; Copycat Chick-fil-A Mac and Cheese Recipe
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Chick-fil-A Mac & Cheese copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Chick-fil-A Mac & Cheese

Score: 4.86 (votes: 7)
Reviews: 7
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The new Mac & Cheese at Chick-fil-A is baked fresh every day, and the recipe is more complex than you might expect from a fast food chicken chain. According to the official list of ingredients, the formula includes several different kinds of cheese including Parmesan, Romano, and award-winning hard cheese from Wisconsin called BellaVitano. The BellaVitano cheese adds a subtle nuttiness to the mix and all three hard cheeses contribute big umami flavor that nicely complements the blend of white and yellow cheddars.

Those five kinds of cheese combine to make a great flavor, but the blend would melt into a greasy mess if it weren’t for the assistance of one more ubiquitous cheese: American. The benefit of American cheese—which makes up for its lack of flavor—is found in the sodium citrate it contains. This natural sodium salt is an emulsifier that keeps the fat in the cheese from separating (and it also happens to be useful in preventing kidney stones!). By first melting several slices of American cheese in the milk we don’t need to make a roux to create a perfectly smooth cheese sauce.

As for cooking the macaroni, here’s another secret: don’t follow the directions on the box for al dente pasta, because you don’t want the pasta to be al dente, or slightly tough. You want to cook the elbow macaroni for 20 minutes so that it absorbs as much water as possible. This will ensure that the pasta won’t suck up liquid in the cheese sauce when they are combined, and the sauce will maintain a perfectly creamy consistency.      

If you like this copycat Chick-fil-A mac and cheese recipe, click here for more Chick-fil-A clone recipes.

Get This

_main
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 1/2 ounces (5 slices) American cheese (not Kraft Singles), roughly chopped or torn
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 ounces (scant 1 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) shredded BellaVitano Gold cheese
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon grated Romano
Topping
  • 3 ounces (3/4 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 ounces (3/4 cup) shredded white cheddar cheese
Do This

1. Cook the macaroni in 2 quarts of boiling water for 20 minutes. When the macaroni is completely soft, strain out the water.

“chick-fil-a-step1.jpg

2. While the pasta cooks, make the cheese sauce by combining the milk, American cheese, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat. Slowly heat up the milk to melt the butter and cheese. Stir often with a whisk until the American cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

3. Add the remaining cheeses and stir until the sauce is smooth, then remove it from the heat. Allow the sauce to sit for 10 minutes to cool and thicken, then combine the sauce and pasta in a large bowl and allow it to cool enough that the cheese doesn’t fall to the bottom of the bowl. Gently stir it occasionally as it sits.

4. Preheat your broiler to high.

5. Pour the macaroni and cheese into an 8x8-inch baking pan or dish.

6. Combine the yellow and white cheddar cheese for the topping, then sprinkle the mixture over the top of the mac and cheese.

7. Pop the pan under your hot broiler for 2 to 3 minutes or until the top has lightly browned.

Tidbits: If you can't find BellaVitano cheese, you can substitute with 1 additional tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. If you don't have American cheese, you can use Velveeta or any cheese that contains sodium citrate.

Makes 8 cups (6 servings).

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Reviews
Bonnie Meadows
Nov 6, 2021, 09:24
I made this recipe exactly as written using all the recommended cheeses. For my comparison, I purchased a side of Mac & Cheese from Chick-fil-A and taste-tested them side-by-side. This recipe tastes just like the original from Chick-fil-A! I left mine under the broiler a little longer to get a darker top. Also, the flavors taste even better after 24-hours. This recipe is a homerun!
MIchelle Kelley
Dec 28, 2020, 10:29
I made this for my husband over Christmas, and he is the biggest Mac & Cheese snob there is...He thought this was BETTER than Chik-Fil-A's! Well Done Todd! Cooking the macaroni for 20 mins worked PERFECTLY! Everything was a HIT! I used 2% lactose-free milk and it didn't make a difference! I did put it under the broiler for 5 mins, and it came out marvelous! Picture perfect even. I can't wait to try the Monte Cristo for his Birthday!.

