This easy copycat Popeyes mac and cheese recipe will quickly become your go-to recipe for this delicious and comforting dish. This homestyle mac and cheese consists of chewy pasta and a rich, creamy sauce, baked under a thick layer of melty cheese. The ultimate cheesy deliciousness!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Learn more
Easy Popeyes mac and cheese recipe
When Popeyes first offered mac and cheese a few years back, I wasn’t the biggest fan. But when they came out with their new homestyle baked mac and cheese last year, I fell head over heels in love. It’s just so good!
And honestly, there’s nothing too fancy about it. It doesn’t use any special ingredients or seasonings. It’s simply classic baked mac and cheese with a delicious cheddar cheese crust on top.
That’s not to say it’s not special. In fact, Popeyes mac and cheese is perfectly rich, creamy, and cheesy. You get delicious elbow macaroni and lush sauce in every bite, giving the perfect balance of soft and chewy.
Because it’s such a straightforward dish, you can easily replicate Popeyes mac and cheese in the comfort of your kitchen. Give it a try, I’m sure you’ll love it!
And for more restaurant-style recipes, try our Chick-Fil-A mac and cheese!
Let’s talk about Popeyes mac and cheese ingredients. It’s the perfect recipe when you crave a homey, comforting dish. See the recipe card at the end of the post for exact measurements.
- Pasta: Popeyes uses classic elbow macaroni, but you can use any short pasta you have and like.
- Butter + flour: This combo makes up the roux, which helps to thicken the sauce. You need all-purpose flour and salted or unsalted butter.
- Milk makes up the bulk of the sauce. Any kind of milk will work. I like whole milk; however, skim or 2% are also good choices.
- Heavy cream makes the cheese wonderfully rich and creamy.
- Cheese: Popeyes mac and cheese only calls for one cheese, sharp aged cheddar. But because cheddar on its own can make the sauce a bit grainy, I like to add gouda, which is an excellent melting cheese and creates a super smooth texture.
- Seasonings: Salt, pepper, paprika, and some garlic powder give this Popeyes macaroni plenty of flavor.
How to make Popeyes mac and cheese
This Popeyes mac and cheese recipe is quick + easy and has the potential to become a new family favorite. You love the creamy sauce with those crispy baked cheddar bits on top!
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4.
- Grease a 9 in x 13 in / 23 cm x 33 cm baking dish with butter, set aside.
#2: Cook pasta
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and cook until just al dente.
- Drain the pasta and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter until melted to prevent sticking.
#3: Mix cheese
- As the pasta cooks, combine the shredded cheddar and gouda.
- Reserve 3 cups for the sauce, 1 1/2 cups for the inner layer, and 1 1/2 cups for topping.
#4: Make roux
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once melted, sprinkle in the flour and whisk until combined.
- Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
#5: Cook sauce
- Slowly pour in the milk and cream, while whisking continuously.
- Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened.
#6: Melt cheese
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir 3 cups of the cheese mixture until fully melted and smooth.
- Pour the sauce over the drained macaroni and mix to combine.
#7: Assemble dish
- Transfer half of the pasta into the greased baking dish.
- Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese mixture.
- Add the remaining pasta and top with the last 1 1/2 cups cheese mixture.
- Bake the mac and cheese for 15 to 20 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is golden brown.
- If desired, broil for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Serve the mac and cheese right away and enjoy!
Tips for the best mac and cheese
Want to know more? I’m happy to share all of my tips and tricks for the best Popeyes mac and cheese recipe. Just read on!
- Season the pasta water: The key to excellent macaroni and cheese is to season the cooking water with salt. I recommend 2 teaspoons per quart of water.
- Don’t overcook the pasta: If you plan on baking your Popeyes macaroni and cheese, cook the noodles until just al dente because they will continue cooking in the oven.
- Coat in butter: I like to lightly coat my pasta in butter. This prevents the macaroni from sticking, absorbing too much liquid, and getting bloated or mushy.
- Grate your own cheese: While pre-grated cheese is convenient, the flavor and texture will be so much better if you grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheese has anti-caking agents that prevent the cheese from melting properly.
- Add the milk slowly: To prevent clumpy sauce, slowly add the milk and cream to the flour mixture and whisk continuously. This will create a smooth, velvety consistency.
- Taste as you go: The great thing about homemade mac and cheese is that you can adjust the taste to your liking. So feel free to use less or more salt, or add onion powder, mustard powder, or Cajun seasoning.
- Broil: If you want the perfect Popeyes copycat, top your mac and cheese with cheddar and broil to get those crispy golden edges. Broiling not only browns the cheese, but also adds extra flavor.
Variations & add-ins
Mac and cheese is great because you can customize it with your favorite add-ins and seasonings. Here are a few ways you can make Popeyes macaroni your own:
- Other pasta: While traditional mac and cheese uses elbow macaroni, you can swap in any short pasta you’d like. Pasta shells, fusilli, bowties, and penne are good options too.
- Different cheese: Feel free to experiment with different cheeses. Swiss cheese, Gruyere, Jack cheese, American cheese, and Velveeta work really well for mac and cheese.
- Add-ins: You can include add-ins to make the dish a full meal, such as shredded chicken, crispy bacon, ham, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and other veggies.
Popeyes mac and cheese is tasty by itself. We love to eat it with a fresh green salad or roasted veggies. It’s also great with fried chicken, pork chops, and fish.
Popeyes mac n cheese is the perfect holiday side dish and goes wonderfully with your other Thanksgiving favorites like turkey, roast pork, prime ribs, mashed potatoes, and green beans.
How to store Popeyes mac and cheese recipe
Cover leftover Popeyes mac and cheese tightly and keep it in the refrigerator. It can be stored this way for 3 to 4 days.
Reheat Popeyes mac and cheese recipe
To reheat, stir a little milk or cream into your mac and cheese and microwave partially covered with plastic wrap. Stir often until heated through.
Make Popeyes mac and cheese ahead of time
- Prepare the recipe as directed but don’t bake. Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish and cool completely. Then cover with foil and refrigerate 1 to 2 days in advance.
- Before baking, let the mac and cheese warm up on the counter for 30 minutes.
- Then bake the dish for 15 to 20 minutes, until hot and melty.
As with most mac and cheese recipes, the pasta loses some of its creaminess when made in advance. I suggest adding an extra cup of milk to the sauce if you plan to make the dish ahead of time.
Reasons to love Popeyes mac and cheese recipe
- Perfect taste + texture: Homestyle Popeyes mac and cheese is the epitome of comfort food. The noodles, cheesy sauce and crispy topping are such a simple combo, but the flavor and texture are out of this world delicious.
- Easy to make: Calling for basic pantry staples and less than an hour of cooking, you can enjoy Popeyes decadent mac and cheese in no time.
- Family favorite: Popeyes mac n cheese is a delicious holiday side dish, but since it’s also super simple to whip up, you can serve it any day of the year.
More mac and cheese recipes
There’s something about mac and cheese that’s just so addictive. Delicious pasta combined with creamy sauce and melty cheese is the absolute best! I’ve rounded up a few more easy and yummy macaroni and cheese recipes that your whole family will love!