Cracker Barrel’s mac and cheese stands out for its creamy and velvety texture, combined with the perfect blend of cheese. It’s a dish that brings comfort and nostalgia with every bite.
Whether you’re a Cracker Barrel’s mac and cheese fan or want to indulge in a bowl of homemade cheesy goodness, this copycat recipe will satisfy your cravings.
This recipe is perfect for holiday gatherings, and its simplicity makes it a fantastic dish for any day of the year. You can easily whip up this delectable mac and cheese, allowing you to enjoy the comforting flavors and creamy goodness whenever the craving strikes.
It’s a versatile recipe that brings joy and satisfaction to any occasion, whether a festive celebration or a cozy weeknight dinner.
Cracker Barrel Mac And Cheese
Cracker Barrel, a beloved American restaurant chain known for its comforting and home-style dishes, has gained a reputation for its mouthwatering mac and cheese. This classic comfort food has captured the hearts and palates of diners across the country.
Why Is This Recipe So Popular?
This recipe is immensely popular because it replicates the creamy, indulgent, and comforting flavors that have made Cracker Barrel’s mac and cheese a beloved favorite.
The combination of perfectly cooked pasta, a rich and velvety cheese sauce, and the option to add delicious variations like bacon, pimientos, onions, or broccoli spears creates a dish that satisfies nostalgia and cravings for classic comfort food.
Cracker Barrel Mac And Cheese Ingredients
The beauty of Cracker Barrel mac and cheese lies in its simplicity, making it incredibly easy to replicate. With common pantry staples and a cooking time of less than an hour, you can indulge in the luxurious flavors of this decadent mac and cheese without much effort.
The pasta serves as the base of the dish, providing the hearty and comforting texture that mac and cheese is known for. To hold the creamy cheese sauce well, you can choose your favorite pasta shape, such as elbow macaroni or shells.
Butter adds richness and a creamy mouthfeel to the cheese sauce. It also helps create a smooth and velvety texture, ensuring the sauce evenly coats the pasta.
Flour is used to create a roux, a mixture of fat (butter) and flour, which acts as a thickening agent for the sauce. It helps give the cheese sauce its desired consistency and prevents it from being too thin or watery.
Low Sodium Chicken Broth/Milk
Chicken broth or milk is added to the roux to create the sauce base. The choice between chicken broth or milk depends on personal preference and dietary considerations. Chicken broth adds a savory note, while milk provides a creamy and milder flavor.
Heavy cream adds richness and creaminess to the sauce, contributing to its luxurious texture. It helps create a velvety smoothness that coats the pasta and ensures a luscious mac and cheese experience.
Shredded Colby Cheese
Colby cheese is mild, creamy, and slightly tangy. It melts beautifully and contributes to the rich and gooey texture of the mac and cheese. The shredded form allows the cheese to incorporate smoothly into the sauce.
Pepper adds a subtle kick and enhances the overall flavor profile of the dish. It balances the richness of the cheese sauce and adds a touch of warmth.
What Is A Roux And How To Make It?
A roux is a mixture of equal parts fat, such as butter and flour, used as a thickening agent in sauces, including the cheese sauce for mac and cheese.
To make a roux, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add flour and whisk until thick paste forms, cooking for a couple of minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
Tips For Making The Best Mac And Cheese
By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to creating a mouthwatering mac and cheese that will impress your family and friends.
- Cook pasta al dente: Cook until it’s firm to the bite (al dente) to prevent it from becoming mushy when combined with the cheese sauce.
- Use a variety of cheeses: Mix different types of cheeses like cheddar, Colby, and Monterey Jack to achieve a more complex and flavorful mac and cheese.
- Explore different types of pasta: Experiment with different pasta shapes like elbow macaroni, shells, or cavatappi to find the one that holds the cheese sauce best and provides a delightful texture in each bite.
- Add cheese gradually: Add the shredded cheese to the sauce in small batches, allowing each batch to melt completely before adding more. This ensures a smooth and evenly incorporated cheese sauce.
- Season the sauce well: Taste and adjust the seasoning of the cheese sauce with salt, pepper, and other preferred spices to bring out the dish’s flavors.
- Opt for whole ingredients: Use whole milk or heavy cream instead of low-fat options for a richer and creamier mac and cheese.
- Experiment with toppings: Add breadcrumbs, crispy bacon bits, or grated cheese as a topping before baking to add a delicious crunch and an extra layer of flavor.
- Let it rest before serving: Allow the mac and cheese to rest for a few minutes after baking or stovetop cooking to allow the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken slightly before serving.
- Customize with mix-ins: Add mix-ins like cooked vegetables, diced ham, or herbs to personalize your mac and cheese and add flavors and textures.