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    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.33 (votes: 9)
    Bisquick Original All-Purpose Baking Mix

    You've got a hankerin' for pancakes or biscuits, but the recipe calls for Bisquick, and you're plum out. Not to worry. Now you can make a clone of the popular baking mix at home with just four simple ingredients. Store-bought Bisquick includes shortening, salt, flour, and leavening, so that's exactly what we need to duplicate Bisquick perfectly at home. 

    My Bisquick recipe makes about 6 cups of the stuff, which, just like the real thing, you can keep sealed up in a container in your pantry until it's flapjack time. When that time comes, just add milk and eggs for pancakes or waffles, or only milk if it's biscuits you want. You'll find all those recipes below in the "Tidbits."

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 3)
    Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone

    Menu Description: "Chicken breasts lightly sautéed and topped with lemon butter sauce and capers."

    Buca di Beppo's Chicken Limone was deliciously simple to reverse-engineer: I asked the server to check on what kind of dairy is used in the sauce and whether or not white wine is cooked into it. After getting the information I needed, I ordered the dish to go with the sauce on the side and got to work back in the lab. Several versions hit the sink as I unsuccessfully experimented with various amounts of wine, butter, and cream.

    It was only after I decided to chill the lemon-butter sauce that I got the information that I needed. The sauce formed a firm solid in the fridge, which indicated that my recipe needed a lot more butter than first estimated. I made the proper adjustments and the sauce that sat in my pan was a perfect match that could surely stand up to a blindfolded taste test. The rest of the secret technique required pounding the chicken breasts until thin. This tenderized the chicken and made each piece the same size as the original. A quick sauté later, I was arranging the chicken on a serving platter, adding capers, spooning on plenty of sauce, and I had before me a beautiful culinary carbon copy indistinguishable from the real Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone.

    Try my recipe for Bucca di Beppo garlic bread for the full experience.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 8)
    Shoney's Slow-Cooked Pot Roast

    Menu Description: "Tender roast beef and carrots slow-simmered and served in a rich brown gravy."

    Remember Mom's delicious pot roast? Shoney's tender slow cooked entree is just as good, if not better than many home recipes. The secret to making tender, flaky pot roast is the long slow-cooking process with frequent basting. This recipe, based on Shoney's popular dish, requires 3 to 4 hours of cooking to make the meat tender. The meat is then flaked apart, put back into the pot with the pan juices and carrots, and cooked more to infuse the meat with flavor. The restaurant recipe uses rump roast, a tough cut of meat that gets tender as it braises. If you like, you can use the more tender and less costly chuck roast. The chuck may take up an hour less time in the oven to tenderize due to its higher fat content.

    Complete your meal with my copycat recipe for Olive Garden Mashed Potatoes

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing

    In the 1970's, food conglomerate General Mills expanded its growing restaurant business. A research team was organized to study the market, and to conduct interviews with potential customers on what they want in a restaurant. Seven years later, in 1982, the first Olive Garden restaurant opened its doors in Orlando, Florida. Today it is the number one Italian restaurant chain in the country with over 470 stores.

    One of the all-time favorites at Olive Garden is the Italian salad dressing served on the bottomless house salad that comes with every meal. The dressing was so popular that the chain sells the dressing by the bottle "to go." You won't need to buy a bottle, though. With my Olive Garden Italian salad dressing recipe you can make your own version that tastes just like the original, and it's way cheaper.

    The secret to thickening this dressing is to use dry pectin, a natural ingredient often used to thicken jams and jellies. Pectin can be found in most stores in the aisle with baking and cooking supplies or near the canning items.

    Now, what's for dinner? Check out all of my copycat entrées here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.78 (votes: 18)
    Chipotle Mexican Grill Barbacoa Burrito

    Menu Description: "Spicy, shredded beef, braised with our own chipotle adobo, cumin, cloves, garlic and oregano."
     
