This Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese is full of amazing buffalo flavor, wrapped in a cheesy sauce around pasta and chicken. Your family will absolutely love this perfect baked mac and cheese recipe.
In the world of comfort food, I’m not sure that it gets better than baked macaroni and cheese. That creamy cheesy goodness can take any day and turn it right around.
Today, I’m going to share with you a kicked-up version of macaroni and cheese. This Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese takes everything you love about the original and twists in buffalo. You are going to fall in love with this amazing comfort food!
How to Make Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
This is just a brief overview of how to make this homemade macaroni and cheese. For the full recipe with all of the measurements, be sure to see the recipe card at the bottom of my post.
- Cook the pasta. See my tips and tricks for perfectly cooked pasta below.
- Make the cheese sauce. We are going to make a roux to make the cheese sauce (read more on this below). After making the roux and mixing in the milk, we are going to add the buffalo sauce and some seasonings.
- Stir in the cheese. To the sauce you just made, stir in some freshly grated cheddar cheese. Please read below on why we are calling for freshly grated cheese.
- Make the topping. Mix some crushed crackers with melted butter.
- Put it all together. In a baking dish, combine the pasta, buffalo cheese sauce, and chicken. Top it with the buttered cracker crumbs and some blue cheese, and bake it.
Perfectly Cooked Pasta
While this may seem like the easiest task when it comes to cooking, there are a few tricks to the most perfectly cooked pasta.
- Bring the water to a roaring boil. As anxious as I know you are to eat your mac and cheese, you want to see huge bubbles in the water before adding the dry pasta.
- Salt the water. A little kosher salt (about a teaspoon) in pasta water can be a game changer for the final dish.
- Cook the pasta according to the time listed on the box. This seems like a no-brainer, but in the hustle and bustle of dinner time, you want to be sure to set a timer so that you drain the pasta when it is al dente.
- Drain the pasta when it is al dente. Do not rely on your timer alone. When it goes off, taste the pasta. It should have a little bite left to it, especially with this dish which will go on to be baked.
Making a Roux
A roux is a combination of fat and flour and is a great thickening agent for sauces and a must for homemade mac and cheese. Here we are using some butter and all purpose flour.
When making a roux, it is important to let the butter and flour cook for about thirty seconds once it is fully combined. This eliminates the taste of flour. Then slowly add in the half and half and whole milk. I like to start by adding just a few tablespoons at a time, and whisking it until it is fully absorbed by the roux before adding more. While we are starting slow, all of the liquid should be added within a minute or two.
The star of the show here is the buffalo sauce. I am such a sucker for buffalo anything. Truly though, buffalo sauce is very easy to make at home. We have a simple recipe that comes together in 10 minutes. I don’t recommend drinking it, but it is that good.
Using Freshly Grated Cheese for Mac and Cheese
One culinary hill I will die on is the need for freshly grated cheese in recipes. This is especially true if cheese is a main focal point of the recipe, as it is here.
Pre-shredded cheese is coated in preservatives that keep it in shred form. Think about how freshly shredded cheese looks in your kitchen about an hour after shredding. It’s a little limp and not as great. Those preservatives that keep it in tip-top shape also prevent it from melting well.
The TL/DR version is: shred your own cheese. It will take about an extra five minutes, but it will melt significantly better.
Keeping Cooked Chicken on Hand
In this recipe we are using cooked, shredded chicken. One way to make this recipe move a little faster is to keep cooked chicken on hand or use a rotisserie chicken. This will eliminate the time it would take to cook the chicken.
I love to keep frozen shredded chicken in the freezer. You can pull out just the amount that you need, and it typically thaws on the countertop in about 30 minutes.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
This recipe tastes best right after it is made. That being said, any leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and eaten within four days.
To reheat the leftovers, add a little bit of milk and cook at half power in the microwave, or covered and in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound elbow macaroni (uncooked)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup cold half and half
- 1 cup cold whole milk
- 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (3/4 teaspoon if table salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 12 ounces mild cheddar cheese freshly grated
- 2 cups cooked chicken
- 1/2 cup crushed crackers (I like using Ritz for this dish)
- 1 tablespoon butter melted
- 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
- 2 green scallions diced for serving
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cook the macaroni according to package instructions, making sure to salt the water with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. When it is finished cooking, drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Make sure it fully combines with the butter and cooks for about 30 more seconds. Then slowly whisk in the half and half and the whole milk. You want to start with just a few tablespoons at a time, adding more once it is absorbed by the roux. Then you can gradually add it more quickly. The whole process should take less than 2 minutes.4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 cup cold half and half, 1 cup cold whole milk, 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- Stir in the buffalo sauce. Add in the salt, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper. Stir in the cheddar cheese and stir until compltely melted. Try the sauce and add more seasoning to taste.1/2 cup buffalo sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Stir in the chicken and the noodles. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.2 cups cooked chicken
- In a small bowl, combine the crackers and the butter. Sprinkle over the mac and cheese. Then sprinkle on the blue cheese.1/2 cup crushed crackers, 1 tablespoon butter
- Put the baking dish in the ovan and bake for 30 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.