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Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese

by insanelygood

This copycat recipe for Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese will quickly become your go-to recipe for the dish!

Mac and cheese is the epitome of comfort foods. You really can’t go wrong with chewy pasta and cheesy sauce!

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It’s such a simple combination, but the taste and texture are out of this world.

Mac and Cheese with Bread Crumbs

It’s perfect for the holidays, but since it’s also super easy to make, you can serve it any day of the year.

Think you have the perfect recipe for mac and cheese? Give this one a try, and I’m sure you’ll change your mind.  

Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese

Everyone has their own version of the best mac and cheese, and this one is mine. 

I am a huge fan of Cracker Barrel mac and cheese. Honestly, there’s nothing too crazy about it.

It has no special ingredients and no extra spices or seasonings. What it is, though, is a pure, unadulterated, classic mac and cheese. 

That’s not to say it’s nothing special, though. In fact, it’s ridiculously rich, creamy, and cheesy.

The pasta is cooked to a perfect al dente, giving it the right balance of soft and chewy. 

Since it’s such a simple dish, Cracker Barrel mac and cheese is easy to replicate.

Calling for the most basic ingredients and less than an hour of cooking, you get to enjoy this decadent mac and cheese in no time. 

Ingredients for Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese 

Pasta. Elbow, fusilli, rotini, or any tubular pasta. Cook until al dente to get that wonderful, chewy consistency.

Butter and Flour. The magic combo that makes up the roux, which is responsible for thickening the sauce.

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Low sodium chicken broth. Some recipes call for milk, but this one uses chicken broth to give it that signature Cracker Barrel flavor. 

Heavy cream. For a richer, creamier, thicker sauce.

Shredded Colby cheese. Most recipes call for a combination of cheeses, but the classic Cracker Barrel mac and cheese only requires Colby. But don’t worry, just because it only calls for one kind of cheese doesn’t mean it lacks flavor. 

Pepper. For flavor.

Tips for making the best Mac and Cheese 

  • Speaking of cheese, grate it yourself! Pre-shredded cheese contains anti-caking agents that prevent cheese from reaching its maximum melting potential. Plus, grating your own cheese is easy, not to mention much cheaper. 
  • Should you bake mac and cheese or not? Well, it’s entirely up to you! But if you want to make the perfect Cracker Barrel copycat, you will want to bake it for 10 minutes post-cooking to get those crisp golden edges.
  • If you plan on baking mac and cheese, cook the pasta just before it turns al dente (about a minute less) because it will continue to cook in the oven. 
  • If you’ve accidentally overcooked the pasta, lightly coat it in butter before baking. This will stop the pasta from absorbing more liquid and cooking further.
  • Traditional mac and cheese makes use of elbow macaroni, but you can use other pasta shells, too.
  • Cracker Barrel mac and cheese only calls for one cheese: Colby. But you’re free to add more! Cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss cheese, Jack cheese, Mozzarella, Pepper Jack, Parmesan, American, and even Velveeta work really well for mac and cheese.
  • You can also put as many add-ins as you like, such as ham, bacon, shredded chicken, onions, peppers, and veggies.
  • Avoid a lumpy sauce by pouring cold (not hot) chicken broth gradually into the roux and stirring constantly with a whisk. Do not stop stirring, or else you risk burning or curdling the sauce.
  • Taste as you go! The great part about making mac and cheese is that it’s not a perfect science. You can add more cheeses, cream, or other ingredients until it suits your taste.
  • You can store mac and cheese for up to 5 days in the fridge. 
Homemade Mac and Cheese

What is a Roux and How to Make It

It sounds so fancy, but roux is just a basic combination of fat (typically butter) and flour that helps thicken sauces. 

To make a roux, just stir together equal parts of melted butter and flour until it forms a thick paste.

Then, add in liquid, such as milk or water, and stir constantly until it thickens to your desired consistency.

What to Serve With Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is so addictive, I can devour it on its own and call it a day.

But in case you want to make a more complete meal out of it, here are some dishes that go wonderfully well with this cheesy treat.

Balance out the heavy dish with a light green salad with vinaigrette dressing. Roasted veggies add a nice flavor contrast as well.

What this pasta dish lacks is a bit of meat, so why not pair it with pork chops, steak, fried chicken, or fish?

Mac and cheese is a perfect holiday side dish, meaning it also goes wonderfully well with turkey, roast pork, and prime rib. 

Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese

Servings

6

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes
Calories

564

kcal

Ingredients

  • Pasta
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 ½ cups uncooked pasta

  • Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream

  • 2 ½ cups shredded Colby cheese

  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper

  • Optional: 1 cup diced ham, 1 cup cooked bacon, 1 jar drained diced pimientos, 1 cup caramelized onions, 2 cups broccoli

Directions

  • Add 4 cups of water and salt to a large pot; bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir with a whisk until the mixture turns into a thick paste (called a roux), about 2 minutes.
  • Gradually pour chicken broth over the roux and stir constantly.
  • Add in the cream and stir until the sauce thickens.
  • Add shredded cheese and stir until it melts. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Add the pasta and mix until the shells are completely coated in sauce.
  • Pour the mac and cheese into a baking dish. Bake uncovered in a preheated oven for 10 minutes or until the edges have browned.
  • Remove from the oven. Let pasta cool for 10 minutes.
Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese

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