    The original Mexican dish barbacoa was traditionally prepared by cooking almost any kind of meat goat, fish, chicken, or cow cheek meat, to name just a few, in a pit covered with leaves over low heat for many hours, until tender. When the dish made its way into the United States via Texas the word transformed into "barbecue" and the preparation changed to incorporate above-ground techniques such as smoking and grilling.

    The good news is that we can re-create the beef barbacoa that Chipotle has made popular on its ginormous burritos without digging any holes in our backyard or tracking down a local source for fresh cow faces. After braising about 30 pounds of chuck roasts, I finally discovered the perfect Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa burrito copycat recipe with a taste-alike adobo sauce that fills your roast with flavor as it slowly cooks to a fork-tender delicacy on your stovetop over 5 to 6 hours.

    Part of the secret for great adobo sauce is toasting whole cumin seeds and cloves and then grinding them in a coffee grinder (measure the spices after grinding them). Since the braising process takes so long, start early in the day and get ready for a big dinner, because I've also included clones here for Chipotle's pico de gallo, pinto beans, and delicious cilantro-lime rice to make your burritos complete. You can add your choice of cheese, plus guacamole and sour cream for a super-deluxe clone version. 

    If you prefer chicken burritos, head on over to my clone recipe for Qdoba Grilled Adobo Chicken

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.95 (votes: 38)
    Starbucks Pumpkin Scone

    During the holiday months, you'd better get over to Starbucks bright and early if you want to sink your teeth into a delicious pumpkin scone. These orange triangles of happiness are made with real pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, and they quickly vanish from the pastry case when fall rolls around. Each scone is generously coated with a plain glaze and then spiced icing is drizzled over the top. To get the crumbly texture cut cold butter into the dry ingredients, either with a pastry knife or by pulsing it in a food processor until all the butter chunks have been worked in.

    Use your leftover pumpkin puree for Starbucks pumpkin bread or pumpkin spice latte.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Red Lobster New England Clam Chowder

    Rather than going through the tedious (and more expensive) task of steaming fresh clams and dicing up all the good parts, we can use the more affordable and convenient canned clams found in any supermarket. Just remember to not toss out the clam juice in the cans when you open them, since you'll need that flavorful liquid in the first step.

    Click here to see if I've cloned more of your favorites from Red Lobster.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 28)
    Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole

    Menu Description: "Made from scratch in our kitchens using fresh Grade A Fancy Russet potatoes, fresh chopped onion, natural Colby cheese and spices. Baked fresh all day long."

    In the late sixties Dan Evins was a Shell Oil "jobber" looking for a new way to market gasoline. He wanted to create a special place that would arouse curiosity, and would pull travelers off the highways. In 1969 he opened the first Cracker Barrel just off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee, offering gas, country-style food, and a selection of antiques for sale. Today there are over 529 stores in 41 states, with each restaurant still designed as a country rest stop and gift store. In fact, those stores which carry an average of 4,500 different items apiece have made Cracker Barrel the largest retailer of American-made finished crafts in the United States.

    Those who know Cracker Barrel love the restaurant for its delicious home-style breakfasts. This casserole, made with hash brown-sliced potatoes, Colby cheese, milk, beef broth, and spices is served with many of the classic breakfast dishes at the restaurant. The recipe here is designed for a skillet that is also safe to put in the oven (so no plastic handles). If you don't have one of those, you can easily transfer the casserole to a baking dish after it is done cooking on the stove.

    Love Cracker Barrel? Check out my other clone recipes here.

    Source Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    P.F. Chang's Chang's Spare Ribs

    Menu Description: "Wok-seared with Chang's barbecue sauce."

