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Make this easy Cracker Barrel mac and cheese copycat recipe with just 8 ingredients. It’s rich, creamy, and absolutely comforting, just like the real thing!
You don’t need to visit the restaurant to enjoy the crowd-favorite Cracker Barrel mac and cheese!
This rich and creamy comfort food is surprisingly easy to replicate at home with just a few simple ingredients—they might even be already in your pantry!
Would you believe it only takes 50 minutes to make the perfect ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese with crisp, browned edges?
What is Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese?
Cracker Barrel’s mac and cheese is best described as a classic, unadulterated mac and cheese recipe that is comforting in every spoonful.
But don’t overlook this dish.
Despite its simplicity, it has a very loyal following and for a good (incredibly delicious) reason. 😋
Just imagine perfectly cooked pasta smothered in a velvety cheese sauce and then finished in the oven to get its cheesy edges crispy and golden brown.
It’s not an over-the-top take on the comforting pasta dish, but as a quasi-macaroni and cheese expert, trust me when I say this “basic” mac and cheese recipe should become a go-to dish in your home!
From our viral Tiktok mac and cheese recipe, which does not boil the pasta, to our one-skillet bacon mac and cheese that requires very little clean-up, you know we love mac and cheese dishes here at Food Plus Words.
And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s only fitting to whip up a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe For Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese
- No-Frills Classic: I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese. And this Cracker Barrel mac and cheese? You best believe it will be a hit to everyone, making it the perfect last-minute holiday dinner idea.
- Simple and Basic: Comforting dishes don’t have to be a project. Anyone can make this mac and cheese Cracker Barrel recipe, and it might even be possible to cook this dish without needing to go for a grocery run!
- Room For Add-Ins: The simplicity of this copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese means you can customize it as much as you want! Try different cheese combinations, use pasta with a fun shape, or add your favorite spices, meats, and veggies.
What Does Cracker Barrel Macaroni and Cheese Taste Like?
This copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese tastes rich, cheesy, and buttery.
It’s oh-so-creamy and basically just everything you want in a comfort food.
It’s a decadent pasta dish that doesn’t need fancy additions. Yes, it does not boast a blend of cheeses like other mac and cheese recipes, but Colby-Jack cheese is more than enough.
It easily provides an irresistible homemade goodness to the pasta with its tangy flavor! And by the way, this flavor is also incredibly delicious with the kick from black pepper.
Now, let’s talk about the texture of Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese.
I mean, it’s what separates a “good” mac and cheese from an amazing one, right?
This pasta dish won’t just give you the crave-worthy creamy, cheesy macaroni. It’s also broiled in the oven, which creates crispy edges, like a cheesy crust, if you will. 🤤
I personally think those golden brown edges are non-negotiable when it comes to any homemade mac and cheese.
Together with the soft-chewy macaroni, just thinking about it is enough to make my mouth water.
Ingredients For Macaroni and Cheese Cracker Barrel Copycat
- Elbow macaroni – Remember that we’ll also broil our mac and cheese in the oven, so it’s important to cook the macaroni noodles al dente.
- Salted butter – The secret for silky-smooth mac and cheese sauce since butter will keep lumps from forming in the roux. I’m sure no one will also complain about the rich flavor it adds to the dish.
- All-purpose flour – Everyone should learn how to make a roux for mac and cheese. It’s a game-changer if you want to get that coveted thick sauce that envelops the pasta perfectly.
- Whole milk – Use whole milk because its fat content helps make this Cracker Barrel mac and cheese rich and creamy.
- Colby-Jack cheese – Do your tastebuds a favor and shred your own cheese every time you make mac and cheese! Pre-shredded cheese won’t give you the same flavor and texture because it typically has additional ingredients.
- Salt – In addition to seasoning the sauce, don’t forget to cook your pasta in salty water. Use a tablespoon of salt for every quart of water.
- Black pepper – The “heat” from black pepper is just delicious with the cheese’s tanginess.
- Parsley – Melty macaroni and cheese can always use a pop of color and herby goodness. Plate your Cracker Barrel mac and cheese with some parsley on top!
Tools Needed To Prepare Cracker Barrel Copycat Mac and Cheese
- Pot for cooking the pasta
- Colander for draining the pasta
- Saucepan for making the sauce
- Wooden spatula for stirring the sauce
- Casserole dish for broiling the mac and cheese
Ingredient Additions & Substitutions For Copycat Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese
Yes, I know it’s called “macaroni” and cheese, but any pasta with pockets and grooves will be just as amazing for this recipe.
Best types of cheese
Our copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese only needs Colby-Jack, but you can always include your favorite cheese and make it as cheesy as you want.
Add-ins for your mac and cheese
Cracker Barrel mac and cheese will make a yummy side dish for the holidays!
And for an extra crispy crust, crush Ritz crackers and sprinkle it on top of the pasta dish before broiling!
How to Make Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese
- 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 1/4 cup + 1/2 stick salted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3 cups Colby-Jack cheese, shredded
- Salt to taste
- Extra salt for pasta water
- Black pepper to taste
- Parsley for garnish
Tools you need:
STEP 1: Gather the ingredients for your Cracker Barrel mac and cheese.
STEP 2: Follow the package instructions and cook your macaroni until al dente. Drain the pasta.
STEP 3: Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the flour and season with salt and pepper. Mix to combine and cook the roux for 2 minutes.
STEP 4: Add the milk to the pan a couple of tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly until the sauce is nice and smooth.
STEP 5: Cook the white sauce until it thickens. Remember to stir it continuously, or it can burn on the bottom of the pan!
STEP 6: Next, add 2 and 1/2 cups of cheese to the sauce, mixing until smooth.
