Homemade Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese Recipe

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Published: 03/04/2024 | Updated: 03/25/2024

Master the art of creating Cracker Barrel’s mac and cheese with a copycat recipe that perfectly mimics its creamy cheese heartiness and tender pasta. Ideal for any occasion, from festive gatherings to quiet nights at home, this dish complements a wide range of sides like savory pork chops, tender shredded chicken, or vibrant roasted vegetables.

cracker barrel mac and cheese recipe

It’s a universal crowd-pleaser, ensuring every meal feels like a celebration, whether it’s a special holiday dinner or a relaxed Sunday lunch.

What You’ll Need

  • 4 cups large elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups freshly shredded cheese (reserve ½ cup for topping)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream (optional for richer texture)

Begin by measuring out your ingredients, ensuring the milk is at room temperature and the cheese is freshly shredded for the best creamy texture. Arrange your ingredients in the order they will be used to streamline the cooking process.

Preparing the Dish

  1. Cook the macaroni noodles until al dente, about 10-15 minutes; drain and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir the mixture, cooking for 1-2 minutes to create a roux.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the heavy cream if desired. Cook and stir constantly until the sauce begins to thicken.
  4. Add 2 ½ cups of the grated cheese to the sauce, stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
  5. In a cast-iron skillet or a baking dish, combine the cooked macaroni with the creamy cheese sauce, stirring to ensure even coverage.
  6. If you plan on baking, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C), sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of cheese over the top, and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  7. Serve hot, sprinkle with chopped parsley for garnish if desired.

As you melt the butter and blend the flour and butter into a roux, ensure you’re whisking constantly for a smooth base. When adding the milk and cheese, patience is key; cook on a low flame to avoid burning the sauce, and wait until each addition of cheese is melted before adding more for the creamiest result.

Optional Variants

  • Stir in 1 cup diced ham or 1 cup cooked bacon for a meaty twist.
  • Add 1 jar of drained diced bell peppers or 1 cup of caramelized onions for added flavor and color.

These optional variants offer a simple way to customize the dish to your taste. Vegetarians might enjoy the addition of steamed broccoli or roasted veggies, while those looking for extra indulgence can mix in pepper jack cheese for a spicy kick.

Nutritional Information

  • Calories: 450 per serving
  • Protein: 20g
  • Carbohydrates: 50g
  • Fat: 20g (with variations in fat content based on optional ingredients)
  • Serving Size: 1 cup

Keep in mind that nutritional values can vary significantly based on the specific brands of ingredients used and any additional variants you include. Serving sizes are important for accurate nutritional details, so measure accordingly.

Factors to Consider

  • For a thicker sauce, ensure that the flour mixture is cooked thoroughly before adding the milk.
  • Consider the type of cheese used; freshly shredded cheese melts better and contributes to a creamier texture compared to pre-shredded cheese.
  • Garnish with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to enhance flavors.

Success with this recipe comes from attention to detail, such as the consistency of the sauce and the quality of the ingredients. Don’t rush the process of creating the roux and cheese sauce, as this is crucial for the final taste and texture.

Kitchen Tools You’ll Require

  • Large pot for boiling pasta
  • Medium saucepan or Dutch oven for the sauce
  • Whisk for stirring the sauce
  • Baking dish if baking the mac and cheese
  • Cheese grater to shred the cheese

Having the right kitchen tools can make the cooking process much smoother. If you don’t have a whisk, a fork can work in a pinch. A cast-iron skillet is ideal for baking the mac and cheese but any oven-safe dish will do.

Prep Time

Preparation time will depend on how quickly you can shred the cheese and cook the pasta. Shred the cheese while the pasta is cooking to save time. In total, expect to spend about 30 minutes on preparation and cooking, with an additional 20-25 minutes if you bake the dish.

The total time from start to finish is approximately 50-55 minutes, which includes 10-15 minutes to cook the macaroni, a few minutes to melt the butter and mix in the flour, and time for the sauce to thicken and cheese to melt. Baking is optional but adds a delightful crispy top layer.

cracker barrel mac and cheese

Final Touches

  • For added visual appeal, sprinkle the top with paprika or fresh herbs after baking.
  • Pair with a crisp green salad or garlic bread for a complete meal.

Presentation can elevate the dining experience, so consider serving the mac and cheese in a pre-warmed dish. Complementary sides can balance the richness of the dish, offering both a color and texture contrast.

What to do With Leftovers

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the microwave, stirring occasionally to maintain creaminess.