    One of the most popular eats on P. F. Chang's appetizer menu is the Chinese spare ribs that arrive slathered with Asian-style barbecue sauce. The Asian flavor comes from the addition of sweet hoisin sauce to a fairly rudimentary barbecue sauce formula. Chang's menu says these ribs are spare ribs although they appear to be much smaller, more like baby backs. You can certainly use either for this recipe, just be sure to trim the ribs first, since the restaurant version is lean, clean ribs with no extra meat or fat hanging off. There are several ways to cook pork ribs—P. F. Chang's boils theirs first, then fries them. After that, the ribs are tossed with the sauce in wok and served piping hot. A serving of these ribs at the restaurant is 6 individual ribs, but since a full rack is as many as 12 ribs, this recipe will make twice what you get in a serving at the bustling bistro chain.

    Find more of your favorite P.F. Chang's dishes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.97 (votes: 33)
    P.F. Chang's Mongolian Beef

    Menu Description: "Quickly-cooked steak with scallions and garlic."

    Beef lovers go crazy over this one at the restaurant. Flank steak is cut into bite-sized chunks against the grain, then it's lightly dusted with potato starch (in our case we'll use cornstarch), flash-fried in oil, and doused with an amazing sweet soy garlic sauce. The beef comes out tender as can be, and the simple sauce sings to your taste buds. I designed this recipe to use a wok, but if you don't have one a saute pan will suffice (you may need to add more oil to the pan to cover the beef in the flash-frying step). P. F. Chang's secret sauce is what makes this dish so good, and it's versatile. If you don't dig beef, you can substitute with chicken. Or you can brush it on grilled salmon.

    I've cloned a lot of the best dishes from P.F. Chang's. Click here to see if I coped your favorite.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 11)
    Lawry's Taco Spices and Seasonings

    This is a clone for the stuff you buy in 1-ounce packets to create, as the package says, "a fun-filled Mexican fiesta in minutes." Ah, so true. In fact, thanks to Lawry's, my last Mexican fiesta was filled with so much fun that I had to take a siesta. And I promise you just as much fun with this TSR clone. Maybe even a tad more. Just mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, then add it to 1 pound of browned ground beef along with some water and let it simmer. Before you know it you'll be up to your nostrils in good old-fashioned, taco-making fun.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 17)
    KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Original Recipe Fried Chicken

    One of the most protected, discussed, and sought-after secret recipes in the food world is KFC's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. Long ago I published my first hack of the famous formula, but the recipe, which was based on research from "Big Secrets" author William Poundstone, includes only salt, pepper, MSG, and flour in the breading, and not the blend of eleven herbs and spices we have all heard about. The fried chicken made with my first recipe is good in a pinch, but it really needs several more ingredients to be a true clone. 

    That is why, over twenty years later, I was happy to get another crack at the secret when we shot the pilot episode for my CMT TV series Top Secret Recipe. In the show, I visited KFC headquarters, talked to friends of Harlan Sanders who had seen the actual recipe, and even checked out the Corbin, Kentucky, kitchen where Harland Sanders first developed his chicken recipe. During that four-day shoot I was able to gather enough clues about the secret eleven herbs and spices to craft my new KFC Fried chicken recipe—one that I believe is the closest match to the Colonel's secret fried chicken that anyone has ever revealed.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Step-By-Step by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cheesecake Factory Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

    Menu Description: "Topped with sour cream, salsa, avocado and salsa verde."

    Nestled between slick full-page ads on page 7 of the huge 17-page spiral-bound menu from The Cheesecake Factory, is a long list of fabulous appetizers that includes this Southwestern-style crowd pleaser. Hand-formed tamale cakes are arranged on fresh salsa verde, topped with sour cream and creamy Southwestern sauce, with a fresh avocado and cilantro garnish. It's happiness on a plate. And, while the ingredients listed below may seem intimidating at first, the three sauces are very simple to make, and your crew will no doubt be impressed with the results. The flavors in the sauces develop after sitting for a bit so you can prepare them all in advance and let them chill in the fridge until chow time. If you get anything short of a standing ovation for this dish, coax out the kudos by waving the pages of this recipe in front of everyone while wiping your brow. Sometimes you have to milk it.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For over 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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