STEP 7: Stir in the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce.
STEP 8: Transfer the mac and cheese to a casserole dish. You can also use a cast iron pan!
STEP 9: Top the mac and cheese with the remaining shredded cheese.
STEP 10: Broil the mac and cheese in the oven for 4 minutes or until brown around the edges.
STEP 11: Garnish with freshly chopped parsley before serving, and enjoy your copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese!
What to Serve with Cracker Barrel Macaroni and Cheese?
Ah, mac and cheese. A dish so versatile and easy, it can be served both as a side and main dish.
For the creamy and ever-comforting Cracker Barrel mac and cheese, you can serve it with crunchy fried chicken, and I can guarantee everyone will be asking for seconds.
Or if you’re hosting a gathering, sloppy joes might be the best partner for your mac and cheese. Its sweet-savory flavor complements the creaminess of the pasta dish. 😋
Are you also a fan of mac and cheese and fries? Our crispy accordion potatoes put a twist on crispy potatoes, literally.
And if you think this mac and cheese can use some bacon, why not have bacon as your dessert?
You read that right; bacon as a dessert!
Let me introduce you to bacon chocolate chip cookies, which are perfect for people who like their desserts sweet and salty.
Tips About Making Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese Recipe
- The secret to perfecting this mac and cheese recipe even on the first try? Don’t rush! Add the milk slowly and stir the sauce often to avoid lumps.
- Scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir the sauce to prevent burning. You also want to use a wooden spatula and cook the sauce over medium heat.
- You can serve this creamy mac and cheese without broiling it! But personally, that extra step is absolutely worth it for those golden brown, crispy, cheesy edges. 🤤
How To Store Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese
- Fridge: Transfer your leftover Cracker Barrel mac and cheese to an airtight container, and it should keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezer: Looking for a longer storage option? Freeze your copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
- Reheating: The best way to reheat your leftover mac and cheese is in the oven. Cover the baking dish and heat it for about 10 minutes. If it’s frozen, thaw it in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Is Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese Good?
Cracker Barrel mac and cheese is good, and considering how easy it is to make, it’s just hard to find a reason not to make this copycat recipe.
But what exactly sets this mac and cheese apart from others? Well, it’s satisfying and very comforting both in taste and texture.
Cracker Barrel’s mac and cheese is super rich, gooey, and, despite its simplicity, tastes perfectly balanced.
And since it’s baked, you’ll also get areas of crispy cheese complementing the creamy pasta dish underneath.
What Cheese is Best for Mac and Cheese?
What cheese does Cracker Barrel use? No one knows the exact cheese they use(trust me; I searched and searched! 😅)
But even though the secret is not out, many agree that Colby cheese or Colby-Jack (like our choice for this recipe) is the best cheese for copycat Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese.
What Are the Flavors of Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese?
Not in the mood to make an entire recipe for your weeknight meal?
Try Cracker Barrel’s macaroni and cheese dinners!
FAQ About Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese
How many carbs in Cracker Barrel mac and cheese?
Want to treat yourself to a serving of boxed Cracker Barrel mac and cheese? The sharp cheddar variant has 310 calories.
Where can I buy Cracker Barrel mac and cheese?
How to spice up Cracker Barrel Mac and cheese?
What is the purpose of the roux in mac and cheese?
Roux makes the mac and cheese sauce thick and smooth every single time.
Why did my mac and cheese sauce curdle?
Mac and cheese sauce can curdle if the cheese is added while the sauce is boiling. The high heat can cause the proteins in the cheese to separate, which leads to curdles.
- Gather the ingredients for your Cracker Barrel mac and cheese.
- Follow the package instructions and cook your macaroni until al dente. Drain the pasta.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the flour and season with salt and pepper. Mix to combine and cook the roux for 2 minutes.
- Add the milk to the pan a couple of tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly until the sauce is nice and smooth.
- Cook the white sauce until it thickens. Remember to stir it continuously, or it can burn on the bottom of the pan!
- Next, add 2 and 1/2 cups of cheese to the sauce, mixing until smooth.
- Stir in the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce.
- Transfer the mac and cheese to a casserole dish. You can also use a cast iron pan!
- Top the mac and cheese with the remaining shredded cheese.
- Broil the mac and cheese in the oven for 4 minutes or until brown around the edges.
- Garnish with freshly chopped parsley before serving, and enjoy your copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese!
- Do not rush when making your white sauce! If you want a luxuriously smooth sauce for your mac and cheese, you want to add the milk little by little to avoid lumps. And, of course, stir the sauce often to avoid burning.
- Other than stirring your copycat Cracker Barrel mac and cheese sauce frequently, scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir to prevent burning it. Keep the heat to medium and use a wooden spatula.
- Broiling your mac and cheese Cracker Barrel copycat is totally optional, but for those who love mac and cheese that's slightly crispy and golden around the edges, this extra step is worth it!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 144Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 220mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 7g
* Please note that all nutrition information are just estimates. Values will vary among brands, so we encourage you to calculate these on your own for the most accurate results.
This Cracker Barrel mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food.
You’ll only need macaroni, Colby-Jack cheese, roux, and parsley for this copycat recipe.
And if the basic ingredients are not enough for you to consider Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese as the ultimate no-frills comfort food, maybe its 50-minute prep work will!
It’s the perfect side (or main) to serve on gatherings or when you just want a cozy home-cooked meal after an exhausting day.
As much as I’ll always have a fondness for boxed mac and cheese (thanks for helping me stay full on nights before exams back in college!), I think this copycat Cracker Barrel recipe just became my go-to mac and cheese dish. 😋
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