Recipe Variations And Add-Ons
These variations and add-ons offer exciting twists on the classic mac and cheese recipe, allowing you to customize the dish to your preferences and explore different flavor profiles.
Chicken and Spinach Mac and Cheese
Incorporate cooked and diced chicken breast and sautéed spinach into your mac and cheese. The tender chicken adds protein and a savory component, while the spinach brings a hint of freshness and added nutrients.
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
Incorporate cooked and shredded chicken tossed in buffalo sauce into your mac and cheese. This variation combines the tangy and spicy flavors of buffalo sauce with the creamy cheesiness of mac and cheese, resulting in a satisfying and zesty dish.
Lobster Mac and Cheese
Elevate your mac and cheese by adding chunks of succulent lobster meat. The sweet and delicate taste of the lobster pairs beautifully with the rich cheese sauce, creating a luxurious and indulgent mac and cheese experience.
Truffle Mac and Cheese
Enhance the flavor of your mac and cheese by drizzling truffle oil or adding truffle-infused cheese to the dish. The earthy and aromatic notes of truffle elevate the overall taste and add a touch of elegance to your mac and cheese creation.
Broccoli and Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Add steamed broccoli florets and extra shredded cheddar cheese to your mac and cheese. The vibrant green broccoli adds a pop of color and a healthy element. At the same time, the additional cheddar cheese amplifies the cheesiness of the dish, creating a satisfying and well-rounded mac and cheese variation.
What To Serve With Copycat Cracker Barrel Restaurant Mac And Cheese?
Serve Copycat Cracker Barrel Restaurant Mac and Cheese with grilled or roasted vegetables, a crisp salad, garlic bread or dinner rolls, or grilled chicken or steak. These side dish options provide a range of flavors and textures to complement the creamy mac and cheese, creating a satisfying and well-rounded meal.
How To Store/Reheat The Cracker Barrel Mac And Cheese?
- Refrigerate promptly: Transfer the leftover mac and cheese to an airtight container or cover it tightly with plastic wrap or foil.
- Store in the refrigerator: Place the mac and cheese within two hours of cooking to prevent bacterial growth.
- Consume within 3-4 days: Mac and cheese can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Reheat individual portions as needed.
- Reheat properly: When reheating, use the stovetop or microwave, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated. Add a splash of milk to restore creaminess if needed.
- Freeze for longer storage: If you want to store it for an extended period, transfer the mac and cheese to a freezer-safe container and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
Cracker Barrel Mac And Cheese Recipe
- Large pot
- Strainer or colander
- Large saucepan
- Baking dish (optional if baking the mac and cheese)
- Oven (optional if baking the mac and cheese)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 Cups Uncooked Pasta (Your Choice Of Shape)
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth Or Milk
- 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
- 2 1/2 cups Shredded Colby Cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon Pepper
- Bring 4 cups of water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir with a whisk until a thick paste (roux) forms, about 2 minutes.
- Gradually pour the chicken broth or milk over the roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming.
- Add the heavy cream to the saucepan and continue stirring until the sauce thickens.
- Add the shredded Colby cheese to the sauce and stir until it melts and the sauce becomes smooth. Season with pepper.
- Add any optional additions, such as cooked bacon, diced pimientos, caramelized onions, or steamed broccoli spears, to the sauce and mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) if you plan to bake the mac and cheese.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix until all the pasta shells are evenly coated with the sauce.
- Optional: If baking the mac and cheese, pour the mixture into a baking dish and bake uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the edges have browned.
- Remove from the oven and let the mac and cheese cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- Feel free to experiment with different types of cheese or a combination of cheeses to customize the flavor profile of your mac and cheese.
- If you prefer a creamier texture, add more heavy cream or milk to the sauce to achieve your desired consistency.
- The recipe provides optional add-ons like bacon, pimientos, caramelized onions, and steamed broccoli. You can include them based on your preferences or omit them for a simpler version.
- Baking the mac and cheese is optional but adds a golden and slightly crispy layer. Adjust the baking time based on your desired level of browning.
- This mac and cheese can be refrigerated and reheated. When reheating, add a splash of milk or cream to maintain the creamy texture.
- If you want to control portion sizes or save leftovers later, consider using individual ramekins or oven-safe dishes for baking and serving the mac and cheese.
- Serving Size: 1 cup (approximately)
- Calories: 450-550 calories
- Total Fat: 30-40g
- Saturated Fat: 18-25g
- Cholesterol: 85-100mg
- Sodium: 700-900mg
- Carbohydrates: 30-40g
- Fiber: 1-2g
- Sugar: 2-3g
- Protein: 10-15g