Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese is incredibly delicious, comforting, and easy to make with just 6 ingredients. Enjoy a restaurant-quality dish at home with this copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese recipe!
Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese
Perfectly cooked noodles with a creamy cheese sauce — this dish tastes just like the mac and cheese at Cracker Barrel!
It’s bound to be a new family favorite, and it only takes minimal effort to make.
If you love this recipe, be sure to try our beer bacon mac and cheese. It’s super cheesy and will have your taste buds singing!
Another favorite is mac and cheese with cream cheese — it’s ready to serve in just 15 minutes!
Love recreating copycat recipes? You are in luck because we have many to choose from, including my favorite Cracker Barrel copycat recipes linked down below!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Pasta – For a classic take, use regular elbow macaroni for this Cracker Barrel mac and cheese recipe. Medium shells would also work in a pinch.
- Flour and Butter – Combine these to make a roux, which forms the base of your cheese sauce and helps it to thicken.
- Milk – Since the fat makes the sauce extra creamy, stick with whole or 2% instead of skim.
- Cheese – While you could swap the cheese, we feel like using Colby Jack makes it taste just like Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese.
- Salt and Pepper – Simple seasonings are all you need to flavor the dish. For some heat, feel free to add a little smoked paprika or a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
Tips and Tricks for Perfect Cracker Barrel Macaroni and Cheese
- Season the pasta.
The key to delicious macaroni is to season it with one tablespoon of salt per quart of water.
The noodles absorb some of the salty water to give it the ultimate flavor.
- Grate the cheese.
While you can buy pre-shredded, the texture and flavor are going to be so much better if you do it yourself.
Bagged shreds contain anti-caking ingredients to prevent clumping, but these also affect the consistency when melted.
- Add the milk slowly.
To prevent clumps, it’s vital to add the milk to the flour mixture slowly and stir often.
This will create a smooth and creamy texture for your Cracker Barrel mac and cheese.
- Want thicker sauce?
No problem — use milk with high fat content or use half of the required amount. It will be thicker, but not overwhelmingly thick.
- Broiling is optional!
Broiling is going to give you browned cheese that not only adds texture but flavor as well.
Or, if you are in a hurry, add the extra cheese to the pan, stir, and serve.
- Shred the cheese
- Bring milk to room temperature
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta
- Whisk – These have held up for over 10 years and are still as good as the day I bought them.
- Dutch Oven – My top choice for stovetop to oven recipes!
- You can also make the sauce in a Large Saucepan, then transfer Cracker Barrel mac and cheese to a Baking Dish to broil.
Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese makes a wonderful side dish for holidays, celebrations, and backyard barbecues.
For a simpler meal, serve up a bowl with a fresh side salad or some roasted veggies.
Cracker Barrel Mac N Cheese FAQ
Cheese sauce needs to be stirred frequently to prevent burning. The best way to prevent sticking is by using a wooden spatula.
Scrape the bottom of the pot as you stir while keeping the heat no higher than medium, and you shouldn’t have any trouble with burning.
First, boil noodles just to al dente if you plan on baking them in a casserole. They will come out just right instead of mushy.
If the pasta is already quite soft, coat it in a little butter! This prevents the noodles from absorbing more liquid and cooking further.
There’s no limit to the toppings you can choose from, but there are plenty of mix-in options as well!
Diced ham, shredded chicken, and crispy bacon bits add protein and flavor — and transform this dish into a full meal.
Veggies like broccoli, caramelized onions, and bell peppers are a great way to bulk up this casserole while keeping it vegetarian-friendly.
Storage and Reheating
Keep any leftover Cracker Barrel mac and cheese in an airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
To reheat, place leftovers in a cast-iron skillet or casserole dish and cover. Heat in the oven until it’s warmed all the way through, about 10-15 minutes.
Or, return Cracker Barrel mac n cheese to the stovetop with a splash of milk to get it nice and creamy again!
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Cracker Barrel Copycat Recipes
The BEST Copycat Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese
- 2 cups large elbow macaroni, uncooked
- freshly cracked pepper and sea salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup salted butter, 1/2 stick
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk, whole or 2%
- 3 cups grated colby-jack cheese, divided
- parsley for garnish
- Cook the macaroni noodles according to the package instructions. Be sure to salt the water to season the pasta. When the pasta is cook, drain.
- Meanwhile, In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and a pinch of salt and pepper to the melted butter and cook for 1-2 minutes until smooth.
- Adding just a couple tablespoons at a time, slowly pour the milk into the pan, whisking constantly. After the first few additions of milk, the flour mixture will turn into a paste. Continue whisking and adding the milk until a smooth sauce has formed.
- Whisking continuously, cook the white sauce over medium heat until it begins to thicken. It is important to stir the mixture while waiting for it to thicken to keep the milk from sticking and burning to the bottom of the pan.
- Once the white sauce has thickened, add 2 ½ cups of the grated cheese, whisking in one handful of cheese at a time.
- When the sauce is smooth, stir the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce.
- Transfer the macaroni and cheese to a cast iron pan or casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of cheese over the top of the mixture.
- Broil in the oven for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is melted and begins to brown.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.
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.
Originally published July 2021, updated and republished January 2024
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