Leftovers can be just as delicious the next day. Ensure they’re stored properly to maintain freshness. The shelf life is typically 3-4 days when refrigerated in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes

  • Consider making extra sauce if you prefer a creamier dish; the pasta will continue absorbing more liquid over time.
  • For a more traditional mac and cheese, stick to classic cheddar, but don’t be afraid to experiment with a variety of cheeses.

Keep in mind that this copycat recipe is forgiving and can be adjusted according to taste. Seasonal variations can include adding pumpkin puree for a fall twist or mixing in fresh tomatoes during the summer months for a lighter version.

 

Does Cracker Barrel Have Mac and Cheese?

Cracker Barrel offers mac and cheese as a beloved side dish, known for its creamy texture and rich flavor. Their version of this classic comfort food, embodying the homestyle cooking for which Cracker Barrel is famous, is a favorite among guests.

The restaurant’s macaroni and cheese recipe creates a creamy, comforting experience, making it a must-try for anyone seeking the ultimate comfort food.

Is It Like Velveeta Cheese, or Is It Actual Cheese?

Cracker Barrel mac and cheese is made with actual cheese, not Velveeta. The dish is known for its rich, creamy texture, typically achieved using real Colby cheese.

This gives it a more authentic and traditional flavor compared to recipes that use processed cheese products like Velveeta, ensuring a homemade mac and cheese that’s both delicious and satisfying.

Should You Bake Mac and Cheese or Not?

Whether to bake mac and cheese or not depends on personal preference. Baking mac and cheese in a casserole dish or cast iron skillet can add a delightful crispy top layer that many enjoy, making it perfect for the holidays or special occasions.

However, for those who prefer their mac and cheese extra creamy, skipping the baking step and serving it right after combining the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce might be more appealing.

What Can I Add to Cracker Barrel Mac N Cheese?

To enhance Cracker Barrel mac n cheese, add ingredients like diced ham, broccoli, or caramelized onions for added flavor and texture. Shredded chicken can also make it a more filling dish.

These additions can transform the simple side dish into a hearty main course, allowing for customization according to personal tastes and making the meal even more satisfying.

What to Serve with Mac and Cheese?

Mac and cheese pair well with various side dishes to create a balanced meal. Consider serving it with a fresh green salad, garlic bread, or steamed vegetables. For a heartier meal, it complements BBQ meats, fried chicken, or meatloaf beautifully.

These combinations ensure a comforting meal that’s both satisfying and complete, showcasing mac and cheese’s versatility as the ultimate comfort food.

Why is My Cheese Sauce Burning in the Pot?

Cheese sauce may burn in the pot if the heat is too high or not stirred frequently. To prevent this, cook the sauce on medium heat and whisk continuously until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

 Using a large saucepan can also help distribute the heat more evenly. If the sauce starts to stick, reduce the heat and continue to stir, ensuring the creamy cheese sauce remains lump-free and delicious.

Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese - The Ultimate Copycat Recipe Ever!

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Bake the dish20 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Course: Dinner/Lunch, Other Recipes, Quick & Easy, side dishes
Keyword: cracker barrel mac and cheese recipe
Author: Natalie

Equipment

  • Large pot for boiling pasta
  • Medium saucepan or Dutch oven for the sauce
  • Whisk for stirring the sauce
  • Baking dish if baking the mac and cheese
  • Cheese grater to shred the cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 cups large elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups freshly shredded cheese (reserve ½ cup for topping)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream (optional for richer texture)

Instructions

  • Cook the macaroni noodles until al dente, about 10-15 minutes; drain and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir the mixture, cooking for 1-2 minutes to create a roux.
  • Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the heavy cream if desired. Cook and stir constantly until the sauce begins to thicken.
  • Add 2 ½ cups of the grated cheese to the sauce, stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
  • In a cast-iron skillet or a baking dish, combine the cooked macaroni with the creamy cheese sauce, stirring to ensure even coverage.
  • If you plan on baking, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C), sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of cheese over the top, and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  • Serve hot, sprinkle with chopped parsley for garnish if desired.

Notes

  • Consider making extra sauce if you prefer a creamier dish; the pasta will continue absorbing more liquid over time.
  • For a more traditional mac and cheese, stick to classic cheddar, but don't be afraid to experiment with a variety of cheeses.

More Cracker Barrel Copycat Recipes

Cracker Barrel Chicken Fried Chicken Recipe
Cracker Barrel Chicken and Rice Recipe
Cracker Barrel Hamburger Steak Recipe
Cracker Barrel Turnip Greens Recipe
Cracker Barrel Chicken and Dumplings Recipe

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