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This Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese is even better than the original. It is extra creamy, loaded with cheese, and made completely in the Instant Pot. This mac and cheese recipe could not get any easier or more flavorful. Plus there are even some veggies involved!
I will be honest I do not eat at Panera very often, but I did dine there more frequently when I was younger. There are a couple of items on their menu that still stand out to me and of course the famous Panera broccoli cheddar mac and cheese is one of them.
So I decided I wanted to recreate this recipe at home and like I mentioned above I like it even more than the original.
And because you guys have been loving the counter top appliance recipes so much, I decided to make this one an Instant Pot recipe.
So this Panera copycat broccoli cheddar mac and cheese recipe is made in only one pot and is even creamier and cheesier. It is also loaded with fresh broccoli and carrots. Now all you are missing is some bread. Hope you enjoy!! xx
- One pot Instant Pot mac & cheese recipe
- Panera copycat broccoli cheddar mac & cheese
- Loaded with fresh carrots & broccoli
- 2 kinds of cheese
- Kid friendly meal
- Easy entree or side dish
- Extra creamy, but no heavy cream
- Chicken Stock: Swap for chicken broth or vegetable broth.
- Broccoli Florets: Use fresh broccoli florets. I buy the pre-washed and pre-chopped broccoli to save time. I have not tested this recipe with frozen broccoli.
- Carrots: I like to julienne the carrots instead of using shredded carrots because the larger and thicker carrot pieces cook less and hold up better. The smaller and thinner the carrot pieces are the more they will fall apart during pressure cooking.
- Cream Cheese: Leave the cream cheese at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Cheddar Cheese: You can use white or yellow cheddar, or one cup of each. Be sure to shred the cheese yourself instead of purchasing shredded cheese. It has a coating that does not allow it to melt as well. Lastly, I highly recommend using high quality cheddar cheese for the best flavor, like Cabot or Tillamook. These resulted in a more flavorful mac and cheese compared to the store brand cheese I tried.
Helpful Equipment & Tools
- Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker: This is the Instant Pot I use and love. I test all of my recipes in the 8 quart model. There are newer models out there but this one works great and has a great price point.
- Silicone Nonstick Mixing Spoons Set 2: These spoons are great for cooking in the Instant Pot or with nonstick cookware. They are heat resistant and sturdy.
- OXO Good Grips Box Grater: I love this grater because it comes with a small storage container that catches the cheese as you grate it.
- Melt the butter.
- Add the pasta, spices, and broth.
- Layer vegetables on top of pasta mixture.
- Pressure cook.
- Stir in half and half and cheese.
Step by Step
Step 1: Select “Saute” mode on the Instant Pot. Add the butter and stir until melted.
Step 2: Turn the pot off. Add the stock, hot sauce, salt, garlic, onion powder, ground mustard, pepper, and pasta. Stir until combined.
Step 3: Add in the broccoli and carrot on top of the pasta. Do not stir. These should be sitting on top of the pasta mixture.
Step 4: Secure the lid and switch the valve to sealing. Select “Pressure Cook” and “High” on the Instant Pot. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Release the pressure immediately after the timer has finished.
Step 5: Select “Keep Warm” on the pot. Stir in the half and half. The broccoli will begin to fall apart in the sauce.
Step 6: Stir in the cream and cheddar cheese until completely melted and smooth. Turn the pot off and let stand for 5 minutes before serving so the sauce can thicken.
Make Ahead & Storage
- Make Ahead: The Panera broccoli cheddar mac and cheese is best served fresh, but you can shred the cheese and prep the vegetables ahead of time.
- Refrigerator: Store leftover mac and cheese in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- Reheating: For a small serving, reheat in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring occasionally. For multiple servings, reheat the leftover mac and cheese on the stove over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add a splash of whole milk or broth if the leftover mac and cheese has dried out.
- Freezer: I do not recommend freezing leftover panera bread broccoli mac and cheese because the texture of pasta degrades significantly.
- Use chicken stock. Chicken stock, broth, or vegetable broth creates a much more flavor mac and cheese compared to water.
- Use good quality cheddar. I recommend Cabot or Tillamook for the best flavor.
- Shred your own cheese. Store bought shredded cheese is coated in starch to prevent it from caking. This also prevents it from seamlessly melting in a sauce. So I always recommend shredding your own cheese.
- Let stand before serving. Letting the mac and cheese stand for about 5 minutes allows the sauce to thicken up.
- The broccoli will fall apart. If you want more defined pieces of broccoli you can fold steamed broccoli florets into the pasta at the end. Add an extra ¼ cup of stock to the pot to compensate for the loss of water from the broccoli.
- The broccoli cheddar mac and cheese is not spicy. The hot sauce adds so tanginess that compliments the flavor of the cheese.
- The recipe can easily be doubled. This recipe doubles just fine in my 8 quart pressure cooker.
- White Cheddar Mac & Cheese: Use all white cheddar cheese for a white mac and cheese.
- Pasta Shape: I have tested this recipe with penne and it takes 5 minutes on high pressure. The general rule for cooking pasta in the instant pot is to divide the shortest cook time on the package by 2 and subtract 1 minute for a softer pasta or subtract 2 minutes for very al dente pasta.
- Gluten-free: This recipe can easily be made gluten free since there is no flour, just swap the pasta for any gluten free pasta.
Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups chicken stock*
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 8 ounces medium shell shaped pasta
- 2 heaping cups broccoli florets*
- ½ heaping cup julienned carrots*
- 1 cup half and half
- 4 ounces cream cheese, diced, room temperature*
- 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, room temperature*
- Review all recipe notes and instructions before beginning.
- Select “Saute” mode on the Instant Pot. Add the butter and stir until melted.
- Turn the pot off. Add the stock, hot sauce, salt, garlic, onion powder, ground mustard, pepper, and pasta. Stir until combined.
- Add in the broccoli and carrot on top of the pasta. Do not stir. These should be sitting on top of the pasta mixture.
- Secure the lid and switch the valve to sealing. Select “Pressure Cook” and “High” on the Instant Pot. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Release the pressure immediately after the timer has finished.
- Select “Keep Warm” on the pot. Stir in the half and half. The broccoli will begin to fall apart in the sauce.
- Stir in the cream and cheddar cheese until completely melted and smooth. Turn the pot off and let stand for 5 minutes before serving so the sauce can thicken