My creamy buffalo chicken mac and cheese is topped off with a buttery toasted panko for next-level flavor. It’s quick to make in just over 30 minutes! Recipe includes a how-to video!
The Best Buffalo Mac and Cheese
Today’s buffalo chicken mac and cheese recipe started out as a just-for-fun experiment (so many of my recipes do!) but after taste testing I didn’t have a choice — I had to share it with you! With its irresistibly creamy texture and buffalo chicken dip-esque flavor, this one was just too good to keep to myself.
This recipe has everything you love about baked mac & cheese, plus an extra kick of flavor from the buffalo sauce. It’s cheesy, creamy, a little spicy, and so hearty with plenty of shredded chicken.
I top mine off with a buttery, crispy crown of toasted panko for some extra texture and flavor, and it’s truly the best mac and cheese I’ve had (my bacon mac and cheese is a close second though!). I just know you’re going to love it too!
What You Need
There are quite a lot of ingredients up there, so let’s go over some of the most important ones:
- Buffalo sauce. Make sure you’re using prepared buffalo sauce and not straight hot sauce (which would add more heat than intended).
- Pasta. You can use macaroni (a classic choice! I use this in my easy mac and cheese), but cavatappi/cellentani is a bit more fun.
- Cheese. Grab some mozzarella and cheddar blocks and shred them yourself–this is critical for the smoothest sauce and best melting. Pre-shredded cheeses may be more convenient, but they contain anti-caking agents that prevent them from melting smoothly.
- Sour cream + cream cheese. To make this buffalo mac and cheese extra creamy, we’ll go beyond your standard shredded cheeses and use cream cheese and sour cream too. These two ingredients are possibly the most critical in developing such a creamy and richly flavored dish!
- Chicken. Any cooked, shredded chicken will work. I like to use a rotisserie chicken or my slow cooker shredded chicken.
- Panko. We toast this panko in butter on the stovetop for wonderful, buttery flavor. Sometimes, instead of using panko I make breadcrumbs out of my sourdough bread and use those, instead!
SAM’S TIP: Since this dish is so creamy and rich, it makes a great party/potluck dish. It’s the kind of comfort food that you pile on your plate at a party, then find yourself going back for seconds…and thirds!
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese
- Cook your pasta to al dente according to package directions, then drain and keep warm.
- Melt the butter and stir in the flour until smooth.
- Stir in the spices and milk, then bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir frequently until thickened. Once thickened, stir in the cheeses and sour cream until smooth.
- Stir in the hot sauce, then add the chicken and pasta.
- Pour into a buttered baking dish and prepare the panko topping.
- Melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat, then add the panko.
- Stir and toast the panko until it absorbs the butter and oil and begins to turn a light golden brown.
- Sprinkle the panko over your prepared mac and cheese.
- Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, then enjoy!
SAM’S TIP: Fresh chopped parsley makes a pretty, fresh garnish on this mac and cheese. This is optional, but I do like to add it if I have some on hand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! If you’d like to make the recipe up until the baking step, you can cover it and refrigerate until ready to bake. When you’re ready, simply remove your covering and bake until warmed through.
My buffalo mac and cheese carries some heat, but it’s not overwhelmingly hot (though you heat-seekers out there can feel free to up the ante with a few extra tablespoons of buffalo sauce). The heat is nicely tempered by the cheeses, so I find the spice level to be mild or about as hot as a buffalo chicken dip would be.
Yes! This buffalo mac and cheese doubles nicely, especially for parties. You’ll want to bake it in a 9×13 if you do. Keep in mind the bake time might be a bit longer in a bigger pan.
Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more spruced up mac and cheese recipes!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
- 8 oz dry macaroni noodles (I used Cellentani noodles) (230g)
- 3 Tablespoons butter (42g)
- 3 Tablespoons flour (24g)
- 2 cups milk (475ml)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- 4 oz cream cheese (115g)
- 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese , I use low-moisture part skim (170g)
- 1 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese (115g)
- ⅓ cup sour cream (80g)
- ½ cup buffalo hot sauce (120ml)
- 1 ½ cups shredded chicken (200g)
For Panko Topping:
- 1 Tablespoon butter (14g)
- ½ Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup seasoned panko crumbs (30g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and lightly grease a 1.5qt round baking dish or 9×9 square baking dish with butter.
- Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions.8 oz dry macaroni noodles (I used Cellentani noodles)
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Once it has melted, add flour and stir until smooth.3 Tablespoons butter, 3 Tablespoons flour
- Add milk and spices, stir well and bring to a boil.2 cups milk, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- Once mixture begins to boil, reduce heat, bring to a simmer, and stir frequently until it is slightly thickened.
- Reduce heat to low and add cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, and sour cream. Stir until cheeses are melted and mixture is smooth.4 oz cream cheese, 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese, ⅓ cup sour cream
- Add hot sauce and stir.½ cup buffalo hot sauce
- Add shredded chicken and cooked, drained pasta noodles and stir until well coated by the sauce.1 ½ cups shredded chicken
- Pour into prepared baking dish and prepare your Panko topping.
- Combine butter and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until melted.1 Tablespoon butter, ½ Tablespoon olive oil
- Add panko and stir well until the butter and oil has been mostly absorbed. Continue to stir until panko is lightly toasted and turns a light-medium brown color½ cup seasoned panko crumbs
- Use a spoon to sprinkle over prepared buffalo chicken mac and cheese
- Transfer to oven and bake on 350F (175C) for 15 minutes.
- Garnish with parsley, if desired, and serve.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Recipe originally published August 2017. Recipe remains the same but text has been updated to be more helpful.