swap with vegetable stock instead.
  • Heavy Cream – For the ultimate creamy texture. Milk will work in a pinch, but the sauce will be thinner. Half and half would be a better substitute.
  • Seasonings – White pepper has a more subtle heat than black pepper, plus you won’t see the flecks in the sauce. Add some paprika for color and warmth, plus salt to taste.
  • Cheese – You’ll need cheddar for bold flavor, Monterey Jack for the ultimate melt factor, and freshly grated parmesan to round it all out.

    Avoid powdered or pre-grated Parmesan — the texture isn’t the same.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs – These add a crunchy layer to Cheesecake Factory macaroni and cheese that is to die for!!

    Combine with a little melted (salted) butter to help them brown evenly in the oven.
cheese and spices in a pot

Tips for Making Mac and Cheese Like Cheesecake Factory

  • Cook noodles just to al dente.

That means they should still have a little bite to them.

Since the noodles will continue to soften as the Cheesecake Factory macaroni and cheese bakes in the oven, they will be the perfect texture for eating.

If you cook them just right to begin with, then they will end up mushy once the final dish is complete.

  • Use more than one type of cheese.

The key to any good macaroni and cheese recipe is balancing flavor and texture.

Cheddar is usually involved to provide the classic taste we all know and love, but you can play around with the rest. 

You need at least one ultra-melty variety so everything gets nice and creamy but with a good cheese pull too.

Start with your top 3: one for flavor, one for melt, and one to add balance — it’s almost always fresh parmesan!

  • Don’t underestimate your seasonings.

You may think you don’t need the salt and pepper, but you’d be wrong! These simple additions add a huge boost of flavor and enhance all of the other ingredients as well.

Build from there, adding your favorite herbs, spices, or blends, until your Cheesecake Factory mac and cheese sauce tastes just right.

adding cooked macaroni to pot

Prep Ahead

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Shred cheese
  • Bring heavy cream to room temp

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • 9×13 Baking Dish – This set is one of my favorites! It comes with a lid for easy storage and is great for casseroles too.
  • Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta 
  • Dutch Oven – I love this set and use it all the time. It is perfect for roasts, and I especially love it for my one-pot meals.
  • Cheese Grater – Fresh cheese makes this recipe even better! Skip the bagged shreds and buy a block to grate yourself.
mac and cheese in a baking dish

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy Cheesecake Factory mac and cheese as a standalone meal, or pair it with sides such as crisp green beans or sweet potato fries and some warm brown bread.

You can even stretch the servings by making this your side dish to fried chicken or juicy pork chops.

It’s also a great dish for potlucks, get-togethers, or even holidays — especially alongside mouthwatering favorites like pork belly burnt ends and smoked beef ribs.

breadcrumb mixture added to mac and cheese

Storing and Reheating Cheesecake Factory Macaroni and Cheese

Allow leftovers to cool before storing in an airtight container. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days — I don’t recommend freezing.

To reheat, you can pop individual portions in the microwave or return your Cheesecake Factory mac and cheese to the oven.

Bake at 350°F until warmed through. It helps to add a splash of water or broth to leftovers to keep them from drying out.

Cheesecake Factory Mac and Cheese Recipe FAQ

Should I bake macaroni and cheese covered or uncovered?

That’s up to you, but I prefer to leave it uncovered. It’s the best way to get everything bubbly and gooey — and the only way to toast that breadcrumb topping!

If it looks like the top is getting too dark, you can loosely cover the dish with foil or move it to a lower rack.

How do I prevent the cheese sauce from becoming grainy?

Don’t rush the process by using high heat. Keep the stovetop temperature on low and add a handful of cheese at a time, stirring until it’s completely melted before adding more.

It can also help to bring the heavy cream to room temperature before starting the sauce. This helps it blend better with the roux and chicken stock, which also prevents any lumps.

Be sure to wait until the cream mixture is hot and starting to thicken before adding the shreds. Finally, grate the cheese yourself instead of using bagged shreds. These contain anti-caking agents that can make your sauce grainy or even cause it to separate.

What else can I add to this mac and cheese Cheesecake Factory copycat?

There are so many ways to customize this recipe, whether that’s with mix-ins or different cheeses and seasonings.

Stir cooked bacon pieces, diced tomatoes (Rotel would be tasty!), or your favorite sautéed vegetables into the mix before transferring to your casserole dish. Broccoli and cheese always go together, but cauliflower is a great alternative if you need to hide veggies for picky eaters. 

Want to change up the flavor? Try Muenster or Gruyere cheeses, or maybe Pepper Jack for a kick. Fontina and Gouda are other popular choices that aren’t as intense. 

It’s easy to add more savory goodness with garlic and onion powder, but a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning goes a long way too!

close up of cheesecake factory macaroni and cheese

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closeup of mac and cheese on a fork

cheesecake factory mac and cheese on a for

Copycat Cheesecake Factory Mac and Cheese

Donna Elick
Cheesecake Factory Mac and Cheese combines a rich, 3 cheese sauce with crunchy panko breadcrumb topping. Baked to perfection in 40 minutes!
5 stars from 3 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Method Oven
Servings 6


  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni, (cooked al dente)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, (unsalted)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock, or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, (orange)
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs


  • Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • Prepare a casserole dish by greasing it with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat.
  • Stir in the all-purpose flour and cook for another few minutes to remove the taste of the flour.
  • Whisk in the chicken or vegetable stock, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
  • Stir in the kosher salt, white pepper, and paprika.
  • Whisk in the heavy cream and continue stirring until the sauce thickens.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the shredded Parmesan, Monterey Jack, and most of the shredded cheddar cheese (reserve 1/2 cup). Stir until the cheeses are fully incorporated and the sauce is smooth and creamy.
  • Add the cooked elbow macaroni to the cheese sauce, stirring until all the noodles are evenly coated.
  • Transfer the mac and cheese mixture to the prepared casserole dish, spreading it out evenly.
  • Top the mac and cheese with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the melted salted butter and plain panko breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the mac and cheese.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbly.
  • Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Donna’s Notes

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
To reheat, you can microwave individual portions or bake the mac and cheese in the oven at 350°F (175°C) until heated through.
Feel free to customize this mac and cheese recipe by adding your favorite mix-ins such as cooked bacon, diced tomatoes, or sautéed vegetables.
You can also experiment with different types of cheeses to create your own unique flavor combination.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 744cal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 114mg | Sodium: 773mg | Sugar: 4g | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 489mg | Iron: 2mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Cheesecake Factory Macaroni and Cheese - PIN

Originally published March 2024

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  1. 5 stars
    this recipe from donna and chad’s slow roasted italian site is an absolute winner! made this mac and cheese last night, and it was a breeze. so creamy and flavorful, just like the restaurant version.

  2. 5 stars
    donna’s mac and cheese recipe is a game-changer! i added some crispy bacon to mine for an extra burst of flavor, and it turned out amazing. so creamy and delicious, just like the restaurant version. definitely a new favorite in my household.

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